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I'm not sure if Luisa Madrid is a tax professional, but her winning caption for the New Yorker magazine contest sure hits home at filing season. One of the oldest tales of pushing the tax return envelope is taxpayers who try to claim pets as dependents. Children. They're a challenge. They're a joy. They cost a lot. A whole lot, if you ask parents. They also provide some tax breaks. And if the Biden Administration and some in Congress have their way, children could be worth even more in the proposed next round of COVID-19 relief. Things are still in... Read more →


Since the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was enacted on March 11, the Internal Revenue Service has distributed approximately 159 million COVID-19 economic impact payments (EIPs). Those deliveries come to more than $376 billion. This third round of coronavirus pandemic payments, worth up to $1,400 per person, has been going out in batches. Recipients include taxpayers who've filed 2020 returns, Social Security recipients, and veterans and their families. Still, there are some folks who aren't on the IRS' EIP delivery list. These are, for the most part, people who haven't file a tax return because they're not legally required to... Read more →


Sometimes it's worth the extra time and effort to file an amended tax return. In its regular email to tax professionals last week, the Internal Revenue Service remined them that their clients who filed 2020 returns before the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) excluded a portion of unemployment from tax don't need to file amended returns. The IRS says it will recalculate the tax liability of these filers, taking into account the tax they paid on $10,200 per person in unemployment benefits before ARPA's March 11 enactment date. If the early-filing taxpayers are due a refund, the IRS will automatically... Read more →


Photo: RODNAE Productions via Pexels April 7 is National No Housework Day. I didn't realize that until #TaxTwitter pal Joe Kristan noted it at the end of his Eide Bailly LLP tax roundup blog post today. In my defense, I overlooked No Housework Day because that's basically every day for me. Oh, I do some household chores, but grudgingly. And I'm lucky. The hubby is a more diligent cleaner than I. That means we don't (so far) have a paid housekeeper. But some folks do. And depending on the arrangement, those who hire household help have some tax tasks to... Read more →


May 17 is the deadline this year to file your 2020 tax return and pay any tax you owe. It's also the last day that 1.3 million people can claim their portion of more than $1.3 billion in taxes they overpaid during 2017 but never collected as tax refunds. If you're one of those non-filers, you need to file that 2017 return and claim your refund by May 17. Federal law says that if a taxpayer doesn't file an old return within three years of its original due date — and that was April 15, 2018 for those 2017 tax... Read more →


You lost your job last year and collected unemployment. You knew that the benefits are taxable income, so when you filed your 2020 tax return earlier this year, your calculations made sure that Uncle Sam got his piece of your unemployment money. Then along came the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law on March 11, and its provision excluding a portion of jobless benefits from tax. How do you get your overpaid unemployment taxes back? This week, the Internal Revenue Service followed up on its earlier announcement that filers shouldn't amend their 2020 returns because of the new... Read more →


Some people got less COVID-19 relief money because the IRS took some to pay other debts. Every year, some taxpayers find the tax refunds the Internal Revenue Service sends them are less than they expected. The usual reason for the shortfall is that the federal refund amounts were offset by other debts, such as unpaid taxes, student loans or delinquent child support. That situation cropped up last year when the Recovery Rebate Credit was created as part of COVID-19 relief legislation. The rebates were paid in advance to millions of taxpayers. And in some, but not all, instances, economic impact... Read more →


Last March, parents were frantically searching for day camps to enroll their kiddos once school let out for the summer. Then COVID-19 arrived. Most camps shut down or dramatically pared back operations and parents added teacher and summer activity director to their already long list of de facto titles. We're still not sure whether or how many summer day camps will resume this year, but things are looking better thanks to expanding coronavirus vaccinations across the country. That means that parents might be able to once again take advantage of the child and dependent care credit in connection with certain... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers have already followed this calendar note's insistent instruction. Reading tax statistics can be a lot like checking out COVID-19 vaccination options. You can't just look at one number. You have to take into account the circumstances that produced the percentage that caught your attention. That's the deal with the 2021 filing season figures. Percentages skewed by season lengths: As of Feb. 26, the latest complete information collected by the Internal Revenue Service, almost 45.3 million 2020 tax returns have been filed. That's a 23.7 percent drop from the amount of submitted returns through the end of February... Read more →


