The Senate will get back to work next week crafting an Obamacare repeal-and-replace measure, an already difficult task made more problematic by the messages lawmakers got from their constituents over the July 4th holiday. There are many reasons, both political and practical, that devising a health care system for all of America is so complicated. One of the key ones is because we are so diverse. In health coverage's case, the diversity issue is generational. Source: Oliver Wyman and Fortune Knowledge Group analysis "For the past few years, healthcare companies and policymakers have been striving to craft consumer health strategies,... Read more →


The cost of college continues to simmer as an educational policy and legal issue, particularly when it comes to student loans. Democratic attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia on July 6 filed a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department to stop her from changing rules that erased the federal student loan debt of those who were cheated by colleges that acted fraudulently. Consumer groups also have joined the litigation list. The Obama Administration finalized the so-called borrower defense rules last October. They were scheduled to take effect on July 1. DeVos, however, froze... Read more →


Do your summer plans include doing a little shopping, either at home or while on vacation? Then you need to know the maximum sales tax rate you might face, especially if you're trying to stick to a budget. Some states and municipalities operate on a fiscal year that kicks in on July 1. That means tax changes — including levies on sales — often take effect as summer is rolling around. The Tax Foundation has taken a look at the plethora of state and local sales taxes effective at the start of this month and produced the map shown below... Read more →


It's officially summer. Time for fun at the beach. And fun making mid-year tax moves. Happy July 5th, the start of midyear tax planning. With six months left in the tax year, it's the perfect time to make some tax moves that could reduce your 2017 tax bill. Here are six easy ones to take care of in July. 1. Adjust your payroll withholding. Did you get a big tax refund this year? Or did you owe Uncle Sam more than you expected? Either situation means that you need to reassess your payroll withholding. It's easy to do. Just give... Read more →


Happy Birthday, America! July 4 is special to all of us Americans, the day we declared our independence from Great Britain. Taxes, as everyone knows thanks to James Otis' famous announcement that "Taxation without representation is tyranny," were among the reasons we sought to govern ourselves. And taxes, even after we gained control, continue to play a key part in our lives, politics and popular culture. James Cagney, before he became the prototypical movie gangster, was as song-and-dance man. He showed off those talents in "Yankee Doodle Dandy," the biopic of a man who not only gave us great musicals,... Read more →


One of Wimbledon's famed grass courts, which are the focus of the tennis — and betting — worlds as tournament matches started July 3. (Photo by Nic Gould via Flickr) Wimbledon, one of the crown jewels of professional tennis, begins today. You know what that means. Bookies across the United Kingdom are taking bets. Yes, sports betting is legal in Great Britain. It's also legal in much of Europe. In England, it's no problem to find the latest Wimbledon betting odds, along with tips on which players to stake your discretionary cash. Big global bucks: Sports betting across the pond... Read more →


Millions of Americans will be enjoying picnics and cookouts in advance of July 4 fireworks. In a few places, though, the sodas in those outings' coolers will cost a bit more. So-called soda taxes took effect in Oakland, California, and Boulder, Colorado, on July 1. A similar levy was scheduled in the Chicago area, but the day before a judge put Cook County's penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages on hold at least until July 12. Bay Area beverage battle: Oakland voters approved the tax, which applies to more than soda pop, in November 2016. The added tax, say supporters, should... Read more →


Filling up our cars nowadays is a far cry from the full-service days of yore. Yes, some of us are old enough to remember those types of stations, if not this particular one. We also are paying much more per gallon, thanks in part to gas taxes, some of which increased on July 1. (Pete's Route 66 Gas Station Museum photo by Loco Steve via Flickr) July 1 not only marks the start of the second half of the calendar year, but it's also a new fiscal operating year for many state governments. And that means some new taxes take... Read more →


Georgians who usually delay their back-to-school shopping until the end of July when the state's annual tax-free shopping weekend rolls around can go ahead and buy on their own timetable this year. Georgia has canceled its 2017 late summer sales tax holiday. Every summer, shoppers in around a dozen states can buy sales tax free school supplies thanks to tax holidays. That's not the case this year in Georgia, which has canceled its 2017 tax-free weekend event. (Photo by Kay Bell) The event had been penciled in for the weekend of July 29-30. Get out your taxable erasers, Georgia shoppers,... Read more →


