State/Local Feed

A driver pulled over in La Conchita, California, the evening of Dec. 6 to save a rabbit he spotted scurrying amid flames from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Click image to watch full video posted on YouTube by RMG News/Reuters/NJ.com. California is on fire. Literally. Again. Just two months after the northern part of the Golden State was ablaze, deadly wildfires are raging across Southern California. And while residents right now are simply trying to stay safe and, if possible, save as much of their personal possessions as they can, in a few weeks or months, they'll be trying... Read more →


Many homeowners breathed a sigh of relief when the Senate's version of tax reform followed the House's H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and included a tax deduction for property taxes. But it might be time to start hyperventilating again. While both chambers would keep the itemized deduction for the local real estate taxes that every homeowner faces each year, they will reduce its tax value. Each bill caps the deduction amount at $10,000. Most homeowners' taxes covered: For many homeowners, that limit is cool. Their property tax bills are high, but not into five digits, so it... Read more →


After 14½ hours of debate, the U.S. Senate early on Saturday, Dec. 2, approved 51-49 its version of tax reform. Now the hard work starts. (C-SPAN2 screenshot; click image to watch video of the full debate and votes) It's alive! Tax reform, or at least tax cuts (for a while, for some people) survived a marathon session in the Senate, with that chamber approving its Internal Revenue Code revisions early Saturday, Dec. 2, morning. Now the real fun begins. Since the House version (H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) passed on Nov. 16 is different from the Senate's... Read more →


Ho, Ho, Ho, hoss. It's the most wonderful time of the year. The holidays and year-end tax moves are here! (Photo by Kay Bell of a scene at Marble Falls, Texas' annual Walkway of Lights along the lake) Hello, holidays! We're so happy you and your good cheer have finally arrived. But the arrival of December also means 2017 is almost over, giving us only 31 days to take care of tax tasks that could save us money when we file our returns next year. This year, it also looks like Congress might actually make some tax changes, if not... Read more →


Pong via Giphy Who knew 45 years ago today when Atari released Pong that the two-dimensional video version of table tennis would herald in a fascination and fixation with video games? Who also knew that those games would become a major battle front in the taxing of digital entertainment? We've come a long way, baby, to borrow a phrase from Pong's era. Old and new gaming options: Since Pong's Nov. 29, 1972, debut and consumer acceptance that made it the first commercially successful video game, the world has become populated with video game addicts of all ages. The variety of... Read more →


A crush of shoppers rushes to start their Black Friday quest for bargains. (Photo via Diariocritico de Venezuela/Stan Honda/Flickr CC) Black Friday, the day-after-Thanksgiving kickoff to the holiday shopping season, may have lost some of its luster in recent years, but plenty of shoppers still hit the stores today to bargain hunt. If you're among the frenzied shoppers, hang onto your receipts if you buy a lot or big-ticket items. They could bump up your itemized tax deduction. And your 2017 tax return might be the last time you'll be able to take advantage of this deduction. Tax reform deduction... Read more →


This post has been updated on Cyber Monday 2017 — Nov. 27 — to add more info on sales taxes due on online purchases. It's almost Thanksgiving. You know what that means. It's almost Black Friday. With Cyber Monday on that shopping day's heels. Black Friday, the day-after-Thanksgiving ostensible bargain bonanza is still popular even with the growth of online shopping. Shoppers looking for Black Friday deals in Linton, Indiana. (Photo by yancy9 via Flickr) Spending expected to increase: Consumer spending over the Black Friday weekend is expected to increase by 47 percent from the same period in 2016, according... Read more →


Fifteen Chicago-area men have had their names, and legal records, cleared. If they eventually get monetary restitution for the time they spent in jail for crimes they didn't commit, they also could get some tax relief. (Click CNN screenshot for full story.) "I'm innocent!" That post-conviction proclamation by many now behind bars is greeted by the strict law-and-order crowd with cynical eye-rolling. But in the case of at least 15 Chicago-area men, protestations that they didn't commit the crimes for which they did the time were true. And if these fully, officially, legally not guilty men ever receive compensation for... Read more →


UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017: The House passed its tax reform bill today (but the Senate version is still a ways away from GOP consensus ). Among the yea voters on H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was Rep. Joe Barton after he was promised that his Texas Rangers stadium concerns would be taken care of. Rep. Joe Barton is a big fan of the Texas Rangers, which play in his North Texas Congressional District. In this Facebook photo, Barton (second from left) wears the Major League Baseball club's jersey when he participates in the annual Republicans vs.... Read more →


One of the surprise differences in the Senate tax plan as compared to the House bill is in the treatment of state and local taxes, referred to by tax geeks (guilty!) as SALT. Both the House and Senate tax bills would eliminate the deductions for state and local income and sales taxes. The Senate, however, makes no accommodation for real estate taxes. That hard tax line also was originally taken by the House. But GOP leaders there, facing backlash from their members in districts where voters pay big real estate tax bills, acquiesced. The House bill revision allows the property... Read more →


