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July 2019

National Taxpayer Advocated Nina E. Olson today departs the Internal Revenue Service watchdog office she's held since 2001. An acting advocate, Bridget Roberts, has been named until the position is filled full-time. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson makes a point, here expressing her concerns about private tax debt collection (you can watch her full testimony at the official video), during one of her many Capitol Hill appearances during her almost two decades as an IRS watchdog. Goodbye and thanks to Nina E. Olson. Today, July 31, is her last as National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA). She is retiring from government... Read more →


A co-owner of MLB's Chicago Cubs is facing major real estate tax bills. (Photo by Dave Sizer via Flickr CC) The one and only Major League Baseball trade deadline is almost here. It's 3 p.m. July 31, in case you're waiting for your team to get that one player who'll help win a pennant or more. Most owners are focusing on how much money they're willing to spend to get that key player (or players). Todd Ricketts, however, has another money matter on his mind. The co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, who are duking it out with the St. Louis... Read more →


Kissing up to the IRS, on this National Lipstick Day or any other, won't help with dubious business expense claims. Your work-related expenses must be ordinary and necessary. My collection of lip colorings, mostly unused since I began working from home. When I quit working in an office, I quit regularly applying makeup. Now I only pull out the mascara and powder and lipstick when I have an in-person meeting or must make a media appearance. So today, National Lipstick Day, really isn't a big deal for me. Others, however, are celebrating, especially by taking advantage of the lipstick deals,... Read more →


Historic Saratoga Race Track main stands as depicted on a 1907 postcard. (Scanned by Dave Parker; available via Wikipedia Commons) Remember Tax, the horse that ran in this year's Kentucky Derby? The 3-year old gelding didn't fare so well at Churchill Downs, coming in 14th. He did better in another Triple Crown race, coming in 4th in the Belmont Stakes. On Saturday, July 27, Tax finally notched another win. Tax pulls off the upset in the G2 $600K Jim Dandy! pic.twitter.com/AAmPOqwBiz — TVG (@TVG) July 27, 2019 He took the Jim Dandy in Saratoga Springs, New York. It was Tax's... Read more →


We're halfway through the second year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and its effects, pro and con, are still being debated. Some of those disputes will play out in court, like the latest challenge to the tax reform law's limits on federal tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT). This latest SALT legal action, brought by New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, was prompted by Treasury's and the Internal Revenue Service's regulation, finalized last month, that effectively guts the charitable workarounds these states had created to provide their residents full federal tax benefit of their state... Read more →


Bitcoin and other virtual currencies fascinate me, but that's as far as it goes. I don't own and have never had any interest in cryptocurrencies. I'm basically a say it with cash kind of gal. Part of my crypto trepidation is that I've yet to grasp how Bitcoin is mined, despite the hubby's patient, and repeated, explanations. And like many Senators during a recent hearing on Facebook's proposed Libra digital money, I'm skeptical of the concept (as well as suspicious of the online social media platform proposing it, but that's another blog post). My disavowal of cryptocurrency, however, has been... Read more →


In remarks on the Senate Floor, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley used visual aides to illustrate all the sectors of the U.S. economy he says benefit from the expired tax breaks known as extenders. Click image to watch Grassley's full comments via YouTube. Many Congressional actions often are viewed as cartoonish, but the Senate's leading tax writer actually invoked a classic Sunday funnies image to describe the current status of more than two dozen tax breaks. "I remain committed to acting as soon as possible so taxpayers who have relied on these provisions in 2018 don’t end up feeling... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners this summer launched a campaign to encourage tax professionals to review and upgrade their security systems. But it looks like the IRS also needs to do some work, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. IRS online option breach spurs inquiries: The GAO has been conducting audits on how the IRS manages its security since the agency sustained a data breach in 2015 of its Get Transcript online service. That attempt by hackers exposed the data of around 104,000 taxpayers to potential identity thieves. The service was offline for... Read more →


States as well as shoppers now must deal with remote sales taxes. (Image by Daniela Hartmann via Flickr CC) Just over a year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down a previous ruling and expanded the ability of states to collect sales tax on from remote sellers. Many states in the wake of the 5-to-4 SCOTUS decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair have or are working on systems to collect sales tax from sellers who don't have a physical presence in their states. New Hampshire, however, has taken a different approach. The state has no sales... Read more →


Computer hacking ID theft image by Don Hankins via Flickr The $700 million deal reached by the credit-reporting company Equifax and federal and state agencies has brought the issue of identity theft back into the public consciousness. Truth be told, it never really left. Every day, we're bombarded by warnings about how crooks are constantly trying to steal our personal information so they can use it take our money and take over our lives. That's a message the Internal Revenue Service is still working to get out to taxpayers and tax professionals alike. Its latest effort is a six-point tax... Read more →


