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March 2019

John Lithgow in Daddy's Home2 via Tenor We've been hearing all filing season about how ticked off lots of folks are about the size of their tax refunds. Last week, one Indiana woman was especially upset, but not over the refund amount. She was royally ticked that the tax check hadn't yet arrived, so much so that the wait allegedly drove her to violence. Unwelcome wait reaction: The apparently tardy refund actually was intended for Claudia Pedroza's ex-boyfriend, who's also the father of the couple's three children. He had filed his return, claiming the youngsters as dependents, and Pedroza reportedly... Read more →


March Madness is heating up. We're down to the Elite 8. I usually don't pay too much attention to college basketball, or college sports in general. I follow the professional games because I like to yell at the players, and I feel much more comfortable cursing guys who're pocketing beaucoup bucks instead of unpaid college athletes. I am in the minority, even in my house. The hubby has been sneaking some TV time watching the NCAA men's basketball championship tournament, though truth be told that's mainly because our alma matter, Texas Tech, is doing pretty well. Only the ELITE remain!#MarchMadness... Read more →


March 29 is Vietnam Veterans Day. This day commemorates the sacrifices of the 9 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War. All veterans are eligible for a variety of benefits, from discounts that can facilitated by the Department of Veteran Affairs' veterans ID card program to critical VA healthcare, thanks to their service. There also are special considerations for U.S. military personnel who are still serving, particularly in the tax area. With the April tax deadline quickly approaching, today's Vietnam Veterans Day also is a good time to review the tax breaks and resources available to current duty service... Read more →


Hope springs eternal for MLB fans on Opening Day. I'm looking forward to this season bringing another World Series pennant to join the 2017 one in the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park. (Photo by me, taken at the 'Stros' championship celebration with fans at their home opener on April 2, 2018) Today is a holiday in our house. It's Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Our formal celebration of the sport's first games of the year began when we lived in the Washington, D.C. area. In those days, there were no Nationals. The Baltimore Orioles ruled the MidAtlantic baseball world,... Read more →


Tax credits for buying a Chevrolet Bolt, left, or Volt are going down on April 1. (Photo courtesy Driving Canada) The climate change debate rages on in political circles, but on U.S. roadways, many folks are voting, as the old saying goes, with their pocketbooks. They're buying more energy efficient and less polluting cars. And Uncle Sam has been part of that sales campaign. A federal tax credit that can be as much as $7,500 has convinced some Americans to trade in their gas guzzlers for electric autos. That tax break, however, doesn't last forever. Once an electric vehicle becomes... Read more →


UPDATE, Thursday, March 28: Well, I'm not the new Powerball multimillionaire. The lottery jackpot, which hit $768.4 million before the drawing last night, is going to the lucky person who bought the winning ticket in New Berlin, Wisconsin. But save this post. There will be other chances to win! Yes, I bought a ticket for the March 27 drawing of the $750 million and counting Powerball lottery. Yes, I know the odds of winning the jackpot, which is the fourth largest Powerball prize in U.S. history, are about 1 in 292 million. I know many of my hardcore personal financial... Read more →


April 1 could be costly for older retirement account owners. No fooling. That's the deadline for taking a required minimum distribution, or RMD, if you turned 70½ last year and did not take the specified amount from your tax-deferred retirement funds by Dec. 31. RMDs are, as the name says, required amounts that you must withdraw from a retirement plan that's been earning money over the years without you having to pay tax on it. The tax law has been letting these accounts ride for years, decades in many cases. But when you get halfway through your 70th year, the... Read more →


Unfortunately for taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service, there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to tax scams. Fortunately for taxpayers and the IRS, the tax agency and its Security Summit partners are still on top of the most common scams that continue to pop up in some form year-round. These 12 schemes, which have been dubbed the Dirty Dozen tax scams, get added attention, of course, during the main tax filing season. During these hectic days from Jan. 1 — yes, some folks are ready to file that soon — through April 15, millions of us are... Read more →


We've got just more than three weeks before our 2018 tax returns are due, but most of us aren't in any hurry to complete this task. Through March 15, the Internal Revenue Service reports that it has received almost 76 million 2018 tax year returns. That's 2.5 percent fewer than this point in last year's filing season. In fact, the IRS latest filing season data shows that 9 of 12 tracked areas are still slightly behind last year's pace. Only visits to IRS.gov, tax returns directly e-filed by taxpayers and directly deposited refunds are up over 2018 numbers by 11.2... Read more →


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law on March 23, 2010. During the almost nine years since President Barack Obama signed the health care bill, which usually is shortened to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, opponents of the law have been working to repeal, maybe replace and definitely weaken it. Republicans succeeded in late 2017 in eliminating a key component of the ACA. Under the GOP's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the ACA's individual health insurance mandate. This is the requirement that you obtain at least minimum essential coverage, or MEC, for yourself and dependents... Read more →


