Tax Tip Feed

Ah, youth. The excitement. The energy. The illusion of immortality. The first-ever filing of a tax return. Boom. Taxes often are the first indication of young adulthood. And apparently it's a grown-up responsibility that many millennials are turning over to other grownups, specifically their parents. Real mom-and-pop tax help: More than a third (37 percent) of millennials relies on their parents at least in part for tax help, according to a new study released by TaxAct. The survey, conducted by ORC International earlier this year on behalf of the tax software company, also found that young men are more likely... Read more →


Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, have increased in popularity since they were created in 2004. More than 20 million people now have these particular medical savings plans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey last fall. KFF's analysis also found that the average account balance grew by more than a third last year to more than $1,800. Growth of HSAs could speed up under a Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Various GOP alternatives for Obamacare call for expansion of HSAs. High deductibles required: HSAs not only offer a way for account owners to pay medical bills, they... Read more →


The April filing deadline (it's on the 18th this year) is less than a month away. So far, the tax season is running slow. The Internal Revenue Service says that fewer than half of the expected 153 million returns have arrived at its processing offices. That indicates that there will be a mad rush to the tax filing finale. And that means that a lot of people will fall into the proverbial haste makes waste pit, being in such a hurry that they'll overlook some tax breaks. If you're careful not to miss any tax breaks for which you qualify,... 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 →


Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas, was famous in its heyday, part of which just happened to coincide with my youth, as a wonderful water park. No visit to relatives in nearby San Antonio was complete until we headed to Aquarena to ride in a glass-bottom boat, marvel at the mermaids and cheer Ralph the swimming pig as he made his famous swine dive. Click fish image for full video view of Aquarena Springs from a glass-bottom boat. The park is gone, replaced by a water research program under the auspices of Texas State University, or Southwest Texas State as... Read more →


Are we having tax fun yet? We did for while last night when it looked like we finally might get a look at Donald J. Trump's taxes. OK. We did get to see part of the new president's 2005 tax return, courtesy tax journalist David Cay Johnston and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes talk Trump taxes on March 14 with Pulitzer Prize winning tax journalist David Cay Johnston. (Click screenshot to view a segment of the Maddow show.) Trump tells tax all? The tax return provides some basic info, but raises a lot more... Read more →


Yes, there's the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And, yes, a serious winter storm is pounding the Northeast. But today, March 14, attention turns to the men's college basketball championship. The quest for that title is known as March Madness and it kicks off with two games later today in Dayton, Ohio. Place your bets: I'm not a basketball fan, college or pro, but long-time readers know what this month means to me — gambling and taxes. While the Super Bowl is the year's single biggest betting day — we're waiting for the final tally, but last February's 51st NFL... Read more →


Most folks have their income taxes, both federal and state, withheld from their paychecks. While your employer (or, in many cases, the payroll company it hires) will take care of the amount that comes out each pay period, it's up to you to make sure it's correct. Filling out your W-4: Your withholding is based on the information you provide on Form W-4. The key factor on this document is your number of withholding allowances. The more allowances you claim, the less tax withheld. The reasoning is that you need the money in hand each payday to take care of... Read more →


Christina Knaack decided to use her federal tax refund the way many folks do. She paid for necessary living expenses. But the single mom from Gaffney, South Carolina, took her refund use to the next level. She paid for her full year's rent. Cristina Knaack's Facebook photo of her $5,400 receipt for paying all of her 2017 rent. "I'm a single mom and I do it all by myself on a minimum wage job. I know that a roof over my kids' head is what's important." Knaack wrote in a Facebook post. "My kids don't want for anything because my... 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 →


In addition to a calculator to do your taxes, you also need a calendar. Given the myriad types of taxpayers out there, the Internal Revenue Service has a variety of due dates for their filings, be they tax returns or documents reporting tax data to Uncle Sam. Sometimes it's simply calendar quirks that produce filing deadline issues. That's the case again this fling season, especially for individual taxpayers. New laws, new tax deadlines: Other deadlines, however, are set by law. And now, some of those deadlines, particularly for business taxpayers, have changed this year. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health... Read more →


One thing that's constant every tax filing season is that people who are expecting refunds file their returns early. Until this year. The number of tax returns filed, processed and refunds issued are all down dramatically this filing season. The impact of a required hold on some refunds also is affecting the average check amount, which at this point last year was $3,385 but is just $1,994 so far into 2017. Internal Revenue Service data so far this filing season, which officially started Jan. 23, shows a dramatic decrease in the number of tax returns the agency has received and... Read more →


You're married. You got married on Dec. 31. You're a parent. You take care of an aging parent. You're a single dad. You're divorced. You got divorced on Dec. 31. All of these personal situations can affect your tax filing status. So getting it right on your tax return is critical. Dad helps his children with their homework. If he's the only parent, he could have a couple of tax filing status choices depending on his personal situation. Why does filing status matter so much? It determines the amount of standard deduction you can claim. It is used to establish... Read more →


It's Groundhog Day and for many folks that brings to mind the Bill Murray movie of the same name more than the Pennsylvania rodent who purportedly can forecast weather. Bill Murray as weatherman Phil Connors in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day." (Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures) In case you haven't seen it, in the 1993 Harold Ramis movie Murray is a television weatherman who, after being dispatched to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 2 to cover groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's emergence from his burrow, finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. Murray's character Phil (we see what you... 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 →


The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, is one of the filing claims that is delaying federal (and in some cases, state) tax refunds this year. But even if you have to wait a few extra weeks to get your refund from Uncle Sam (or your state tax office), filing for the EITC is usually worth it. It's worth more than $6,000 for some filers. And all or some of that money could be as a tax refund. Why credits rule: Like all tax credits, the EITC is a dollar-for-dollar offset of any tax you owe. Let's say your tax... Read more →


Do you have to file a return? Don't shoot the messenger, but the answer usually is yes. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who made money last year, whether you must tell the Internal Revenue Service about it depends on three things: Your gross income, Your filing status, and Your age. The IRS created the table below to give you an idea of whether you should start getting your filing material together. A quick filing note for some older New Year's Day babies. The IRS says that if you were born on Jan. 1, 1952, you are considered... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 opens today! Yes, that is cheering you're hearing. It's from folks who file their taxes early, usually because they are getting refunds. They also are fortunate that they have all the materials they need to fill out their returns. The key document for most taxpayers is their W-2 form. Employers aren't required to get these out until the end of the month, but some companies are quite efficient. And some taxpayers this year are going to discover something new on their W-2s. Verification code addition: Around 50 million of these officially named Wage and Income Statements... Read more →


Free File 2017 has been open for a week. Have you tried it out yet? The partnership between Uncle Sam and the private tax software industry has been around since 2003. This year, a dozen companies are offering their services to eligible taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Service and the Free File Alliance say these participating software manufactures should meet the filing needs of 70 percent of the around 153,000 million taxpayers expected to send in 2016 returns this year. Does free tax preparation and e-filing appeal to you? Check it out. But first check out these five things you should... Read more →


A Jacksonville, Florida, mother and father finally saw their daughter after being separated for 18 years. Kamiyah Mobley was known as Alexis Manigo when she took this undated Instagram selfie with Gloria Williams, the woman she grew up thinking was her birth mother. Kamiyah Mobley was a newborn when Gloria Williams, 51, allegedly posed as a nurse and took her from her birth mother in Jacksonville, Florida. Now Kamiyah, who grew up as Alexis Manigo, is getting to know her birth parents, Shanara Mobley and Craig Aiken. The young woman, however, says the woman accused of taking her when she... Read more →