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April 2014

If you just discovered an error on an old tax return, you might be able to correct it. All you need is Form 1040X … as long as the mistake was made on a return you filed within the last three years. Click image for PDF download of full Form 1040X. Details on filing an amended tax return, which is what you'll do with Form 1040X, are found in the Weekly Tax Tip. I'll let you check out the full tip at your leisure, but here are five key things to keep in mind. First, note the three-year time limit... Read more →

The reinstatement of the extenders, those 50 or so tax laws that regularly expire ad must be renewed by Congress, is continuing on its fits-and-starts way. A couple of weeks ago, new Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and his panel approved most of the tax provisions that expired on Dec. 31, 2013, for another two years, through 2015. This morning, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) is leading a mark-up of bills that would permanently put six corporate extenders into the Internal Revenue Code. The tax breaks are: H.R. 4429, dealing with the subpart F exemption... Read more →

The cinematic chronicling of Frank Underwood's Machiavellian ways in House of Cards will continue in Maryland. State officials and the Netflix show's production company Media Rights Capital have reached an $11.5 million tax break agreement that will keep the political thriller filming in Maryland. "Spoiler alert: we're going to keep the 3,700 jobs and more than 100 million dollars of economic activity and investment that House of Cards generates right here in Maryland," said the state's Gov. Martin O'Malley in a statement announcing the deal. It was a victory of sorts for the Old Line State. Media Rights Capital had... Read more →

And so it begins. After a relatively quiet spring, more than two dozen tornadoes and other severe storms walloped primarily the center of the United States over the weekend. Damage from deadly tornado in the Mayflower, Arkansas, area on Sunday, April 27. Photo by James Bryant via @nlrweatherman on Twitter. The worst, and deadliest, storms stuck Sunday, April 27, which also was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado outbreak. On that late April day in 2011, twisters hit parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people. Not to start off the week on a down note,... Read more →

Property taxes are always among the most hated taxes. As owners over the years of five houses, the hubby and I definitely are in the hate 'em group. I understand the money is primarily for financing public schools. And I realize that two of our houses have been in Texas and Florida, states without income taxes, so that means officials there depend heavily on residential real estate's contribution to their coffers. But after you spend all that money on getting a home loan and paying it, plus the maintenance costs, that annual property tax bill is the final straw. The... Read more →

Electronic tax filing popularity continues to grow

All in all, it was a pretty uneventful tax filing season. The relatively smooth 2014 filings probably are due in large part because we taxpayers didn't have to deal with last-minute changes by Congress in tax laws. That's also probably why the number of returns that the Internal Revenue Service reported receiving a few days after the April 15 deadline, was slightly ahead of last year's filing pace. IRS numbers crunchers report that as of April 18 the agency had received more than 131 million returns. That's 0.7 percent more than at that time last year. The increase that the... Read more →

Welcome to Tax Crime Friday! On the heels of reports of doctors being targeted in a nationwide identity theft scheme and a new e-file phishing effort, comes news of other alleged tax criminals being caught. A federal grand jury in Erie, Pennsylvania, has indicted five men in connection with an alleged identity theft scheme in which the Internal Revenue Service paid out approximately $10 million in fraudulent tax refunds. The good news, in addition to the indictment, is that the alleged tax criminals got less than half of the fraudulent refund amounts for which they filed. All told, said the... Read more →

Tax identity thieves this filing season apparently have a new top target: doctors. Hundreds of physicians across several states and Puerto Rico are victims of an income tax fraud scheme, according to Brian Krebs, author of the cybercrime and Internet security website KrebsOnSecurity. Scam artists are using the health care providers identities to e-file taxes and collect returns for themselves. The ID theft, reports MedPage Today, has been reported by physicians in Maine, Connecticut, Michigan, South Dakota, Vermont and elsewhere. The fraud was reported at both the state and federal level, but the source of physician information remains unknown. Looking... Read more →

Your federal income tax refund finally arrived and it was less than you expected. What's the deal? It could be debts you owe. The U.S. Treasury, which is boss to the Internal Revenue Service, is able to nab part or all of your refund to pay some outstanding federal or state debts you have. This ability comes thanks to the Treasury Offset Program, or TOP, which is run by the Bureau of Fiscal Service, or BFS. Debts that are collected this way typically include past-due child support, unpaid student loan amounts and due state income tax. Since 2010, TOP also... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service's policy that allows it to award bonuses to employees who haven't paid their taxes is wrong. So is rewarding employees who faced disciplinary action. That, however, is what happened. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) audit found that the IRS paid $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with recent disciplinary problems. Just more than $1 million of those rewards went to workers who owed back taxes. In addition to cash rewards, the employees in question also received additional time off from work as bonuses. Source: Awards data from the IRS Human Capital Office and... Read more →

