Finances Feed

It's a cliché because it's true. All politics is local. That applies to taxes, too. Whether you love or hate a tax law depends on how much it helps or hurts you personally. That's why this weekend's Saturday Shout Out goes to the Tax Foundation's interactive map that lets you see average 2018 tax cuts in your congressional district. If you want to go beyond your locality, you can check out the dollar differences on average make to taxpayers across the country. As you can see on the Washington, D.C.-based tax policy nonprofit's map reproduced below, you simply enter your... Read more →


The fresh pepper section is always my first stop at my local H-E-B grocery store. Most of these delectable edibles come from Mexico. Donald J. Trump's forays last week into international issues got lots of attention. There was, of course, the on-off-on-again (and potentially taxpayer costly) Singapore Summit with North Korea. While I'm all for working to keep Kim Jong Un from reverting to his nuclear missile happy persona, my Texas neighbors and I were focused on another global matter. Yep, I'm talking about Trump's statement that he'd like to scrap the North American Free Trade Arrangement, or NAFTA, followed... Read more →


Losing your job. It's one of the worst things that can happen, especially when it comes as a total surprise. That's what folks who worked on Roseanne are dealing with after ABC pulled the plug on the rebooted sitcom. Being out of work is not so high-profile for most of us. But we all share the panic, anger and helplessness of suddenly losing the reason we get up every morning. To help you get through being let go, here are six steps you can take. And, of course, there are tax implications (nine total) for each of these post-job moves.... Read more →


Congratulations new graduates! If you're soon marching or have marched down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstance to receive your college diploma, welcome to the rest of your life. I remember that first summer after getting my sheepskin. It meant the part-time job I had at the local newspaper became a full-time gig. And that meant more money. That also meant a do-it-myself crash course — pre-internet! — in personal finance. Things worked out fine for me, but I admit it was simpler back then. Not that I'm that old, but college costs for a state university in Texas weren't... Read more →


Insightful high school seniors' essays offer valuable lessons about life, finances and, yes, taxes. As I get closer to retirement, I've begun to think what I'll do with the free time that transition is supposed to provide. One option I've considered is volunteering at tax help sites, like those offered by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations. That's why as I was thumbing through the paper this morning, the story about college essays caught my eye. Ron Lieber, who writes The New York Times' "Your Money" column that runs each Saturday, this weekend... Read more →


Bitcoin fans contend that their currency is just as valid as any other money. But they've not had a lot of luck in convincing most people of that. Cryptocurrency aficionados thought they had taken a major step toward wider acceptance in February when the Arizona Senate approved a bill that would have allowed for, beginning in 2020, the payment of state income taxes in bitcoin or other digital currency approved by the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADoR). Four months later, that's no longer a possibility. Crypto pay stripped from bill: When Senate Bill 1091 went to the Arizona House for... Read more →


Missouri taxpayers who have federal tax refunds burning holes in their pockets have a tax-saving way to spend that money. Today, Thursday, April 19, is the start of the state's annual Show-Me Green Sales Tax Holiday. Since 2009, this week-long event provides buyers the opportunity to purchase qualifying new Energy Star appliances without paying any state sales tax on the items. That's an immediate savings of 4.225 percent that, during the other 51 weeks of the year, would be added to these appliances' prices. Plus, depending on where you live (or travel to buy), the sales tax savings could be... Read more →


Apparently working on your taxes works up an appetite. That's the message from businesses offering freebies, or at least discounted items, on Tuesday, April 17, aka Tax Day 2018. Bagels, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches (sub, traditional and breakfast versions), cookies and Texas favorites corndogs (although some vendors — Yankees, perhaps? — call them hot dogs on a stick) and tacos (same culinary language nationwide) are there for your tasty taking on Tax Day. Taxes got you too stressed to eat? Take advantage of massages to ease you into a post-filing relaxed state. If you prefer to stay focused on the day's... Read more →


If you celebrated your 70½ birthday last year, you could be facing a retirement plan withdrawal deadline in a few days. (Photo by Kay Bell) Tax-favored retirement plans are a big part of millions of Americans' nest eggs. Many individuals still contribute untaxed dollars to traditional IRAs. They opt for this original IRA option because their contributions also allow them to take an immediate deduction on their tax returns. Others put money into workplace defined contribution plans. These automatic contributions are made before taxes are taken out of their paychecks. This lowers the amount of money subject to payroll withholding.... Read more →