The tax dueling has officially begun. The Senate on Thursday, Nov. 9, released its answer to the House's H.R. 1, officially title the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017: The House passed H.R. 1. Prospects for the Senate's tax reform bill, however, are muddier. While resolving difference in the two doesn't demand quite as many steps as in the 10 Duel Commandments outlined in the still incredibly popular Broadway (and touring company) musical Hamilton, it's still going to be one of the biggest face-offs in recent Washington, D.C., legislative history. Here's a look at some of... Read more →


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) get serious in discussing what Republicans say are the middle-class benefits in their latest proposal to rewrite the tax code. The most detailed plan yet was released Thursday, Nov. 2. (Screenshot of C-SPAN video; click image to watch clip.) Remember that Capitol Hill adage that all politics is local? It can be easily shifted to tax reform. Whether you're for or against a tax law change will depend in large part on how much it helps or hurt you. When it comes to the men and women who propose and/or make those changes, their votes... Read more →


Hurricane Irma recovery work continues in Marathon Key, Florida, on Oct. 30 where storm debris is burned. Louisiana and South Carolina also were hit hard by this season's deadly hurricanes and some residents in those states are now getting tax relief, too. (Photo by Bill Koplitz/FEMA) The worst of the 2017 hurricane system began its assault on the United States on Aug. 25 when Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast as a category 4 storm. In rapid succession, the United States and it Caribbean territories also were pummeled in September by category 4 Hurricanes Irma and Maria.... Read more →


There could be some consistency in how states collect sales tax on consumers' online purchases if the Supreme Court agrees to hear a South Dakota case. Many states are ignoring the sales tax law of the land, decided in 1992 by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Quill v. North Dakota. Soon another Dakota high court case, this one from South Dakota, could change the state sales tax collection law for remote sellers. On Sept. 14, the Mount Rushmore State's quest to collect sales tax from online et al retailers was rejected by that state's highest court. That's just what... Read more →


Cook County residents lined up last week to tell county commissioners what they thought about the board's proposed soda tax. (Photo by Hal Dardick via Twitter) Cook Cook County officials implemented a tax on sugary beverages this summer. That levy, which was designed to (1) promote healthier habits among Chicago-area residents, (2) raise more much needed money for the Illinois county or (3) both, has fizzled. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, county commissioners voted 15-2 to repeal the penny-per-ounce tax, which, like similar proposals, is usually referred to as a soda — or pop in the Midwest — tax. Collection of... Read more →


AT&T Stadium, originally known as Cowboys Stadium when it opened its doors in 2009 and forever known as Jerry's World regardless of which company buys naming rights, is home to America's Team. It also hosts college football's Cotton Bowl game, as well as a variety of other sports and entertainment activities. NFL team owner Jerry Jones footed most of the billion-dollar stadium's cost, but Arlington voters approved an increase of the city's sales, hotel occupancy and car rental taxes to help pay for the facility. Arlington also provided millions in bonds to help Jones cover any cost overruns. (Photo by... Read more →


Who's in the middle class will determine in large part whether that group of Americans gets Republican-promised middle class tax relief. One of the big debates about any tax reform is whether or how much it will benefit the middle class. That was a question in today's #TaxBuzzChat about the recently released Republican framework for tax reform. First, however, we need to decide what is and who is part of the United States middle class. There are several ways to define the middle class. Some say it is based on income. Other define it by lifestyle. Still others say middle... Read more →


Congress hopes to move beyond talk and have tax reform details in writing by mid-November. The Senate Budget Committee released its 2018 budget blueprint on Sept. 29, setting the stage for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years. That's an astounding, alarming, amazing, pick-your-adjective amount. But the figure that caught my eye, and which earns this week's By the Numbers honor, is 13. As in Nov. 13. That's the date set in the Senate budget resolution by which it wants some legislative flesh attached to the framework of a tax reform that Republicans released on... Read more →


The arrival of a new NFL season each year also means the arrival of fantasy sports. More states are looking to regulate and, of course, tax daily fantasy sports operations. How's your National Football League team doing this season? For most fans, the answer is probably pretty good. A quick glance at NFL.com's standings after week three shows a preponderance of 2-1 teams, along with a handful that are undefeated. For many fans, however, the more important, and potentially lucrative, question is how is your fantasy football team doing? Quick confession here. I watch NFL games (until my teams start... Read more →


Shelley Long and Tom Hanks confront one of many (MANY) problems of homeownership in 1986's "The Money Pit." (Click image to view full MovieClips.com scene.) How expensive is owning a home? So expensive that many homeowners view "The Money Pit" as a documentary. But, we console ourselves, at least we get some nice tax breaks for our piece of the American Dream. In many cases, though, the reality of buying a house is, at best, a wash economically. Some folks would be better off financially renting. Ah, but emotionally, there's little that can beat the feeling of having your own... Read more →