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Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas, was famous in its heyday, part of which just happened to coincide with my youth, as a wonderful water park. No visit to relatives in nearby San Antonio was complete until we headed to Aquarena to ride in a glass-bottom boat, marvel at the mermaids and cheer Ralph the swimming pig as he made his famous swine dive. Click fish image for full video view of Aquarena Springs from a glass-bottom boat. The park is gone, replaced by a water research program under the auspices of Texas State University, or Southwest Texas State as... Read more →


Are we having tax fun yet? We did for while last night when it looked like we finally might get a look at Donald J. Trump's taxes. OK. We did get to see part of the new president's 2005 tax return, courtesy tax journalist David Cay Johnston and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes talk Trump taxes on March 14 with Pulitzer Prize winning tax journalist David Cay Johnston. (Click screenshot to view a segment of the Maddow show.) Trump tells tax all? The tax return provides some basic info, but raises a lot more... Read more →


Most folks have their income taxes, both federal and state, withheld from their paychecks. While your employer (or, in many cases, the payroll company it hires) will take care of the amount that comes out each pay period, it's up to you to make sure it's correct. Filling out your W-4: Your withholding is based on the information you provide on Form W-4. The key factor on this document is your number of withholding allowances. The more allowances you claim, the less tax withheld. The reasoning is that you need the money in hand each payday to take care of... Read more →


Hello February. Although you're the year's shortest month, your fewer days can be full of extremes, like snow this week in the Midwest and Northeast and weather warm enough here in Central Texas for us to turn off the furnace and open windows. Image courtesy Tammy King's February Pinterest Board February's changes can be dramatic. But there's no need to over-react to your taxes this month. There are lots of easy moves you can make over the next 28 days. Collect your tax statements: Filing data on a variety of forms is filtering in this month. If you work for... Read more →


The 2017 tax filing season has been officially underway for just more than a week. Lots of folks have already filed their returns. The Ally Bank fortune cookie I got at FinCon16 last September was already planning for this filing season. And yes, after acknowledging the good tax advice, I ate the cookie! And, according to ecstatic posts on social media, some have received their refunds. Other taxpayers, however, are waiting to file. Form-ulaic delay: Why the delay. In a lot of cases, folks haven't yet received their W-2s, 1099s and other documents with the data necessary to fill out... Read more →


Jan. 31 is a key annual tax deadline. It’s the date employers must send W-2 and 1099-MISC forms to folks who received at least $600 in compensation the preceding tax year. Jan. 31 also now is the deadline for employers to also submit that W-2 and 1099-MISC data to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Earlier reporting to fight fraud: In past years, employers had another month to get the data to Social Security. But in an effort to help the Internal Revenue Service fight tax refund fraud, a provision in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH, Act now... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 opens today! Yes, that is cheering you're hearing. It's from folks who file their taxes early, usually because they are getting refunds. They also are fortunate that they have all the materials they need to fill out their returns. The key document for most taxpayers is their W-2 form. Employers aren't required to get these out until the end of the month, but some companies are quite efficient. And some taxpayers this year are going to discover something new on their W-2s. Verification code addition: Around 50 million of these officially named Wage and Income Statements... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 really is here. Some folks have already filed their tax year 2016 federal return (soooo jealous!) even though the Internal Revenue Service won't start processing the submitted forms until Jan. 23. Others of us are still waiting for the tax documents we need to fill out our forms. If you're in the still-waiting group, now's a good time to consider just what you will need to accurately and easily complete your return. To help, here's the 2017 version of the ol' blog's tax filing checklist. It's a good idea at the start of each filing season... Read more →


Donald Trump doesn't move into the Oval Office for 15 more days, but the Republican-control Congress is working on legislation for him to sign into law shortly after he settles into his new digs. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was on CNBC's Squawk Box this week to discuss House efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare. Click image to watch the full interview. One of the president-elect's campaign promises was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known (for a while longer) as Obamacare. That won't be easy, either politically and pragmatically. Delayed repeal... Read more →


The first Friday the 13th of 2017 is lucky for some taxpayers. That's the day that Free File once again opens, allowing eligible folks to electronically prepare and file their 2016 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service hasn't yet issued an official announcement about Free File 2017, but if you peruse the IRS web site (c'mon, I know I'm not the only one doing this!) you'll find the agency has updated its Free File page, a screenshot excerpt of which is shown above. UPDATE: It's official! The IRS says you can now access Free File by going to IRS.gov and... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service says taxpayers should use any legitimate tax break to which they're entitled to help reduce their tax bills. Professional boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr., however, seems to be pushing that recommendation. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fighting Juan Manuel Márquez on Sept. 19, 2009, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradise, Nevada, just south of Las Vegas. (Photo by Ian McWilliams via Flickr CC) Mayweather, who counts Money among his nicknames (and shows why in his Instagram account), reportedly sent a Las Vegas strip club a 1099 tax form in an apparent attempt to write off a visit... Read more →


