Tax planning Feed

"Dear IRS, …" — If you have a question about how a tax law or regulation affects your particular set of circumstances, you can ask, in writing, for the Internal Revenue Service to weigh in. But be prepared to pay for the advice and, effective Aug. 15, pay electronically. Taxes are complex. That’s why it’s often wise to get professional help. In some cases, however, even tax pros need some guidance. This is particularly true when taxpayer circumstances are such that the individuals and their advisers feel the need for further interpretation as to how tax laws or administrative rules... Read more →


You’ve had enough of being a wage slave. It’s time to start your own business. That means it’s also time to consider the tax implications of becoming your own boss. Here are four tax matters to think about as you plan your move from the corporate cubicle to your own self-employed suite. 1. Select a business structure. How you’ll run your business will affect your taxes. You have several choices. The most common forms (and the federal tax forms required) are: Sole Proprietorship (Schedule C or C-EZ as an attachment to your personal Form 1040, along with Schedule SE to... Read more →


Does the surging stock market mean it's time to take capital gains? Tax reform could complicate the decision. The U.S. stock market passed another notable boundary today, moving above the 22,000 mark. It didn’t stay there long, bouncing around a bit before, yes, finally closing at 22,031. Today's activity got investors wondering whether such flirting will turn into more than a one-day stand. A more solid investment gains relationship, perhaps. Or will it dip under 22,000 and eventually, as investment bears warn, tumble much lower? Those questions have investors pondering their options. Do they take earnings now at historic highs... Read more →


August's Dog Days of Summer are a great time to make some hot tax moves — from energy-related tax breaks to tax holidays to tax help for education costs — that could produce cool tax savings. Hello August. I’m not going to say welcome because, well, you’re typically not a good guest. August is one of the worst weather months of the year, at least when it comes to basic comfort. It’s hot. In many places it’s humid. And the thrill of summer’s arrival back in late May has worn thin. That’s why so many people take time in August... Read more →


It's officially summer. Time for fun at the beach. And fun making mid-year tax moves. Happy July 5th, the start of midyear tax planning. With six months left in the tax year, it's the perfect time to make some tax moves that could reduce your 2017 tax bill. Here are six easy ones to take care of in July. 1. Adjust your payroll withholding. Did you get a big tax refund this year? Or did you owe Uncle Sam more than you expected? Either situation means that you need to reassess your payroll withholding. It's easy to do. Just give... Read more →


These young women are enjoying their high school graduation ceremony. Now, with diplomas in hand, they and their families are looking at how to pay for college. A 529 plan could help. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Education via Flickr) Happy 529 Day! This end-of-May day is marked each year by a flurry of activity to get the word out about 529 college savings plans. Created by Congress in 1996, the accounts are officially designated as a "qualified tuition program" in the Internal Revenue Code. However, they are more commonly referred by the IRC section 529 that covers their associated... Read more →


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 →