Tax planning Feed

How do I celebrate each May 5th? With guacamole, cerveza y tax tips! That means here in our Texas casa, every day basically is Cinco de Mayo. Yes, there really is a tax component to Cinco de Mayo beyond the use of my poco Español as a framework for this list. That's why I feel justified in urging you — before you lift a glass, be it brimming with Dos XX or a margarita, to commemorate Mexico's victory over French troops at the Battle of Puebla on this day in 1862 — to check out these five tax-smart tax moves.... Read more →


May flowers, like these Texas poppies, are one of the reasons it's such a merry month. Other reasons to be happy is that there are some tax moves you can make now to cut your 2017 IRS bill. (Photo by Kay Bell) Welcome to the merry, merry month of May, which is particularly joyous for folks who've finished up their 2016 tax returns. That's almost 136 million of us, with around 17 million of those 1040 forms arriving at Internal Revenue Service processing centers in the final days of this year's main filing season. While the 2017 filing season got... Read more →


Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, are among the wildflowers that emerged early this year thanks to warmer than normal temperatures. (Photo of a Hill Country patch on March 18, 2017, by Kay Bell) Hello, Spring! You used to be my favorite season, but for the last few years — OK, the last dozen that we've been back in Texas — you've arrived in late February or early March and only lasted about three days. By the time you're official, which was when you clocked in at 6:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (5:29 a.m. CDT; I was asleep) today, it... Read more →


Is this how you're feeling today after losing an hour of sleep to the shift to Daylight Saving Time? I'm right there with you. GIF via PR's Tumblrdome Daylight Saving Time (DST), which most of us in the United States switched to overnight by moving our clocks one hour forward, ostensibly was created to make better use of daylight. Basically, for the next seven and half months we'll get more daylight in the evening when we are home from work and/or school. But the annual adjustment of an hour's loss of sleep is difficult for a lot a folks. Every... Read more →


A couple of Republican-proposed changes to Obamacare would affect a popular individual savings option, the medical flexible spending account, or FSA. Many of the items this shopper can find on her local pharmacy's shelves are eligible for flexible spending account reimbursement. (Photo courtesy FSAStore.com) Tax-saving company benefit: An FSA is a benefit offered by many companies where workers can have a certain amount taken from their paychecks every pay period and placed into a special account. These accounts can help you cover such things as child care, commuting and medical expenses. Even better, the money is put into the FSA... Read more →


Whenever I want to escape the crazy that is real life, I turn to the movies. Sometimes it's my favorite tax-themed films. Amanda Abbington and Martin Freeman, pictured here on the set of "Sherlock" with Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the show's title character behind them, have separated. (Photo courtesy PBS Masterpiece) Other times when I can't get away for a couple of hours, I surf entertainment news. Go ahead, judge me. Then admit you've done the same! In perusing the web recently, I stumbled across a list of celebrity couples who have split. In addition to the usual Brangelina and... Read more →


Hello February. Although you're the year's shortest month, your fewer days can be full of extremes, like snow this week in the Midwest and Northeast and weather warm enough here in Central Texas for us to turn off the furnace and open windows. Image courtesy Tammy King's February Pinterest Board February's changes can be dramatic. But there's no need to over-react to your taxes this month. There are lots of easy moves you can make over the next 28 days. Collect your tax statements: Filing data on a variety of forms is filtering in this month. If you work for... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 really is here. Some folks have already filed their tax year 2016 federal return (soooo jealous!) even though the Internal Revenue Service won't start processing the submitted forms until Jan. 23. Others of us are still waiting for the tax documents we need to fill out our forms. If you're in the still-waiting group, now's a good time to consider just what you will need to accurately and easily complete your return. To help, here's the 2017 version of the ol' blog's tax filing checklist. It's a good idea at the start of each filing season... Read more →


The first Friday the 13th of 2017 is lucky for some taxpayers. That's the day that Free File once again opens, allowing eligible folks to electronically prepare and file their 2016 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service hasn't yet issued an official announcement about Free File 2017, but if you peruse the IRS web site (c'mon, I know I'm not the only one doing this!) you'll find the agency has updated its Free File page, a screenshot excerpt of which is shown above. UPDATE: It's official! The IRS says you can now access Free File by going to IRS.gov and... Read more →


Hello, 2017. For some of us, you sure took your sweet time. Others think you arrived a tad too soon. Few of us, however, are as ready to get our taxes as done-diddly-done as is Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson's annoying cheery neighbor. If you click the image, you'll see a GIF that gives you a good idea of Ned Flanders' obsessive-compulsive tendencies. While even a dedicated tax geek like myself thinks Neddie is a bit too filing gung-ho for the first day of the New Year, we all should take advantage of January's 31 days to get our 2016 taxes... Read more →


