Web/Tech Feed

The Internal Revenue Service is continuing its Future State efforts to get more of us digitally involved with our taxes. The latest move is a new an online way to check on our tax balances. Essentially, each of us has a taxpayer account with the IRS based on our filings. The online access option introduced last week lets us view our tax account balances, including what we owe in tax and any added penalties and interest. The IRS is hoping that when we digitally discover that we owe Uncle Sam some money, we'll then take advantage of the agency's various... Read more →


Computer users, which nowadays means almost everyone, used to be told to follow the X-file's advice when it came to cyber security: Trust No One. IRS is moving to two-step authentication for more of its online services beginning in late October. That's still true, but unfortunately, it's not enough. Crooks cracking everyone's computer codes: Nowadays, as First Lady Michelle Obama, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton and millions of Yahoo email account owners know, in today's increasingly hackable electronic world, the operable phrase for online life is No One is Safe. And Uncle Sam's tax collector is not immune from... Read more →


It's official. Or as official as anything ever is with Donald J. Trump's run for the White House. The Republicans' 2016 presidential nominee will not be releasing his personal income tax returns. Click image to view the full interview. Tax question/response at 1 minute, 27 seconds. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, appeared today on CBS This Morning and, in response to a query by Norah O'Donnell, reiterated his candidate's position on keeping the returns private. "Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them," said Manafort said. Trump originally indicated he would... Read more →


Attention Pennsylvania digital aficionados, your electronic addictions are about to cost you a bit more. Gov. Tom Wolf on July 13 signed into law his state's fiscal 2017 revenue package. Among its provisions is an extension of the Keystone State's 6 percent sales and use tax to digital downloads of books, music, satellite radio and video and audio streaming. The new tax collection will take effect Aug. 1. It's expected to bring in nearly $47 million in its first year. Those millions of dollars in extra revenue are tempting targets for this week's By the Numbers honor. So is the... Read more →


Sports fans tend to be, well, fanatic. To many, it's what a player does during the game, not his or her off-field antics that matter. Moment of the Champions League final with FC Barcelona's Leo Messi, left, going against Patrice Evra of Juventus at Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6, 2015. (Photo by Biser Todorov via Wikimedia Commons) That kind of no-questions-asked support was what the Barcelona football -- or soccer, as most Americans call the sport -- team was counting on in the wake of its star player's tax evasion conviction. Public outreach, tax backlash: Last week after Lionel... Read more →


Hackers continue to assault the Internal Revenue Service's online options, forcing the agency to shut down yet another website tool. Another automated bot hacking attempt by identity thieves has forced the IRS to stop issuing e-file PINs. On Thursday, June 23, the IRS announced that taxpayers can no longer obtain an electronic filing personal identification number, or e-file PIN, at either IRS.gov or even via phone. And due to growing identity theft and tax refund fraud threats, the shutdown of the e-file ID option might be permanent. Who needs an e-file PIN? Some taxpayers use an e-file PIN to verify... Read more →


A few years back, the Internal Revenue Service revamped its website and did a pretty good job. IRS.gov won some awards and is better than many other federal agency online presences. Andrew Miller's winning redesign of IRS.gov via the Tax Design Challenge. (Image courtesy Miller's Organizer Sandbox) But the IRS decided that as more of us taxpayers are online every day, it wanted to make sure it was remains part of our cyber interaction. Getting public design input: In March, the IRS announced the Tax Design Challenge, its first foray into crowdsourcing. The competition offered a variety of cash prizes,... Read more →


Get Transcript is back. The Internal Revenue Service's online tool where taxpayers can download copies of their prior year filing data had been effectively out of service for more than a year after it was hacked in in early 2015. The online service still worked as long as you were willing to request your old filing data online, but wait for the actual information to be mailed to you in paper form. IRS efforts to upgrade the site's security recently progressed to the point where it was allowing some transcript requests to be randomly downloaded. Today, June 7, the IRS... Read more →


It's been more than a year since hackers were able to get into the Internal Revenue Service's online database of taxpayer transcripts. The agency initially thought that cyber crooks got data on around 104,000 filers when they broke into the Get Transcript tool. The hack, which apparently started in February 2015 and was made public three months later, was accomplished by criminals using personal information that they got from sources outside the IRS. By August, the IRS investigation revealed that the hacked tax account tally was closer to 334,000. Your tax life in an alternate form: Tax transcripts aren't just... Read more →


This post was updated Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 Fake news. Alternative facts. We've all grown familiar with, and perhaps a big inured to, such phrases of late. Spinning language is something politicians have done for, well, forever. And it's not limited to just news. At tax time we hear a lot of things, especially on the internet, that we hope will help us make wise decisions when we file our taxes. But some of it is wrong. To fight this trend of alternative, fake tax facts, as well as brighten up your day a bit, I thought you might enjoy... Read more →


