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March 1 has arrived. Or, as some coronavirus pandemic weary wits have dubbed it, March 2.0 or March 366. Yes, we've been dealing with COVID-19 for a year now. And yes, the virus and its myriad disruptions continue. But the development of multiple vaccines and prospects for expanded distribution of the shots give us reason to hope that the coronavirus after-times are within sight. Another COVID-19 relief package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, also is closer to reality. The House passed the measure over the weekend, and the Biden Administration is pushing the Senate to hammer out its differences with... Read more →


Attention shoppers in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Your states are holding back-to-school sales tax holidays this final weekend in July, and beyond for Sunshine State and Volunteer State tax bargain hunters. Retailers are getting ready for youngsters to return to classrooms. Shoppers are getting ready for tax-free savings on school supplies and more. (Photo by Kay Bell) Despite a surge among unvaccinated of the COVID-19 Delta variant, most schools are making plans to welcome students back to classrooms this fall. Retailers also are joining the back-to-school parties. This year, 18 states scheduled sales tax-free events, most of them... Read more →


It's no surprise that, after facing a ginormous backlog of paper tax forms that piled up when the Internal Revenue Service closed most of its campuses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the agency is looking to force more electronic filings. Proposed regulations published in today's Federal Register add seven forms to the IRS list of returns that businesses must, once a certain filing threshold is reached, submit electronically. The move is made possible by a provision of the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), which became law in July 2019 and included a variety of changes designed to... Read more →


We regular folks tend to have a complicated relationship with the wealthy. And by complicated, I mean one-sided, unrealistic, and too often reverential. Being aspirational, we love to gawk at what they can get away with because of their money, and dream of one day being in their Manolos and mansions. That's fueled way too many not-really reality shows. Such hopes also are a big reason scammers can convince wealthy wannabes to fall for schemes that peddle false hopes of large tax deductions. In real-life tax reality, these dodges simply are a way to push hopeful taxpayers further away from... Read more →


It's a good summer for young people looking for jobs. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels) Before COVID-19, one of the traditional rites of passage for young people was getting a summer job. After literally being locked out last summer due to business pandemic precautions, young workers are returning. In fact, for American teenagers looking for work, this may be the best summer in years. The share of teenagers working is above pre-pandemic levels. The staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas projects teens will add about 2 million jobs to the economy this summer. Still, despite all that economic and... Read more →


The 2020 tax return filing deadline for most U.S. taxpayers literally is just days away. If you're scrambling to meet the May 17 due date, don't be in such a hurry that you cheat yourself out of some tax savings. You can claim deductions, either by itemizing if that gives you more than your standard deduction amount or by claiming some income adjustments, most of which are still referred to (by me, at least!) as above-the-line deductions, that reduce the amount of income that's taxed. There also are tax credits, which are even better because they directly reduce what you... Read more →


Even before 2017's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) greatly increased the standard deduction amounts, most people chose to use 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. 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 were... Read more →


One of the many reasons that people hate taxes is that after the hassle of filing, then comes the fear that a Form 1040 mistake will mean an audit. The sort-of good news for taxpayers is that the Internal Revenue Service hasn't been auditing as many people in recent years. The agency has had other things to worry about, like doing its myriad jobs with fewer staff and less money. Then there's COVID-19, with added pandemic payments that the IRS is tasked with distributing. Things could be changing, though. More people are getting vaccinated, meaning the end of the coronavirus... Read more →


Bernie Madoff leaving a court hearing in 2009. Bernard "Bernie" Lawrence Madoff died on April 14 in a federal prison medical facility where he was being treated for terminal kidney disease. The 82-year-old had been in jail since 2009 for orchestrating the world's largest Ponzi scheme. Madoff pleaded guilty on March 12, 2009, to 11 federal crimes, including operating the financial fraud that bilked as many as 37,000 people in 136 countries over two decades. He was sentenced three months later to the maximum 150 years behind bars and ordered to pay restitution of $170 billion. At the time of... Read more →


For the second consecutive year, millions of individual taxpayers aren't freaking out about their taxes as April 15 nears. That's because for the second consecutive year, the annual Tax Day has been postponed. But still, some folks are crashing right about now to get their 2020 filings done. That's because the Internal Revenue Service decision to move Tax Day 2021 from mid-April to May 17 applies only to individuals who must file income tax returns, aka the IRS' 1040 forms series. And some of these still have an April 15 deadline if they must pay estimated taxes for the 2021... Read more →


Archer Daniels Midland is one of the major corporations cited in a new report of companies that paid no taxes in 2020. The Biden Administration's infrastructure plan has ramped up the perennial tax debate between Democrats and Republicans. The White House wants to increase tax collections on companies to pay for the proposal, dubbed The American Jobs Plan. And that approach is getting some support from a recent Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) report. The Washington, D.C. nonprofit found that 55 of the largest U.S. companies paid nothing in federal income taxes last year. The $0 tax payments... Read more →


Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created to help small businesses continue to operate in the face of COVID-19 complications. Its execution, however, has been a mixed bag for many businesses and their tax pros, not always working as smoothly as its creators had hoped. Still, the forgivable loan program has its fans. And those worried about its impeding March 31 expiration can rest easier. The Senate last week agreed to the House bill extending the PPP. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. When that's done, borrowers will be able to apply for... Read more →


As COVID-19 continues to control to at least some degree our lives, federal and state tax officials are offering tax benefits to those who take steps to control and lessen the effects of the persistent pandemic. Photo: Anna Tarazevich from Pexels If you still itemize deductions, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that you can count a few more purchases toward your Schedule A medical claims. Of course, the additions are because of COVID-19. Specifically, the IRS says in Announcement 2021-7 that the costs of personal protective equipment, aka PPE, purchased for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of... Read more →


The tax world is full of instances that are different from the real world. There are quarterly estimated tax payments that don't align with our standard calendar quarters. There are birthdays that are considered having been celebrated earlier when we get older. And now there are financial transactions that aren't financial transactions, at least when it comes to cryptocurrency. IRS has crypto questions: Cryptocurrency, often referred to generally as bitcoin (the Kleenex tissue of virtual money), has been a target of the Internal Revenue Service for years. Most recently, the agency has focused on getting taxes due on crypto transactions.... Read more →


A scene from "Judas and the Black Messiah," which today received six Oscar nominations. The filmmakers also took advantage of state tax breaks to make the movie. (Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures) The 2021 Oscar nominees were announced today. Let the arguing begin. I'm generally happy with the nominations, especially since two of my favorite and (I believe) overlooked performers were nominated in the Best Actor in a Leading Role. Oh, you want names? Sure: Riz Ahmed for "Sound of Metal" and Steven Yeun for "Minari." However, disagreements about the nominees and the ultimate winners in all Academy of Motion... Read more →


Image by Maxime Duprez via Twitter Happy National Pi Day 2021. Or as usurping marketers in the United States also call it Pie Day, even though there is a day designated for the food. Go ahead, get your bargain-priced sweet or savory pies today. But March 14 actually celebrates the mathematical constant pi, or π in the Greek alphabet. In case it's been a long time since math class, that's the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. The trillion-digit ratio is rounded to 3.14. You can find more about pi in one of my earlier March 14 blog... Read more →


Much of Texas got record snowfall on Feb. 14-15, with around 6 inches covering our backyard. Thank goodness for some much welcome sunshine today, but it's still below freezing, meaning our heater is working overtime! (Photo by Kay Bell) We have sunshine here in Central Texas! Still, the high temperature today in the greater Austin area is not expected to break the freezing mark. That means my home's heater is still in overdrive. And that means my next bill is going to be ginormous. The only consolation, is that I can count part of that heating bill as a home... Read more →


Small businesses are adapting their operations to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some tax breaks in the relief bill enacted at the end of 2020 could help. (Photo by Norma Mortenson via Pexels) Most COVID-19 relief focus has been on the added financial help to individuals. That's understandable. Millions of folks have been struggling to make ends meet as the pandemic has ravaged the economy. But they are facing fiscal woes in large part because their employers are in trouble, too. When companies get their footing back, they can start to rehire laid off staff and things should pick... Read more →


We got our first tax statement yesterday. It's our mortgage lender's Form 1098 with details on potentially tax-deductible amounts like loan interest and property taxes. This is just one of the documents that millions of taxpayers are awaiting so they can file their returns. In addition to tax-related home transactions, the various documents that are or soon will be on their way include documents detailing income, be it from wages, contract work or retirement accounts; investments; winnings and/or gambling proceeds; and in some cases, health care information. A handful of these documents must be submitted with Form 1040. Most, however,... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is already accepting e-filed business returns and says Free File for eligible individuals to do their taxes and electronically file at no cost will open in mid-January. If you use Free File, get ready. The Internal Revenue Service says it will open in mid-January. UPDATE, Jan. 15, 2021: Soon is here! The IRS opened up its Free File site on Jan. 15. It also announced that it will officially open the full 2021 tax filing season on Feb. 12. That's when the IRS will start accepting and processing all 2020 tax returns, regardless of how they... Read more →


Even though we definitely are more than ready for 2020 to end, the celebration of its official departure in a few hours — that's for us here in the United States; Happy New 2021 to all y'all on the other side of the International Date Line — likely will be subdued. Thanks, no thanks, COVID-19. May you, too, be gone soon in the coming 12 months. But even if the ringing in the New Year will be in smaller, pandemic-precautioned pods, some adult beverages will be raised as the clock strikes midnight. And among those celebrating the most will be... Read more →