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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 →


Plus, tips on maximizing yard sales and holding safe events during a pandemic. When I went out to get the paper from our driveway this morning, I was puzzled by the amount of traffic on our usually quiet neighborhood street. Especially since it's Saturday. Then I remembered that it was our annual fall community garage sale day. Actually, it's our only community garage sale day this year. The spring 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. And while my immediate neighbors aren't big sellers of their old items, a few tend to participate. This year, though, the cars were... Read more →


Donald J. Trump posted this photo in 2016 on Twitter, saying it represented the size of his tax return filing. When we got a glimpse of Donald J. Trump's federal 2005 tax year filing back in 2017, one thing was very clear. Trump's personal tax situation is why during his initial presidential campaign he called for the elimination of the federal Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The New York Times' recent exposé of more than two decades of Trump tax information, underscores his adversarial relationship with this parallel tax system. In the few years that Trump did pay federal income tax,... Read more →


The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon tousles Donald J. Trump's hair during the Republican candidate's Sept. 15, 2016, appearance on the late-night television program. That hair. He spent $70,000 on that hair. Yes, I — and you and everybody — is talking about that $70,000 tax deduction claim by Donald J. Trump on his taxes, which were obtained by The New York Times and detailed in an expansive story this past weekend. Trump's hair has long been a point of curiosity and comedy. He knows it. He even has played it up with voters and on non-Apprentice television appearances. I... Read more →


Are you ready to go back to this? Or is working from home working out just fine for you? It's the last weekend of September. Not that calendars matter so much anymore to many of us — including me — who are still coronavirus quarantining. But time measurement and management are still important if you're working, or trying to, from home. States are in various degrees of reopening, meaning more of us have or will be heading back to our offices. Others, however, will continue to work from home, aka WFH. In fact, some companies have said they'll maintain remote... Read more →


National Small Business Week 2020, like much everything else this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is going mostly virtual. Small businesses always face a lot of challenges. This year, with the coronavirus pandemic posing myriad new operational and financial problems, things are even more difficult. During the Small Business Administration's (SBA's) celebration of this year's National Small Business Week, which runs through Sept. 26, the Internal Revenue Service has been highlighting some tax breaks for these companies. Key among those breaks are credits that can help smaller employers. Tax credits are particularly welcome because they provide dollar-for-dollar tax savings.... Read more →


Forgiven debt can help ease financial burdens, but it usually comes with a tax cost. (Image: CreditRepairExpert/Flickr) The Internal Revenue Service usually is all about information. It wants it from taxpayers getting money and it wants it from those issuing payments. Not so, however, with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that are forgiven under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It doesn't want to know about any of these forgiven loans. In fact, the tax agency has officially told lenders not to mess with Form 1099-C in connection with these special COVID-19 loans. Latest pandemic tax twist:... Read more →


These West Texas cattle don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their ranches' profitability. If drought has caused problems, the IRS is offering them some tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) When we city folks think of disaster preparation and animals, we're worrying about how to keep our pets safe during and after a major Mother Nature event. It's a bit more complicated when the animals are part of your livelihood. That's why farmers and ranchers in the path of potential disasters, like the flooding that now's across... Read more →


Labor Day is the time to recognize the contributions of workers. It's one of the United States' oldest official commemorations, with Uncle Sam in 1894 making the first Monday of September a legal federal holiday. In this age of consumerism, however, the meaning of Labor Day and other holidays, official or not, often takes a back seat to associated retail sales. The bargains this year, though, are a bit different. Pandemic precautions have pushed even more shoppers online. COVID-19 closures for good: The country's shift to digital transactions already was well underway before COVID-19 appeared in the United States. But... Read more →


It's Labor Day weekend. This holiday usually is time for end-of-summer revelry, with a little leftover celebration of the workers whose efforts are recognized on the first Monday of each September. This year's a bit different. Social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic have, for the most part, limited the usual three-day weekend parties. As for the workers, COVID-19 also means more attention is paid this year on those who aren't laboring because they lost their jobs. COVID-19 response work ramifications:Health decisions by states, several of which reacted to the novel coronavirus earlier than Uncle Sam, led to widespread business closures... Read more →


Donald J. Trump's payroll tax deferral for employees technically took effect this week. But most employees shouldn't expect to see a minimal raise in their next paychecks. The reason is that few businesses jumped right in there on Sept. 1, the effective date of Trump's Aug. 8 White House memo, to stop withholding their workers' 6.2 percent portion of pay that goes toward the Social Security trust fund. Employers' reluctant choice: Yes, the decision to temporarily stop this segment of payroll withholding is voluntary on the part of companies. Employees, however, don't have the choice of opting in or, if... Read more →


