Summer is winding down, but someone needs to tell the thermometers. Across much of country, it feels like the mercury is about to burst and everyone is doing everything they can to stay cool. Sorry, I can't help you beat the heat. But I do have eight tax moves you can make in this eighth month of 2018 — which, with all those 8s, makes that this week's By the Numbers figure — that might be able to help lower the heat you're feeling when it comes to taxes. 1. Adjust your withholding. I know. I nag remind y'all of... Read more →


When you hire a tax professional, you want someone you can trust. In Paul Manafort's case, that apparently meant someone he trusted to file fraudulent returns. The accountant for former Donald J. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told jurors hearing the bank fraud and tax evasion charges against the long-time political operative that she helped backdate documents and falsify financial records. Cynthia Laporta, who has been given limited immunity for her testimony, said the accounting maneuvers suggested by Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates, who's also working with the prosecution and expected to eventually testify in the case,... 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 →


Paul J. Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial is underway. Three guesses, and two don't count, of what's of most interest to me. The proceedings in the Alexandria, Virginia, federal courtroom got off to a fast start. The prosecutors told the jury of six men and six women they would prove Manafort "believed the law did not apply to him." The former chairman of Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign is facing in this trial 18 counts alleging he hid more than $30 million in overseas income by funneling it through offshore accounts, lying to banks and evading taxes. One of... Read more →


A week ago, the idea of indexing capital gains was just that, an idea. To move forward, the best bet was for the proposal to make it into Tax Reform 2.0. It didn't. So now it's looking more likely that the U.S. Treasury might act unilaterally. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had previously (all the way back in late June) said that he would prefer Congress take the lead on indexing capital gains. He did add, however, that "If we're not able to complete Tax Reform 2.0, then we'll go back to the drawing board and decide whether we want to... Read more →


Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash If you thought those back-to-school tax holidays were a bit too early, think again. Classes at several Texas colleges start in a couple of weeks. So do those at our local elementary, middle and high schools. So much for summer lasting until the long Labor Day weekend. The resumption of classes means that in addition to purchasing the clothing, books and other supplies the students of all ages need, youngsters and their families also are doing some 2018 school year homework on how to pay for all the school-related costs. 529s to the educational rescue:... 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 →


Your tax responsibilities as a freelancer can be a hassle, but at least they mean you're making money via your self-employment venture. But what about those clients who ignore your invoices? Here are some ways to deal with problematic payers. You've done your research — including checking into all the new entrepreneurial tax tasks you'll have to handle — and decided, yes, freelancing is the way you want to go. Welcome to my world! Overall, I highly recommend the self-employed life that involves a variety of clients. Even when you specialize like I do, you still get an interesting array... Read more →


Freelancing means more flexibility, such as where to work and the option to wear more comfortable attire. It also means you have some new tax responsibilities. (Photo by Lulu Hoeller via Flickr) The gig economy in the United States is growing at a phenomenal rate that shows no signs of slowing down. That's the analysis of BMO Wealth Management. A recent survey commissioned by the international wealth management company found that gigs — defined as jobs of short or uncertain duration — are the new normal. BMO's findings appear to support Upwork's annual Freelancing in America study, which was released... Read more →


July is almost over. The first day of school is just around the corner. And on this final July weekend (or at least part of it), some southern shoppers will be out in force as Mississippi and Tennessee hold their annual sales tax holidays. Regular readers know that these two states' events are included in my earlier overall look at this summer's back-to-school tax holidays. But since these are the final no-tax shopping appetizers before a buffet of a dozen other such events in August, they get a bit of a spotlight. Same start, different endings: Both start at 12:01... Read more →


Republicans unveiled their outline for additional tax changes on July 24 and it's just that. A bare bones framework. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) acknowledged the skimpy structure. That was by design, he said, with the outline to serve as a starting point for his GOP colleagues to offer feedback. Yes, he said Republican feedback. As with the original Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was enacted last December, Democrats were excluded from the legislative writing process. Once things are fleshed out, Brady said he expects a Tax Reform 2.0 bill to go before the... Read more →


Rep. Bob Goodlatte opens the hearing on what Congress should do about interstate sales taxes and remote sellers in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that upended prior standards. (House Judiciary hearing video screenshot) If you thought the interstate collection of sales taxes from remote sellers was going to get easier following the recent high court ruling on the matter, think again. Now Congress is getting involved. Again. And if you thought any decision on how federal lawmakers should address the thorny issue of taxes and interstate commerce would be easy, think, yes, again. Long and winding remote sales... Read more →


Long-term investors already get a tax break. They pay lower capitals gains tax rates when they sell assets held for more than a year. That tax benefit survived the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Now some Republican lawmakers want to protect even more unearned money from taxes. Tax and political considerations: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California) has introduced a bill that would index capital gains to inflation. The Ways and Means Committee member says his Capital Gains Inflation Relief Act (H.R. 6444) "is a common-sense reform that will remove an unjust tax, contribute to economic growth, and help both large... Read more →


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Gordon Some veterans who received disability severance payments after Jan. 17, 1991, and included that money as income when they filed their tax returns now are due refunds. The former military members have known since February that they were due money. Now the process of getting it has finally begun. But Uncle Sam isn't automatically sending former troops any cash due from the erroneously taxed payments. The veterans need to file an amended tax return using Form 1040X to claim a disability severance payment-related credit or tax refund. Why now?... 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 →


An historic interplanetary business trip 49 years ago prompted an astronaut to submit some travel expenses to his NASA bosses. Such claims still happen every day for more Earth-bound business travelers, but a tax break for unreimbursed work-related expenses is gone. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on Earth's Moon, photographs the lunar module at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969. (Photo courtesy the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/NASA) On a hot July afternoon 39 years ago today, my brother and I were ordered to come in from our play in the West Texas sun so that we could... Read more →


Today's Senate Finance Committee approval of Charles Rettig took a bit longer than originally expected. The reason was a decision this week by Rettig's future boss to ease most nonprofit donor disclosure requirements. Charles P. Rettig, nominated to be the next Internal Revenue Service commissioner, faces the Senate Finance Committee during his June 28 confirmation hearing. The Senate tax-writing committee was supposed to vote Thursday, July 19, morning on sending Rettig's nomination to the full chamber for confirmation. It was a much anticipated procedural step, since the the top IRS slot has been vacant for eight months. But the vote... Read more →


As expected, states whose residents will take a major federal tax hit under the new $10,000 limit on deductions of state and local tax (SALT) payments have headed to court. Connecticut, Maryland, New York and New Jersey on Tuesday (July 17) afternoon filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking to invalidate the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's (TCJA) changes to a long-standing federal tax deduction. In this latest semi-reform of the tax code, Congress essentially gutted the value of this itemized tax deduction for, in most cases, the millions in state income and local real property payments... 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 →