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Tax laws are full of unintended consequences. That became painfully clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a variety of tax relief provisions were created to help individuals and businesses deal with the virus' economic effects. Such was the case with the Employee Retention Credit, or ERC. "The ERC provided a financial lifeline to millions of businesses and exempt organizations during the pandemic," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel in his prepared testimony for the Feb. 15 hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee. "The IRS has worked hard to implement this credit, and we have processed about 3.6 million ERC... Read more →


Unsplash+ in collaboration with Planet Volumes In July 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had charged 22 individuals in connection with an allegedly fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan scheme that sought to defraud the federal government of $11.1 million. On Thursday, Feb. 15, two Georgians who were charged three years ago were convicted for their roles in the scheme. A 42-year-old Decatur man was convicted by a federal jury of bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, making false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with 14... Read more →


Only 80% of wrongly-claimed Employee Retention Credit amounts must be repaid. Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash We're all aware of the continuing medical issues from long COVID. The coronavirus' tax effects appear to be just as persistent. The Internal Revenue Service is still dealing with law changes enacted to provide pandemic relief. The Employee Retention Credit, or ERC, is one of them. This refundable business tax credit was designed for companies that continued paying employees during the COVID-19 pandemic despite financial hardship. To qualify, the businesses were either fully or partially suspended due to a government order, or had... Read more →


To ensure you have the type of retirement you want, you must do some calculations, including figuring how your required minimum distributions fit in, financially and tax-wise. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) Retirement savings can make a big difference in how enjoyable your post-work years will be. If you have tax-deferred retirement accounts, those savings also present new tax responsibilities once you reach a certain age. Some money in a traditional IRA that's been out of the Internal Revenue Service's reach for years must be taken out as a required minimum distribution, or RMD. Uncle Sam also... Read more →


This pup looks like he's asking it it's time to open gifts. (Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) Next Monday morning, Dec. 25, many families will welcome a new member. I'm talking, of course, about a pet. A puppy, kitten, or other pet of any type of age can be a wonderful addition to a home. Pros and cons of pets as presents: But many animal groups and veterinarians warn against giving a pet, especially as a surprise, during the holidays. This already is a stressful time for many, and if everyone who will be involved in the... Read more →


Most of us are wrapping up year-end tax tasks (in between wrapping presents!). Others, and there is some overlap, are getting ready for the New Year and the start of the 2024 tax filing season. And some of us are still dealing with 2020 and 2021 tax issues. In many of these years-old cases, the issue is tax penalties assessed during the COVID-19 pandemic chaos that affected normal tax filing and processing. Today, the Internal Revenue Service announced it is providing $1 billion in penalty relief to those taxpayers, who number around 4.7 million. The relief receiving taxpayers include individuals,... Read more →


Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash 🌟 Billions of dollars in fraud. 🌟 Victims across the globe. 🌟 🌟 Criminals who are all about personal gain. 🌟 No, that's not the opening voiceover in a trailer for a new Netflix true crime series, although I'd watch it if it were. It's from IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee's comments on his unit's top 10 cases of 2023. Those three opening elements, said Lee, are the crux of CI's biggest busts last year. "When I say our team at CI is the best at following the money trail, I mean it,"... Read more →


Shopping with your true love can be fun, but you'll probably have to make a separate, solo trip so you can surprise your partner. And if you want to buy any or all of the true love gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" carol, you also will want to make sure you have lots of cash or a large credit card limit. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) Even though inflation has slowed this year, Americans are still grumbling about prices. But it hasn't slowed holiday shopping. More than 200 million people went in search of perfect... Read more →


The only thing worse than being sick is not having health insurance that will cover your medical costs to get well. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) The current frontrunner for the 2024 presidential nomination surprised his party and most of the country last month when he declared he would again try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if he gets back into the White House . Even if Donald J. Trump's swipe at Obamacare, as the health care program still is known, is more than just campaign rhetoric, the reality of repeal is difficult.... Read more →


More than 20,000 businesses are about to learn how serious the Internal Revenue Service is about stopping questionable Employee Retention Credit (ERC) claims. The tax agency has sent them a letter notifying them that they won't be getting the COVID-19 pandemic tax relief. Many of the claims were filed by ERC mills that have aggressively promoted the tax relief, often to businesses that did not qualify. The amount of such questionable claims prompted the IRS in September to stop processing all new claims. This first round of IRS letters to some of those who did file for the ERC is... Read more →


