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December 2017

Experian credit reporting bureau replaces hacked competitor Equifax as supplier of taxpayer identity proof to Internal Revenue Service. Remember when credit reporting bureau Equifax was hacked? Sure you do because you probably were among the more than 143 million folks whose data, collected without your knowledge or consent, was exposed to criminals. Remember when the Internal Revenue Service had a deal with Equifax to tighten security processes used by taxpayers to get their tax information online from the agency? You probably do, since that no-bid Equifax-IRS contract got a lot of attention. Well, the IRS agreed to revisit that $7.25... Read more →


It's Sunday afternoon in America, meaning millions (still) are watching National Football League games Millions more also are betting on them. Unless, that is, they were participants in Ron & Mike's Football Pool. It's one of the largest football survivor pools in the country and it was shut down last week after federal agents seized documentation and the money the pool organizers collected, according to an article by Darren Rovell, senior writer for ESPN. In case you're not a gambler, survivor pools require a bettor to pick one team that is going to win each week of the football season... Read more →


But some firms, especially if they specialize in lobbying lawmakers, have other considerations in mind for their annual end-of-year festivities. The holiday season is here at offices, too. That means office parties. Oh, yay! OK, some people love office Christmas parties. Anything for free food and libations. And they actually like most of their co-workers. But if you're not one of them, go anyway. Surely you can fake it for a few hours. And, again, free refreshments. Plus, opting out of implicitly required conviviality could hurt your career. Tax-free thanks: Offices throw these parties as a way to thank workers... Read more →


A driver pulled over in La Conchita, California, the evening of Dec. 6 to save a rabbit he spotted scurrying amid flames from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Click image to watch full video posted on YouTube by RMG News/Reuters/NJ.com. California is on fire. Literally. Again. Just two months after the northern part of the Golden State was ablaze, deadly wildfires are raging across Southern California. And while residents right now are simply trying to stay safe and, if possible, save as much of their personal possessions as they can, in a few weeks or months, they'll be trying... Read more →


The House and Senate have officially agreed to hash out their respective tax reform differences. Both chambers passed their own versions of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Rather than one side accepting the other's bill, they now must come up with a new piece of legislation that incorporates some parts of both. That job falls to 14 Senators and 15 Representatives selected by their Party's leadership. Let's get this tax negotiation party started! House conferees: On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin selected nine GOP Representatives. They are: Kevin Brady of Texas (chair of the... Read more →


Time's person of the year for 2017 is a lot of people. The magazine selected all the women and men who who publicly spoke about being victims of sexual harassment and abuse as a way to stop it and help others who have been victims, known on social media as the #MeToo movement. Ironically, today's announcement of Time's 90th most notable person (called Man or Woman of the year until 1999) was overshadowed by the continuing sexual harassment controversy in the political world. Sitting and wannabe Senator troubles: Roy Moore, who is seeking Attorney General Jeff Session's former Senate seat... Read more →


U.S. families have been getting smaller in recent years, but some still have lots of children and they could end up being adversely affected by the tax law changes now under consideration. (Photo from the Forks Timber Museum Collection via Flickr) In selling their tax cuts to the American public, Republicans emphasize that the standard deduction amount is almost doubled. That sounds good. But that's not the whole story. You'll lose personal exemptions. For taxpayers, exemptions are excellent. That's especially the case for filers who have lots of dependents. Under current law, a tax exemption helps reduce your income so... Read more →


Many homeowners breathed a sigh of relief when the Senate's version of tax reform followed the House's H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and included a tax deduction for property taxes. But it might be time to start hyperventilating again. While both chambers would keep the itemized deduction for the local real estate taxes that every homeowner faces each year, they will reduce its tax value. Each bill caps the deduction amount at $10,000. Most homeowners' taxes covered: For many homeowners, that limit is cool. Their property tax bills are high, but not into five digits, so it... Read more →


(Image by Rochelle Truong | Reddit) As we continue to plow though the Senate's version of the House tax reform bill, many folks, both on Capitol Hill and across the country, are still upset with the process used by GOP leaders to get the measure through the upper chamber. Changes traded for votes: One of the biggest complaints is about the legislative changes made on the fly to woo enough Senators to the "yea" side. That's not necessarily unusual. Quid pro quo is common in crafting legislation. But the problem for opponents of the bill was that some of these... Read more →


After 14½ hours of debate, the U.S. Senate early on Saturday, Dec. 2, approved 51-49 its version of tax reform. Now the hard work starts. (C-SPAN2 screenshot; click image to watch video of the full debate and votes) It's alive! Tax reform, or at least tax cuts (for a while, for some people) survived a marathon session in the Senate, with that chamber approving its Internal Revenue Code revisions early Saturday, Dec. 2, morning. Now the real fun begins. Since the House version (H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) passed on Nov. 16 is different from the Senate's... Read more →


Ho, Ho, Ho, hoss. It's the most wonderful time of the year. The holidays and year-end tax moves are here! (Photo by Kay Bell of a scene at Marble Falls, Texas' annual Walkway of Lights along the lake) Hello, holidays! We're so happy you and your good cheer have finally arrived. But the arrival of December also means 2017 is almost over, giving us only 31 days to take care of tax tasks that could save us money when we file our returns next year. This year, it also looks like Congress might actually make some tax changes, if not... Read more →