Tom Brady and his New England Patriots teammates look to win back-to-back Super Bowls on Sunday, Feb. 4. (Screen shot from NFL Super Bowl LII preview video) We're two days away from Super Bowl LII. That means it's time for my annual post on how gambling winnings are taxable income. Here goes. The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates Americans will wager approximately $4.76 billion on Sunday's National Football League championship game. More than $4.6 billion of that, what the AGA calls "a staggering 97 percent of total wagers" on the game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, will... Read more →


Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, Except for February, Which has 28 to put to use doing your taxes. OK, I took some liberties with the traditional poem. But it is true that despite its reduced days, February still provides plenty of time to make some key tax moves. Here, since it is a short month, are three. Collect your tax statements: Most of the tax statements that you need to fill out your Form 1040 should be arriving by early this month. They were supposed to be to you or at least... Read more →


Every tax season, the April filing deadline gets the most attention. But today, Jan. 31, also is a big tax day. It's when most statements with information you need to complete your Form 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ) are supposed to be delivered. Technically, the Internal Revenue Service gives these information statements the same leeway it offers filers on Tax Day. Earnings and other tax-related statements due today are considered on time as long as they're on the way, either electronically (if you agree to that delivery method) or via snail mail by Jan. 31. So if you don't have... Read more →


Many medical costs are still tax deductible, but you have to clear an adjusted gross income bar. (Photo by Bjarteh via Wikipedia) If you're still young, which to me is an ever-shifting definition that now includes folks in their 40s, here's a warning. Get ready to see more doctors as you age. I know of what I blog. Although I'm young at heart, I'm finally there. My morning was full of physicians. And I'll deal with doctors again in a few weeks, both for follow-up exams and when I file my 2017 tax return. Tax breaks for medical costs: Taxes... Read more →


The 2018 tax filing season officially starts today. Many folks have already filed, by using Free File (which opened on Jan. 12), going with software on their own or turning over their tax material to paid preparers. The Internal Revenue Service will now process all those 1040s that were completed earlier this month and were on hold. If you, however, haven't gotten around to filling out your taxes yet, here's a checklist of what you'll need to accurately and easily complete your return. You might not need some of the stuff noted in this latest checklist. Feel free to skip... Read more →


If the New England Patriots win their sixth NFL championship next Sunday, it probably will be because of some key catches by Robert Gronkowski. (Photo via NFL.com Super Bowl LII media kit) Next Sunday, Feb. 4, we'll have a new Super Bowl champ. Or, more likely, an old Super Bowl championship team taking the National Football League title yet again. Yes, I'm going with Nevada's sports books and taking the surer bet that once Super Bowl LII ends, the New England Patriots will take their sixth Lombardi Trophy back to Foxborough, Massachusetts. Jimmy Garoppolo joins those of us betting on/rooting... Read more →


Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren might benefit by claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The IRS has additional information for these taxpayers and other special groups and situations where the EITC could help. Friday, Jan. 26, was EITC Awareness Day, the 12th annual event during with the Internal Revenue Service makes a special effort to get the word out about this tax break that millions of filers ignore each year. Actually, the tax agency made special efforts, plural, yesterday. There were more than 250 total outreach events and activities around the country to promote the Earned Income Tax... Read more →


Every tax filing season, millions overlook the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax break that could save them thousands of dollars. Nationwide, the Internal Revenue Service says that every tax season around 20 percent of filers who could claim this credit don't. That's an amazing statistic in a tax culture that's obsessed with getting refunds. Why EITC is ignored: So why are so many filers leaving all those tax dollars in the U.S. Treasury's account? There are three main reasons. First, some people think they make too much money to claim the EITC. True, this tax credit was created... Read more →


UPDATE, Feb. 8, 2018: The Trump Administration made it official this afternoon, announcing Donald J. Trump's intent to nominate Charles P. Rettig as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. If confirmed by the Senate, Rettig will serve a five-year term that began Nov. 12, 2017, when prior commissioner John Koskinen left. Tax practitioners are generally pleased to see someone from their ranks selected to helm the IRS. Capitol Hill reaction also was positive. "With a long history of helping families and job creators navigate the tax code and stand up to the IRS when the agency is wrong,... Read more →


Free tax-preparation and filing help, like that shown here at a Rutherford Country, Tennessee, VITA office, is available at thousands of sites across the country. You need help with your taxes but you can't afford a professional. A couple of community-based, Internal Revenue Service endorsed and, best of all, free tax filing help options may just be the answer. If you earn around $54,000 or less, have a disability, are elderly or speak limited English, you may qualify for free tax help from IRS-certified volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations nationwide.... Read more →


