State/Local Feed

Traffic jam. (Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr CC) If you're on the road today, sorry. AAA is projecting a record-breaking 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday. That's an increase of more than 5 percent over last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking July 4th travel 18 years ago. And Tuesday, July 3, travel is the worst day to be hitting the highway, at least when it comes to major metropolitan areas. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in... Read more →


New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) places the state's first legal sports bets on June 14 at Monmouth Park Racetrack. (Screenshot from AP coverage. Click image to view full video.) New Jersey's governor put his money behind the Garden State's new sports betting option. Now he's paying for that. New Jersey started taking bets on sporting events on June 14, a month after the Supreme Court ruled in the state's favor and three days after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law making his and, N.J. establishments hope, millions of other such wagers legal. The debut of the new sports betting... Read more →


U.S. Supreme Court photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr CC Sorry most* U.S. shoppers. Whether you buy from your main street brick-and-mortar retailer or your favorite cyber mall, you're probably going to owe sales tax. Sorry, too, many U.S. businesses that rely on online, catalog and phone sales. You're going to have to devise ways to collect and remit sales tax (or at least report) on your remote transactions. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today ruled in South Dakota vs. Wayfair that the nexus standard established in 1992 by the High Court's Quill vs. North Dakota decision... Read more →


Kilauea lava flow from U.S. Geological Survey via Giphy.com Hawaiians got some relatively good news this week in connection with the continuing lava flow from Mount Kilauea. The volcano is continuing to spew potentially deadly gases and pour flaming lava across a growing southeastern section of the 50th state's Big Island. The eruption, which started May 3, also is still producing explosions and earthquakes. Now, however, the catastrophe has been declared a major disaster by the White House. That is good tax news for affected residents, which is everyone on the state's largest island, also named Hawaii, as is the... Read more →


June generally is a good time to review your tax situation and make moves while there are months for them to make a difference to your upcoming tax bill. That's particularly true this year, what with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes in full force. Unfortunately, questions remain as to just how the new tax law changes will affect some folks. Business change uncertainty: Businesses in particular are among the taxpayers still unsure about TCJA provisions. Many are waiting for clarification of the new law's elimination of business entertainment expenses. The tax community is divided as to whether... Read more →


Our home's celebration of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. It's champions day at our house! I spent the morning watching the Washington Capitals, the new National Hockey League champions, parade down Constitution Avenue showing the Stanley Cup to their long-suffering fans. Then I switched over to watch the Golden State Warriors, the National Basketball Association's back-to-back champs, celebrate with their fans along the downtown Oakland parade route. It's fitting that the latest major league champs on both U.S. coasts had their parades today. Their festivities come on the heels of expanded sports betting across the country. N.J. sports... Read more →


In preparation for the summer cookout season, the hubby and I have been sprucing up our patio. The biggest job, aside from cleaning the thick layer of pollen off the outdoor dining table (yes, the hubby is appalled I'm showing that in the above photo), is replacing our almost 20-year-old patio furniture cushions. We tried buying replacements at local outdoor stores. Then we went to a couple of big box chains. Finally, we found what we wanted at a reasonable price in one of the many gardening/outdoor living catalogs that fill up our snail mail box. So we ordered them... Read more →


"On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses." — Richelle E. Goodrich, author During holidays, we're generally encouraged to remember the reason behind the special day. The two instances where this is most prevalent is Christmas and Memorial Day. Memorial Day's purpose often gets lost in the revelry of summer's arrival … except when your awash in a tropical storm's rain bands. But today is supposed to be more than time with family and friends at picnics, trips to... Read more →


A sampling of some of my favorite beers. Yes, this photo is a few years old (note the 2011 Christmas brew label), but rest assured, I regularly restock the refrigerator. Across much of the United States this Memorial Day weekend Sunday it's hot. Very hot. We're pushing 100 here in Austin. That's why many beverages will be consumed by folks out today at beaches, picnics and sporting events. Tax collectors thank you for your thirst, especially if you're slaking it with a cold brewski. Beer tax tallies: Beer drinkers annually make a $5.3 billion excise tax payment to state and... Read more →


Packed and ready to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend! Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and apparently we are ready for the lazy, hazy season. AAA says that travel during this long holiday weekend is expected to be at near-record levels. And it actually began on Thursday. More than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. That's nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years. You know what that means. Travel delays, especially in urban areas this afternoon where holiday revelers heading... Read more →