Since the iPhone debuted a decade ago, it's become an indispensable personal and business tool, with accompanying tax issues to consider. Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPhone at MacWorld in January 2007. iPhone mania was in full swing six months later when, on June 29, 2007, with crowds camping out at Apple stores to be the first to own the 1st Gen/2G telecommunications device. (Click screenshot to view full presentation on YouTube) What were you doing 10 years ago today? If you're an extreme tech geek, you were among the thousands waiting to get your hands on the first ever... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson makes a point about private tax debt collection during a May 23 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. (Click image to watch the official video.) National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson has long been an opponent of turning over taxpayer accounts to collection agencies. That's still the case, according to her mid-year report presented today to Congress. The latest private tax debt collection effort tops the list of 13 priorities that the Taxpayer Advocate's Service will focus on during the coming 2018 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Specifically, Olson says she and her staff are... Read more →


Drug prices are one of the major concerns of all Americans. A group of Senators is calling for a new excise tax to penalize drug makers who dramatically increase their products' prices. Leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate today gave up on holding full vote this week on their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Supporters of the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), as well as similar Obamacare repeal efforts in the House, say their bills are part of the answer to, among other things, stopping the escalating price of medical care. Whether the GOP proposals will... Read more →


Feeling left out because tax scammers have been focusing lately on tax preparers? Don't. Crooks likely will be calling or sending you an email soon enough. The Internal Revenue Service says that everyone, individual taxpayers and tax pros alike, are potential victims of identity theft schemes as we head into what used to be a slower time for taxes. "We continue to urge people to watch out for new and evolving schemes this summer," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in an alert issued today, June 26. "Many of these are variations of a theme, involving fictitious tax bills and demands... Read more →


Based on the fast and furious pace of tax scams this month, you'd think it was high tax season instead of summer. For the second time in just more than a week, the Internal Revenue Service has issued a new tax scam alert. (In case you missed it, the pervasive tax telephone scam was recently tweaked.) This latest scam warning is for tax professionals, who are receiving phishing emails purportedly from a tax software education provider. The fake communication asks for the tax preparers' help in repairing a failure in the message sender's sham database. To that fake end, the... Read more →


Private bill collectors are, according to four U.S. Senators, making calls about overdue federal taxes that could put taxpayers in financially compromised situations that are scarier than those faced by the terrified Cindy Campbell character (played by Anna Faris, pictured above), in the "Scary Movie" films. During a recent U.S. House hearing, Internal Revenue Service watchdogs told Representatives that, less than two months on the job, private tax bill collectors were already breaking collection and consumer protection rules. Now four Democratic Senators have raised additional concerns about one of the private collection agencies' tactics, which could put owing taxpayers' homes... Read more →


After a brief hiatus, the Internal Revenue Service has reinstated its online tool where professional tax preparers can obtain the official identification numbers required to file returns. On June 1, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a mixed ruling in a class action lawsuit against the IRS, Adam Steele, et al. v. United States of America (Case No. 1:14-cv-01523-RCL). The federal judges said that while ruled that while the IRS has the authority to require tax pros to get Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, or PTINs, the tax agency cannot charge for the ID numbers. The... Read more →


Here's a look at eight Affordable Care Act taxes that Republicans in both the House and Senate agree on eliminating. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), joined by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and a mostly hidden Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) held a press conference today to denounce as "meaner" their GOP Senate colleagues' version of health care reform to replace Obamacare. (Photo courtesy Sen. Schumer's Twitter account) The Senate today finally revealed its version of Obamacare repeal and replace, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 or BCRA. The 142-page document, which Senate leadership is describing as... Read more →


Regardless of which month you marry, there are and will be tax matters to consider. Relaxing after the ceremony. (Photo by Barney Moss via Flickr) Ever wonder why June is "the" wedding month? Me, too. So I looked it up. The Old Farmer's Almanac, which I never realized was a go-to wedding planning resource, says that June is the most popular month to marry thanks to some ancient traditions. The Roman goddess Juno, for whom the sixth month was named, was the protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing. So, says the Almanac,... Read more →


Tropical Storm Storm Cindy is now officially churning in the Gulf of Mexico, with a predicted landfall in a few days along the Texas-Louisiana border. That track could, of course change. And as meteorologists on the Weather Channel note, "it's not the name, but the rain." Tropical system precipitation typically reaches beyond the actual low pressure system, often well inland of coastal properties, and produces dangerous flooding. Such reports have come in from as far north as Atlanta today, with Cindy's expanded rain bands causing highway flooding in that city. Federal and state tax help for recovery efforts: As noted... Read more →


That colorful glob pictured above is Tropical Storm Bret. It formed this afternoon, kicking the 2017 Atlantic-Gulf of Mexico hurricane season into a higher gear. While images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can give us — and by us, I mean professional meteorologists — an indication of a storm's strength, what you and I really want to know is where the heck is this mess? Tropical Storm Bret is born: The purple map lines in the image are a bit hard to see, but my U.S. readers can breathe easy, at least for now. Bret is off the... Read more →