If you have substantial funds in foreign bank accounts or investments, you may need to file a Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. And you need to do so by next Wednesday, June 30. That's a firm deadline. No filing extension is allowed. Because of the no-give for this filing, the due date earns this week's By the Numbers honor. FBAR triggers: The filing is known as the FBAR, which is a sort-of scrambled acronym for the form's name. Although the Internal Revenue Service is intensely interested in tracking potentially taxable money wherever in the world it's... Read more →


Early in my career of writing about taxes my shelves and desk and file cabinets and office floor were covered in tax-related magazines, books, brochures and Internal Revenue Service issued tax booklets and forms. Now it's my email box that's overflowing. The world, including the tax world, has gone more digital. Although, as that photo at left shows, I still have plenty of actual tax and finance books (including -- shameless plug alert -- my "Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and the "Future Millionaires' Guidebook" that some of my Bankrate colleagues and I wrote) in my office. One group, however,... Read more →


Sometimes you just have to feel sorry for the Internal Revenue Service. The federal tax agency finally brings its Get Transcript online service back fully online after more than a year and BAM! It gets smacked. Click image to go to the new, more secure Get Transcript website. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today issued a report charging that that the IRS missed some taxpayers whose information fell into criminal hands in last year's Get Transcript hack. What the crooks were after: The online Get Transcript tool, which now requires a tougher, two-step authentication process in order to... Read more →


It's been more than a year since hackers were able to get into the Internal Revenue Service's online database of taxpayer transcripts. The agency initially thought that cyber crooks got data on around 104,000 filers when they broke into the Get Transcript tool. The hack, which apparently started in February 2015 and was made public three months later, was accomplished by criminals using personal information that they got from sources outside the IRS. By August, the IRS investigation revealed that the hacked tax account tally was closer to 334,000. Your tax life in an alternate form: Tax transcripts aren't just... Read more →


Be still, my heart. Daveed Diggs talked about taxes! Diggs, one of the Tony-nominated stars of the Broadway smash "Hamilton," was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night. He of course talked about his dual roles as America's favorite fighting Frenchman Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in Lin-Manuel Miranda's $10 Founding Father musical. Pre-Broadway jobs: However, just before getting the "Hamilton" parts, the accomplished rapper was at home in Los Angeles and was between gigs. To make ends meet, Diggs delivered catering "in my tore-up Honda Civic … mostly fajitas … at minimum wage, no less." When he got... Read more →


NOTE: This post was updated Jan. 26, 2017. Obamacare, the popular name for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was supposed to be a key factor in the 2016 presidential election. It still might be one came up in the general election once Democrats and Republicans have settled on their respective candidates. Now the Republican-controlled Congress and GOP President Donald Trump are working on repealing and replacing the prior president's signature health care law. So far, though, For the most part during last year's run for the White House, health care has received only cursory mention and, surprisingly, that's been was... Read more →


The hubby and I get our medical insurance through his employer. Today we and several of his coworkers got our Form 1095-C in connection with our health care coverage. This is one of two new documents that employers are sending out to their workers in connection with the Affordable Care Act, or as many of us call it (fondly and otherwise), Obamacare. When one of the hubby's colleagues raised questions about the form, I suggested he send out a company-wide email blast with a link to my story on ACA forms. He declined. We now have a dinnertime discussion topic.... Read more →


Have your snail mail and email boxes been filling up lately with tax statements? Mine have. That's good. As soon as we have all these documents detailing our 2015 tax transactions in our hands, physically or digitally, we can file our tax returns. The deadline for employers and other folks who must send out tax documents to affected taxpayers technically is Jan. 31. When that date falls on a federal holiday or, like this year, a weekend, then it gets pushed to the next business day. So Monday, Feb. 1, is the deadline this year, meaning our W-2 and 1099... Read more →


Uber pitches itself to potential drivers as a way to make cash on your own terms. But one of the popular ride-sharing company's contractors this week found the driving effort was not so personal after all. This Uber driver's 1099-K earnings statement, issued to contractors so they can file their annual tax returns, was made available to other drivers in the ride-sharing company's system. 1099-K forms are the cousins to 1099-MISC statements that independent contractors receive. A Form 1099-K is used mainly to report credit and debit card payments and online transactions, rather than old-fashioned check payments. 1099-Ks also are... Read more →