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October 2018

Port St. Joe on Florida's Panhandle was hard hit by Hurricane Michael. Residents of this small Gulf County, Florida, town now are eligible for special tax relief. (Photo courtesy Florida National Guard via Facebook) As expected, the Internal Revenue Service is giving Hurricane Michael victims extra time to take care of tax tasks that the deadly storm interrupted. The eligible taxpayers now have until Feb. 28, 2019, to file returns, pay taxes and perform certain other time-sensitive acts that had original or extended deadlines between Oct. 7 and the new filing due date next year. Extension deadline considerations: The IRS'... Read more →


Some of my retirement money is in stock funds. They've been going gangbusters. Until this week. I'm fighting the urge to look at what's happened with these plans' value. Did they tank along with the broader market a few days ago? Or are they edging back up with today's sort-of recovery? I'm curious, but I don't need that money right now. And I believe my investment choices are sound. So I'm going to ignore the current market gyrations and just let things ride. That's the advice most financial gurus are offering now. This week's downward trend is just an overdue... Read more →


Today is a great day for my mother. The Social Security Administration announced that she and her fellow Social Security recipients will get a get a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2019. The 2019 COLA — the largest since the 3.6 percent bump in 2011 — means the average single retiree's federal retirement benefit will be $1,461 or $39 more a month than this year. My mom is thrilled. Those 30+ bucks will cover her monthly phone bill. Still stretching each month: Unfortunately, the upcoming benefits adjustment won't be enough to make up for more than a decade of... Read more →


Hurricane Michael is bearing down on the panhandle of Florida. It's expected to make landfall It made landfall this afternoon, possibly as category 4 strength (or stronger; wind instruments blew away before getting final readings), a speed at which it's been churning up the Gulf of Mexico for almost half a day. It's too late to evacuate, so I hope folks have found secure places to hunker down. And while I know no one is thinking about taxes when a hurricane is heading their way. The Internal Revenue Service was far from the hubby's and my minds back in 2004... Read more →


IRAs come in two forms, traditional and Roth. You can convert a traditional individual retirement arrangement to a Roth account, but reversing that hits a roadblock under the new tax law. There are lots of good reasons to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth retirement account. There also are lots of good reasons to change your mind about that IRA conversion and switch the account back to its traditional form. But time to recharacterize your Roth IRA, as the reversal is known, is running out. And it will be gone forever, or at least through 2025 under the new... Read more →


Things certainly have changed over the years when it comes to tax filing, especially from the technology perspective. But upgrading all today's IRS computer systems could mean a delayed 2019 tax filing season. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons) As 2018 winds down, we're all looking at tax moves we need to make. (Need some ideas? Check out the suggested October tax tasks to tackle.) In addition to us individual and business filers, "we" also includes the Internal Revenue Service. And the tax agency could have some added trouble this year, thanks to all the changes made late last year by the... Read more →


If you're getting calls from debt collectors, knowing your rights can help you avoid the bad ones who will say anything to get you to pay. Click image above to watch a video from the Federal Trade Commission on how to handle abusive collection calls. Full disclosure up front. I am not a fan of private bill collectors going after unpaid federal tax amounts. But a recent oversight examination found that the debt collectors hired in this latest forced outsourcing of a basic IRS responsibility apparently aren't using egregious collection methods. Still, as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration... Read more →


The Trump children gathered for this undated family photo. They are, from left, Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump Grau, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump and Maryanne Trump Barry. A piece of information filed years ago during Barry's judicial confirmation hearing led to a New York Times' exposé on the family's wealth and tax tactics. (Donald J. Trump presidential campaign photo) Talk about an awkward Thanksgiving. It seems that Donald J. Trump's oldest sister is how The New York Times got the inside info on the Trump family fortune and taxes. You know of the story even if you haven't yet read... Read more →


Manhattan businessmen meet over lunch. (Photo by Phillip Capper via Flickr Creative Commons) The way to a business contract is through a client's stomach. That revised adage underscores what every business person, whether they run a major corporation or a mom-and-pop company, knows: that personal relationships are key to success. And much of the time, those relationships are cemented over business meals. Business meals still tax deductible: The Internal Revenue Service this week gave business a break — or really left a tax break in place — when it comes to deducting the cost of business meals. The tax agency... Read more →


Another lingering tax deduction concern created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is finally clearer. The Internal Revenue Service says that half the cost of business meals is still tax deductible as an allowable work-related expense. That's what the pre-TCJA tax law said. But because the Republican tax reform bill was cobbled together so hurriedly at the end of 2017, its legislative language left many confused. And the new law's interpretation created a division among tax professionals (and semantics geeks) as to what exactly is entertainment. Meals or entertainment vs. meals and entertainment: A great number of tax... Read more →


My octogenarian mother does an amazing job of taking care of herself and her little dog, aka my furry younger brother. My mother and her pup come to our place, like the Thanksgiving visit pictured here, but usually it's me taking time from work to head her way. (Photo by Kay Bell) But since she no longer drives and hates to impose on friends and neighbors, I make regular trips to her place to help her run errands, take her to doctor appointments and just visit. It's not too much of a hassle because she lives relatively close and it's... Read more →


Tax litigator Charles Rettig (far left) is sworn in on Oct. 1 as new IRS commissioner by his boss, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (far right). (Photo courtesy Mnuchin's Twitter account) It's official. Charles P. "Chuck" Rettig is the Internal Revenue Service's 49th commissioner. He moved into his new office on Monday, Oct. 1, almost 11 months after his predecessor, John Koskinen, left the job. After 36+ years with the California-based law firm of Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, P.C., Rettig now will be in charge of around about 80,000 employees and a budget of approximately $11 billion. Rettig's official... Read more →


October's here! In addition to making some general fourth quarter tax moves, this month is when many employees get to reassess and choose coming-year workplace benefits, many of which also offer tax advantages. And tax-free help paying off student debt could soon be part of those packages. Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. That's why today's employers are trying to figure out exactly what these younger workers want. The traditional worker wishes still apply. All employees want decent pay, regular raises and promotion possibilities. But today's twenty- and mid-thirty-somethings want more, and... Read more →