Education Feed

The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education have a graduation gift for some students. The tax agency's income data retrieval tool that makes it easier to apply for federal financial college aid is once again operational for some applicants. This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed fellow home. Since 2012, the IRS has made getting income information easier for students and their parents who are seeking financial help by... Read more →


These young women are enjoying their high school graduation ceremony. Now, with diplomas in hand, they and their families are looking at how to pay for college. A 529 plan could help. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Education via Flickr) Happy 529 Day! This end-of-May day is marked each year by a flurry of activity to get the word out about 529 college savings plans. Created by Congress in 1996, the accounts are officially designated as a "qualified tuition program" in the Internal Revenue Code. However, they are more commonly referred by the IRC section 529 that covers their associated... Read more →


Remember that recent economic analysis that said Americans were more in debt than they've been in almost a decade? The bulk of that debt is housing related, but student debt also is a big contributor to the growing owing. Households today are borrowing differently than they did nine years ago, note New York Times reporters Michael Corkery and Stacy Cowley. The latest data show that student loan debt, driven by soaring tuition costs, makes up 11 percent of total household debt, up from 5 percent in the third quarter of 2008. Nice days mean students can turn their college campus... Read more →


I'm a big fan of teachers, not just because my grandmother and one of my aunts were teachers, but because I had great instructors from elementary through college. So celebrating National Teacher Day is the least I can do. That and remind teachers and others who help educate us that there's a tax break specifically for them. Tax reward for teachers: Most teachers go beyond lesson plans and working weekends to get ready to make the learning experience one that resonates. In fact, a lot of teachers spend their own money to help make their classroom presentations effective. In recognition... Read more →


Most of us — Internal Revenue Service data shows around 70 percent of taxpayers — don't mess with itemized deductions. Instead this large group of filers claims the standard deduction. It's easy. The amount to claim is based on your filing status and found directly on the 1040 and 1040A forms; it's included with the personal exemption amount(s) on 1040EZ. It's also adjusted annually for inflation, so generally if you make more the next tax year, your standard deduction is larger. But sometimes standard deduction claimants feel a bit left out at tax time, since so much is written (guilty!)... Read more →


Back before I was totally focused on taxes — yes, I know that's hard to imagine — I worked for a corporate conglomerate that had an aerospace subsidiary. That company also was a government contractor. To underscore our connection to federal government, my employer offered the option to buy U.S. saving bonds through a payroll purchase program. I still have a bundle of those Series EE bonds. Yes, real paper bonds. That's some of them pictured above. It seemed a little silly back then, even though the purchases cost me only half of each bond's face value. Compared to other... Read more →


It was supposed to be the annual Capitol Hill review of how the current tax filing season is going. It was supposed to be a time for the Internal Revenue Service to shine since, as the IRS commissioner said during a public speech yesterday, it's been the smoothest filing season since he took the top job in December 2013. It wasn't. During a Senate Finance hearing today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed more details of security breach connected to federal student aid applications that require inclusion of tax data. Student loan tax data security concerns: While 2017 filing season specifics... Read more →


Most high-income investors last were likely a little bummed last week when the Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act failed. It didn't have anything to do with their personal opinions on Obamacare or health care in general. It meant that the Net Investment Income Tax, or NIIT, remains on the books. This 3.8 percent surtax is assessed on capital gains, dividends, interest, and other passive income earned by single investors making more than $200,000 a year or $250,000 if married filing jointly. It was one of the many ACA-related taxes that would have been repealed if the GOP... Read more →


The United States and Canada share more than the world's longest undefended border. They also share attacks by cyber criminals on their online tax systems. A sign at the point where the railroad crosses the U.S.-Canada border at Peace Arch Park. This is the westernmost point on the continuous main section of the border. (Photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia) Canada Revenue Agency’s website was down from the afternoon of Friday, March 10, until 5 p.m. Sunday, March 12, after tax officials discovered the site had a security vulnerability. South of the 49th parallel on Thursday, March 9, the Internal Revenue... Read more →


With Republicans soon to be in control of Congress and the White House, the tax focus has shifted to a major rewrite of the Internal Revenue Code. But this legislative approach means that more than 30 temporary tax provisions will disappear from the tax code on Jan. 1, 2017. Whether they are resurrected in any new tax overhaul depends on how persuasive the various laws' lobbyists are, how committed Senators and Representatives are to streamlining the tax code and how much tax revenue is gained or lost by their continued absence or revival. Extenders usually long lives: These tax laws,... Read more →


