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February 2015

January 2015

Busy week, busy weekend, so I'm cutting right to the chase as to last week at my other tax blog. The first topic was the growth of tax-related identity theft. As I note in the post, the best defense against someone using your tax data to file for a fake refund is to not fall for crooks seeking that data. But it still happens, even to the most careful taxpayers. The IRS has programs in place to help victimized taxpayers get their rightful refunds. The tax agency issues identity protection personal identification numbers, or IP PINs, to the real filers.... Read more →

Getting a ticket to the Super Bowl is just part of an NFL fan's ultimate quest. You also have to find an affordable place to stay. Good luck with that. Internet travel site TravelClick says average daily room rates this weekend have jumped by 89 percent, with occupancy levels running 68 percent higher than a year earlier. While the Seahawks-Patriots match-up in Super Bowl XLIX is part of the reason for the lodging price hikes, there's also the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the top PGA Tour events, at the nearby TPC Scottsdale Golf Course this weekend. Until yesterday,... Read more →

What do Super Bowl bets and missing tax forms have in common? They're all part of this week's Daily Tax Tips. Yes, the end of January is hectic for sports fans, particularly NFL aficionados or folks who love Super Bowl ads and halftime shows, as well as taxpayers. Since it's been a crazy five days, and Friday isn't even over yet, you might have missed these and the other tax tips that were posted, as the pointing finger indicates, in the upper right corner of the ol' blog's home page this week. Don't worry. We're good tax teammates here at... Read more →

Political wonks are distraught today. Mitt Romney will not seek the presidency in 2016. He told a small group of advisers of his decision in a conference call this morning. Tax geeks also are upset. No Romney run also means we won't get any further tax return revelations. President Obama meets with Mitt Romney in the Oval Office following their White House post-election lunch on Nov. 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) I don't know about y'all, but I was really looking forward to seeing if the 2012 Republican presidential nominee amended his tax returns. Reclaiming tax... Read more →

Tax software was supposed to put an end to the tax professional business. Right. Congress, unwittingly (insert your own joke) or not, has helped keep the tax preparer business alive by continually changing the tax code. And we're not talking just small tweaks. Some of the modified and new tax laws are outrageously complicated, by design as well as due to unintended consequences. Just look at the Affordable Care Act tax issues that taxpayers and tax pros alike are wrestling with for the first time this filing season. Turning to a pro: Even if tax software can do the job... Read more →

Attention Illinois online shoppers. You only have a few days left before Amazon starts tacking your state's 6.25 percent sales tax onto your purchases. This coming Sunday, Feb. 1, Illinois will become the 24th state in which the giant online retailer will collect sales tax. Photo by MikeBlogs via Flickr Creative Commons The Seattle-based company already is adding sales tax amounts to invoices for products sent to customers in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. On Jan.... Read more →

Around eight million individuals got health coverage in 2014 through an Affordable Care Act exchange. If you're among that group, pay attention to your mail in the coming weeks. You'll be getting a Form 1095-A in connection with your Obamacare coverage. Important health care exchange info: Form 1095-A is a new tax reporting document. It is sent only to individuals who obtained health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, either the federal or a state exchange. This new two-page form includes information about your exchange-purchased insurance coverage, any household members covered under the policy, the monthly premium you (and... Read more →

The Federal Trade Commission gets more consumer complaints about identity theft than any other topic and tax identity theft has emerged as the largest subcategory. With tax-filing season underway, crooks are taking advantage of our desire to get our taxes done properly, our anxiousness for refunds we are expecting and our general year-round fear of the Internal Revenue Service. To help us guard against becoming tax ID theft victims, the FTC has designated Jan. 26-30 as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. Fake IRS agent scam: IRS imposter scams and similar ruses are a new and increasing twist targeting taxpayers. Since... Read more →

The 2015 tax filing season is underway and for most of us, that means detailing our wage income on our 1040s. While workers' pay still is the dominant type of income reported to the Internal Revenue Service, a recent Tax Policy Center analysis notes that wages and salaries have lost some of their dominant share over the past six decades. From 1952 through 2012, write Roberton Williams and Lydia Austin in the Dec. 22, 2014, issue of Tax Notes, capital gains and other nonbusiness income have grown in relative importance. Here are the income sources reported by taxpayers back in... Read more →

If you used TurboTax Deluxe software last year, check your email box. The maker of the leading tax preparation software is sending you a message detailing how it wants to make things right in the wake of changes that will force some users to upgrade this filing season to a more expensive version. Not only is TurboTax apologizing, it's saying I'm sorry with cash. Refund offer: Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is offering $25 refunds to customers who had to buy a more expensive version of the company's software to complete their 2014 tax returns because of this year's software... Read more →

