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February 2016

January 2016

Have your snail mail and email boxes been filling up lately with tax statements? Mine have. That's good. As soon as we have all these documents detailing our 2015 tax transactions in our hands, physically or digitally, we can file our tax returns. The deadline for employers and other folks who must send out tax documents to affected taxpayers technically is Jan. 31. When that date falls on a federal holiday or, like this year, a weekend, then it gets pushed to the next business day. So Monday, Feb. 1, is the deadline this year, meaning our W-2 and 1099... Read more →

Looking for a creative way to get your taxes done this year? Here's an idea from "Yes, it took a lot of work to make the cards and pieces, but it's worth it. The players are way more thorough than the tax prep people ever were," says the cartoon creator. I'm a big fan of board games. But I'm not sure I agree with xkcd's creative way to take care of the annual filing duty. I know lots of very thorough tax preparers. I am, however, all for anything that helps folks get their returns done quickly, correctly and... Read more →

Here in the United States, the income gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us is getting a lot of attention, thanks in large part to the Democratic presidential nominee race. Sen. Bernie Sanders has made the wealth gap a key part of his effort to dislodge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the front-runner spot. Image source: ZMEScience But the battle is waging far beyond the U.S. borders and the 2016 presidential campaign. Global inequity off the charts: There's also a global inequality crisis, says Oxfam in a new report, and it is reaching new extremes.... Read more →

So The Donald actually did it. He bailed on the final GOP debate before Iowa voters caucus on Feb. 1 to pick their favorite presidential candidates in both parties. Instead Donald Trump held an event at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, ostensibly to benefit veterans' charities. Veterans Day 2015 observance at Arlington National Cemetery. Veterans Affairs photo by Robert Turtil. OK. Props to Trump's people for pulling it all together so quickly. But it was done in a way that, unsurprisingly, kept the focus on Trump. Trump again grabs the spotlight: He set up a special website where his... Read more →

You're going to watch tonight's Republican presidential candidates' debate from Des Moines, right? At least long enough to see if The Donald makes a surprise, showy entrance despite his pledge to hold a competing event. (And to play debate drinking games.) Click image to see video on Trump's decision and its possible ramifications on the Iowa caucuses. Even without the GOP White House wannabe front-runner on stage, Donald Trump will likely dominate the night, which begins at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central on Fox News. You can bet the other candidates will bash Trump, both for bowing out, as... Read more →

Uber pitches itself to potential drivers as a way to make cash on your own terms. But one of the popular ride-sharing company's contractors this week found the driving effort was not so personal after all. This Uber driver's 1099-K earnings statement, issued to contractors so they can file their annual tax returns, was made available to other drivers in the ride-sharing company's system. 1099-K forms are the cousins to 1099-MISC statements that independent contractors receive. A Form 1099-K is used mainly to report credit and debit card payments and online transactions, rather than old-fashioned check payments. 1099-Ks also are... Read more →

It's national Spouse's Day. Yes, apparently this is a real day, real in the sense that somebody came up with the idea and managed to get the word out there enough that it's generating some attention. I don't know how I've missed this holiday in previous years, being such a perfect wife to a great husband, but I discovered it today. Thanks Twitter #SpousesDay. And given that this is the first year that all married couples, regardless of gender and in every state, will be filing joint tax returns, it seems like a perfect day to remind folks of their... Read more →

Many state and local governments have taken to taxes as a way to discourage gun ownership, or at least make some money on it. In Arizona, however, one lawmaker wants to give some gun owners a tax break. Rep. Steve Montenegro, Republican from Litchfield Park and House Majority Leader, wants to give a state tax credit to gun owners who take classes to learn how to handle their weapons. Yours truly holding a rifle under Lubbock Police Department supervision. This was when I was the police reporter for the local newspaper, working on a feature on the department's SWAT team... Read more →

Everybody loves a bargain, even when it comes to paying someone to prepare our taxes. But, say consumer watchdogs, too often taxpayers don't have a good way to comparison shop for a tax pro and find the one that provide them the best service for the price. "The price of preparing a tax return is often only disclosed to a consumer after the return is completed," according to the report "Public Views on Paid Tax Preparation," released on Jan. 20 by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The CFA says that mystery shopper tests have found tax prep fees that... Read more →

Karma can be a bitch. It also can be funny as hell when it involves a writer who matches his considerable wit against some inept tax scammers. Last week, my online pal OhMalarkey sent me a link to an item on DaveHolmes' Twitter feed with the note, "You've gotta read this whole thing." Boy, was she right. Holmes, a writer for Esquire magazine, got a phone message from some of the crooks perpetrating the fake Internal Revenue Service agent telephone scam. Or, as Holmes described the encounter, "I just got targeted by the laziest, shoddiest grifters I have ever come... Read more →