This post was reviewed and updated June 7, 2017. Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October. I like that timing. It doesn't force folks into attending two annual family gatherings within a month of each other. Not that I don't love my family, but like many things, a little goes a long way. And don't worry. I know which relatives (and there are plenty!) are thinking, if not saying, the same about me. Canada and the United States share many things, but the same Thanksgiving holiday isn't one of them. But during this week that we Americans are preparing to say... Read more →


Taxes are about dollar amounts and dates. April 15 obviously is the biggie. But Dec. 31 is almost as important. The end of a tax year is, for the most part, the last time you can make tax moves that could help lower your coming tax bill. While we all wish we could have Homer Simpson's to-do list, when it comes to taxes, most of us need to take care of some potentially money saving tax tasks by Dec. 31. With the days rapidly dwindling (the countdown clock over there in the ol' blog's right column is tracking them), here... Read more →


Welcome to Part 4 of the ol' blog's series on 2017 inflation adjustments. You can find links to all 2017 inflation posts in the first item: Income Tax Brackets and Rates. Today we look at changes to some popular credits and deductions. Note: The 2017 figures apply to 2017 returns that are due in 2018. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2016 amounts to be used in filing 2016 returns due next April. You can jump for joy like these youngsters if you can claim some of these popular inflation-adjusted credits and deductions. The key to paying the least tax... Read more →


On lazy Sunday afternoons, my thoughts -- after I'm through cursing the idiotic plays my Dallas Cowboys make -- often turn to retirement. Retired couple enjoying a lazy day outdoors. (Photo by Pug50 courtesy Flickr CC) The hubby and I have been saving for a long time with the goal of making all our days like Sundays, without, of course, the 'Boys' frustrations. The tax code offers many ways to help us save for what we hope will be our golden years. Sen. Ron Wyden, however, thinks Uncle Sam needs to revise some of the retirement related tax provisions. The... Read more →


$10,162. That's how much of a federal tax refund that Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his wife Karen received on their 2015 tax return. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, GOP vice presidential candidate, campaigning among Ohio State tailgaters during a stop earlier this month in the key Nov. 8 election state. (Photo via @mikepence Twitter account) Since the Pences' refund is almost four times the amount of the average tax refund of $2,732 (per Internal Revenue Service filing data through May 13), the $10,162 that the Pences are getting back from Uncle Sam also earns this week's By the... Read more →


How's your first sort of full week of September going? The "sort of" question qualification comes, of course, because this week is short, at least for many workers, because Monday was Labor Day. September Bliss via HD Wallpapers Does anyone else find it intriguing that many of us celebrate a holiday commemorating work by taking the day off from our jobs? Even I, a self-employed person, took advantage of Labor Day to be lazy. But now it's time to get back to the grind, even -- especially -- when it comes to taxes. Here are some things you might want... Read more →


Parents want the best schools possible for their kids. Heck, even child-free folks like the hubby and I want good schools. We're counting on the kids roaming our neighborhood getting good educations, then good jobs where they pay into the Social Security that we're planning on collecting in the ever-nearer future. School is back in session, supported in large part by the property taxes that homeowners pay. (Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks via Flickr) But homeowners also hate property taxes. By some measures, it's the most hated tax. So when we get our property tax bills, the largest portion of which tends... Read more →


Music is important to me. I took piano lessons as a kid and even survived some formal recitals and special performances in elementary school. In junior high (that's what we called middle school in my day) and high school, I played the clarinet in school bands. A couple of friends (shout out to Sabrina and Rebecca) and I even won a 2nd place medal for our reed trio's performance at a Texas UIL competition. I long ago put my instruments away, but nowadays I am a polished listener of tunes, all sorts of tunes. Music plays a role in my... Read more →


Saving soon and often for your or your children's college education is critical. But just as important as putting away higher education money is knowing when to take out that college fund cash. 529 plan benefits, possible pitfalls: This is especially true of the tax-favored 529 plans that states offer. Your deposits to a 529 plan are not tax deductible, but the funds grow tax-free. And when you or your child withdraws the money, there's no tax bill as long as you use the funds to pay for qualifying college costs. Withdrawing 529 money, however, is not as simple as... Read more →


New York City handed out more than $59 million in residential tax breaks to thousands of deceased individuals and corporations between fiscal years 2011 and 2017. The improper tax benefits were supposed to go as property tax exemptions for senior citizens, according to an audit by the New York City comptroller's office. Around $36 million in tax revenue was lost when the city granted more than 3,000 Senior Citizen Homeowners' Exemptions (SCHE) to older property owners who had died, according to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. The same properties, Stringer said during a July 7 press conference announcing the audit findings,... Read more →