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Note: This post was updated Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 "The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dalí (Oil on canvas, 1931) © Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph taken in 2004. (Image taken from, fair use, Wikipedia) It's baaaaack! At 2 a.m. today (Nov. 6, 2016) most of America switched from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard Time. The good news is that today is an hour longer, unless you're having a really bad day that you want to end ASAP. The bad news is that darkness arrives sooner, just as the naturally shorter days... Read more →

2015 was supposed to be the year of tax reform, specifically simplification of our complicated tax code. Instead, Congress has been tucking tax provisions into recently enacted pieces of non-tax legislation. The most recent was the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, popularly referred to as the short-term highway funding bill. That measure, signed into law on July 31, contains several new tax provisions, including changed filing deadlines, additional information reporting rules for mortgages and more time for the Internal Revenue Service to audit certain types of underreported income. But a month earlier when a... Read more →

Gambling is big business. It's also big tax money. But the Internal Revenue Service gets the short e... Read more →

Taxpayers usually file amended returns to correct mistakes they made on their original tax paperwork. A New York City product liability attorney, however, sent the Empire State tax department fraudulent amended tax returns and now is looking at prison time. Jeff Galloway, formerly a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, partner pleaded guilty on June 4 to one felony count of criminal tax fraud. No returns, followed by false amended forms: The New York County District Attorney's office says that between 2005 and 2010, Galloway failed to file state personal income tax returns and pay taxes owed on around $1... Read more →

I know I just extolled the virtues of tax credits over tax deductions. But you don't have to pick one or the other. Claim all the credits and deductions you can. When deductions are mentioned, most folks think itemized deductions. That's mainly because they have their own special form, Schedule A. But most taxpayers don't itemize. So they're out of deduction luck, right? Wrong. Deductions above and beyond: There's a collection of tax breaks known as above-the-line deductions. Technically, they are adjustments to income. You subtract them from your gross income, which is all the money you made in the... Read more →

You're finally ready to sit down and do your taxes. Are you sure? The only thing worse than filling out your 1040 and all those other forms is finding that you forgot something and have to file an amended return. A tax-filing checklist will help ensure you have all the information you need to complete your federal income taxes correctly. Generally, the documents and materials you need stay pretty much the same from tax year to tax year. For 2014 returns, however, there are a couple of new considerations. Obamacare filing issues: This year, millions of folks are dealing for... Read more →

Remember the advice to check your tax statements as soon as they arrive for accuracy? These are the sundry 1099s and W-2s and other tax-related documents that have information and amounts you must report on your tax return. Wrong form info means wrong 1040s and lots of filing follow-up hassles. It's still a recommended practice. But almost a million folks who purchased health insurance through an Affordable Care Act health insurance last year don't have to bother. They're getting word from issuers of 1095-A forms that those documents have errors. Federal, California issues: Around 800,000 of those folks are going... Read more →

What do Super Bowl bets and missing tax forms have in common? They're all part of this week's Daily Tax Tips. Yes, the end of January is hectic for sports fans, particularly NFL aficionados or folks who love Super Bowl ads and halftime shows, as well as taxpayers. Since it's been a crazy five days, and Friday isn't even over yet, you might have missed these and the other tax tips that were posted, as the pointing finger indicates, in the upper right corner of the ol' blog's home page this week. Don't worry. We're good tax teammates here at... Read more →

Around eight million individuals got health coverage in 2014 through an Affordable Care Act exchange. If you're among that group, pay attention to your mail in the coming weeks. You'll be getting a Form 1095-A in connection with your Obamacare coverage. Important health care exchange info: Form 1095-A is a new tax reporting document. It is sent only to individuals who obtained health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, either the federal or a state exchange. This new two-page form includes information about your exchange-purchased insurance coverage, any household members covered under the policy, the monthly premium you (and... Read more →

I had a great time today talking with all the wonderful folks at Freelance Austin about taxes. The timing was perfect, too. Not only is January the start of the annual filing season for the prior year's tax returns, it's also time to start thinking about moves to make this year to keep your coming tax bill low. And tomorrow, Jan. 15, is the due date for the final estimated tax payment of 2014. Today's Daily Tax Tip has the skinny on filing estimated taxes. Click voucher image for full Form 1040-ES package as PDF from the IRS. Ways to... Read more →