Pixabay Ah, fall. Summer's scorching temperatures start to moderate. School's back in session. College and football players are back on the fields. Sorry. I seem to have drifted off into memories of autumn 2019. This is 2020. Scientists say worldwide, this year could rank near the top in torrid temps. Schools across the United States are struggling with how to keep students and staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic. And as for sports, the National Football League is going to give it a try, but some major college conferences have already called off theirs seasons. One thing, though, hasn't changed.... Read more →


If you're counting on a slightly bigger paycheck as 2020 winds down due to Donald J. Trump's presidential payroll tax pronouncement, don't hold your breath. Trump's Aug. 8 executive memo called for the deferral of the 6.2 percent employee portion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax that goes toward Social Security. The White House said it would be an easy way to provide relief for Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. Others, however, weren't so sure about the proposal, especially the easy claim. Almost immediately after the executive memo was released, questions were raised by potentially affected employees, the... Read more →


Times are tough for Uber and Lyft operations in California. Both ride-hailing services are threatening to temporarily shut down in the wake of a Golden State law that took effect in January and, more notably, a recent San Francisco Superior Court order that the companies classify their drivers as employees instead of contractors. This battle between the popular transportation option and California officials is playing out as the Internal Revenue Service continues its efforts to educate gig workers about their tax responsibilities. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has some ideas on how to make sure more freelance workers... Read more →


Being your own boss is a challenge even in good times. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting your personal and professional life, keeping your individual enterprise operating is particularly dicey. So you probably were thrilled when Donald J. Trump took executive action last weekend to establish a temporary payroll tax holiday. Since you're both the boss and employee, that means that you pay both those components of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes. Getting to hold off paying at least some of your employee portion certainly could help with your cash flow. Or not. Right now, Trump's executive... Read more →


Donald J. Trump announced on Aug. 8 four executive actions to provide COVID-19 relief in the wake of the stalled Congressional talks. (White House photo via Twitter) By now everyone knows that Donald J. Trump decided to literally take COVID-19 relief into his own hands yesterday. Sitting at table in a meeting room at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, surrounded by media and club members who served as a smaller surrogate rally crowd to cheer him and boo the reporters, Trump sign four executive actions. One was a formal Executive Order. The other three were memoranda. He and his... Read more →


My desk in my home office which I deduct when I file my taxes. Not that I'm paranoid, but sometimes it seems like unseen others somehow know what's going on in my life. The latest example is tax related. Earlier this week, a #TaxTwitter pal asked that social media group about home office tax deductions. Granted, this is not an unusual question since the coronavirus pandemic has meant many of us have been working from home, a lot of us for the very first time. Today, the Internal Revenue Service issued a tax tip on what taxpayers need to know... Read more →


Millions of youngsters across the United States will start this school year in virtual classrooms. But the tax savings are real in 11 states holding sales tax holidays this weekend. Ten of the events kick off at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 7. Most run through the full weekend. One doesn't start until Sunday, Aug. 9, but continues through the following Saturday, Aug. 15. Below are this weekend's back-to-school tax holidays listed alphabetically by participating states. The links, which include the state names, provide more details on what is and isn't tax-free. Florida: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9.... Read more →


The days of real toasts are on hold for the most part due to the coronavirus. But alcohol sales and the tax revenue they produce remain a bright spot in an otherwise dim outlook for state treasuries hit hard by the pandemic. (Photo by burst via Pexels.com). Many states have been facing budget issues for a while. Those financial problems have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As businesses closed down, some temporarily and some forever, states saw the associated corporate tax revenue drop. Those closed companies meant its employees no longer had income on which they paid taxes. And... Read more →


Photo by Scrumshus via Citypeek-Wikipedia The Senate this week released its plan for another round of coronavirus relief. As expected, there are substantial differences between this Republican-crafted bill and the measure passed in mid-May by the Democratically-controlled House. Both bills are wide-ranging, but there are some key provisions that are of particular interest to most of us. Both also use as a basis in many areas the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provisions that were enacted in late March. Below is a comparison of seven key areas in the latest GOP Senate's Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection... Read more →


UPDATE, July 28, 2020: We finally know how the Senate wants to handle additional COVID-19 economic relief. The GOP-crafted Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, like the already passed Democratic House bill, provides for another round of stimulus payments, but isn't quite as generous as far as dependents. It also drastically reduces federal unemployment assistance. Details on this opening gambit are in these articles from The Washington Post and CNBC. Washington, D.C. watchers are used to federal lawmakers' last-minute struggles to create and pass legislation. Often though, we have to wait until the end of the year.... Read more →