Mortimer M. Caplin was the 34th commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. He passed away on July 15, 2019, at age 103. (Photo courtesy Caplin & Drysdale via Wikipedia Commons) Fifty years ago this weekend, two Apollo 11 crew members became the first people to set foot on the moon. In doing so, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) fulfilled the dream/challenge that President John F. Kennedy had issued in 1961 of "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." While Kennedy didn't live to see that historic accomplishment, another event last week made... Read more →


The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. (Photo courtesy NASA/Wikipedia Commons) Today, July 20, is a momentous day for science, the spirit of adventure and humanity. At 10:56 p.m. Eastern Time (9:56 p.m. in my West Texas hometown's Central Time zone), Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember sitting on the floor in front of our black and white television with my younger brother. We had been allowed, actually encouraged, to stay up late to... Read more →


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Gordon A year ago, the Internal Revenue Service alerted combat-injured veterans that some of them might be due tax refunds. This is the case for eligible service members who received disability severance payments after 1991 and then claimed that money as income on their tax returns. That was a mistake. The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 says that most veterans who received a one-time, lump-sum disability severance payment when they left the military are entitled to a refund if that payment was claimed as income. To qualify for... Read more →


Arthritis is one of the more common chronic medical conditions that millions of Americans face. There are treatments before you get to the joint replacement stage, but those recurring medical costs can add up, too. I finally filed away all the paper copies of last year's tax documentation and for the first time, I had more medical paperwork than work receipts. Yep, 2018 (like 2017) was one of those medical years. And while I'm still enriching various Austin doctors, labs and hospitals with follow-up care in 2019, my conditions aren't considered chronic. Yet. And no, basic aging doesn't count. A... Read more →


School has already started in many places, but one state is still holding a sales tax holiday for folks looking to get a tax bargain on children's (and actually anyone's) clothing and shoes. Connecticut's qualifying items will be tax-free through Aug. 24. We Americans just can't seem to slow down, even during the traditional summer vacation season. We always are looking ahead. School's just been out a few weeks in most places and already ads for back-to-school sales are showing up in our television shows, print publications (yeah, a few are still around and read by some of us) and... Read more →


In one tax world case, it does appear that the third time really is a charm. A recent Internal Revenue Service report says that its latest use of private bill collectors to bring in old unpaid taxes is working. In fact, this latest iteration has produced enough additional money to allow the IRS to hire new in-house employees. Third time's a collection charm: The use of private collection agencies, or PCAs as they are known in tax acronymese, was restarted in 2017 after being mandated as part of a 2015 transportation law. It's the third attempt after two previous PCA... Read more →


You don't have to have this many candles on your birthday cake to use Form 1040-SR. Hitting age 65 qualifies you to use file this new form starting next filing season. It's lose three, add one for the Internal Revenue Service when it comes to 2019 tax year forms. Uncle Sam's tax collector is proposing tweaks to the Form 1040 and elimination of three of the six schedules created to go with that annual individual return that was redesigned last year in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. But the net result of forms available... Read more →


If the changes to Form 1040 this filing season frustrated you, there's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Internal Revenue Service is revising the Form 1040 to be used for 2019 tax filings. No, it's still not quite a postcard. But there will be fewer schedules to file — three instead of six — if your taxes are a bit more complicated. The bad news is that many of us still have to fill out those schedules (and the accompanying forms for additional tax break claims that remained) instead of having things on... Read more →


North Carolina offers many gorgeous vistas, but the tax view for some trusts wasn't nearly so nice until a recent Supreme Court ruling. Now they can claim refunds of overpayments. (Blue Ridge Mountains viewed from Blue Ridge Parkway's Deep Gap overlook in western North Carolina; photo by Ken Thomas via Wikipedia Commons) You've got to appreciate the audacity of Tar Heel State tax officials. North Carolina decided it was due tax on a trust because a beneficiary was a state resident. That recipient of trust proceeds, Kimberley Rice Kaestner, was North Carolina's only connection to the trust. The person who... Read more →


Do you simultaneously use multiple digital devices? Me, too. Our online addictions are big money for tech giants and now France and other European nations want to get a piece of the tax pie from the global conpanies. Poor Facebook and Twitter and Google. (You noticed the sarcasm font, right?) They were shut out of Donald J. Trump's Social Media Summit on Thursday, July 11, which didn't end too, well, sociably. Worse, that same day France approved a measure to tax the tech giants. Since most of us live inordinately digital lives nowadays, I'm giving an early Saturday Shout Out,... Read more →