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November 2015
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December 2015

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 →


One of the year-end tax tips that I've been talking about in recent days is to defer income, such as a workplace bonus, into the next year. That will give you 12 months to figure out how to handle the taxes on the added income. However, I don't think the employees of Hilcorp Energy Co. will be deferring the $100,000 each received this year. Big reward for goals met: The privately held oil and gas exploration and production company gave every one of its 1,399 workers the hefty cash thank you for helping the company achieve its five-year goals earlier... Read more →


Members of the military receive some special tax considerations. One of them is some tax-free income while serving in a combat zone. A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan provides security during an advising mission in Afghanistan, April 10, 2014. Afghanistan is a designated military combat zone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sara Wakai) The Internal Revenue Service says that when service personnel serve in a combat zone as an enlisted person or as a warrant officer, including commissioned warrant officers, for any part of a month, all military pay received for service... Read more →


I'm a big movie fan. I also am a personal finance/tax nut. So it's a big day for me as those two worlds converge. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced its nominees for its annual Golden Globe awards. Two financially-themed movies, "99 Homes" and "The Big Short," were tabbed. Christian Bale, nominated for a Golden Globe as best lead actor, rocking out in a scene from "The Big Short." Both films are based on the housing industry collapse that followed the reckless subprime mortgages banks handed out right and left during the 2000s. That led to the disastrous (and... Read more →


It's always a roller coaster ride when Congress is hashing out legislation. That's particularly true when it's a tax bill that has a firm deadline. UPDATE, Wednesday, Dec. 16: Hang on, the ride is heading up! Congress reached agreements on tax and spending bills late Dec. 15. Votes expected soon. Details on the deal to come soon in a new, separate post on Extenders 2015 Winners and Losers. Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure, a Bolliger & Mabillard out and back roller coaster. Photo by Dusso Janladde via Wikimedia I'm talking, of course, about the tax extenders package. These 50+... Read more →


Attention Golden State shoppers, your state tax collector might have some cash that could make your holiday gift buying easier. The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) says this past year it got back more than 49,000 personal income tax refunds that the U.S. Postal Service couldn't deliver. Those tens of thousands of tax checks total $28 million. The money is just waiting for its rightful owners to claim their portion of it. Most of the returned refunds, says the FTB, went to taxpayers who moved but didn't let the state tax office know their new addresses. The FTB suggests Californians... Read more →


We're five days away from another possible government shutdown. Wait. Didn't the budget deal that former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed through before handing the gavel to new Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) take care of that? Sort of. Budget but no spending plan: The budget agreed to at the end of October established a framework for expenditures through October 2017. Congress, however, still must allocate the actual dollars for Uncle Sam's operations so he can operate past Dec. 11, the day that the latest continuing resolution expires. UPDATE: Congress passed another short-term continuing resolution to fund the federal... Read more →


No business sector is off limits when it comes to taxes. That's the message from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which last week announced formation of an adult entertainment task force. The special investigative unit of Great Britain's version of the Internal Revenue Service will target strip clubs and online escort agencies that it suspects are covering up thousands of pounds a day in profits, thereby evading value added tax (VAT), income tax and national insurance payments. Billions in unreported earnings: HMRC says the adult entertainment industry, including but not limited to strippers, escort agencies and lap dancing clubs,... Read more →


December is the start of the holiday giving season and tax collectors in New Hampshire and Louisiana are hoping for some long-delayed gifts. Tax amnesty periods began Dec. 1 in those two states. Actually, Louisiana's tax amnesty started on Nov. 16, but after just one day, the Department of Revenue suspended it until the start of December. The Pelican State's postponement came after tax officials found a mistake in the information included in some of the amnesty invitation letters. Revenue officials decided it would be easier for everyone to hold off on the amnesty until corrected letters were mailed. If... Read more →


Private debt collectors are back in the tax bill business, essentially chauffeured in as part of the new highway funding bill. Click image to read how federal agencies recently shut down four debt collectors for abusive practices. Now private bill collectors will soon be back in the tax debt collection business. In addition, some U.S. passport holders will find that their international travel documents have been pulled, or they can't get or renew them, because they owe $50,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service. These two provisions are part of H.R. 22, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST),... Read more →


Sin taxes are supposed to encourage help force people to break what are generally perceived as bad habits. One of the most common sin taxes is an added levy on cigarettes. It has long been argued, and shown in some studies, that the tax is effective in keeping young people from starting to smoke. They tend to have lower incomes, so a hefty tobacco tax makes the habit too expensive for them, especially when they consider other ways they could use the money that otherwise would turn to ash. Now it looks like cigarette taxes also can improve the health... Read more →


So how's your December going so far? Mine is off to a totally crazy start. We had guests for Thanksgiving. I'm not complaining, but when it's just the hubby and me, I can squeeze in a little work, too. Since that didn't happen, I'm swamped right now. Then this week some long-planned home repairs/improvements finally started. Today I'm being held hostage in my house as men destroy the structure. OK, so it's really just a roofing crew peeling off the old shingles in preparation for a new covering. Part of our old roof, a temporary December decoration for our backyard.... Read more →


This post was updated Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. Thanksgiving is a time for, as its name indicates, recognizing all the wonderful things in our lives. In recent years, several post-holiday days have cropped up in this annual time of gratitude that provide us with added ways to share our good fortune. Yes, some of these creations are blatantly commercial. There's Black Friday, the day after Turkey Day where we buy holiday gifts for our friends and loved ones. Next comes Small Business Saturday, where we patronize our local merchants to help them compete with big business. And, of course, we... Read more →