Tax help Feed

Mother Nature got a jump on the 2016 storm calendar, creating Hurricane Alex back in January and Tropical Storm Bonnie four days before today's official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Seasonal forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season from Colorado State University (CSU), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and The Weather Channel. The forecast from CSU includes Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Bonnie. The Weather Channel and the NOAA forecasts include Hurricane Alex. Does that mean we'll have more storms this year than the dozen or so that are predicted? Maybe. Maybe not. Weather prognostications from a variety... Read more →


Federal drug officials are considering removing marijuana's Schedule 1 classification, reports USA Today. A DEA agent carries confiscated marijuana plants to be destroyed. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) decision, which is expected this summer, would make it easier for researchers to work with the plant. Currently, weed is in the same legal category as heroin, LSD and bath salts. As a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana is deemed to have "no currently accepted medical treatment use." Residents and lawmakers in 24 states and the District of Columbia disagree; they permit some form of medical marijuana use. Recreational weed and taxes: Colorado,... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and millions of taxpayers are breathing easier. Overall, the 2016 filing season went pretty smoothly. A big reason for that was this year's improved taxpayer telephone service. Highways England via Flickr "So far this filing season the telephone level of service is nearly 75 percent, which is a vast improvement over last year," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee during an April 19 hearing to assess the just-completed filing season. The commish is right about the dramatically better phone help. Twice as good: In 2015, the IRS telephone tax help... Read more →


If you work in the world's oldest profession, finances can be problematic. First, your job is illegal, so you don't want to do anything to draw unwanted attention to your line of work. Neither do your clients. So escorts, prostitutes and other types of sex workers tend to operate on a cash basis. That, however, raises the question of what to do with all those loose dollars. Even with today's minuscule interest rates, you don't want to keep cash under a mattress. Tracing cash transactions: Banks, despite all their problems, are generally safer than having a lot of dollars stashed... Read more →


What's the biggest hassle, aside from complex tax laws, that you face in trying to do your taxes? The National Taxpayer Advocate believes it's the Internal Revenue Service's increasing efforts to make most taxpayer interaction interactive. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson is required by law to include in her Annual Report to Congress a summary of at least 20 of the most serious problems that taxpayers face. Given how taxpayer troubles have increased over the years, be they from inappropriate or inept IRS actions or because the agency is understaffed and underfunded, it's no surprise that in her 2015 report,... Read more →


H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation

H&R Block sees about 13 million people a year in its retail offices across the country. But there is a physical limit for everything. So H&R Block is, once again, looking into virtual reality as a way to reach more taxpayers. H&R Block revealed its foray into virtual tax offices to CNBC's Jane Wells, who reported that a couple of weeks ago in a room in Los Angeles, "three women put on Oculus virtual reality headsets (and so did this reporter) in order to experience what the new office might look like." John, the virtual tax pro: The testers found... Read more →


The U.S. economy finally appears to be on an upward track. That's good news for the millions of folks who took serious financial hits during the persistent recession that began in 2008. Things were so bad back then that even the Internal Revenue Service decided to lend a helping hand. In 2009, the IRS showed its more compassionate side to taxpayers facing financial challenges, which included having difficulty paying their tax-due balances. The IRS committed to being more flexible in working with taxpayers having trouble paying Uncle Sam because of factors related to the weak economy. Thus began the Fresh... Read more →


This post was updated Feb. 15, 2018. The long Presidents Day holiday is this weekend and chances are you will be working on your taxes. This three-day February weekend typically marks the beginning of the busiest time of the annual tax filing season. By now, the 1099s and W2s and other statements needed to fill out returns are in most taxpayers' hands. And when folks start workings on their 1040s, even with software help, they tend to have questions. That's why the days before and after Presidents Day are, according to the Internal Revenue Service, also is one of the... Read more →


The only thing worse than messing up your own taxes is paying someone who can't do the job. If you're looking for professional tax help, once you figure out which type of tax preparer to use, then you must sure that person is competent. Here are five quick tips to help you check out your tax pro. 1. Inspect Internal Revenue Service ID: Make sure the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. This ID number is required by Uncle Sam of folks who file returns for others for a fee. Note, however, that a valid PTIN... Read more →


Attention smartphone addicted taxpayers, the 2015 version of the Internal Revenue Service's app is now available. That's good news for taxpayers who want the handheld option to find out just where in the IRS system their 2014 refunds are. As in the past, you enter your Social Security number, your filing status, and the amount you're expecting back and hit enter. If you're concerned about plugging in your nine-digit tax ID number, the IRS says don't be. The agency assures us that the number will be masked and encrypted for security purposes. Finding help: While refund tracking is likely to... Read more →


