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My mother and my furry little brother Willie having a conversation. While walking Willie last October, my mom fell and broke her leg, a common occurrence among older dog owners. That accident has prompted ongoing discussions (OK, fights) on possible more hands-on care options for my octogenarian mother. (Photo by Kay Bell) I'm a cat person. Fight me. Or don't. Like cats, I'm not really concerned about your pet opinion. For almost a decade, though, I've been dealing with a dog. Not mine. My mom's. She has a dog, Willie, and he's the most spoiled animal I have ever known.... Read more →


The National Taxpayer Advocate this year selected 21 major problems that taxpayers encounter in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. I found five of those issues particularly troublesome. Every year, the National Taxpayer Advocate issue a report to Congress. The 2018 version released this week included a look at, not surprising, how the recent government shutdown affected not only Internal Revenue Service operations, but also the taxpayers who, particularly at this time of year, are relying on IRS services. Part of that annual report also includes at least 20 tax matters that the Taxpayer Advocate identifies as the most... Read more →


I never seem to be able to submit our joint Form 1040 early in the filing season, partly because I have to sort through all this material to fill out the forms! There are many reasons why millions of taxpayers procrastinate when it comes to submitting their annual returns. Much of the time, those excuses aren't good. But there are some times when you shouldn't rush to finish your Form 1040 early in the filing season, even if you're expecting a tax refund. Here are six reasons to wait a bit before filing: 1. To get your return right. Doing... Read more →


National EITC Awareness Day was Jan. 25. Did you miss it? Probably. It's not a federal holiday, but rather the day each year when the Internal Revenue Service celebrates the tax benefits the Earned Income Tax Credit, the full name of the aforementioned acronym. It's also a time that the IRS tries to get the word out about the EITC. This year, though, the IRS' message about this tax break for lower-income workers got drowned out. EITC Day 2019 fell on the day that the longest government shutdown in U.S. history came to an end. So most attention, tax and... Read more →


Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are getting a divorce. I know, it's hard to feel too bad for folks who are so wealthy. They tend to come through difficult circumstances quite well. But the joint announcement today (on Twitter, of course) from the world's richest man and his soon-to-be ex-wife got me thinking about, of course, taxes. By making the decision to end their marriage in 2019, Bezos is losing a tax break while Mrs. Bezos is getting one. As I said, I'm sure neither Mr. or Mrs. Bezos won't suffer too much. Both he and his wife will have lots... Read more →


Close-up of National Geographic United States wall map. Click image to see all 50 states. Most states tend to operate on fiscal years, with July 1 being an effective date for a lot of law change State leaders, however, realize that their residents follow the Gregorian calendar, so they still make Jan. 1 the effective date for major revisions of law. I was surfing the Web on New Year's Day — doesn't everybody?!? — and ran across some interesting state tax law changes that took effective with the arrival of 2019. Below is a look at what I found. New... Read more →


While millions of folks worldwide were greeting 2019's arrival, many were awaiting a more personal welcome for the planet's newest residents. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 395,000 children will be born today, Jan. 1, 2019. There's always much to-do over babies who arrive right after midnight on New Year's Day. Much-needed tax breaks for parents: But for tax purposes, as long as a child is born or adopted any time during a tax year, be it on the first day or Dec. 31, the youngster could mean tax benefits for the new parents. Those tax... Read more →


Change is the only constant, as the old saying goes, and that's as true on the last day of the year as it is on the first. Those changes also could mean changes to your taxes, as some life-altering situations on Dec. 31 affect your taxes for the preceding 364 days. Take, for example, tying the knot. If you get married today, congratulations. Have a spectacular combined wedding reception and New Year's Eve party. Also get ready after the confetti and toasts to deal with some filing changes to your 2018 taxes. Your new Dec. 31 husband or wife status... Read more →


Yes, I'll get to the tax moves to make by Dec. 31. Keep reading. But first I've just got to vent about some confusing year-end tax move info making the television and internet rounds. There's a tax feature that I've seen twice on local television and a couple of times online as a video with accompanying text and it's driving me crazy! It's about purportedly tax-saving moves to make in the last few days of 2018. Good idea. Confusing information. Specifically, one of the points is about charitable giving, which long-time readers know I'm a big fan of from both... Read more →


Those of us of a certain age — translation: before video games, handheld devices and Wi-Fi equipped cars — staved off road trip boredom with a variety of games. One was counting the various auto makes and models we came across in our travels. The hubby and I found ourselves doing a version of that last week when we were out running errands. It happened organically when we noticed there were an awful lot of Teslas on Austin's roads. My Central Texas neighbors are not alone in loving Elon Musk's electric auto. The Internal Revenue Service confirmed the national popularity... Read more →