Time is rapidly running out to make year-end tax moves, but if you're a septuagenarian, here's one that you definitely cannot afford to overlook. If you're 70½ or older, congrats and happy, happy on all those full and half birthdays! Remember, though, that now you must take out at least an IRS-specified amount from your tax-deferred retirement account(s) by the end of the year. Miss the deadline and you'll owe a major tax penalty. (Birthday party photo courtesy Today's Senior Network) Half birthday tax trigger: If you're 70½ and have a traditional IRA (or more than one of these accounts)... Read more →


With Republicans soon to be in control of Congress and the White House, the tax focus has shifted to a major rewrite of the Internal Revenue Code. But this legislative approach means that more than 30 temporary tax provisions will disappear from the tax code on Jan. 1, 2017. Whether they are resurrected in any new tax overhaul depends on how persuasive the various laws' lobbyists are, how committed Senators and Representatives are to streamlining the tax code and how much tax revenue is gained or lost by their continued absence or revival. Extenders usually long lives: These tax laws,... Read more →


Today is officially winter. You know what that means. Taxes. For folks in Michigan, at least. Much of the United States has been in the grips of the Weather Channel named winter storm Decima this month. The Arctic air even dropped down to the Austin area earlier this week, producing a bit of a freeze in our back yard waterfall/stream. (Click image to watch my YouTube video.) OK. Tax collection in the Great Lakes State isn't limited to the coldest months, which are pretty plentiful there. And it's not even limited to one state. Property tax bills, which actually are... Read more →


The Dow is again flirting with the 20,000 mark. It closed today at 19,974.62. The run-up has finally prompted you to evaluate your portfolio to make some year-end rebalancing and, of course, tax moves. Good for you. But don't undermine that effort by making these tax mistakes. 1. Buying a tax bill: Timing is everything, especially when it comes to investments. If you buy a mutual fund just before it issues capital gains distributions, you've also bought yourself a tax bill. Worse, Morningstar's Christine Benz points out, by adding a holding to your taxable account before it makes a payout,... Read more →


Your business-related driving probably won't save you as much on your taxes in 2017. The reason? The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the optional standard mileage rate for business use of your vehicle is a half-cent less than in 2016. A trip to the vet likely won't count as a tax deductible medical expense, but other allowable miles in 2017 can be claimed at 17 cents apiece. It drops on Jan. 1, 2017, to 53.5 cents per mile. For the final few days of 2016, the business mileage rate is 54 cents per mile. Along with a smaller per-mile... Read more →


It's December 1. December. The last month of the year. How the heck did that happen!?! It hasn't even gotten good and cold yet here in Central Texas. We -- OK the hubby, at my nagging request -- put our Christmas tree up the first week of November this year. That means I have all of December to focus on taxes! OK. I've got my calendar and weather rant under control. But my urgency about how quickly 2016 is passing remains. That means we're rapidly running out of time -- check the countdown clock there in the right hand column... Read more →


Small business owners are hoping that their shops are filled with lots of paying customers this annual Small Business Saturday. The first Small Business Saturday was Nov. 27, 2010. That initial year, it was the creation of the financial company American Express. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously made the day official. The day celebrates small businesses and encourages supporting them and how they impact communities. They also are hoping that by this time next year, their top tax rate will be just 15 percent. More business tax breaks ahead? That lower business tax rate, a 20 percentage point drop... Read more →


Millions of us will be seeing our parents during Thanksgiving. For many, it's the first they've seen of mom and dad in months. Thanksgiving traditionally is a multi-generational celebration. But adult children might need to pay special attention to their aging parents over the holiday to gauge whether mom and dad now need some extra help. (Photo courtesy NealeA via Flickr Creative Commons) If you're heading to your parents' place this holiday and they're getting up there in years, it's a good time to make sure they're doing OK when you're not around. All of us want our folks to... Read more →


Taxes are about dollar amounts and dates. April 15 obviously is the biggie. But Dec. 31 is almost as important. The end of a tax year is, for the most part, the last time you can make tax moves that could help lower your coming tax bill. While we all wish we could have Homer Simpson's to-do list, when it comes to taxes, most of us need to take care of some potentially money saving tax tasks by Dec. 31. With the days rapidly dwindling (the countdown clock over there in the ol' blog's right column is tracking them), here... Read more →


Today is National Philanthropy Day, created to recognize those who strive to make life better for others. The term philanthropist usually conjures up rich people holding fancy galas attended by their wealthy friends to raise money for various causes. But you don't have to be rich to be a philanthropist, or a good-deed-doer as The Wizard of Oz called such folk when he stumbled over the fancier moniker. "Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phil … er … phil … er … er … good-deed-doers and their... Read more →