President Joe Biden's heart may belong to his 1967 classic Corvette Stingray, but he's working to make Uncle Sam's 600,000 automotive fleet electric. (Photo by Adam Schultz via Flicker) Much of the focus on the new White House understandably has been on President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief package. But Biden also has been pushing his alternative energy plans, specifically a move to electric vehicles (EVs). Just days after his inauguration, he vowed to replace the bulk of the federal government's fleet of vehicles with made-in-America EVs. On Tuesday, March 2, Biden met virtually with executives in the EV charging infrastructure... Read more →


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 →


A VITA volunteer helps a taxpayer prepare and e-filer her tax return for free. (IRS video screenshot) Tax software works fine for millions of taxpayers. Another sizeable chunk of filers opt for more personal service from a tax professional. Then there are people for whom software just doesn't cut it. They need or want more help and assurance that their taxes will be filed correctly. But they can't afford a tax preparer. Say hello to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). Trained volunteer tax filing help: VITA programs across the United States offer free... Read more →


Just can't bring yourself to do your taxes? Don't worry. There's no rush (yet). And there are some good reasons to wait a bit before finishing your Form 1040. The 2021 tax filing season is finally underway. The Internal Revenue Service started processing returns on Friday, Feb. 12. A lot of the 1040 forms actually had been submitted electronically weeks earlier, and were just waiting for Uncle Sam to accept them. This is not unusual. Millions of taxpayers file as early as possible, with good reason, every year. But there's something to said for those of us who wait. Here... Read more →


Tax Season 2021 is finally here! The Internal Revenue Service has started accepting tax returns and, more importantly, is now processing the filings as of today, Friday, Feb. 12. Millions have already filed. Most of them used tax software, either on their own or through the Free File program, which the IRS and its tax prep partners opened up a month ago. Those 1040 forms have been on hold. Now they've been transmitted to the IRS. Others, however, still have some work to do. We're waiting for some tax statements to straggle in, either to our snail mail or email... Read more →


I'm willing to bet that line 30 will be one of the most scrutinized lines on the 2020 tax year Form 1040. That's where taxpayers can claim the new Recovery Rebate Credit, or RRC. The RRC is the official name of the money issued in 2020 and earlier this year as COVID-19 economic impact payments, or EIPs. The payments actually were advance payments on this tax credit. If you didn't get any or all of either EIP last year, you can claim it this filing season on the aforementioned and likely popular line 30. Depending on your actual income amount... Read more →


This might be a first. The Internal Revenue Service essentially is going to be every taxpayers' valentine this year. No, it's not because we love paying our taxes or the agency that collects them so much. It's because the IRS officially starts accepting and processing our 2020 tax returns on the Friday before St. Valentine's Weekend. That means many of us will be consumed by the Internal Revenue Code as we work to complete our 1040 forms and get them to the IRS ASAP. For many, the target date is the Feb. 12 official opening of this tax season. So... Read more →


Yes, I know very few filers use paper tax forms now. But even if you rely on tax software or a tax preparer, it's still worth a look at what's on Form 1040. There are some changes to the form and its three schedules for 2020 filings. (Photo by MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr CC) The 2020 Form 1040 makes it official. The never-really-a-postcard individual tax return is dead. This filing season, set to officially begin on Feb. 12, taxpayers and preparers will see a Form 1040 that looks very much like the two-page version that we tax veterans used to call... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service has delivered two rounds of COVID-19 economic impact payments (EIPs). The first was the $1,200 per person approved in late March 2020 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The second EIP for $600 per person was authorized at the end of last December as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), with payments distributed through the first two weeks of January 2021. By now, folks know that if they didn't get the full amounts, which included additional payments for eligible dependents, they need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC). You'll do... Read more →


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the federal government's largest refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income workers. In 2020, more than 25 million taxpayers received over $62 billion in EITC. The average EITC amount received last year was $2,461 per return. The EITC also is regularly overlooked. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that one of five eligible taxpayers do not claim the credit. That oversight could change this filing season. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed millions of American workers into lower income brackets last year as their work was reduced. That could make them eligible for this... Read more →


Photo by Kay Bell The 2021 filing season won't start until Feb. 12 this year. That's frustrating for the millions of taxpayers who traditionally are early return filers. It's more frustrating for those taxpayers who, because of COVID-19 complications (which also created this year's filing delay), are really counting on their tax refunds to cover expenses. This year's later than usual filing start means it is even more important to get those 1040 forms into the Internal Revenue Service as soon as the agency will take them. If you're still debating about when to file your taxes, here are seven... 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 →