If you can come up with a way to make taxpayers' online interaction with the Internal Revenue Service easier, the agency wants to know. In fact, the IRS is so eager for real-life input on a prospective taxpayer Web option that it's offering a $10,000 cash grand prize to the person who can "reimagine … and design the taxpayer experience of the future." Even better, it's not a winner-take-all contest. In addition to the $10K top prize, the challenge is awarding other cash awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, with a total of $21,000 in prizes to be paid this... Read more →


I'm working on a tax story on my laptop, periodically referring to some background material on my PC screen (yes, I still have one of those dinosaurs). Nearby is my smartphone, which keeps flashing with news updates (c'mon, surely there's more happening than Donald Trump rants!). And I'm listening to some tunes (the Hamilton cast album rules!) via my tablet. Yes, I sometimes -- OK, all the time -- think I'm overly connected. But such electronic options can really come in handy at tax time for folks who want to use their handheld devices to deal with their 1040s. That's... Read more →


The legislative merging of international manufacturing and the Internet is complete. The Senate this afternoon finally approved H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which the House handily passed last December. Part of the bill permanently prohibits any tax -- and even removes the few existing levies -- on Internet access. Internet access vs. Internet sales taxes: Senate action on the measure, which primarily streamlines the U.S. Customs system and eases the border clearance process for much shipping and international commerce, had been slowed by lawmakers who also wanted to consider Internet sales taxes as part... Read more →


Congress is still working on a compromise to put the 50+ expired tax extenders back into the tax code, some permanently. The plan is to attach the extenders to the fiscal year 2016 omnibus federal spending bill that must be OK'ed by Dec. 16. Then Representatives and Senators can head out of Washington, D.C., for holiday celebrations back home. Before that happens, though, another bill that also has tax ramifications is likely to clear Congress. The House on Friday afternoon (Dec. 11) handily passed H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. Also referred to as the... Read more →


I can tell the holidays are just around the corner. I'm getting, and making, lots of call about our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. In most cases, the phone conversations are on my and my relatives' cell phones. We are not alone. Wireless service is becoming the sole means of telephone communication for a growing number of Americans. Surveys by the Centers for Disease Control found that at the end of 2014, more than 44 percent of all adults relied solely on mobile phones. The percentage is even greater, more than 59 percent, among lower income individuals. Cellular taxes at all... Read more →


The ubiquitous ads for fantasy sports companies have attracted some unintended attention. Rep. Frank Pallone, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants that panel to explore exactly fantasy sports differ from gambling. It's a question that literally hits home for Pallone's constituents. The Democratic Congressman represents New Jersey, which has been fighting to make sports betting legal in the Garden State. Supporters of the effort, which was approved by state voters, is seen as another way to bring tourism and tax revenue to the state, particularly Atlantic City and the state's racetracks. Now, in a letter to... Read more →


"Help" is uttered often during tax season. But with one letter change to that plea, taxpayers will be able to offer some helpful suggestions of their own to the tax collector. Or so Uncle Sam hopes. You can rate the Internal Revenue Service on Yelp, the popular online customer review tool. And yes, it's a real opportunity to offer a critique of how the IRS is or isn't doing its job and suggest ways it could improve. The federal government and Yelp have reached an agreement under which all of us can provide our thoughts on government and public services.... Read more →


Television offers a wonderful view of modern superwomen. They're young, brash, tech-savvy and just what we need off screen nowadays to fight the ever-growing crime of identity theft. Real-life versions of popular TV characters Penelope, Claudia and Abby could be the answer to continuing hacks of federal government websites. There's Penelope Garcia, the hacker transformed into FBI computer wiz, on CBS' Criminal Minds; Claudia Donovan, the computer hacker who shook things up for the better on Syfy's Warehouse 13; and Abby Sciuto, whose many detecting talents on CBS' NCIS include digital forensics. All these female characters are young, offbeat and... Read more →


Rand Paul 'kills' tax code with chainsaw, fire & woodchipper

The hubby and I have a deal. Klutzy Kay doesn't get on a ladder when he's not home and he doesn't use power tools when I'm out of the house. That way we can serve as emergency room drivers for each other if, God forbid, the need ever arises. Our arrangement came to mind when I watched Rand Paul's latest video attempt to boost public awareness of his 14.5 percent flat tax proposal (and punch up his GOP presidential wannabe polling numbers). In the YouTube piece posted by his campaign, Paul uses a variety of methods to, in his words,... Read more →


It seems that the "SSL Secure Site" notation on AshleyMadison.com was as dependable as the promise of its clients' wedding rings. Which is to say, not very. That's right. The cyber security and privacy of the adultery website has been violated. Hey, no judging here. But I do want to offer the philandering members of the website, which advertises using the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair.", some divorce related tax tips. Just in case the cyber infiltrators follow through on their threat to make public the info on the 37 million marital cheaters. UPDATE: The wait is over.... Read more →