Lawmakers in Arizona and Georgia think their residents don't have enough ways to pay their state taxes. To remedy that, they've introduced bills that would cryptocurrency payments. While fans of bitcoin and the myriad other digital assets may applaud the idea, they also need to note the downside. Paying state taxes — or for anything else — with cryptocurrency could mean more federal taxes. Grand Canyon state takes first leap: Arizona is the first state to jump at cryptocurrency tax payments. A bill by state Sen. Warren Petersen, a Republican representing Gilbert, would allow income taxes to be paid in... Read more →


While most investors have been closely following the recent gyrations of the stock market, fans of cryptocurrency also have been on their own frenzied financial journey. One bitcoin, as of this morning, was worth almost $8,433. I'd be happy with that value, but that's less than half what the cryptocurrency was worth in mid-December. On Dec. 16, 2017, the digital currency topped out at more $19,000. The cryptocurrency can be spent like real money — don't email me bitcoin et al fans; it will always be just one step above Monopoly money to me — but many tax collectors worldwide... Read more →


I don't like roller coasters. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, not Space Mountain, is my Disney World speed. Plus, as an investor, I get enough virtual and financial whiplash from following my portfolio. This week especially. From watching CNBC the last two days I've learned: The Dow is having its worst month in almost eight years. The market's fall of 1,179 points on Monday, Feb. 5, was the Dow's biggest drop ever. The 4.6 percent fall to close at just over 24,300 yesterday was, on a percentage basis, the biggest one-day drop for the blue-chip average since August 2011. We are... 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 →


Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you have all your presents at least in hand, if not wrapped and under the tree. And I hope they didn't set you back as much as the gifts given by the true love in the classic "12 Days of Christmas" tune. The least expensive of the 12 gifts in the classic Christmas carol was the eight milking maids. Maybe that's because, like farm manager Courtney Biggs at Chapel's Country Creamery in Easton, Maryland, they use modern milking methods. (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo by Bob Nichols via Flickr CC) The annual PNC Christmas Price... Read more →


Back in mid-October, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that the wage base, that's the amount of each worker's earnings that are subject to the Social Security portion of payroll withholding, would increase to $128,700. This week, the SSA revised that number downward. The new amount of income from which Social Security taxes will be withheld is $128,400. The SSA says it made the adjustment after getting corrected W-2s later in October that weren't figured into the original 2018 wage base announcement. "Approximately 500,000 corrections for W-2s from 2016 resulted in changes for three items based on the national average... Read more →


It's an exciting day in political and financial circles, what with the unsealing of the first indictments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian involvement in and influence of the 2016 presidential election. Tax geeks also are basking in part of the buzz since the official charges include some tax matters. Among the things that Paul J. Manafort Jr., former manager of Donald J. Trump's campaign, is accused of, per the indictment, is hiding his "overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income." Manafort also is alleged to used... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 13, 2017: Public and Congressional pressure, which included Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) letter to the Treasury Department urging it to review and potentially bar Equifax from consideration in any new or renewed government contracts, has paid off for opponents of the credit reporting bureau deal. The IRS announced, per an Oct. 12 report by Politico, that it has temporarily suspended the $7.25 million, no-bid contract it awarded to Equifax to verify the identities of taxpayers when they create accounts on the tax agency's website. Driver's license data was among the personal info that identity thieves obtained in the... Read more →


Everyone knows the Monopoly Man, even if we don't know his name. His classy duds, compete with top hat, and bushy mustache make him immediately recognizable. For many of us, he and his board game were our introduction to high finance. Now, however, he's branched out. He made a real-life appearance this week at a Congressional hearing. Equifax visual protest: OK, it was someone dressed up like Rich Uncle Pennybags, which is the Monopoly Man's name. And the impersonator stole the show from former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who continued to make the Washington, D.C, rounds to take heat for... Read more →


Who's in the middle class will determine in large part whether that group of Americans gets Republican-promised middle class tax relief. One of the big debates about any tax reform is whether or how much it will benefit the middle class. That was a question in today's #TaxBuzzChat about the recently released Republican framework for tax reform. First, however, we need to decide what is and who is part of the United States middle class. There are several ways to define the middle class. Some say it is based on income. Other define it by lifestyle. Still others say middle... Read more →


Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith is grilled Oct. 3 about the credit company's security breach by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Click image to watch full hearing on YouTube) Human error, specifically one human's error, is why 145 million of us are worrying about what crooks will do with the data that was stolen earlier this year in a data breach of Equifax. Richard Smith, the credit reporting bureau's former CEO, in testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee today blamed the initial failure to patch a known security risk on a specific individual. He did not... Read more →