Finances Feed

Click screenshot to watch Boston CBS affiliate WBZ's report on this weekend's just-enacted Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday. Massachusetts has had a difficult relationship with the sales tax holiday concept. Over the years the Bay State's lawmakers have struggled with the need to retain as much tax revenue as possible versus giving residents (and possible voters) a brief break from taxes on some of their purchases. The even has been regularly approved one year, only to be dropped the next, with lawmakers often deciding to hold a tax holiday at the very last minute. That's the case this year. For the... Read more →


Photo by Chris Potter via ccPixs.com School is about to start, so all the students who contributed to the just-released July jobs report are wrapping up those seasonal gigs. Many of these young workers plan to use the money they earned to pay some of their college costs. Kudos for them for contributing to their educations. But it's also a great idea for young people to start thinking about the day when they can quit working for good. The problem is that too many young people, like a lot of us, don't think that far ahead. Plus, a young person's... Read more →


We're on the downside of 2018 and that has some folks in the tax world, and on Capitol Hill, concerned. They're worried that unless folks act soon, they're going to get an unwelcome surprise next federal tax filing season. When they fill out their new Form 1040s, they'll discover they owe. The reason is the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). OK, technically it's because a lot of folks haven't adjusted their payroll withholding to account for the new lower income tax rates and other changes, like no more exemptions and revised of eliminated itemized expenses. It's not for... Read more →


It's called the dismal science, but Donald J. Trump's vision of the U.S. economy was anything but gloomy after the Commerce Department on July 27 reported gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the second quarter of the year was 4.1 percent. That's a welcome amount of growth based on the economy's broadest measure of goods and services. That's why it's this week's By the Numbers figure. But, say most of the practitioners of the dismal science, aka economists, let's not get carried away. They caution that while the latest measure of economic growth is good news for both U.S. businesses... Read more →


Owing the Internal Revenue Service is bad. Having the IRS come after you for that money is worse. Dealing with private debt collectors who've been given your overdue tax account is worst. That's the perspective of many when it comes to the federal tax collection process. But not all. And now an online war of words has erupted between the National Taxpayer Advocate and a new group created to advocate for private collection of tax debt. Pro private tax debt collection: The Partnership for Tax Compliance (PTC) debuted on June 26. The goals of the 501(c)6 nonprofit (that's the tax... Read more →


UPDATED to include the Massachusetts' sales tax holiday that was enacted Aug. 10, just in advance of that Bay State's Aug. 11-12 tax-free event. The annual sales-tax-free events generally billed as back-to-school tax holidays kick off the 2018 summer shopping season this week. There are 17 this year, three in July and 14 in August. Yes, kiddos, your summer holiday is winding down. Parents and school officials are getting ready for the resumption of classes in, for some jurisdictions, just six short weeks. That also means that it's time for back-to-school sales tax holidays. These annual events offer shoppers a... Read more →


It's hot. Not just here in Texas, but across the United States. In fact, around the world. That means we all need to be careful. More careful than the hubby, who decided to mow our yard yesterday. And not during the relative cooler morning when temperatures were in the 80s, but in the afternoon when the thermometer nudged 100 and it felt even hotter. It wiped him out for the rest of the day and evening. I love my man, but I guess it's true that the heat does make us do dumb things. Deadly heat: Excessive heat also tends... Read more →


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 →