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Sorry, but no matter how much your cat "helps" in your home office, the feline will not qualify as an employee, whose costs are tax deductible. However, you might be able to write off a part of your personal residence's homeowner's policy. (Photo by Lisa Omarali via Flicker CC) The hubby and I are still in self-quarantine, but while we've put the brakes on most of our regular activities, one part of our life is continuing as usual. Our house. Every homeowner will tell you that in addition to being the complete kings and queens of your (for the most... Read more →


Some people. Trying to survive a global pandemic isn't enough for them. They have to go and break the law, too. I'm not talking about defying a state's closure order or hawking subpar face masks online. Nope, two New England businessmen this week became the first individuals to be arrested and charged with fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The small business assistance program was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help companies struggling due to the effects of the virus. David A. Staveley of Andover, Massachusetts, and David... Read more →


Click image to watch the Mos Eisley cantina scene, in which these musicians provide the catchy background tune, from the 1977 Star Wars movie that launched the acclaimed sci-fi film franchise. Welcome to the first week of May 2020. It's a decidedly weird month, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic. When the deadly COVID-19 infection started spreading in force across the United States, most of the country shut down to some degree. Now many states are loosening their stay-home orders and things are starting to some degree to get back to normal, or what will pass as that... Read more →


The beach obviously is one of the big attractions of Virginia Beach, Virginia. But the coastal vacation spot, like the rest of the Old Dominion, has been under a coronavirus lockdown. So city officials created a tax holiday to help out restaurants. (Image courtesy Visit Virginia Beach Facebook page) There's only so much sourdough you can bake. Man — and woman and children, too — can't live on bread alone. So, if you're like the hubby and me during COVID-19 quarantine, you've had some meals delivered or picked up your curbside dinner order yourself. The food prepared by your favorite... Read more →


April is winding down. That means severe, and some deadly, spring storms are erupting all over the United States. And in just more than a month, hurricane season will officially start. A couple of states — Alabama and Texas — earlier this year offered their residents a sales tax holiday so they could save some money as they stocked up on emergency supplies. But even if you have to pay tax on your bottled water and canned food and batteries, start gathering your supplies now. Also take a pre-disaster inventory of your property. A full, accurate list of your belongings... Read more →


Image: National Day Calendar It's a rare day on the internet. Dogs are getting more attention than cat videos. Actually, it's baby dogs who are the focus, since today, March 23, is National Puppy Day. Personally, I'm a cat, not dog, person. But I know that regardless of your pet preference, animals bring a lot of good to our lives. And in some very specific cases, they also might be able to help you reduce your federal tax bill. Here are 5 potential ways that Fluffy, Fido or whatever you call your fur (or other) baby can provide their human... Read more →


Unemployment claims are skyrocketing across the United States as more businesses close as a precaution to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The latest on claims for unemployment benefits was released today by the U.S. Department of Labor. For the week ending on March 14, around 281,000 Americans filed first-time claims for the benefits. That's up 33 percent from the 211,000 benefits claims the week before. Percentage wise, the increase was among the largest one-week spikes on record. Here in the Lone Star State, the Texas Workforce Commission reports that from March 8 to March 14 it received 16,038 unemployment... Read more →


The House-passed H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act does not — I repeat, does NOT — include a change in the upcoming federal tax filing and payment deadline. That did happen, but separately, as detailed in my April 15 Tax Day deadline and delay Q&A post. There's also no change to the payroll taxes that come out of our paychecks. So right now, expect your regular pay to remain the same. And keep working on those federal tax forms with April 15 as your deadline. What we do know, however, is that legislation to deal with coronavirus' health and... Read more →


Happy Pi Day 2014. March 14 is the annual celebration of pi, usually indicated by the Greek letter π, since the 3/14 calendar format is a close representation of pi's first three digits. What exactly is pi? Naturally, I went to the internet to find out, so math experts please cut me a slice of slack here. The consensus is that pi is a number that originally was defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It's a mathematical constant, meaning it isn't changed by the size of the numbers it is used to equate. It's also... Read more →


Millions of Americans are self-employed. In the Internal Revenue Service's Statistics of Income count for tax year 2017, more than 26 million of U.S. nonfarm taxpayers filed as sole proprietors, submitting Schedule C along with their annual Form 1040 individual tax returns. The great thing about Schedule C is that is offers lots of ways sole proprietors, of which I'm one, can reduce our gross self-employment earnings. But one of those deductions that many likely claimed on their 2017 Schedule C has in subsequent years become a source of confusion and consternation. The tax break for business meals and entertainment... Read more →