We made it through the first official week of tax filing season 2015! A lot of folks were champing at the bit to get their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service on Jan. 20's opening day. Good for them for being obsessive-compulsive so prepared. Some of us, however, will need a bit longer to complete our annual tax task. Either we're still gathering all the material we need to file, or we're still searching for possible tax breaks, or both. Daily Tax Tips: Our Daily Tax Tip feature can help whenever you're ready to file, as well as suggest some... Read more →

Super Bowl XLIX is just 10 days away. On top of the normal National Football Championship game hoopla, we've also got Deflategate. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has had baseball on its mind. The reason? This week it pocketed a cool $1.3 million to cover former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry's tax debts. Even cooler was how the IRS got the money. The agency auctioned off the Major League Baseball star's annuity that he received in connected with a 1985 contract extension with New York's less storied baseball club. Success at the ball park, troubles off: Almost 30 years ago when... Read more →

Obama's 'won both' elections State of the Union quip, Republicans' many responses to the speech (and gibe)

Did you watch President Obama's sixth State of the Union address last night? If not, you can catch up today. There's the fast-forward version, the #SOTU (as it was tagged on social media) in a two-minute video courtesy Bloomberg TV. You also can read the prez's prepared speech. The White House posted the transcript on Medium. There you'll find three words that had never before explicitly been part of the annual presidential address to the joint Congressional session and the American public: lesbian, bisexual and transgender. But neither of those options will give you the moment that generated the most... Read more →

It's Tuesday, but to borrow a phrase and concept popular on the Internet, it sure feels like Throwback Tax Thursday. The reason? The preview of the topics that President Obama plans to address in tonight's State of the Union Address includes some tax provisions that used to be in the Internal Revenue Code. The one that caught my eye is a tax break that's near to my heart, and I mean that in the romantic sense. The hubby and I married in 1982 in part because by waiting until that year, we started off as husband and wife with a... Read more →

Tax filing season 2015 is here

Do you hear that? It's the rustle of tens of thousands of taxpayers sending in their 2014 tax returns. That's what must have awoken me at the unusually early, for me, hour of 6:20 a.m. That's OK. I understand the excitement. Tax filing season begins today, Jan. 20. OK, maybe you're not as happy as this Zach Galifianakis character, but c'mon. It's tax season 2015! Ready. Set. File. Wait: As I type, the Internal Revenue Service is now accepting both snail mailed paper tax forms and 1040s filed electronically. Speaking of electronic taxes, folks eligible to use Free File got... Read more →

It's always been a challenge to teach kids history. They truly live in the moment. History is what happened to old people. But on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2015, tens of thousands of young people have an opportunity to see and hear some remarkable representations of history. "Selma," the acclaimed new movie of the Dr. King led historic march for civil rights, is screening nationwide. In an effort to get kids into movie theaters to see the film, groups in around two dozen cities are offering free tickets to middle and high school students. Click the image to... Read more →

What the most important policy issue to you this year? According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, it's defense against terrorism. Seventy-six percent of those who responded to Pew's annual policy priorities poll named terrorism as their top concern. It is the first time in five years that Americans have focused so much on terror, probably in large part because in recent months violent attacks have been in the news. The poll was conducted between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11. The move to the top spot, however, is not totally unexpected. Pew notes that there has been little change... Read more →

Remember the warning from the Internal Revenue Service that we taxpayers shouldn't expect much help from the agency this filing season? Budget cuts, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, mean fewer staff to answer phone callers questions. Well, the same is true for tax professionals. On Friday, the IRS alerted tax pros that the agency's e-Help Desk hotline is cutting back its hours. The same budget woes that could, according to the most recent National Taxpayer Advocate report, lead to less than half of individual taxpayer calls being answered, also are being blamed for the end of the e-Help Desk's extended... Read more →

Today's big tax news is that Free File is now open to qualifying taxpayers. Fourteen tax software companies are offering their services to help you prepare and file your 2014 federal tax return at no charge. They are, in alphabetical order,, 1040NOW, ezTaxReturn,, Free1040TaxReturn, FreeTaxUSA, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax Service,, Tax Simple, TaxACT, TaxSlayer, and TurboTax. Remember, these versions are not the same as the companies' for-sale products, online or on store shelves. They are designed for the Free File program. You can get an idea of what Free File services they are offering at... Read more →

Ready to file your 2014 tax return? Have adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less? Then check out Free File tomorrow. That's right. The Internal Revenue Service's free online tax preparation and e-filing option opens for business Friday, Jan. 16. That's four days before the IRS starts accepting and processing all other 2014 returns, be they e-filed with commercial tax software or submitted on paper. The free online filing partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance is back for its 13th tax-filing service. It was started in 2003 as a way to get more people to e-file. It... Read more →