Shout Out Feed

I smoked for way too many years, back when I was young and feeling rebellious and immortal. So I have no standing to tell these kids today that smokeless smoking isn't good for them. My unsolicited advice probably wouldn't be heeded anyway. It appears that many young people already are hooked on Juuling. Jumping on the Juul train: For those who are unfamiliar with Juuling, and I was one of the until today, it's the latest iteration of electronic cigarettes. The verb comes from Juul, the product introduced to the vaping market in 2015 by Pax and spun off in... Read more →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


Couples by Michael Lehet/Flickr CC The hubby and I basically have a pretty equal, albeit traditional gender swapped, marriage. He's more persnickety when it comes to cleaning. So he does much of those household duties, including bathrooms and whole-house vacuuming. I hate that noise, so he vacuums when I'm out; that's one of the reasons I love him! We split kitchen duties, with the person who doesn't cook dinner doing the cleanup. We collaborate on investments, deciding how much and where our money goes. As for the day-to-day expenses, I take care of making sure the bills are paid on... Read more →


Taking a post-vows moment. (Photo by Barney Moss via Flickr) If you were a June bride or groom, congratulations! My best wishes also go out to folks who wed in any other month. I've been a wife a long time and I highly recommend matrimony. You've got someone who, as most vows still say, will be there for all the good and bad times. Plus, you've got a built-in excuse for getting out of things you don't want to do ("So sorry, but we can't make it. The hubby has to work."). There also, as I've noted numerous times here... Read more →


Since its appearance in 2003, around 50 million taxpayers have used Free File. As the name indicates, this partnership of the Internal Revenue Service and tax software manufacturers known as the Free File Alliance gives most taxpayers the opportunity to do their taxes on their computers and then e-file them at no cost. But, notes Pro Publica in an article co-published with Quartz, the number of Free Filing taxpayers comes to just around 3 percent of eligible households. That, according to the article by Tik Root, means that folks have spent around $1 billion on tax prep and filing fees... 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 Republican's new tax law is expected to be the focus of the coming midterm elections. GOP candidates are telling taxpayers that they — or most of them, anyway — will owe the U.S. Treasury less in 2018 thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Democrats running for office, however, argue that any individual tax cuts under the new law are relatively small and, unless their colleagues across the aisle can change things in the next few months, are temporary. That ending date is Dec. 31, 2025. So who's telling the truth? It depends — wait for it... 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 →


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 →


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exit St. George's Chapel as husband and wife. (Photo: Kensington Royal Instagram) I'm not a fashionista, but I was impressed with Meghan Markle's wedding dress. The simple, elegant Givenchy gown was perfect. So what happens to the hand-stitched dress that reportedly cost around £100,000 (almost $135,000 U.S.)? Will it be sent to a museum? Sealed, boxed and stuck at the top of a closet for use by a next-generation bride? Lent to a friend for her coming wedding? There's another option, maybe not for the new Duchess of Sussex, but for us commoners. Donate your... 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 →


Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today is a commemoration of the Mexican Republic's victory in 1862 over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. While it's a national holiday in Mexico, festivities in that country are mostly located in and around the Puebla region. Here in the United States, however, Cinco de May is a big deal. That's especially true in Texas, where my native state once was part of Mexico. The Lone Star State's origins and the role of Mexican nationals and other Texians in helping establish Texas' independence in 1836 is one reason why we celebrate Cinco. That, and... Read more →


Summer's fast approaching and folks already are making travel plans. Many of us will be heading out on our holidays by air. Recent and impending Congressional action won't have any major effect on our near-term travels. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill that's wending its way through Congress could make some changes to air travel later this year and for the next five years. House approves FAA bill: On Friday, April 27, the House approved by a 393-to-13 vote legislation that would extend through Sept. 30, 2023, expenditure authority for the FAA, along with the fuel and passenger ticket... Read more →


The IRS still has a desk waiting for its new commissioner. (Photo courtesy Cage Design Group) David Kautter, no doubt, was among the millions of Americans who were glad to see the 2018 high tax season end. Kautter is the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner and he was on his way to Congressional hearing on how things were going when he got news of his agency's Tax Day computer hardware problems. How much longer will Kautter, who also is assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, have to deal with all the IRS' operational matters, including the many issues related to... 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 →


We got our notice of appraisal for our house last week. It was, as has been the case for the last few years, higher. If we were selling our house right now, we'd be thrilled. But we're not moving (yet). This week, we got our monthly neighborhood newsletter. It included a local Realtor's ad touting local listings. One was for a house down the block. The asking price was $300,000 more than our appraisal notice. Yes, that home is a bit larger than our house. And it has a pool. But is it worth $300,000 more than our home? The... Read more →