Politics Feed

In remarks on the Senate Floor, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley used visual aides to illustrate all the sectors of the U.S. economy he says benefit from the expired tax breaks known as extenders. Click image to watch Grassley's full comments via YouTube. Many Congressional actions often are viewed as cartoonish, but the Senate's leading tax writer actually invoked a classic Sunday funnies image to describe the current status of more than two dozen tax breaks. "I remain committed to acting as soon as possible so taxpayers who have relied on these provisions in 2018 don’t end up feeling... Read more →


School has already started in many places, but one state is still holding a sales tax holiday for folks looking to get a tax bargain on children's (and actually anyone's) clothing and shoes. Connecticut's qualifying items will be tax-free through Aug. 24. We Americans just can't seem to slow down, even during the traditional summer vacation season. We always are looking ahead. School's just been out a few weeks in most places and already ads for back-to-school sales are showing up in our television shows, print publications (yeah, a few are still around and read by some of us) and... Read more →


In one tax world case, it does appear that the third time really is a charm. A recent Internal Revenue Service report says that its latest use of private bill collectors to bring in old unpaid taxes is working. In fact, this latest iteration has produced enough additional money to allow the IRS to hire new in-house employees. Third time's a collection charm: The use of private collection agencies, or PCAs as they are known in tax acronymese, was restarted in 2017 after being mandated as part of a 2015 transportation law. It's the third attempt after two previous PCA... Read more →


Do you simultaneously use multiple digital devices? Me, too. Our online addictions are big money for tech giants and now France and other European nations want to get a piece of the tax pie from the global conpanies. Poor Facebook and Twitter and Google. (You noticed the sarcasm font, right?) They were shut out of Donald J. Trump's Social Media Summit on Thursday, July 11, which didn't end too, well, sociably. Worse, that same day France approved a measure to tax the tech giants. Since most of us live inordinately digital lives nowadays, I'm giving an early Saturday Shout Out,... Read more →


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was created more than 40 years ago as a way to give lower-earning workers a tax break. But from the get-go, the EITC has been problematic. Now, just weeks before the National Taxpayer Advocate retires, her office has offered Congress some suggestions on how to improve the tax credit, as well as how it can be more effectively administered. Some tax credit history: The way we got to today's EITC is almost as complicated and intricate as the tax break itself. When created in 1975, the EITC was supposed to be a temporary tax... Read more →


Photo courtesy frankieleon via Flickr CC On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, marking the newly-formed America's official break from British colonial rule. We all know that taxes and the original Tea Partiers were a major part of the creation of the United States. But what is less well-known is why communities across the country tonight will celebrate the nation's birthday by setting of pyrotechnic displays. Because Founding Father John Adams said so. Adams as early fireworks advocate: On July 3, 1776, a day after the Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted for independence (the declaration document itself... Read more →


Filling up photo by Jackson Lavarnway via Flickr CC If you're reading this, you're probably already clock watching. The Fourth of July holiday is less than two days away and, if you've got an accommodating boss, you'll get a nice long weekend. But until then, you're at your desk. When you do finally take off for your July 4th celebrations, you'll likely hit the road. That means you have two concerns. First, how bad will traffic be? Second, what will it cost me to fill up my tank? Spoiler alert, traffic will be crazy. Spoiler alert redux, motorists who live... Read more →


These pups probably would be cooler inside under the A/C instead of atop the condenser. As a general rule, your cooling system works better when you keep the outside air conditioning unit clear of everything, including pets! Summer's been official for just a week, but folks in many areas have been dealing with hot temperatures for a while. Some, including my neighbors who've had air conditioning repair trucks parked in front of their houses for what seems like weeks, already are feeling the often costly effects of warmer weather. That's why it's a good time to think about tuning up... Read more →


Photo courtesy Vaping360.com In just more than six months, San Francisco will become the first U.S. city to ban vaping. The city's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on June 25 to outlaw the sale, distribution and manufacturing of vaping products. The ban is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 2020. It will last at least until the federal Food and Drug Administration reviews the safety of e-cigarettes. That, according to some estimates, could take another three years. The six-month delay is designed to give retailers time to remove the product, which is increasingly popular with younger people, from their... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, shown here in a screen shot from an earlier C-SPAN appearance, takes parting shot at 'woefully inadequate' IRS customer service in her final report to Congress before she retires in July. Nina E. Olson is nothing if not consistent. The problem for taxpayers with this trait is that it means much of the change to and improvement of the Internal Revenue Service that Olson has championed for almost two decades remains unfinished. Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), at least for another few weeks. She was appointed to the IRS oversight post in... Read more →


