Groundhog Day is probably the most bizarre holiday, at least of those we celebrate here in the United States.
I mean really, we rely on a sleepy, cranky rodent to predict weather when we have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service with all it's scientific and technological meteorological bells and whistles?
But it's tradition.
And, like the still popular "Groundhog Day" movie that re-airs on cable and is in some theaters as each Feb. 2 nears, the holiday and Punxsutawney Phil and his peers across the country just keep showing up year after year after year.
That's why it makes it a fitting holiday for our tax system.
Tax tip tradition: Like Phil, who just keeps doing his winter weather forecasting every year, millions of taxpayers head into February every year ready to tackle the recurring annual hassle of filing tax returns.
And like Phil, the ol' blog heads into February with more Daily Tax Tips. As with January's weekday pieces of tax advice, the tips for February will be highlighted in the upper right corner of the ol' blog.
After a day in the spotlight, from Feb. 1 through Feb. 28, the tips then will find a permanent home here on the February tax tips page.
Since it's a short month, let's get to it.
- Why you should file ASAP — It's generally a good idea to file your tax return early, whether you're getting a refund or owe the IRS. Here are six reasons why. (Feb. 1, 2018)
- Tax tips from athletes in tax trouble — The sports world focus this weekend is on Super Bowl LII, either as football fans or fans of gambling on the game. Most of the NFL players make millions, and sometimes all that money leads to tax troubles. Here are some important lessons we can learn from pro athletes who found themselves in trouble with tax collectors. (Feb. 2, 2018)
- Reporting your gambling winnings — When a bet pays off, like your wager on the Philadelphia Eagles upsetting the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, that money is taxable. It doesn't matter if the bet was legally placed at a Nevada sports book or made illicitly with a bookie or at a U.S.-banned online gambling website. Don't press your luck by hiding the money from the Internal Revenue Service. Here's how to report it. (Feb. 5, 2018)
- Side hustle tax deductions — If you had some side hustles to add to your wage income or a series of part-time jobs as your full-time work, that's taxable income. But there also are deductions that can help you cut the taxes you owe on your gigs. (Feb. 6, 2018)
- Don't be a side hustle tax evader — While some folks are diligent in collecting records to claim every possible side hustle tax break, others don't bother. Why not? Because they don't plan to report the income. Not a good idea. The IRS eventually will catch some of these gig economy tax evaders. When that happens, they have to pay back taxes, plus penalties and interest. And that could be very costly. (Feb. 7, 2018)
- 6 charitable deduction FAQs — People give to their favorite charities because they want to help. That said, your philanthropy also might help you save a few tax dollars. Here are answers to six commonly asked questions about donating and deducting your gift on your tax return. (Feb. 8, 2018)
- 5 amended tax return filing tips — If you discover you made a mistake on a tax return, or missed a tax break because, say, it was approved retroactively after you filed, it's a good idea to file an amended return. That's true even when the changes mean your tax bill is a bit bigger. Here are some ways to get your 1040X just right. (Feb. 9, 2018)
- Picking the proper filing status — Most folks' filing status stays the same from tax year to tax year. But a change in your personal situation could mean you need to revisit how you file your return. The Internal Revenue Service gives us 5 filing status choices. Pick the proper one. It could make a big difference in your tax bill. (Feb. 12, 2018)
- How to handle a wrong tax refund — Your federal tax refund finally arrived, but it's not what you expected. Now what? (Feb. 13, 2018)
- 3 charitable ways to celebrate Valentine's Day — In love with love and someone else this Feb. 14 and want to share your joy? Check out these charitable and potentially tax-deductible ways to celebrate Valentine's Day. (Feb. 14, 2018)
- 6 electronic tax help options — The Internal Revenue Service wants to be part of our ever increasing digital world. It's encouraging taxpayers to get filing help from it electronically. Here are six ways to do just that. (Feb. 15, 2018)
- Hold on EITC & ACTC refunds is over — The waiting period for releasing tax refunds to filers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTA) is over. But the tax cash won't be delivered until the end of February. (Feb. 16, 2018)
- Deducting state and local sales taxes — Are you a big shopper? The state and local sales tax you pay on those purchases might help reduce your federal tax bill. That's definitely the case on 2017 returns. And even with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changes beginning with the 2018 tax year, this itemized deduction still might be worthwhile for some bargain-hunting taxpayers. (Feb. 19, 2018)
- 5 tax breaks for pet owners — Pets add a lot to our lives. In some circumstances, our furry family members also could provide some tax breaks, at least for 2017 tax year returns. (Feb. 20, 2018)
- No W-2? What to do now — Yikes! You're still waiting for your W-2 earnings statement so you can file your taxes. Here are some steps to take. (Feb. 21, 2018)
- Decoding your W-2 — You finally got your W-2 and are ready to file your taxes. Here's what you need from all the boxes on that wage statement to fill out your 1040. (Feb. 22, 2018)
- IRS phone help lines, web links — Looking for tax help from the Internal Revenue Service? The agency suggests you start online at these links. But if you must call, make sure the IRS doesn't ask who dis? Call the telephone hotline that will provide you the appropriate assistance. Here are some of those numbers. (Feb. 23, 2018)
- Excellent tax exemptions — A big family could lead to a smaller tax bill thanks to personal exemptions. This dollar amount for yourself, your spouse and dependents is still available for your 2017 tax year returns, but ends starting in 2018. (Feb. 26, 2018)
- Joint filing means two form signers — Marriage means sharing most things including, for most wedded couples, tax filing. In our case, I do our taxes and the hubby signs off on the filing, literally. He has to and not just because I say so. Federal tax law requires both spouses sign the joint 1040 or pay a penalty. (Feb. 27, 2018)
- Capital gains and losses tax law tweaks — The good news is that the recent tax law changes didn't alter the current capital gains tax rates. They're still 0 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent. But the income amounts that determine which of these rates applies to you have been tweaked for 2018. (Feb. 28, 2018)
As I mentioned back in January when this filing season's Daily Tax Tips series started, as soon a month ends, you can find all its tips on its special blog page. The links below will go live as this happens.