Spring has just arrived, but parents already are thinking about summer. Specifically, they're wondering who's going to take care of their kids once school is out for a few months. Now don't get me, or my friends, family and neighbors who have children wrong. We don't view schools and their teachers as babysitters. But classes do keep youngsters occupied for a big chunk of the day for most of the year. Then May and June roll around and for the next three or so months it's kids everywhere all the time! That's a problem for many parents, especially those families... Read more →


Photo by Kumar's Edit via Flickr I've been married a long time. To the same guy. Marriage is not always easy and we don't even have a boss stirring up trouble between us. But we've made it through the tough times. And now as we patch things up when we do have our differences, we joke that we're staying together because it would be a bigger hassle to divorce. Sometimes, though, couples can't work through their troubles and decide to officially end their marriages. When that happens, among all the other issues, there are tax matters to consider. Here are... Read more →


The rate of Americans giving up their citizenship has slowed in the last few years. Are lower taxes a reason for fewer expatriations? Immigration remains at the top of most news lists, especially since the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate both rejected Donald J. Trump's emergency declaration to shift funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. But the reverse phenomenon of U.S. citizens formally leaving the country forever isn't getting as much attention as it has in the past. Perhaps that's because the number of American expatriates is falling. The Treasury Department on March 12 published its quarterly list of... Read more →


Photo by GotCredit via Flickr CC Most of the focus on tax refunds this year has been on how many people are unpleasantly surprised by how small they are. In many (probably most) cases, the relatively small refunds are because people didn't adjust their payroll withholding last year to account for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes to income tax rates and earnings brackets. Now we have another refund situation that also can be blamed on filers, or actually on nonfilers. Yes, I'm talking about the annual announcement by the Internal Revenue Service that millions of folks who... Read more →


Happy St. Patrick's Day! March 17 is one the top days for beer drinkers, ranking up there with New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras celebrations. Guinness says 13 million pints of its stout will be consumed worldwide today in celebration of the Emerald Isle's patron saint. The average number of drinks is just more than 4 per person. The folks making all the Erin go Bragh toasts and the establishments selling the drinks aren't the only ones celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Here in the United States, all that beer, green or otherwise, and other alcoholic beverages are taxed. Sales tax... Read more →


Nobody likes to owe taxes at filing time. And if you owe too much, you could face added penalties for not having enough money withheld or underpaying estimated taxes throughout the year. But every year, lots of folks find they have to write a check to the U.S. Treasury or set up a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service. The financial technology company SmartAsset.com recently took a look at where the U.S. taxpayers have the biggest tax bills. High plains tax bills: Sorry, Dakotans. You are the unlucky winners. Yep, residents of both South and North and South Dakota... Read more →


If a phone call from someone claiming to be with an official tax office doesn't sound quite right, it's because it's probably a scam call. (Photo by rocketace via Flickr) I'm not a paranoid person. And the only conspiracy theories I've ever paid attention to were the for-entertainment-purposes-only ones promoted on television's The X-Files. But I've got wonder if the tax crooks who are working nonstop to steal our identities and tax refunds also are colluding to troll the Internal Revenue Service. Case in point, the latest tax scam alert from the IRS. Today the tax agency issued a warning... Read more →


I attend fitness classes — OK, mostly yoga and I tend to head into Savasana a bit sooner than most of my fellow yogis — several times a week at my neighborhood club. Most of the members have been there for year and it's got a community feel. Still, I am always amazed at how much personal information folks share about themselves with people they really don't know very well. Many folks, in fact, share stuff albeit unintentionally with total strangers as a recent piece by Kate Klonick for the New York Times alarmingly illustrates. Klonick, who teaches information privacy... Read more →


College and its ever-increasing costs certainly have gotten a lot of attention. There's the group of Democrats seeking their party's 2020 presidential nomination. Obviously spurred by the enthusiastic supporters of Independent-turned-temporary-Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders and his promise of free college, many other White House wannabes also are talking up educational assistance. Then there's this week's Operation Varsity Blues. You might not have caught the name, but let me drop two others to spur recognition: Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Yeah, that's the name federal investigators gave to their take down of a far-reaching college admissions scheme. Wealthy parents, elite school... Read more →


Rep. Mike Thompson opens a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing into temporary tax policy, aka tax extenders. (Screenshot from official hearing video via YouTube) House tax writers have finally, officially looked at expired tax provisions, known popularly as extenders. But anyone hoping for a quick resolution or an indication that the many now-dead tax breaks might be revived by the April filing deadline was disappointed. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, opened today's (March 12) hearing by making it clear that right now, his panel simply is examining the basis for creating... Read more →