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Federal and most state, tax returns are due in few days. Don't panic! You still have time to finish your return (or get an extension). If you do decide to just be done with your Form 1040 — new, but not necessarily improved this year under Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes — make sure you don't make any of these common filing errors in your rush to finish. For the most part, tax software has helped eliminate a lot of mistakes. Still, we're not yet at the total tax automation point yet. And that old garbage in, garbage... Read more →


The King by Kevin Pluck via Flickr We thought we wanted you March, but your "in like lion" approach this year is way too fierce. Severe weather roared through the south today, with a rash of tornadoes claiming lives and destroying property. Meanwhile, a serious winter storm is heading to the northeast, making March's appearance more like a snow leopard than a lion. The only good thing about this early spate of destructive weather is that it reminds us all to be ready for natural disasters. They happen year-round. And under the new tax law, you can claim any damages... Read more →


If you have a medical flexible spending account, or FSA, one of the key year-end tasks you need to take care of this month is ensuring that you don't lose any of this tax-free money. Yes, some employers give workers a 2½-month grace period, until March 15, to use the prior year's FSA funds. Others let their workers roll over up to $500 left in their medical accounts. Both of those options are at the discretion of the companies offering the tax-favored benefit. A lot of companies, however, still just take advantage of the use it or lose it rule.... Read more →


Welcome to Part 2 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 standard and itemized deductions, personal exemptions and limitations on these tax situations that apply to some taxpayers. 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. Internal Revenue Service data show that year after year, around 70 percent of filers claim the standard... Read more →


There's a tax bill, but there is no tax reform. There's still an estate tax. There are still (some) state and local itemized tax deductions. There's still an alternative minimum tax. And there are enough other tweaks to confuse filers and keep tax pros very busy over the next 12 (and more) months. Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) presides over the lone public hearing Dec. 13 of the House-Senate conference committee on H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Final House and Senate votes on the bill are planned for next week. Basically, the Republican tax bill... Read more →


U.S. families have been getting smaller in recent years, but some still have lots of children and they could end up being adversely affected by the tax law changes now under consideration. (Photo from the Forks Timber Museum Collection via Flickr) In selling their tax cuts to the American public, Republicans emphasize that the standard deduction amount is almost doubled. That sounds good. But that's not the whole story. You'll lose personal exemptions. For taxpayers, exemptions are excellent. That's especially the case for filers who have lots of dependents. Under current law, a tax exemption helps reduce your income so... Read more →


The tax dueling has officially begun. The Senate on Thursday, Nov. 9, released its answer to the House's H.R. 1, officially title the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. UPDATE, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017: The House passed H.R. 1. Prospects for the Senate's tax reform bill, however, are muddier. While resolving difference in the two doesn't demand quite as many steps as in the 10 Duel Commandments outlined in the still incredibly popular Broadway (and touring company) musical Hamilton, it's still going to be one of the biggest face-offs in recent Washington, D.C., legislative history. Here's a look at some of... Read more →


Welcome to Part 2 of the ol' blog's 2018 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Oct. 19 with a look at next year's — if there isn't tax reform or cuts by or before then — income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at standard and itemized deductions, personal exemptions and limitations on these tax situations that apply to some wealthier taxpayers. Note: The 2018 figures apply to 2018 returns that are due in 2019. New tax laws also have altered some of the 2018 amounts and are noted in the post below. For comparison purposes, you'll... Read more →


This post was updated March 27, 2018. If you've been paying attention to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with some Russians last summer, you know the White House has given two reasons for the get-together. The explanation that caught my tax eye was that the group talked about adoptions. The president's oldest son said that one of the Russian nationals came to Trump Tower to lobby for reversal of the Magnitsky Act. The law gets its name from attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 while being held in a Moscow prison. Foreign fight, domestic family effects: In 2012, the U.S.... Read more →


In his new book, "The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis — and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance," Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse says young people in the U.S. are failing to launch. He explained to Elaine Quijano on "Red & Blue" how we ended up here and what Americans can do to prepare for adulthood. (Click image to view CBSN video) Sen. Ben Sasse swears that his book is not just 320 pages of old man "get off my lawn" rants at neighbor kids. First of all, the 45-year-old Sasse is far from old. Plus, says the Nebraska... Read more →