Newark On Reddit via Twitter The Academy Awards is tonight and although I'm a big film fan, I'll probably skip it. The early awards shows have already spoiled it for me. Sorry, ABC. If Antonio Banderas somehow takes the Oscars statuette from Joaquin Phoenix, which is what I'd love to see, then I'll catch the replay on YouTube tomorrow. Some folks in New Jersey, however, will be closely watching this year's ceremony and pulling for the "Joker" actor. The street where Phoenix's disturbed Arthur Fleck character gets jumped early in the movie is in Newark. Tax breaks, of course, played... Read more →


Thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, many other states have joined Nevada in accepting bets on sporting events. But casino operations like this one in Las Vegas still get plenty of action on days like Super Bowl Sunday. Happy Tuesday to everyone who skipped work yesterday. I hope you've fully recovered from your Super Bowl hangover. I also hope that at least some of your prop bets on the NFL championship game also paid off. So does the Internal Revenue Service. All your Super Bowl LIV winnings, as well as any other gambling proceeds are taxable income. Yes, even... Read more →


Even before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) greatly increased the standard deduction amounts, most people opted to claim the standard deduction amount. But one thing that the latest tax reform law didn't change is the ability for many to get some added deductions without itemizing. These used to be called, at least by the tax community, above-the-line deductions because. They got that moniker because pre-TCJA they appeared in the last section of the old long Form 1040, just above the last line of that form's first page where your adjusted gross income (AGI) was entered. (A handful also... Read more →


If past years are any indication, when the 2020 tax filing season officially opens on Monday, Jan. 27, millions of taxpayers will hit the send button to electronically deliver their annual returns to the Internal Revenue Service. But millions more of us have to wait to file. We're still waiting on at least one tax statement that has information we need to finish filling out our Form 1040. Form deadline is Jan. 31: Technically, most of these tax documents aren't even required to be on their way to us until Jan. 31. Employers and other businesses that issue wage and/or... Read more →


Topher Grace is known by millions of fans as television's Eric Forman. But when he's not acting, he also has a side gig. Side hustles aren't just for struggling wage slaves. From the "what I learned today" files, I literally learned today that actor Topher Grace has a side gig doing projects for Disney. Yes, the man who was Eric Forman in That '70s Show, and a buddy put together, as a lark, a consolidated trailer of all the Star Wars movies. Their unsanctioned YouTube post got a gazillion hits. OK, around 2 million from all the various postings. But... Read more →


Click image for a large, clearer view. Ready to do your 2019 taxes? The Internal Revenue Service says it will be on Jan. 7. Yep, that's tomorrow. But whoa up there, cowpokes. This starting date is just for IRS acceptance of business returns. On the Modernized e-File (MeF) Operational Status page noting the Jan. 7 starting date for business returns, the IRS also says, "Individual tax returns will begin at a date to be determined in early 2020." Still, it's a good sign that Uncle Sam's tax collector is looking at any return processing date in early January. Business returns... Read more →


via GIPHY If you used your car for business purposes last year, you probably did the same thing I did on New Year's Eve. You took a quick look at your auto's odometer and jotted down the miles. Keeping track of your annual miles driven and those specifically attributable to business travel can help you reduce taxes on your self-employment income. There are a couple of ways you can track this travel, either by keeping good records of your actual business-related auto usage (more on this in a minute) or by claiming the optional standard mileage amount. That standard amount... Read more →


The countdown is on! In a few hours, 2019 will be outta here and we'll be celebrating a brand spanking New Year. But if you want to celebrate a less costly tax bill when you file your 2019 return in 2020, you've got to make some year-end moves now. Here's a collection of my latest posts on tax tasks with a Dec. 31 deadline. 10 year-end tax moves to make now — My first nag list of end of 2019 tax moves from Nov. 4 10 December tax presents for you instead of the IRS — Another nag reminder on... Read more →


One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration is tariffs, either put in place or threatened, on a variety of imported goods. If you have money in the stock market, you're probably pretty happy with 2019. Despite some blips, the market this year maintained its continued upward march. The positive news for investors, however, goes against conventional wisdom that tariffs are bad for the economy. Wall Street bulls say that tariffs eventually will take their toll. And others, including a pair of Federal Reserve economists, cite evidence that tariffs already are costing jobs and hiking prices. No tariff trouble for... Read more →


I don't know who came up with all these holidays in quick succession at the end of each year, but that person needs to be fired. We, and by we I mean U.S. residents since Canadians are smarter about Thanksgiving's timing, have a lot of special days in the last calendar quarter. Holiday avalanche: It starts in mid-October with Columbus Day, still one of 10 federal holidays recognized by Uncle Sam, although many areas now celebrate that Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day. At the end of the month, we have Halloween and, depending on your heritage or geography, Dia de... Read more →