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February 2014

And the Internal Revenue Service's troubles continue. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling that the IRS has no authority to force tax preparers to take continuing education courses and tests. Tax preparers fight back: After years of study, hearings and pilot programs, in 2011 the IRS formally proposed a system under which it would register tax pros and require certain paid preparers to take continuing education courses and be tested on their tax competency. CPAs, Enrolled Agents and tax attorneys would be... Read more →


The 2014 tax season has been underway for 12 days (OK, only eight business days) and refunds are finally being processed. As happens every year, there are some problems with some returns, meaning some refunds are being delayed. That, of course, makes the owed taxpayers very unhappy. And it raises the perennial tax question as to whether refunds are good or bad. Here's a quick look at some pros and cons of having Uncle Sam hold onto your money for months and then getting it back in a lump sum when the Internal Revenue Service gets around to it. A... Read more →


Sure it's a rerun, but it's still the feel-good story of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. Alexandre Bilodeau, the Canadian moguls skier, won his first Olympic gold medal in 2010 at home when Vancouver, B.C., hosted the games. His emotional celebration with his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, has made both brothers national sensations. They repeated their ecstatic hugs Monday, Feb. 10, when Bilodeau, after slow qualifying runs, successfully defended his moguls gold medal. Now he's hanging up his skis to complete his accounting degree studies at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in... Read more →


The photos are ubiquitous during the Olympic Games. Winners smilingly chomp down on their pieces of gold, silver and bronze. No, They Aren't Foil-Wrapped Chocolates -- U.S. four-man bobsled teammates Steven Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curt Tomasevicz bite the gold medals they won at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. (Photo by Tim Hipps, Family MWR Command, via Flickr Creative Commons) The Internal Revenue Service, however, literally takes a bite out of Olympians' winnings. And with the 2014 Winter Games underway in Sochi, Russia, some members of Congress are once again arguing that the taxation is... Read more →


You decided to get help from a tax professional this filing season. Let's make sure you followed all the steps. You evaluated your tax pro options. You thoroughly vetted the professional before you hired her. Now comes the really important part. Be a good -- no, be the best -- tax client. That's right. Just because you're turning over your taxes to someone else doesn't mean you get to check out and simply await your refund. Hiring a tax pro is just like any relationship. You get from it what you give to it. Today's Daily Tax Tip offers six... Read more →


Friday's jobs report was not good. The Labor Department's Feb. 7 numbers showed only 113,000 jobs were added in January. Was it the polar vortex effect or is the economy really heading backwards? There are many components to the reports, so economists and politicians will continue to debate the employment figures and their meanings. And Congress apparently will continue to debate whether to extend unemployment benefits. No additional jobless benefits yet: So far, the word from Capitol Hill has been sorry, out-of-work Americans, but you're still on your own. Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) for 1.3 million folks expired on... Read more →


And here we are again, if not on a fiscal cliff, at least standing on a debt ceiling ledge. When Congress agreed to reopen the federal government after October 2013's 16-day shut-down, it also suspended the debt ceiling until today, Feb. 7. Click image for the full interactive national debt clock. As we've all come to learn in the last few years, the debt ceiling is the limit on Uncle Sam's ability to borrow money to pay for bills he -- and by he, I mean Congress -- has already incurred, including, but not limited to Social Security and Medicare... Read more →


If you didn't rush to file your federal tax return when the 2014 filing season finally opened on Jan. 31, chances are you itemize your deductions. True, some early season filers have more complicated tax returns involving Schedule A and lots of other forms. And these folks get tax refunds, too, which is a prime motivator for the first wave of 1040s sent to the Internal Revenue Service. But a lot of us itemizers -- yes, I'm one and I do tend to file closer to the April 15 deadline -- are still waiting on some of the tax documents... Read more →


I'm old enough to remember many momentous things, including the storming of America by the British. No, even though I'm a fan of Sleepy Hollow, I'm not that old. But I am plenty old enough to remember 50 years ago when the The Beatles arrived in the United States. I was too young to attend a Fab Four concert, but my parents, younger brother and I did watch John, Paul, George and Ringo perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. And my mom bought me Meet The Beatles! OK, so she listened to it as much as I did, but officially... Read more →


