We'll finally know this week just what's in the Trump Administration's tax plan. One area individuals and businesses are closely watching is whether the proposal will include changes to company-offered retirement plans known as 401(k)s. Photo by 401(k) 2012 via Flickr Most workers participate in a traditional 401(k) plan, in which employees' retirement contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, the fund grows tax-deferred and then account owners pay tax on their withdrawals in retirement at ordinary income tax rates. These 401(k)s are attractive to many not only because of the usual match by their employers of at least some contributions,... Read more →


Here's some United Kingdom news that's much more exciting than the blowout NFL game played today in London. Two million married couples in Great Britain are missing out on their share of £1.3 billion ($1.76 billion U.S.) available via a marriage tax break. It's official, this bride indicates, by showing off her wedding band. (Photo by Pulathi Talagala via Flickr CC) Those unclaimed billions were calculated by Royal London insurance group after it received data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC; the U.K. version of America's Internal Revenue Service) following a freedom of information request. HMRC figures show that only... Read more →


Owners of small businesses, like these along Story City, Iowa's main street, are hoping federal tax reform will provide them some financial relief. (Photo by Brood_wich via Flickr CC) It looks like the Graham-Cassidy attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare is running out of steam, thanks once again to Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain. That means Capitol Hill can shift its full attention to the tax code. Republicans say they'll release more tax reform details the week of Sept. 25. Small business owners should be happy. Tax reform tops biz concerns: The latest Paychex Small Business Survey, conducted in late... Read more →


Former Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations chief Lois Lerner leaves a Capitol Hill hearing on how the agency handles tax-exempt status requests. Her refusal to testify before two House Oversight Committee hearings in May 2013 and March 2014 ultimately led to her resignation from the IRS. Remember back in April 2015 when the Department of Justice decided it wouldn't follow-up on a Congressional contempt citation against Lois Lerner or "take any other action to prosecute" the former Internal Revenue Service executive? Current Republican Representatives do. And now, with the Justice Department full of fresh faces serving under a GOP White... Read more →


It seems a bit too little, too late, but the Internal Revenue Service is continuing its efforts to make it harder for identity thieves to get their hands on our tax documents. The IRS this week (Sept. 20) published a notice on its proposed regulations that would allow issuers of W-2 forms to truncate the recipients' Social Security numbers. The idea is that even if criminals get their hands on the earnings statements, they would be of less use since they wouldn't have workers' full tax identification numbers. Unfortunately for the IRS and the rest of us, the tax agency's... Read more →


If compassion fatigue hadn't set in after the back-to-back-to-back hurricanes that roared across the Atlantic, laying waste to much of Texas, Florida, Georgia and many Caribbean islands, it probably did when Mexico got rocked within two weeks by two massive and deadly earthquakes. A group of American tourists were literally rocked when their Sept. 19 Mexico boat ride was interrupted by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Click image to watch full YouTube video. Many of the small tropical islands were particularly hard hit by Hurricanes Irma and then Maria. Both were major hurricanes. Both covered wide areas. The mass of the... Read more →


Hurricane Irma got most attention when she threatened and eventually made landfall in Florida. Her destructive effects, however, were felt beyond the Sunshine State. History of Hurricane #Irma: 1 September 2017 - 10 September 2017 #GOES16 pic.twitter.com/Z53paEmpIY — NASA SPoRT (@NASA_SPoRT) September 11, 2017 That's why today the Internal Revenue Service announced that all of Georgia, which took its own hard hits as Irma moved across the Georgia-Florida border, is now eligible for disaster tax relief. This latest hurricane related tax relief parallels that previously granted to Irma victims throughout Florida and in parts of Puerto Rico and the Virgin... Read more →


Have a problem with the Internal Revenue Service that you just can't solve? The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) might be able to help. And for some folks, that help will be in person. Generally, TAS can assist taxpayers — at no cost — if: Your problem is causing financial difficulties for you, your family or your business. You or your business are facing an immediate threat of adverse action. You've tried repeatedly to contact the IRS but no one has responded or the IRS hasn't responded by the date promised. You believe an IRS system or procedure isn't working as... Read more →