The list of states warning taxpayers that they'll have to wait longer for their tax refunds is growing. But don't blame the state tax collectors. Anger should be directed at the increasing number of criminals who are stealing individuals' personal data and then using it to file fraudulent tax returns, at federal and state levels. Illinois, Louisiana and Utah revenue departments were the first to announce that new security protocols would mean more time to verify and process state returns. Now we've gotten similar messages from Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Carolina tax officials. South Carolina: Let's start down... Read more →

"Don't count on getting the refund by a certain date to make major purchases or pay other financial obligations. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer." That's the advice from the Internal Revenue Service in its just updated Publication 2043. A few years ago, this document was known as the IRS e-file refund cycle chart. Basically, it told electronic filers when they could expect to get their refunds. Three weeks for refunds: However, as folks started getting antsy when their refund checks didn't... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service apparently is having a welcome and calm start to the 2016 tax filing season. A few hours after Uncle Sam's tax collectors began accepting and processing returns on Jan. 19, the IRS issued a statement noting that it had "successfully opened its systems today in a smooth opening of the 2016 tax filing season. Through mid-day, the IRS had received several hundred thousand tax returns." But some TaxAct customers weren't among those whose returns were starting through the federal tax system. ID theft attempt to get tax info: Just a few days before the filing season... Read more →

The 2016 federal tax filing season is now officially underway, at both federal and state levels. Do you have to pay state income taxes? If so, your filing season opens today, Jan. 19, too. The Internal Revenue Service actually opened the electronic door to its Free File option on Friday, Jan. 15. Any returns filed over the long holiday weekend using one of the 13 tax software programs available this year were held until today. But now, those 1040s are in the IRS system. And those of us who use tax software on our devices or who still file using... Read more →

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spreading the message of freedom and equality. Leading up to this milestone, the King Center in Atlanta has been celebrating more than a week of events highlighting this year's theme: "Remember! Celebrate! Act! King's Legacy of Freedom for Our World." The focus on freedom is especially meaningful, said King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, because 2016 also marks the 50th anniversary of her father going to Chicago to highlight the need for open and fair housing. In honor of King's... Read more →

The buzz about the biggest U.S. lottery ever continues, as we wait for the rest of the Powerball winners to come forward. So far, just Jim and Lisa Robinson, the Tennessee ticket buyers, have claimed their portion of the $1.5 billion prize. Many lottery veterans and financial experts have questioned the couple's public acceptance of their millions (they're taking the lump sum payment), but what's done is done. Jim and Lisa Robinson (she's in the fuchsia jacket, with her husband to the left of her in this screenshot), America's newest lottery millionaires, talk about their good luck. Click image to... Read more →

When it comes to millennials' personal finances, a recent study by the tax and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University found eight trends among this generation born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990. These young adults: 1. Have inadequate financial knowledge, 2. Aren't happy with their current financial situation, 3. Worry about student loans, 4. Have debt that crosses economic and educational lines, 5. Are financially fragile, 6. Are heavy users of alternative financial services, 7. Sacrifice retirement accounts, and 8. Don't seek professional financial help. Before my millennial friends and... Read more →

Although the Internal Revenue Service won't start processing tax returns until Tuesday, Jan. 19, taxpayers eligible for Free File can start using that online option today. With Free File, the public-private partnership of the IRS and tax software manufacturers that began in 2003, taxpayers can prepare their returns online and e-file them, all at no cost. Income key factor: To use Free File this year, your adjusted gross income last tax year must have been $62,000 or less. That earnings limit is $2,000 more than last year. It also applies to all filing statuses. The IRS and Free File Alliance... Read more →

It's Oscar nomination day! Let the arguments begin over who was properly recognized (yay Bryan Cranston for "Trumbo"), who was snubbed (Idris Elba and Johnny Depp both ignored!) and who surprised (yay again, this time for great film composer Carter Burwell) film fans and the industry by getting Academy Award nods. I'm sure someone already is researching which of the Best Film nominees got film tax credits. I suspect they all did, just like last year's batch. And one thing is for sure when it comes to future award-worthy movies. If they're made in New Jersey, the film makers will... Read more →

I know all y'all are fixated on tonight's $1.5 billion Powerball drawing and that lottery jackpot's tax implications. But many of you -- including me! -- also must remember to meet the deadline for our final 2015 estimated tax payment. That's coming up on Friday, Jan. 15. Today's Daily Tax Tip has the skinny on paying estimated taxes. You also can read more about calculating these four extra tax payments here. Paying on untaxed income: Estimated tax payments are required when you get income, both earned (for example, self-employment as your main source of income or from side jobs to... Read more →