Tax Tip Feed

Time is rapidly running out this filing season to make tax-saving moves, but adding to an IRA could be a win-win-win. Win 1: Added feathering of your nest egg Most moves to reduce a tax year's final bill must be taken by the end of that tax year. Once Dec. 31 is past, so are your options to reduce what you owe the Internal Revenue Service. IRA contributions, however, are different. You have until the April fling deadline, which is next Tuesday, the 18th this year, to put money into your traditional or Roth IRA and have the contribution count... Read more →


You have a mortgage. That home's property taxes are waaaay too big. (Note to self: Protest the appraisal.) And you were really generous. All those expenses probably mean that you itemize instead of taking the standard deduction when you file your taxes. Yes, it's more work, but if you take full advantage of all Schedule A has to offer, it can really pay off. Schedule A (Form 1040) Here's a closer look at what you can claim where when you itemize. Medical and Dental Expenses Being sick sucks. Having to pay a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses is a pain,... Read more →


Most of us — Internal Revenue Service data shows around 70 percent of taxpayers — don't mess with itemized deductions. Instead this large group of filers claims the standard deduction. It's easy. The amount to claim is based on your filing status and found directly on the 1040 and 1040A forms; it's included with the personal exemption amount(s) on 1040EZ. It's also adjusted annually for inflation, so generally if you make more the next tax year, your standard deduction is larger. But sometimes standard deduction claimants feel a bit left out at tax time, since so much is written (guilty!)... Read more →


You know there's Free File, but you'd really feel more comfortable getting some face-to-face help filling out your taxes. The problem is you don't have a lot of money to pay for accredited tax assistance. Good news. You might qualify for free, in-person tax help. Free tax-preparation and filing help, like that shown here at a Rutherford Country, Tennessee, VITA office, is available at thousands of sites across the country. No-cost tax return preparation and e-filing is available at nearly 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites across the United States. These filing-season... Read more →


Back before I was totally focused on taxes — yes, I know that's hard to imagine — I worked for a corporate conglomerate that had an aerospace subsidiary. That company also was a government contractor. To underscore our connection to federal government, my employer offered the option to buy U.S. saving bonds through a payroll purchase program. I still have a bundle of those Series EE bonds. Yes, real paper bonds. That's some of them pictured above. It seemed a little silly back then, even though the purchases cost me only half of each bond's face value. Compared to other... Read more →


And so it starts. Again. As mandated by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service has turned over some delinquent tax accounts to private debt collectors. These collection agencies will begin calling affected individuals this week. Yes, private debt collectors are again calling about unpaid federal taxes. Worried much? I am. New tax scam potential: I spelled out my primary concern in a post last month about the private collection letter the IRS had finalized. "If you think this opens the door -- and windows and attic vents -- wide for tax scammers, you are probably correct. And you are not alone.... Read more →


Wait. It's April, right? And isn't it March that has the proverbial lion-like entrance? Well, April apparently is trying to steal some monthly arrival literal thunder. Over the first weekend of this new month, violent storms raked much of Texas and are still marching east. Little April showers on spider web GIF by SomethingTraLaLa via Giphy Yes, I know spring heralds thunderstorm season, which is often dangerous and deadly like this weekend. But I also know I speak for a lot of us who were hoping simply for some more soothing April showers. So instead of just worrying about filing... Read more →


The annual tax filing due date is the big day each April. Instead of falling on the usual April 15, the deadline for getting your taxes to the Internal Revenue Service this year is April 18. But some older taxpayers, specifically that first big batch of Baby Boomers who turned 70½ last year, are facing a key April 1 tax deadline. April Fools' Day is the deadline to take your first required minimum distribution, or RMD, from certain tax-deferred retirement accounts if you didn't do so by the end of last year. No kidding. If you miss the April deadline,... Read more →


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 →