House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) opens today's (June 20, 2019) hearing on tax extenders and disaster tax relief. (Screen shot of official W&M YouTube hearing). UPDATE, June 21, 2019: After almost more than 11 hours of discussion, the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, June 20, passed along a 25-to-17 party-line vote a measure to extend through 2020 a variety of tax breaks that expired in 2017 and 2018 or will expire at the end of this year. The bill also provides tax relief for those who affected by certain major natural disasters. The House... Read more →


When it comes to expired tax laws, Congress is in much the same situation as the builders of this unfinished bridge. The basics are there, but there's still work to be done. (Photo by Paul Mannix via Flickr CC) UPDATE, June 21, 2019: After almost more than 11 hours of discussion, the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, June 20, passed along a 25-to-17 party-line vote a measure to extend through 2020 a variety of tax breaks that expired in 2017 and 2018 or will expire at the end of this year, some of which are highlighted in this... Read more →


Image courtesy SimpsonsWorld via Giphy.com The IRS reform bill could not have come at a better time, based on a recent report from the federal tax agency oversight office. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the IRS gave its taxpayer telephone assistance program better grades than it deserved. IRS customer service improvements planned: Each year, millions of taxpayers call the IRS toll-free telephone assistance lines seeking help to understand the tax laws and meet their tax obligations, notes TIGTA. Telephone assistance is one of the agency's crucial customer services, but the methods the IRS uses to... Read more →


IRS building photo by Kari Bluff via Flickr CC The Taxpayer First Act, which is awaiting the president's signature to become law was signed into law on July 1, got a lot of attention for what wasn't in it. The controversial section that would have codified the Free File Alliance was removed in the bill's revised House version, which was approved by voice vote in that chamber on June 10. Three days later, the Senate approved the reworked bill, also by voice vote, and sent it to the White House. Opponents of the formalized Free File section argued that it... Read more →


Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (top row, center), is looking to renew at least some expired tax provisions, known as extenders. The ranking Republican on the House tax-writing panel, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas (top row, right) is not impressed with Neal's proposal. (Photo courtesy House Ways and Means Democrats Facebook page) Is it finally the end for extenders? Yes, no or maybe, depending on who you ask. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say enough is enough with the perpetually renewed technically temporary tax breaks known as extenders. They... Read more →


Checking out food bank offerings. (Photo by Michael Losch-KOMUnews via Flickr CC) All of us here in Texas, especially lovers of Mexican beers and avocados, are breathing a bit easier now that the threatened tariffs on our Southern neighbor are, for now, off the table. The Chinese trade situation, however, is still simmering. As that standoff continues, American shoppers are paying higher prices for many consumer goods. That's because tariffs essentially are taxes. The higher prices we're already seeing due to the Chinese charges could go up even more if the self-proclaimed Tariff Man holds firm in his belief that... Read more →


Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when his party pushed through tax reform in December 2017, celebrates in June 2018 the six-month anniversary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A new Congressional report, however, doesn't have much positive to say about the new tax law's first-year economic effects. During the rushed, ahem, debate of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in late 2017, its Republican sponsors touted the bill's economic benefits. The cuts to U.S. businesses would prompt more domestic investments. Workers would get bonuses and/or raises. This would speed up the... Read more →


The Alchemist, an 80-foot motor yacht photographed by D Ramey Logan, would qualify for a substantial sales tax break under a new Texas law awaiting the governor's signature. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0) Texas lawmakers say the property tax reform bill they've sent to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk will slow the increases homeowners have complained about for years. The Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act, which if enacted will require cities, counties and other taxing units to get voters' OK before levying new taxes. We shall see if what's been worked out on paper in Austin's... Read more →


Donald J. Trump is golfing this Memorial Day weekend, this time with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe during Trump's visit to that nation. (Photo courtesy Japan Prime Minister Instagram account) Memorial Day weekend obviously is about honoring the men and women who died in service to our country. But it's also a major recreational weekend. Folks will be taking time to spend with family and friends and, in many cases, enjoying their favorite avocations. For some, that's a round of golf, not to mention a few rounds at the 19th hole. Trump's links love: Golf gets a lot of attention... Read more →


Gold Star families aren't the only ones facing unexpectedly higher taxes under kiddie tax changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Some students who receive college scholarships or grants now face bigger tax bills, too, under the tax reform law that took full effect in 2018. Previously, scholarships or grants for nontuition expenses like room and board were taxed at the same marginal rate that the students' parents paid. That meant lower- and middle-income students generally paid lower tax rates on the educational financial assistance. But the TCJA now applies the higher trust and estates tax rate, which... Read more →