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November 2015
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December 2015

How will you toast the arrival of 2016? I briefly thought about trying out hard cider this New Year's Eve. But that would require putting on a clean T-shirt, getting out of the house, driving to a liquor store and making the purchase. That's not going to happen. Instead, at midnight the hubby and I will finally pop the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine we've had in our fridge for, well, years. Yeah, we're not really big drinkers. If there's no fizz in that Flat Creek Cellars sparkling almond wine, then we'll rely on our fallback alcoholic beverage:... Read more →

It's going to be a special New Year's celebration for hard cider aficionados. They will be raising a glass of their favorite bubbly fruit beverages not only to celebrate the arrival of 2016, but also to cheer tax law changes that should help their industry. Hard cider, like its cousin wine, is made from fermented juice. In cider's case, that's apples or pears instead of grapes. But hard cider's main competitor really is the craft beer sector. And cider makers have long argued that the tax law imposed an excise tax that put their specialty beverage at a disadvantage to... Read more →

When the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners announced in October their initial efforts to combat tax identity theft and related return fraud, tax software manufacturers and state tax departments were on board, chiming in on ways to end this growing threat. The next month, the IRS announced "Taxes-Security-Together," its effort to enlist taxpayers in the fight against tax identity theft. Now it's tax professionals' turn. The IRS is asking tax preparers for their thoughts on tax ID theft. It has developed an online survey, with the 13 questions dealing with the tax pro's familiarity with security issues;... Read more →

Welcome to the last week of 2015. The end of the calendar year is important not just for your New Year's Eve party planning purposes, but also because when it comes to most tax moves, Dec. 31 is a critical and firm deadline. So with the soon-to-be-old year rapidly winding down, here are 10 tax moves to make by Dec. 31. 1. Take your retirement account distribution. Most owners of tax-deferred retirement accounts who are age 70½ or older must take a specific amount out of their nest eggs by the end of the year or face stiff penalties. This... Read more →

Yes, I know I just posted about charitable giving on Boxing Day. And not to run this charitable donation thing into the ground, but 'tis the season of giving. Plus, I'm spending the afternoon philanthropically multitasking. I'm sorting through my big bag of old clothes, deciding which ones can go to Goodwill by Dec. 31 and noting their fair-market value for my Schedule A tax deduction claim. I'm doing this tax task while half-watching my Dallas Cowboys muddle through another game and trying to maintain some charitable thoughts about my life-long NFL team. I suspect the clothing donation triage will... Read more →

The day after Christmas is known in some countries as Boxing Day. These cats seem to be in the spirit. As was our kitty on any day of the year that a box of any size appeared. Tumbling Taxes also shows that big cats enjoy boxes, too, but in slightly different ways than do their so-called domesticated cousins. As a lover of cats large and small, house and wild, I can certainly appreciate the feline interpretation of Dec. 26 However, for people, Boxing Day has different meanings. An evolving Boxing Day: In recent years, according to the Associated Press, Boxing... Read more →

Finally! Dec. 25 has arrived. Not only is it Christmas, it's a no tax day here at the ol' blog. I'm taking the day off to spend it with the hubby, my mom and some friends. I hope you're getting to spend this day the way you want and with those who are important in your life. Wherever you are, here are a few items to bring a little Texas cheer to your day. It's still in the 70s here in Central Texas, but a cold front reportedly is heading our way. Until it arrives, I'm content to sit in... Read more →

Christmas is tomorrow. Have you finished your shopping? If not, there's an easy way to come up with great gifts without fighting the last-minute shopping mall crush. Go online and give to your favorite charity in honor of someone. In most cases, the charity will send the person, or the family of a departed loved one if that's who you choose to honor with the donation, notification of the gift and how it will be used. The key here is to remember that this is a gift. Recipient's (not your) cause: You need to make sure that the person in... Read more →

Retailers and e-tailers thank you for your holiday spending spirit. So does your state's treasury. Many seasonal items are taxable, as you probably noticed as you were picking up gifts, making holiday party arrangements and buying your tree. Here in Texas, the Comptroller of Public Accounts has a special Web page with details about holidays and how seasonal purchases contribute to the state's coffer "Christmas trees, seasonal plants, holiday decorations, tempting foods and lovely wrapped gifts add beauty and tradition to a holiday," says Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. "So when does a customer pay sales tax on holiday items and... Read more →

Just when you think you've heard it all, you haven't. Take, for example, a story in today's New York Times recounting how debt collection agencies are using the court system to keep people from getting relief from collectors via, you guessed it, the courts. The story caught my eye because I've had family, friends and neighbors who've been harassed by debt collectors. It's also another example of the questionable, at least ethically if not legally, tactics many in bill collection industry use. And it's a particularly disconcerting story just as the private collection agency folks are about to be forced... Read more →