My H-E-B helps me keep track of store purchases that might be eligible for FSA reimbursement. (Crumpled receipt photo by Kay Bell) After today's weekly grocery buying trip, I'm pulling out my stash of COVID-19 pandemic masks. Yes, I bought a lot. A whole lot! As before, the facial protection is to shield me from the sneezes and coughs of many of my uncovered fellow H-E-B shoppers. This time, though, I'm hoping the upper respiratory cacophony is due to the changing weather, dust stirred up by the firing up of furnaces, and, here in Central Texas, cedar fever. But you... Read more →


Many people who are having cash flow issues opt for advances on their expected tax refunds. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) The 2024 tax filing season will officially start, if prior year tax calendars hold, in about six weeks. That's when the Internal Revenue Service will start processing 2023 tax year returns. But millions of people will file as soon as they can in January, even if the IRS isn't ready. They'll use tax software or a tax preparer to get their 1040 form out of the way and to the head of the processing line. These... Read more →


Individuals who didn't automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment or claim a Recovery Rebate Credit during the COVID-19 pandemic get a second chance at the money. Economic Impact Payments helped many U.S. families financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But some eligible filers didn't get the stimulus money directly, and didn't claim it later as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they filed. Now they get another shot at the tax relief. Remember Economic Impact Payments? These funds, also referred to as stimulus payments, were issued during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Internal Revenue Service sent most of the payments... Read more →


Taking advantage of these inflation-adjusted tax breaks could put more money in your pocket instead of Uncle Sam's bank account. (Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash) Each of our tax situations is unique. But every taxpayer can agree on one thing. We all want to pay the least amount of tax as possible. That universal goal can be reached by taking advantage of tax deductions, tax credits, and income exclusions. Deductions, like the standard amounts discussed in Part 2 of the ol' blogs annual tax inflation series, are a relatively easy, and popular, way to reduce a tax bill. Deductions... Read more →


Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash Many of the accommodations we made for the COVID-19 pandemic were burdensome. Just ask parents who were forced into dual work-from-home and school teacher duties. But two tax-related changes were more well-received, so much so that the Internal Revenue Service is extending them. The agency extended indefinitely the option to use electronic or digital signatures on tax documents. The IRS says digital/e-signatures will be acceptable "until more robust technical solutions are deployed." In addition, encrypted emails still can be used until Oct. 31, 2025, to communicate directly with IRS personnel with whom the taxpayers or... Read more →


Small businesses' many challenges were multiplied during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) helped many companies and their workers make it through that lean time. But recently, unscrupulous promoters have pushed some owners to improperly claim the ERC, creating new problems. Now the IRS is offering a way to correct those bad filings. (Image via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images) The Employee Retention Credit (ERC) helped lots of small businesses and their staff make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. When properly claimed, the ERC is a refundable tax credit designed for businesses that continued paying employees while... Read more →


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash The Internal Revenue Service relies on taxpayers voluntarily filing correct tax returns and paying the tax amount shown on those forms. Millions will be doing just that tomorrow, Oct. 16, to comply with the extended filing deadline. Unfortunately, however, too many people find ways to avoid paying the U.S. Treasury what they legitimately owe. They are why the latest update on the Tax Gap shows it has grown. A lot. The Tax Gap is the amount of money the IRS is owed, but which it hasn't been able to collect. The agency's latest estimates... Read more →


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash Businesses who applied for the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) aren’t the only ones upset with the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of claims. So are the Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri), chairman of the tax-writing panel, and Rep. David Schweikert (R-Arizona), chair of the W&M Oversight Subcommittee, this week wrote to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel demanding an update on the ERC processing backlog. The ERC, also sometimes referred to as the Employee Retention Tax Credit or ERTC, was created during the COVID-19 pandemic to help businesses and... Read more →


Beyoncé on the Renaissance World Tour at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on June 1, 2023, (Photo by Raph_PH - BeyonceSpurs010623) I love music. I just ordered two CDs last week. That last retail admission should tip you off that my prime concert-going days are behind me. In one way, I'm glad. The cost to see my favorite musicians perform back in my day was reasonable, even then. Today's more youthful fans, however, are shelling out big bucks to attend concerts. Marketplace economics are part of the calculation. And emotion is part of the market. So scalpers, whose targets are... Read more →


Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash After two years of decline, thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic, marriages in the United States have returned to pre-COVID levels, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's recently released 2022 American Community Survey (ACS). Even better for romantics, a major jewelry company is predicting a spike in engagements as more of us return to pre-pandemic lifestyles, including dating…and more. If you're planning nuptials, or already have said, "I do," congratulations. Now here are eight tax tasks you need to take care of, after the honeymoon, of course. 1. Make sure everyone knows your... Read more →