When Congress overwhelmingly approved — a 266-150 vote in the House, 81-18 margin in the Senate — a bill on Monday (Jan. 22) to fund the federal government, a lot of folks celebrated. Federal workers, who were off work just one day, of course were happy. So were the parents of the 9 million kids who get medical care under the Children's Health Insurance Program, aka CHIP, which had run out of money at the end of last September. States, which administer the program, had been operating on savings and an earlier short-term infusion of federal funds. Now they don't... Read more →


One week from today, on Monday, Jan. 29, the Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting 2017 tax year returns. Some folks have already filed, including for free via Free File, which actually opened on Jan. 12. Others, however, will be, shall we say, more deliberative, pushing off filing until closer to April's Tax Day or later thanks to an extension. While you need to take as much time as you need to complete your Form 1040 accurately and fully, it can be beneficial to file earlier rather than later in the tax season. Here are six reasons why early tax... Read more →


Photo courtesy Mike via Flickr CC Even though the federal government is shut down, one thing U.S. travelers heading overseas don't have to worry about is getting a passport. The U.S. Department of State says it will continue to issue the blue-bound international travel documents. It has that option since passport services are funded by fees, meaning they essentially pay for themselves and don't rely solely on funds authorized by Congress. But if you're a world traveler who owes back taxes, you could be stuck here at home. The hold comes not from State, but from the Internal Revenue Service.... Read more →


And so it begins. Uncle Sam is out of money, forcing closure today of many federal operations. How long will this latest government shutdown last? Based on prior shutdowns, it could be just today, or this could drag out for weeks. UPDATE, Feb. 9, 2018: The federal government closed briefly again on Feb. 9, but only for a few hours. A two-year budget agreement means we'll be able finish out the filing of our 2017 returns, either by the April deadline or the extended due date in October, without further interruption. In addition, this latest 5½-hour overnight closure ended with... Read more →


With the official start of the 2018 tax filing season just more than a week away, folks have been collecting important tax statements they'll need to file their returns. Identity thieves, unfortunately, are among those looking for those documents, particularly W-2 forms that most filers use to report their wage income. That's why the Internal Revenue Service is urging everyone to be on guard against the return of the Form W-2 phishing scam that last year made victims of hundreds of organizations and thousands of employees. Costly employment-related tax scam: The W-2 scam has emerged as one of the most... Read more →


Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr CC The federal government might shut down at midnight on Friday, Jan. 19. What will that mean to your taxes? The Internal Revenue Service has opened its Free File online tax preparation and e-filing program. Since the IRS simply acts as the portal to the dozen private tax software manufacturers who actually handle the returns, things there should operate as usual. That means that the taxpayers' returns now being filed through Free File will still be queued up, awaiting processing when the 2018 tax filing season officially starts on Monday, Jan. 29. But what... Read more →


Anger over the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's limits on federal tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) has spilled over into 2018, with lawmakers from high-tax states still looking for ways to undo this provision. Some have petitioned the Internal Revenue Service for revised, more filer-friendly property tax guidance. Other have introduced legislation to fully restore the now-limited SALT itemized write-offs. You thought the battle over paying 2018 local property taxes so that they could be claimed on 2017 tax returns ended on Jan. 1. You were wrong. Asking IRS to reconsider: Sen. Chuck Schumer, Senate minority... Read more →


U.S. Supreme Court photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr CC Much tax attention has been focused on the new tax law that now limits the federal deduction filers can claim for the state taxes they pay. But another impending state tax decision could affect even more taxpayers across the country. The Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) will decide this summer whether more of us will be paying state sales taxes on our online purchases. That's already a price that folks in the 45 states and Washington, D.C. pay when they buy products from internet retail giant Amazon. If the... Read more →


The Rev. Gilbert Caldwell (left) was part of the civil rights movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (center). Click the screenshot above to watch the full CBS Sunday Morning feature on how a group of fifth-graders helped correct a 60-year-old act of discrimination against Caldwell and his wife. As a young man, the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell marched with Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we honor and celebrate on this federal holiday. Racial discrimination was among the many wrongs King, Caldwell and other civil rights activists back then were working to right. It's a... Read more →


A collection of Enigma machines and paraphernalia on display at the U.S. National Cryptologic Museum. New York tax officials seized and sold one Enigma owned by "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli to cover his unpaid state taxes. (Photographs courtesy Robert Malmgren via en:User:Matt Crypto/Wikipedia) It's no mystery why folks intentionally skirt tax laws. They don't want to pay. New York, however, has managed to get back some of the taxes that officials say former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli failed to pay the Empire State. New York state tax officials seized a rare Nazi Enigma encryption machine and three historical documents... Read more →