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January 2019

February 2019

There's better news for taxpayers this week. Internal Revenue Service data for the second week of the 2019 tax filing season shows a slightly larger refund amount. When the IRS released its first-week data, which covered 2018 tax returns filed by Feb. 1, the number of 1040s submitted and processed, as well as the number of refunds and average amount of those fewer checks, were dramatically lower than at the same time last year. That led to much grumbling by filers and arguments among supporters and opponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) about how the major tax... Read more →


By now, everyone knows that a lot of taxpayers are getting the worst news ever at filing time. They owe the U.S. Treasury money. We can debate the reasons for the unexpected tax bills ad infinitum. Withholding tables were rejiggered in 2018 following the changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Itemized deductions and exemptions were reduced or eliminated by that tax legislation. Taxpayers didn't adjust their withholding to get their paycheck amounts more in line with the new law. The bottom line is that more than the usual number of filers this year are going to have... Read more →


The National Taxpayer Advocate this year selected 21 major problems that taxpayers encounter in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. I found five of those issues particularly troublesome. Every year, the National Taxpayer Advocate issue a report to Congress. The 2018 version released this week included a look at, not surprising, how the recent government shutdown affected not only Internal Revenue Service operations, but also the taxpayers who, particularly at this time of year, are relying on IRS services. Part of that annual report also includes at least 20 tax matters that the Taxpayer Advocate identifies as the most... Read more →


Open-close sign via Giphy.com The drama continues in Washington, D.C., as far as keeping the federal government open. It looked like, despite some grumbling from all sides, that a bipartisan, bicameral deal reached this week would keep all of the federal government open past Feb. 15. We all need to keep our fingers (and toes) crossed that it happens, especially those of us — which mean most Americans — who deal with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS obviously among those pushing for a resolution that will get the agency through the 2019 tax filing season. The agency is still... Read more →


One of my favorite recent TV shows was The Americans, FX's series on embedded Russian spies during the 1980s Cold War. For six seasons, we fans watched the couple known to their suburban Washington, D.C. neighbors as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings raise their two U.S.-born children, run their small travel agency and spy, sometimes in deadly fashion, for their native U.S.S.R. One of the underlying themes was how well and easily the Jennings assimilated into the America they were trying to bring down. It's a common trope, but one done well and with nuance by the television program. A radio... Read more →


Victorian Valentine courtesy School of Art, Kimball Jenkins Estate It's fitting that Valentine's Day — it's this Thursday in case the most romantic day of the year is sneaking up on you — comes during tax filing season. While most of us marry for love, finances and the related taxes are a big part of our coupled relationships. Here's a look at five love and taxes considerations. 1. Marriage date matters. Your wedding day is important to the Internal Revenue Service. No, the tax collector doesn't want to send you an anniversary card. But when you said "I do" matters... Read more →


Much of the music industry's elite will be at the Grammy awards tonight, all hoping to go home with a new piece of hardware. Many will be disappointed. But perhaps they can take some solace from the goodies they'll get as part of the swag bags that will be distributed before the Recording Academy's 61st ceremonies. This year, the official 2019 Grammy swag bag is worth more than $30,000. But that's not the only gift bag. More than 50 presenters and performers will have the option to go home with not one, but two collections of goodies from the Grammy... Read more →


This tax filing season is a troubling and troublesome one for millions of filers. They're dealing with major tax law changes which many are finding have adversely affected their expected tax refund amounts. Things are slowly getting back to normal at the Internal Revenue Service following the recent federal government shutdown. Some quick indicators that more IRS workers are back include my email box getting more messages from the agency, more updates on IRS.gov and reports on how well (or not) the 2019 filing season is going. About that last matter, IRS has resumed its annual weekly postings of tax-filing... Read more →


Most tax preparers are honest and work to help their clients. Some, however, use shady methods to make money off unsuspecting filers. Don't be one of them! More of us every tax-filing season are turning to tax professions. The 2019 filing season in particular has underscored the value that tax professionals add. This is the first year taxpayers have had to deal with the real-life effects of the many Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) change. A knowledgeable tax preparer can help you navigate this new maze. But you need to be careful in picking the person to be your... Read more →


I never seem to be able to submit our joint Form 1040 early in the filing season, partly because I have to sort through all this material to fill out the forms! There are many reasons why millions of taxpayers procrastinate when it comes to submitting their annual returns. Much of the time, those excuses aren't good. But there are some times when you shouldn't rush to finish your Form 1040 early in the filing season, even if you're expecting a tax refund. Here are six reasons to wait a bit before filing: 1. To get your return right. Doing... Read more →


We're into the second week of the 2019 tax filing season and millions of taxpayers already have filed their returns. That's not a surprise. Every year, there's a big rush as folks expecting refunds want to get the paperwork to the Internal Revenue Service as soon as possible so they can, in return, get their tax money back as soon as possible. While you should take as much time as you need to complete your Form 1040, which has been redesigned this year, accurately and fully, it can be beneficial to file earlier rather than later in the tax season.... Read more →


Welcome to the Year of the Pig, the twelfth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. While this year and sign has many meanings in the Chinese culture, it also conjures thoughts of the ubiquitous piggy bank and how we can save more this and every year, regardless of which calendar we follow. Click image to watch full Year of the Pig video from Global News Canada. More of us could use a bigger, and fuller, piggy bank this 2019's Year of the Pig arrives. The recent federal government shutdown... Read more →


There was national anthem controversy at Super Bowl LIII, but it wasn't about what the players did during the song. It was about how long it took Gladys Knight to sing the Star-Spangled Banner and how it affected the associated prop bet. If you did come out on the winning side of the song, here's how to report that and other taxable gambling income. There's no disagreement that Gladys Knight's Star-Bangled Banner was magnificent. However, gamblers had some issue with how long the song lasted, which was one of the prop bets wagered on the game and its ancillary events.... Read more →


Will youthful enthusiasm prevail over old age and treachery? That's one of the things, although not in exactly those words, that you can bet on in connection with Super Bowl LIII. (Photo courtesy NFL.com) Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, at right in the above photo, turned 33 last month. He's the youngest coach to take a team to a Super Bowl. Across the field (and at left above) will be Bill Belichick, a veteran of National Football League championship games as the New England Patriots head coach. He's twice as old as McVay. If the Rams win Super... Read more →


Super Bowl Sunday is the single largest betting day of the year. And now, Nevada is no longer is the only state where bettors can place legal sports wagers. A historic Super Bowl LIII will finally kick off in Atlanta late Sunday, Feb. 3, afternoon. It's the is the first National Football League championship game where legal sports gambling has expanded beyond Nevada. Bettors now also can head to casinos or other betting establishments in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island or West Virginia to put their money down on the NFL's biggest game. You can bet... Read more →


Hello, February! If we ever were in need of your hearts and flowers, it is now. January was tough tax-wise. We had to worry about whether the Internal Revenue Service actually would get filing season open as the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history dragged on. It opened as promised on Jan. 28, but be patient. Plus, we're dealing with our first filing season under the many, many changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Yep, we definitely need some tax love. And some tax guidance, whether we're earlier filers awaiting refunds or procrastinators taking... Read more →