Since my mom moved to the Austin area three years ago, I've been driving the 100 or so round-trip miles every other week to visit her. I am very glad I filled up my Chevy before the last visit and that it gets good mileage. Earlier in April, regular gasoline was just a nickel more than $3 per gallon. Now at some Central Texas stations, the pump price is pushing $3.60 a gallon. Fuel costs are on my mind today not only because it's almost time to hit the road to mom's again, but also because today is Earth Day.... Read more →

Just days before the April 15 filing deadline, the Internal Revenue Service reported that most taxpayers had already submitted their returns. Of the almost 113 million returns the IRS had in its hands on April 11, more than 85 million resulted in refunds. The latest federal tax refunds are a bit bigger than those received by players of early Monopoly games. The average refund amount as tax-filing season was winding down was $2,751. That's slightly larger than the average refund a year ago. It's also this week's By the Numbers figure. Have your received your refund from Uncle Sam yet?... Read more →

Many folks spent Easter, either the full weekend starting on Good Friday and ending on this important Christian holiday, going to church services and/or visiting family. But sometimes, a break is welcome. A good one on this Easter Sunday is to take in an appropriately themed movie. Faith-based movies are in vogue right now, with several recent releases, including Noah, Heaven is Real and Son of God doing well at the box office. Hey, believing is important, but so is paying real-life bills. Check your local Cineplex to see if these flicks are still on the wide screen in your... Read more →

Almost 40 million people age 65 or older currently collect Social Security benefits. Vice President Joe Biden is one of them. The 71-year-old veep also is among those who pay income tax on at least some of their federal retirement benefits. Vice President Joe Biden meets with the original six "Rosie the Riveters" who worked in a shipyard during World War II. They, like the veep, are eligible for Social Security benefits. (Office of the Vice President photo.) That revelation was one of the things we learned with the release of the president's and vice president's 2013 tax returns. Barack... Read more →

Last week, millions of us filed our 2013 income taxes. So what are Uncle Sam's plans for our money? Several groups crunched the numbers and offer a look not only at the overall federal spending, but online tools with which we can get an idea of how much our specific tax bills are spent on which programs. The National Priorities Project created the dollar graphic below showing how one dollar in taxes is was parceled out in fiscal year 2013. Social Security and Medicare taxes are not included. Since we all paid more than $1 National Priorities also created an... Read more →

Missouri knows how to celebrate Earth Day, April 22. It's smack-dab in the middle of the state's annual Show-Me Green Sales Tax Holiday. The holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 19, and runs until midnight on Friday, April 25. During those seven days, Missouri shoppers won't have to pay the state's 4.225 percent sales tax on at least a portion of certain Energy Star new appliances. The qualifying energy-efficient products include: Clothes washers Water heaters Dishwashers Air conditioners Furnaces Refrigerators Freezers Heat pumps Up to $1,500 on each eligible appliance is exempt from sales tax. Cities etc. tax-free,... Read more →

April 15 came and went without you. Maybe you had a good excuse for not filing. Much better, I hope, than this guy's glib offering at Twitter's #TaxDayExcuses: The nonfiling excuses are still coming in today over at Twitter. Go ahead and enjoy reading them. But if you are part of that group, you also need to do something about your oversight ASAP. Accruing costs: The bottom line is that despite your reasons for neglecting your Tax Day duties, it's likely costing you. When you don't file your annual federal tax return -- and pay any tax due -- by... Read more →

I've occasionally jotted a note on a 1040. Usually it was to bring Internal Revenue Service attention to an attachment I included or to explain why an examiner might find an entry, shall we say, intriguing. But for the most part, I don't carry on written conversations with the tax man or woman. Donald Rumsfeld, however, takes a different position. The former secretary of defense who most recently served in the George W. Bush administration apparently writes a letter to the IRS each year and sends it along with his tax return. We know this thanks to Rummy's announcement on... Read more →

For most of us, tax filing season 2014 is over. Around 10 million of us, however, asked the Internal Revenue Service for more time, up to Oct. 15, to send in our 1040s. And taxes are a constant consideration, especially if we want to make sure we pay Uncle Sam the smallest possible amount. So the Weekly Tax Tip is back! Every Wednesday, starting today, April 16, and going through the end of the year, you'll find a featured tip in the upper right column of the ol' blog. Check it out for ways to finalize your 2013 return if... Read more →

April 15 is the federal individual income tax filing deadline. It's also the filing deadline for tax returns in 38 states and the District of Columbia. But sometimes those deadlines get extended. That's generally good news for filers, but sadly it's also usually because something bad happened. Washington State mudslide tax relief: That's the case for residents of the Oso, Wash., area. That community in Snohomish County was declared a major disaster area after a deadly mudslide on March 22. Snohomish County, Wash., April 4, 2014 -- Local rescue crews erect American flags at the Washington State mudslide disaster site.... Read more →