Identity thieves got access to personal information on 143 million Americans by hacking into credit reporting bureau Equifax's data base in late July. If you have credit, you're screwed. Thanks Equifax. Equifax is one of three major companies that tracks the credit worthiness of American consumers. The other two are Experian and TransUnion. These repositories of how we pay, or don't, our bills are where lenders, landlords and even potential employers go for information before making decisions that affect our lives. Equifax also is where criminals went for all our personal data they need to steal our financial identities and... Read more →


Amazon's headquarters (center high rise) dominates downtown Seattle. Now the online retail giant is looking to build a second HQ in another North American city. (Photo courtesy Amazon) In June, Amazon acquired what many Austin residents felt was a part of the city's core, the organic grocer Whole Foods. Now Texas' capital city is looking to get something back from Amazon — the online retailer's second headquarters. But becoming home to that new facility also raises a big question: At what tax cost? Second HQ as big as the first: Amazon announced Sept. 7 that it's looking for a city... Read more →


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could be the target of Patriots fans' ire tonight in the league's season opener in Foxborough, Massachusetts. He's also the subject of some prop bets being placed on the game. With Houston and much of southeast Texas still struggling with Hurricane Harvey recovery and Florida looking like it will take a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, I am definitely ready for a little bit of professional football diversion. That's why my TV will be toggling tonight between the 2017 season-opening NFL game on NBC and The Weather Channel. I'll be watching the football game just for... Read more →


Records, tax and financial, are often among the property damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster. If you're lucky, you might be able, like this woman, to salvage some of the documents. If not, you'll need to recreate them to take advantage of tax-related storm relief. (Image courtesy Louisiana Law Blog) Maybe you didn't think the hurricane's flood waters would reach your neighborhood. Or maybe you just never kept copies, either paper or digital, of your financial and tax records. Now, however, you find you're among the millions dealing with Hurricane Harvey aftermath that destroyed much of the Texas Gulf... Read more →


Remember my post back in June noting that the Atlantic hurricane season was heating up? That's one of the few times I hated being right. Parts of Texas are still flooded by Hurricane Harvey's deluge, but Mother Nature doesn't care. She's cooked up Harvey's angrier sister, Hurricane Irma, now a dangerous — potentially catastrophic, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest alert — Category 5 storm. Even worse than Irma's strength — her maximum sustained winds were at 180 miles per hour in the NHC's 11 a.m. ET report today — is her last forecast path that has her moving... Read more →


Happy Labor Day. While many Americans are working on this holiday, others are fortunate to have off this first Monday in September. Whether you're working or not most likely depends on the type of employee you are. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay employees for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays, writes Susan Heathfield for The Balance. Different jobs, different days off: Salaried employees in exempt professional, technical or managerial positions expect paid holidays. Nonexempt, or hourly, employees are less likely to have paid holidays, or they receive fewer such days off... Read more →


Colorfully coiffed "Girls Trip" friends Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall and Queen Latifah partying in New Orleans. I've been a film fanatic from an early age. It started when I was a back-seat viewer on the family's regular summer night trips to the drive-in. Movies were a much needed break from real life in terrible times, like when Mom took my little brother and me to see "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" to get us away from the news of JFK's assassination. And the annual airing of "The Wizard of Oz" was must-see TV in our house, especially... Read more →


Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, shown with some of his coworkers, was brought to the United States by his mother when he was just six. He is one of the almost 800,000 young people facing potential deportation if the Trump Administration revokes an Obama-instituted immigration leniency action. Click image to see the full NBC News report, via Twitter, on Contreras and the law. The White House is expected to make a decision on President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as soon as Tuesday, Sept. 5. UPDATE, Sept. 5: It's official. DACA is ending. In a press conference this... Read more →


I don’t know about you, but I am glad to see August gone! It was a horrible, awful, no-good month for too many of my fellow Texans. We're counting on you, September, with your promise of cooler temperatures and return of routines, like the kiddos' going back to class, to get us to a better place. Among the things to think about as fall nears is, of course, taxes. Here are four quick tax tasks to consider this month. File your 2016 taxes: For the first time in years, I'm heading into fall with my prior year return already in... Read more →


Residents of Houston and much of southeast Texas are still dealing with Hurricane Harvey's floods. Texas National Guard members are helping. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt via Flickr) If you're looking for financial help to help you recover from Hurricane Harvey damages, the Internal Revenue Service says you can use your workplace retirement plan money. The IRS announced that 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make expedited loans and hardship distributions to hurricane victims and members of their families in Texas. Since Harvey made initial landfall the night of Aug. 25 near Rockport, Texas, the federally-declared disaster area... Read more →