A tropical system off of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is expected to move north over the Memorial Day weekend. (The Weather Channel screenshot) The 2018 tropical storm season has arrived a bit early. Officially, the Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico) hurricane season doesn't start each year until June 1. But the weather gods operate on their own schedules, so we often get early forming storms. That's the current situation. A tropical system has developed off the eastern coast of Yucatan, Mexico, and is expected to move north, ruining the Memorial Day weekend for thousands of Gulf Coast residents and vacationers. Depending... Read more →


Expensive real estate no longer provides owners unlimited federal property tax deductions. The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it will make an announcement about states efforts to provide taxpayers workarounds to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's $10,000 limit on state and local tax (SALT) federal deductions. The issue has arisen as a handful of states have enacted or are considering law changes to allow their residents to make contributions to state accounts, from which their state taxes then are paid. State "charity" workarounds: Essentially, the states' general approaches have been to effectively turn the tax payments into charitable... Read more →


The beach view of the newest Trump South Florida property. (Photo via Zillow) While many homeowners are in the process of protesting their residential property appraisals in the hopes of lowering their tax bills, Donald J. Trump is adding to his potential property taxes. The Trump Organization recently closed on a waterfront mansion just across the street in Palm Beach, Florida, from Mar-a-Lago. The property at 1125 South Ocean Boulevard was on the market for $23.9 million, but the Trumps got it for $18.5 million. Friendly transaction: The price break probably didn't take a lot of haggling. The 8,270-square-feet property,... Read more →


California has the highest gas tax in the United States. Opponents are hoping to repeal it via a ballot measure this November. I filled up my mid-sized Chevy sedan's tank this morning, something I do every two weeks or so. I was stunned to see my local gas station, which usually sells gas at the lower end of the prevailing price scale, had regular unleaded going for $2.63 a gallon. That's a more than 50-cent hike from my previous tank top-off in April. It also put the Austin area (or at least my neighborhood) closer than it's been for a... Read more →


Teachers give more than their time and energy to students. They literally pay in many instances to help their students learn. That's why educators were pleased when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act left the above-the-line deduction for their out-of-pocket expenses in the tax code. This tax break, which is claimed directly on Form 1040 with no need to fill out a Schedule A, lets a single filing teacher claim $250 spent toward classroom supplies. For married educators, $500 in personal payment for school supplies can be deducted (or more technically subtracted from filers' gross income) on their joint tax... Read more →


Every bettor in the United States after today's Supreme Court ruling that opens up sports betting nationwide. (Source: Giphy.com) That whoop you heard this morning was celebrating sports fans all across American who like to drop a few (or more) bucks on their favorites sports match-ups. The possibility that they can do so closer to home now an option thanks to today's (May 14, 2018) Supreme Court decision. Place your bets: The nation's highest court ruled 7-2 that a federal law that has effectively limited sports betting to Nevada for more than a quarter century is unconstitutional. The case, brought... Read more →


Jacksonville, Florida, officials might have trouble keeping their lights on if some of the city's residents don't pay their delinquent tax bills. (Photo courtesy Visit Jacksonville) Jacksonville, home to around 880,000 residents, is the largest city in the Sunshine State. It takes a lot of money to run a municipality of that size. Some of its residents, however, have decided not to pay. Their free ride, though, won't last for much longer. $58 million unpaid: More than 35,000 people owe a combined total of $58 million in unpaid taxes to the city of Jacksonville, according to WJXT News4Jax. That's almost... Read more →


Bitcoin fans contend that their currency is just as valid as any other money. But they've not had a lot of luck in convincing most people of that. Cryptocurrency aficionados thought they had taken a major step toward wider acceptance in February when the Arizona Senate approved a bill that would have allowed for, beginning in 2020, the payment of state income taxes in bitcoin or other digital currency approved by the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADoR). Four months later, that's no longer a possibility. Crypto pay stripped from bill: When Senate Bill 1091 went to the Arizona House for... Read more →


Substantially more than half of Americans say recreational marijuana use should be legalized. The October 2017 Pew Research Center survey that found the pro-marijuana majority is the latest analysis that documents a steady increase in weed acceptance over the past decade. The currently slow-but-steady support for weed — the 61 percent approval in the latest survey is up just 4 percentage points from a 2016 poll, but it's nearly double the 31 percent pro-pot results recorded in 2000 — offers hope to the marijuana industry. Part of that pro-pot progress is the herb's prospects as a job creator and revenue... Read more →


Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr CC We got a little bit of rain last night as a cool front moved through Central Texas. Other parts of my native state, however, were pummeled by large hail. It's not the first damaging weather to hit Texas this spring and it definitely won't be the last, as the annual storm season begins to ramp up in the next few weeks. Starting this weekend, however, Lone Star State residents get some tax help in getting ready for whatever Mother Nature may throw out way. Certain storm preparation supplies will be tax free as the... Read more →