Contributing to a 529 plan is one tax move you need to work into your hectic year-end holiday schedule since most states require you do so by Dec. 31 in order to claim associated state tax benefits on your next tax return. We're almost halfway through December. Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Sorry, but I'm here to add to it. As I've already nagged suggested back in November and earlier this month, you need to take care of some year-end tax tasks, too. One of those tax moves — contributing to a youngster's 529 plan — is worth another... Read more →


If any of these expired tax breaks apply to you and they're not renewed by year's end, wait a bit to file your 2018 return next year. By delaying your filing until they're retroactively renewed, you'll save yourself additional hassles. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States was laid to rest today, marking the end of commemorations of his life and years of public service. The elder President Bush's death also brought the lame duck session of Congress to an almost complete halt, meaning that many measure lawmakers — particularly Republicans — had hoped to push through... Read more →


No messy splash back in fueling a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle outside a Go Forth showroom in Portland, Oregon. It's that not very jolly time of year in Washington, D.C. Representatives and Senators are back in town for a few weeks to wrap up necessary legislation before heading home for the holidays. Political fights ensue. The session drags on until it's nearly Christmas. Or after. Members of Congress and staff stuck at work instead of making merry with family and friends and not happy. Neither are taxpayers who are wondering what literal year-end changes to tax laws lawmakers will make,... Read more →


Welcome to Part 4 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Nov. 15 with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at changes to credit and deduction amounts. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns to be filed in 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing 2018 returns due April 15, 2019. Taxpayers depend each year on tax deductions and tax credits to cut their annual tax bills. The biggies are, of course, the use of standard or itemized deductions... Read more →


Updated Nov. 15, 2018 Welcome to Part 3 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Nov. 15 with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at allowable annual retirement plan contributions amounts and, for some taxpayers, tax deduction options and limitations. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns to be filed in 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing 2018 returns due April 15, 2019. If this is how you want to spend all your post-work days, you need to... Read more →


Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) during a Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill she introduced. Another Harris proposal, this time a tax credit for middle-income taxpayers, has caught the White House's attention. (Photo courtesy Kamala Harris Twitter account) It's official. Unofficially. The 2020 presidential campaign is underway. Last week, California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris introduced her LIFT (Livable Incomes for Families Today) the Middle Class Act. The bill's most notable feature is a refundable tax credit of up to $6,000. Tax-savvy folks know a tax credit is better than a deduction because it provides a dollar-for-dollar way to cut your tax... Read more →


My octogenarian mother does an amazing job of taking care of herself and her little dog, aka my furry younger brother. My mother and her pup come to our place, like the Thanksgiving visit pictured here, but usually it's me taking time from work to head her way. (Photo by Kay Bell) But since she no longer drives and hates to impose on friends and neighbors, I make regular trips to her place to help her run errands, take her to doctor appointments and just visit. It's not too much of a hassle because she lives relatively close and it's... Read more →


Do you have thoughts about the Internal Revenue Service's plan to stymie state efforts to work around the new $10,000 federal deduction limit on state and local taxes? You are not alone. On Aug. 23, the IRS issued a proposed rule designed to rein in state efforts to give their residents a way to get a tax write-off for all of their state and local taxes, commonly referred to in the tax world as SALT. In that same announcement, the IRS also said it will hold a Nov. 5 public hearing on its proposal regulation and, leading up to that... Read more →


The hubby works on what he calls the Law of Two. Basically, he says, it takes (at least) two tries to get anything done properly. I thought of his unofficial law as I read the Internal Revenue Service's clarification of one of its earlier clarifications. Tax geeks already know I'm talking about the IRS and Treasury declaration a couple of weeks ago regarding state tax credit programs tied to taxpayer deduction of state and local taxes, referred to as SALT. Less tax to deduct: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the itemized SALT deduction, which includes individual payments of... Read more →


Trees in September will see their first fall color. (Photo by Jonathan Bloy courtesy Bloy.net) Hello, September. It's nice to have you back. You are a month that offers mostly-welcome transitions. There are beginnings, as students start a new school year. Parents nationwide say "thank you!" There are endings, as summer gives way to fall's cooler temps and foliage changes. Those of us tired of heat waves want to know what took you so long!?! There are expectations, as the end of the year and its many holidays approach. It's never too early to start planning for these. My Christmas... Read more →