Today is the first day of winter and it's supposed to hit 76 it hit 79 degrees here in Austin. Similar temperatures are forecast for the rest of this Christmas week. I thought we left such winter warmth behind us 10 years ago when we moved from South Florida back home to Texas. And for most winters over the last decade, we've had our share of the cold, like in 2011 and 2013 when we had snow and temperatures low enough to freeze our backyard fountain. Some winters in Austin, Texas, like this one in 2011 have been cold. But... Read more →

Hot damn! My tax crystal ball -- yep, that's it there to the left -- is working again! Today the Internal Revenue Service announced that the 2016 filing season will start on time. The IRS will begin accepting electronically filed individual returns on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. It's on a Tuesday because Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday. There's even better news for folks who are eligible to use Free File. This IRS/private tax software industry partnership allows millions of taxpayers to prepare their returns online and e-file them at no cost.... Read more →

Christmas is Friday!!! Those exclamation points aren't just for show. The holidays have sneaked up on me this year. Yes, it's beginning to feel a lot like mid-April here, with last-minute shopping panic replacing the annual tax-filing freak-out. If you're in the same fix and are still trying to find a gift for the tax and/or financial person in your life, here are some suggestions that might help make Dec. 25 a bit less stressful than April 15. Dress the tax part: Tax preparation can often tie the best of us up in knots, so your pro might appreciate some... Read more →

Yes, I know we're in the midst of college football's bowl season. And many NFL teams are still in the hunt for a spot in professional football's playoffs. But baseball recently got my attention. Part of my sporting focus shift is that the two NFL teams I cheer for, the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens, are incredibly sucky this year and out of the playoff picture. The main reason, though, that I'm looking at Major League Baseball in late December is because 2015 is a record-setting year for the league's luxury tax. Multiple luxury tax records: The Los Angeles Dodgers... Read more →

The biggest hit on Broadway right now is an inventive musical about the United States' first Treasury Secretary. "Hamilton" actors, left to right, Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette, Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, and the musical's writer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda as the titular Alexander Hamilton. (Photo via And on Friday, the tax extenders bill became law, including a new provision that gives a tax break to shows on the Great White Way. Coincidence? I think not. Tax help from "Hamilton?" Maybe: OK, I don't really think that Lin-Manuel Miranda's record-setting "Hamilton" is... Read more →

Take a look at the Form 1040 except pictured below. It soon will have that not-quite complete "draft" watermark removed. And you know what that means. The 2016 tax-filing season should start on time next January. Filing season on schedule: That's the hope and tentative word from Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. As the House was signing on the fiscal year 2016 budget bill and tax extenders package, Koskinen was addressing participating in question-and-answer session at the annual Institute on Current Issues in International Taxation in Washington, D.C. "The normal start of the filing season would be January 19,"... Read more →

When we think about tax-related inflation adjustments, we typically expect amounts to bump up, at least a little. But, as the Federal Reserve made clear yesterday when it finally hiked interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, inflation has not been a big deal for a while. So it's not such a big surprise that the Internal Revenue Service's annual inflation adjustments for the rates used to figure tax deductible driving looked like some earlier Fed moves: they will drop in 2016. A young driver knows what it takes to keep his vehicle on the road. The... Read more →

It's a Christmas miracle! Weeks are left in 2015 and Congress has reached a deal on the 50+ tax breaks known as extenders. Holiday greetings in the hall leading from the room in the Capitol basement where House Republicans met late Dec. 15 to learn of agreement on omnibus spending and tax extenders bills. Photo by Craig Caplan, C-SPAN Capitol Hill producer, via Twitter. For those of us in the tax world, waiting for action in recent years on this group of technically temporary tax breaks has become a holiday tradition. A bad holiday tradition, to be sure, but one... Read more →

Christmas is 10 days away, but political junkies (and "reality" TV fans) are getting a big present tonight. The Republicans hoping to be their party's presidential nominee next year square off tonight in Las Vegas. Source: CNN Nine candidates will participate on the main debate stage in the primetime debate: businessman Donald Trump, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. National poll leader Trump takes center stage, literally as well as... Read more →

In the largest ever gathering of world leaders, the global representatives of 196 nations on Dec. 12 signed a historic climate change pact. The consensus of great global powers and some of the planet's poorest nations alike was that the landmark agreement is necessary to make changes in human behavior that will slow and limit the earth's increasing temperature. A new study, however, suggests that people worldwide need to make a change in their eating habits. And one way to accomplish such a dietary change might be a meat tax. Would a tax on your steak and other meat cause... Read more →