Online is the preferred purchasing method for millions. That's why states are looking at law changes, and court rulings, that let them get their sales tax share from shoppers. (Photo by Keith Williamson via Flickr Creative Commons) I'm not a big shopper in real life. But drop a catalog in my lap and I can find a dozen things I'd love to buy. In fact, I'm checking my porch multiple times a day for a lamp I recently ordered. Many of those tempting catalogs still include an insert form you can use to order the very old-fashioned snail mail way.... Read more →


One of the major drivers of the latest federal tax reform effort is the corporate tax rate. The Trump Administration is still pushing for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, the White House's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told CNBC last week. However, just the day before Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin conceded a 15 percent rate would be difficult to attain. Meanwhile, one Washington, D.C.-based tax policy group has looked at how much corporate taxes contribute per capita to state coffers. That analysis by The Tax Foundation earns this week's Shout Out Saturday honors. Not a major tax matter: "The corporate... Read more →


UPDATE, Sep. 19: Hurricane Maria is heading for Puerto Rico today as, says the island's governor, the "potentially most catastrophic hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in a century." UPDATE, Sept. 18: The National Hurricane Center has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the MidAtlantic and New England Coasts. Specifically, effects of Hurricane Jose are expected to be felt in Fenwick Island to Sandy Hook, Delaware Bay South, East Rockaway Inlet to Plymouth, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Weather officials also warn that rip currents are a danger along the entire U.S. east coast. Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria is following Irma's... Read more →


Bitcoin continues to confound financial and tax officials worldwide. BTC China, the country's first and largest digital currency exchange, announced Thursday, Sept. 14, that would stop trading by the end of the month. One reason apparently is the Chinese government ban instituted days earlier of fund-raising for new digital currencies. Although China embraced Bitcoin trading, the virtual currency's growth has increasingly worried the nation's regulators. One of the concerns was tax evasion. "Because it is traded anonymously and peer to peer, Bitcoin makes it easy for money laundering and tax evasion," Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People's Bank of... Read more →


Donald J. Trump is Tweeting about tax reform. He's also holding bipartisan dinners at the White House to talk taxes. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was pleased steak was on the menu. The White House website has a video explaining how the tax code is broken. House Speaker Paul Ryan says Congressional Republican's tax reform plan outline will be released in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, pundits have been honing their prognostication skills, attempting to tease out tax possibilities and their potential effects. But despite all this action, the bottom line is that it's still just a big tax... Read more →


Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, left, accepts a truckload of help from his New York colleague Rep. Tom Suozzi to help Hurricane Harvey victims. Now Brady wants to offer more help via special tax relief for retirement account withdrawals. (Photo from Rep. Brady via Facebook) Here's a clear indication that tax reform isn't going to be as easy as many hope. Talk of tax reform has focused variously on tax rate cuts, deduction reductions and overall simplification of the Internal Revenue Code. Rep. Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican in charge of the House tax-writing committee, is himself considering adding a new... Read more →


Aside from the damage that hurricanes cause, one of the biggest problems is that they often, especially in September, effectively come back to back. Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose (left to right) lined up earlier in September. (National Hurricane Center radar image) That's what happened with Hurricane Irma. The angry sister of Hurricane Harvey walloped all of Florida three weeks after coastal Texas was gut-punched by Harvey's historic flooding. The back-to-back U.S. landfalls was a first for Category 4 storms. The only good news here, at least tax-wise, is that the Internal Revenue Service has a Harvey template for Irma... Read more →


Photo by The Explorographer via Flickr CC Sixteen years ago, the unthinkable happened. Terrorists struck on U.S. soil, leaving 2,977 dead in New York City, Washington, D.C. and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This Sept. 11, residents of Florida, Texas, U.S. territories in the Caribbean and neighboring island nations are struggling to recover from Harvey and Irma, two deadly hurricanes that are among the strongest ever to make landfall. There is no comparing these tragedies. Each is heart-wrenching and horrific in its own way. But they share one important attribute. Today, as on Sept. 11, 2001, people are reaching out to... Read more →


Life is a carousel, at least for a while, for this youngster and her grandmother. Once play time is over, financially secure grandparents have some tax-favored ways they can help ftheir grandchildren. (Photo by Rob Bixby via Flickr Creative Commons) Happy Grandparents Day! If your pop-pop and mam-maw (insert your own personal and/or regional affectionate nicknames here) are still around, take some time to tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Most of the time, younger — and that's definitely a relative term — folk think of grandparents as ancient. In many cases, elderly grandparents (and parents) do... Read more →