If you can afford to hire a tax professional to help you file your returns, good for you. A lot of folks, however, are not able to come up with the money for a paid preparer. Free File can be a big help, allowing anyone with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less to use the no-cost online tax preparation and e-filing service. But if you want a more personal tax help touch, you've got options, too. Free tax help from trained volunteers: There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites -- those numerous tax help locations earn this... Read more →


Tax filing season 2015 is here

Do you hear that? It's the rustle of tens of thousands of taxpayers sending in their 2014 tax returns. That's what must have awoken me at the unusually early, for me, hour of 6:20 a.m. That's OK. I understand the excitement. Tax filing season begins today, Jan. 20. OK, maybe you're not as happy as this Zach Galifianakis character, but c'mon. It's tax season 2015! Ready. Set. File. Wait: As I type, the Internal Revenue Service is now accepting both snail mailed paper tax forms and 1040s filed electronically. Speaking of electronic taxes, folks eligible to use Free File got... Read more →


Remember the warning from the Internal Revenue Service that we taxpayers shouldn't expect much help from the agency this filing season? Budget cuts, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, mean fewer staff to answer phone callers questions. Well, the same is true for tax professionals. On Friday, the IRS alerted tax pros that the agency's e-Help Desk hotline is cutting back its hours. The same budget woes that could, according to the most recent National Taxpayer Advocate report, lead to less than half of individual taxpayer calls being answered, also are being blamed for the end of the e-Help Desk's extended... Read more →


Ready to file your 2014 tax return? Have adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less? Then check out Free File tomorrow. That's right. The Internal Revenue Service's free online tax preparation and e-filing option opens for business Friday, Jan. 16. That's four days before the IRS starts accepting and processing all other 2014 returns, be they e-filed with commercial tax software or submitted on paper. The free online filing partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance is back for its 13th tax-filing service. It was started in 2003 as a way to get more people to e-file. It... Read more →


The annual tax filing season is here, with the Internal Revenue Service preparing to accept 2014 tax year returns on Jan. 20. Many of those returns submitted in the coming weeks will be the work of paid tax professionals. More than half of U.S. taxpayers hire someone to help fill out and file their 1040s. That number could increase this year, as millions of taxpayers will find themselves having to answer Affordable Care Act questions in order to figure out what they owe, or will get back, from Uncle Sam. The new Obamacare tax wrinkles are just one reason that... Read more →


Yes, it's the holiday season. Christmas is less than a week away, and you've got a house to clean, meals to plan and cook and gifts to buy. But you also need to think about some year-end tax moves. You probably checked out the 10 tax tasks to take care of by Dec. 31 that appeared a few weeks ago as a Weekly Tax Tip. Thanks. Now here's my gift to you, an 11th tax move. Hire a tax professional. True, this isn't one you necessarily need to do by year's end. But you do need to think about hiring... Read more →


Most of the folks who participated in Pew Research Center's 2014 Future of the Internet canvass said they expect robotics and artificial intelligence, or AI, will permeate much of our daily lives by 2025. If that prediction is accurate -- and I think it's a bit too soon, personally; I mean, really, we're still waiting for flying cars! -- what does that mean for us and our jobs? "Computers had typically been thought of as best suited for jobs that involve routine, repetitive tasks that can easily be reduced to lines of code," writes Drew DeSilver in Pew's FactTank column.... Read more →


Tax professionals have been a hot topic this filing season. The bulk of the coverage has come from the federal court rulings that effectively ended the Internal Revenue Service's nascent attempt to regulate tax preparers. Now comes news from the IRS itself that more of us are doing our taxes on our own. At least that's what the tax data through March 7 shows. After five full weeks of tax filing, more than 27 million individual returns were e-filed by taxpayers who self-prepared their 1040s. That's an increase of almost 6 percent over this time last year. Fewer using tax... Read more →


If you're planning on working on your tax return over this long Presidents Day weekend, expect to be on hold for a while if you call the Internal Revenue Service for help. That's not just my prediction. That's the official word from the tax agency. To save yourself some hold time frustration (even if you happen to like the background music), the IRS says don't call us. Just that. No we'll call you. Simply Don't. Call. Us. Instead, use the IRS online offerings. That request is not a surprise. As I discussed over at Bankrate Taxes Blog back in December,... Read more →


Picking a tax pro

NOTE, Jan. 19, 2018: Although this was one of my earlier posts here at the ol' blog, the advice is still as solid today in 2018 as it was 11 years ago. I have, though, fixed a couple of dead links and added some new ones. So just buzz past the old filing stats and deadlines -- here are the due dates for the 2018 tax filing season -- and head to the first highlighted heading, "How complicated are your taxes?" As noted yesterday, the IRS is now accepting e-filed returns, with more e-filing options opening up for eligible taxpayers... Read more →