In addition to updating tax forms and instructions and getting its computer systems ready for the Jan. 20 start of the 2015 tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service has been touching base with tax preparers who've had some recurring problems with some returns. Rather than penalizing the tax pros who have filed questionable claims for clients, the IRS is, for now, opting for pre-season tax filing reminders encouraging more diligence and a little bit of homework. In November 2014, around 2,500 preparers (according to Kiplinger Tax Letter) received letters recommending the recipients, in the IRS' words, "consider taking continuing... Read more →

OK, I swear that I'll quit highlighting the Daily Tax Tip soon. But today's advice on 7 ways to get organized for the tax-filing season is good! It's so good, in fact, that I just talked with a writer at The Street about this important matter. Here's some of our discussion. Old 1040, new filing guide: Start with last year's tax return. It's a good guide/reminder of what's likely to be on your 2014 return if your life hasn't changed that much. There is a method to my personal tax filing madness organization system, honest! It includes rough drafts on... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service has been encouraging, and in some cases forcing, taxpayers to use electronic options for years. But one area that's slipped through the electronic cracks is amended tax filings. And the IRS' continued old-fashioned handling of 1040X forms could cost Uncle Sam billions of dollars. Taxpayers can amend their previous filings, generally within three years of the original due date, to correct errors or claim overlooked tax breaks. 1040X filings typically are done to collect larger IRS refunds. In fiscal year 2012, the IRS received more than four million amended tax returns. A review by the Treasury... Read more →

If you just discovered an error on an old tax return, you might be able to correct it. All you need is Form 1040X … as long as the mistake was made on a return you filed within the last three years. Click image for PDF download of full Form 1040X. Details on filing an amended tax return, which is what you'll do with Form 1040X, are found in the Weekly Tax Tip. I'll let you check out the full tip at your leisure, but here are five key things to keep in mind. First, note the three-year time limit... Read more →

The hubby and I typically owe Uncle Sam every April 15. Usually not much, but some. We also tend to file for an extension. This is because I fill out our joint return and I have other things taking up my time during the first three-and-a-half months of the year. The six-month delay afforded by submission of Form 4868 also gives me, a sole proprietor, extra time to max out my prior-year contribution to my self-employed retirement account. If you are in the same do-it-later situation as the hubby and I, welcome to a pretty large club. Around 10 million... Read more →

South by Southwest is over. The thousands of attendees are gone or heading home. Downtown Austin streets are reopened. Cranky local residents are looking for something else to complain about. Some Austinites, however, are quite happy. During the week and half that the Lone Star State's capital was host of SXSW, they rented their residences to visitors. Not only did many of my neighbors pocket a nice chunk of change, they don't owe any taxes on it as long as their total residential property rental for the year is 14 days or less. That's right. As I've blogged before, homeowners... Read more →

Updated Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 Presidents Day -- OK, officially Washington's Birthday -- is a federal holiday. Many state employees and private sector workers across the country also get a day off on this third Monday of February. You know what that means. Folks are hitting the stores looking for Presidents Day sales bargains. I hope your shopping spree is successful. And if you are a big shopper, be it special holiday sales ties to federal holidays or any day because "Bargains!", then remember to use the taxes on your purchases as a way to reduce your federal IRS bill.... Read more →

How in the heck did February already arrive? And now we're four days into the shortest month? What the…?!? OK. Take a breath. And yes, I'm talking to myself as well as to any similarly flustered blog readers. There's still time left in this shortest month to take care of important tax tasks. So let's take a quick look at some tax moves to make in February's remaining 28 days. A lot of folks filed on Jan. 31 as soon as the Internal Revenue Service started accepting 2013 returns. But the rest of us are waiting, in part because we... Read more →

Updated Jan. 30, 2017 Taxes are all about the numbers. But when it comes to Form W-2, the alphabet also is important. The main thing you look for on your annual tax statement from your employer is, of course, the amount you earned, listed in boxes 1, 3 and 5, and the various taxes withheld in boxes 2, 4, 6 and, if you live in a state or city that collects tax on wages, in boxes 17 and 19. Click W-2 image for full Internal Revenue Service form and explanations of all box entries. But there is much more on... Read more →

I spent most of this morning at my personal computer downloading statements necessary to file our annual tax return. Most of what I was getting today was tax information from our investment accounts. I set up online access to every account, investing and basic bills, that I could when we moved back to Texas in 2005 so I wouldn't have to worry about things being forwarded by the U.S. Postal Service. It generally works out well. But now and then I do miss getting the statements in the curbside mailbox. Online access means I have to take responsibility to get... Read more →