John Koskinen is likely to see his honeymoon as new Internal Revenue Chief come to an abrupt end today. Koskinen, a private-sector turnaround specialist who became the IRS' 48th commissioner in late December, will be on the hot seat at a Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing this morning. It is Koskinen's first appearance before the House tax-writing panel. He will be the only witness. The last time he was on Capitol Hill it was on the Senate side for his confirmation hearings. Click image for C-SPAN tape of Koskinen's confirmation hearing. In announcing the hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Charles... Read more →


How in the heck did February already arrive? And now we're four days into the shortest month? What the…?!? OK. Take a breath. And yes, I'm talking to myself as well as to any similarly flustered blog readers. There's still time left in this shortest month to take care of important tax tasks. So let's take a quick look at some tax moves to make in February's remaining 28 days. A lot of folks filed on Jan. 31 as soon as the Internal Revenue Service started accepting 2013 returns. But the rest of us are waiting, in part because we... Read more →


Well, this apparently is the week of change here at the ol' blog. Regular readers know that I've been posting a Tax Carnival here on a more or less regular basis since June 2006. The time has come, however, to put the Tax Carnival on hiatus. I've enjoyed the interaction with tax and personal finance bloggers. The carnival has personally provided me with a look at other folks' tax takes, which is always a good thing. But as the saying goes, life just insists on keeping on keeping on. I had already cut back from biweekly carnival postings to monthly.... Read more →


It's been crazy of late. Tax filing season officially started. That means a packed work schedule. Plus things have gotten a bit out of control on the personal side. And, of course, yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. So in an effort to get back on track, I'm cutting right to the chase when it comes to what I wrote about last week at my other tax blog. Since last week was leading up to Internal Revenue Service acceptance (finally!) of 2013 tax returns, it seemed only fitting to examine the tax treatment of virtual currency. The one that's been in... Read more →


Unless you were a fan of the underdog Seattle Seahawks who backed up your cheering with a real wager, you probably didn't do so well in your betting pool. Nevada casinos are expected to post a profit on Super Bowl XLVIII, the biggest annual betting event for the 21st time in 23 years since the state began officially tracking the game, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The reason Silver State betting parlors are rolling in the dough today? Around two out of every three Nevada gamblers wagered on Denver all the way through Sunday's kickoff. Those Broncos bettors lost... Read more →


Married couples filing joint returns share all tax liability, too

Singer, songwriter and political and social activist Pete Seeger died last week. He was 94. Seeger was as well known for his commitment to causes that at the time were unpopular as he was for his songs, and that's saying a lot. After being blacklisted for being a "godless communist," Seeger turned to the Bible (and gave co-writing credit to Ecclesiastes) to compose Turn, Turn, Turn, one of the most beautiful and timeless songs ever. It became a No. 1 hit for the Byrds in 1965. Other widely beloved Seeger songs include "If I Had Hammer" and "Where Have All... Read more →


It's Super Bowl Sunday, so of course I'm thinking of two things: football and taxes. Fortunately for me, those two areas intersect a lot. Take the piece I put together on what we regular folks can learn from professional athletes' tax troubles. Tax missteps by athletes and others: Like many of us much less physically talented folks, star athletes make tax errors, get bad professional tax advice, get involved with or are victims of tax fraud and have hassles not only with the Internal Revenue Service, but state tax departments, too. K. Sean Packard, a CPA who, as director of... Read more →


I was hoping for a blizzard during Super Bowl XLVIII. I don't have anything against the fans who will be in MetLife Stadium for the first-ever outdoor NFL championship game played in a cold weather setting. I did, however, want to see the league's big wigs freak out a bit. But the weather storyline has, as meteorologists say, moderated. It now looks like the New Jersey/New York area won't be hit by extreme cold or wintry precipitation. Still, Sunday's big game could be the coldest ever, according to data gathered by Bloomberg and put into graphic form by Statista. And... Read more →


This year you're turning over your taxes to a professional. You've evaluated the tax preparer options and have decided on which type to hire. Now you need to make sure the tax preparer is on the up and up. That's right. Some tax pros are unscrupulous. They take advantage of taxpayer eagerness to turn over this annual task. They also know they often can count on some filers' eagerness for a bigger refund. The result can be tax refund fraud and/or identity theft. Avoiding bad tax pros: Today's Daily Tax Tip is a collection of advice from the Internal Revenue... Read more →