Some folks have been asking for clarification on disaster loss claims, specifically with regard to the value of a damaged or destroyed home. A Rockport, Texas, home severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey, which made its first landfall on Aug. 25 at the Gulf Coast town. (Photo courtesy National Weather Service, Corpus Christi, via Twitter) At issue is how a home's fair market value factors into a disaster tax claim. I'm sorry to report that a property's high value — I'm talking for sale purposes, not just your personal appreciation and assessment of the house — won't help you get more... Read more →


People are still being rescued in flooded Houston, so very few — even those who made it through Hurricane Harvey relatively unscathed — are thinking about taxes right now. But when they do begin to face rebuilding their post-storm lives, one of the things they'll have to deal with is taxes. A Texas National Guard soldier rescues a woman from her Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston neighborhood. (Photo by 1Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD, via Flickr Creative Commons) The Internal Revenue Service has some good news for folks in Houston and its flooded surroundings, as well as those in other areas... Read more →


Oh, Photoshop. What would the internet be without you? Sometimes, doctored images are welcome innocent examples of good humor. Other times they are cruel and divisive. And the astounding photos tend to skyrocket during times of tragedy and disaster. Take, for example, the photo below of what @Jeggit's Tweet says is a shark swimming in a Houston street flooded by Hurricane Harvey. Jeggit gives us the option to believe it or not. Go with not. It's fake. Mashable has the details on the original shark photo, which over the years has been seen in edited online images swimming through flooded... Read more →


Hurricane Harvey has inundated Houston. And it's still raining there. And in other parts of the Lone Star State. Thanks to The Weather Channel's Matt Sitkowski for posting this image on Twitter, along with one showing these Houston roads pre-Hurricane Harvey so we can get some perspective on the extent of H-Town's hurricane-related flooding. That means lots of folks are going to need help recovering from the strongest tropical system to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. From Corpus Christi to Port Arthur along the Gulf Coast and, thanks to Harvey's size and slow movement, well inland, my native... Read more →


As Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Texas Gulf Coast, the Internal Revenue Service was providing some tax relief for victims of earlier natural disasters. Severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides in late July caused major damage in parts of West Virginia. Now some of those affected residents get extra time to tax care of tax responsibilities. Tax time, penalty relief: The IRS says that individuals who live or have a business in the West Virginia counties of Harrison, Marion, Marshall and Wetzel have extra time to meet certain tax deadlines that fall/fell between July 28 and Nov. 29.... Read more →


I didn't win the $759 million Powerball lottery, but I just got word that I'm the recipient of the next best thing, $22.5 million from the federal government. I know this because Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen emailed me the good news. Here's what the commish's notification said: from:Mr John Koskinen "www."@clock.ocn.ne.jp reply-to:Mr John Koskinen date:Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 7:42 PM subject:FROM IRS COMMISSIONER MR. JOHN KOSKINEN FROM IRS COMMISSIONER MR. JOHN KOSKINEN U.S.A IRS Address:1111 Constitution Ave., NW; Washington, DC 20224 Greetings From The Internal Revenue Service United States of America. Your total funds worth $22.5... Read more →


Tropical Storm Harvey is bringing the 2017 hurricane season to my home state. And while it's the Texas Gulf Coast that will take the first hit late Friday, Aug. 25/early Saturday, Aug. 26, the storm will be felt well inland. Including here in Austin. Meteorologists are forecasting that Harvey could be a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall. If so, it would be the first major hurricane to make U.S. landfall since Wilma in 2005. UPDATE Aug. 24, 2017, 5:30 p.m.: The dire predictions are looking like they are on the mark. This afternoon, Harvey was strong... Read more →


All U.S. workers know, simply from looking at their pay stubs, that our tax system is pay-as-you-earn. Our taxes come out of our paychecks as withholding, both for federal income taxes, as well as to cover future Social Security and Medicare benefits. We don't have control over those taxes we pay now for federal retirement and hospital coverage when we're older. But we can — and should — adjust our income tax withholding if there are changes in our lives, such as marriage or a family addition or home purchase that can affect a tax bill, or we're getting a... Read more →


An expected increase in the Social Security wage base won't help most workers, but could be a tax break for wealthier earners. The economy is ticking along, with nominally more workers finding jobs. But many of them say they aren't getting paid what they should. That's causing some pushback from middle- and working-class voters who supported Donald J. Trump. "Trump ran as a working-class hero, so let's look at the results," Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Good Jobs Nation, told the Washington Post. "We're seven months into his administration, and wages are flat." While the Administration and economists point to... Read more →


The continental United States will be a little dimmer today as the solar eclipse moves across the lower 48. Some folks, however, focus on the sun every day. They have solar energy systems. If you’re interest in joining their sun worshiping ranks, the tax code can help. The federal solar tax credit, officially known as the solar investment tax credit (ITC), allows you to claim on your federal taxes 30 percent of the cost of a solar energy system. Good, it’s a tax credit. This means you get a dollar-for-dollar reduction of any tax you owe. Even better, installation costs... Read more →