This post was updated Feb. 11, 2018. You're married. You got married on Dec. 31. You're a parent. You take care of an aging parent. You're a single dad. You're divorced. You got divorced on Dec. 31. All of these personal situations can affect your tax filing status. So getting it right on your tax return is critical. Dad helps his children with their homework. If he's the only parent, he could have a couple of tax filing status choices depending on his personal situation. Why does filing status matter so much? It determines the amount of standard deduction you... Read more →


Oh, c'mon people! What is so hard about hiring a legal household worker and then paying the proper taxes for such help? Mother with a baby and toddler hauling, in her words, "a lot of crap." If she hires childcare help, she'll need to pay attention to nanny tax rules. (Photo by Mrs. Flinger via Flickr Creative Commons) However, some high-power folks with political aspirations apparently cannot get this right. Not even three weeks into the Trump Administration and we have a second nanny tax scofflaw. Puzder joins Mulvaney with household help issues: First there was the South Carolina Republican... Read more →


NOTE: This post was updated Nov. 22, 2017. Millions of us will be seeing our parents during Thanksgiving. For many, it's the first they've seen of mom and dad in months. Thanksgiving traditionally is a multi-generational celebration. But adult children might need to pay special attention to their aging parents over the holiday to gauge whether mom and dad now need some extra help. (Photo courtesy NealeA via Flickr Creative Commons) If you're heading to your parents' place this holiday and they're getting up there in years, it's a good time to make sure they're doing OK when you're not... Read more →


Welcome to Part 4 of the ol' blog's series on 2017 inflation adjustments. You can find links to all 2017 inflation posts in the first item: Income Tax Brackets and Rates. Today we look at changes to some popular credits and deductions. Note: The 2017 figures apply to 2017 returns that are due in 2018. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2016 amounts to be used in filing 2016 returns due next April. You can jump for joy like these youngsters if you can claim some of these popular inflation-adjusted credits and deductions. The key to paying the least tax... Read more →


If you thumb through Internal Revenue Service instructions -- since we all want to make sure we get our taxes right, who doesn't? -- you're likely to run across photos of missing children. Man answering phone at a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children call center. Click image for info on how you can help. This is a public service provided since 1999 by the IRS through its partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The photos, selected by the Center, are placed on tax document pages that otherwise be blank. As the text accompanying the... Read more →


Hey, May. You're supposed to be all about the flowers from last month's April showers. You can stop the rain and more any time now. Bluebonnets and more in a Central Texas field along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Kay Bell; art direction by the hubby. Yep, that old climatological adage is not quite accurate. May also brings plenty of showers. And hail. And tornadoes. That trend seems to be on track this year. Just two days into the month, and severe weather has moved from Central and flooded East Texas, where Houston was declared a major disaster area,... Read more →


This post was updated Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 Fake news. Alternative facts. We've all grown familiar with, and perhaps a big inured to, such phrases of late. Spinning language is something politicians have done for, well, forever. And it's not limited to just news. At tax time we hear a lot of things, especially on the internet, that we hope will help us make wise decisions when we file our taxes. But some of it is wrong. To fight this trend of alternative, fake tax facts, as well as brighten up your day a bit, I thought you might enjoy... Read more →


One way to survive working on your tax return with a deadline looming -- April 18 this year -- is to make sure you don't make any easily avoidable filing mistakes. Similarly, you don't want to overlook any tax breaks. I guess that technically omitting a tax claim could be considered a mistake, but for the sake of keeping things clear -- and for providing an added blog post topic! -- I've separated them. Searching for tax breaks? Below are 18. (James Corden GIF via CBS.com/Corden) And to save you time in your search for ways to cut your tax... Read more →


Twice the love, twice the early morning feedings and twice the tax breaks. That's what parents of twins can expect. And when the twins are born in different tax years, the earlier child's arrival provides tax breaks before mom and dad have to change a diaper. That's the unusual, but not unheard of, situation when one twin is born late on New Year's Eve and the sibling arrives early on New Year's Day. In fact, it happened twice -- that I know of -- on Dec. 31, 2015, and Jan. 1, 2016. And both doubly delightful deliveries were in Southern... Read more →


Welcome to the last week of 2015. The end of the calendar year is important not just for your New Year's Eve party planning purposes, but also because when it comes to most tax moves, Dec. 31 is a critical and firm deadline. So with the soon-to-be-old year rapidly winding down, here are 10 tax moves to make by Dec. 31. 1. Take your retirement account distribution. Most owners of tax-deferred retirement accounts who are age 70½ or older must take a specific amount out of their nest eggs by the end of the year or face stiff penalties. This... Read more →