Economy Feed

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created to help small businesses continue to operate in the face of COVID-19 complications. Its execution, however, has been a mixed bag for many businesses and their tax pros, not always working as smoothly as its creators had hoped. Still, the forgivable loan program has its fans. And those worried about its impeding March 31 expiration can rest easier. The Senate last week agreed to the House bill extending the PPP. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. When that's done, borrowers will be able to apply for... Read more →


The third round of coronavirus economic impact payments are on their way. So are con artists trying to convince financially strapped folks that there are easier ways to get the government payments of up to $1,400 per person. Don't fall for the lies. Some of the just-approved $1,400 COVID-19 relief payments will be delivered by local postal carriers. Others will get their coronavirus cash by direct deposit or Treasury-authorized debit cards. Be on the lookout for the payments, as well as crooks trying to steal them and your identity. The latest COVID-19 economic relief plan, officially known as the American... 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 →


It's National Margarita Day! Each Feb. 22, the focus is on appreciating this popular tequila-based cocktail. Or as we call it here in Texas, every day. FX/FXX TV's spy-turned-private detective Sterling Archer offers his margarita recipe. If, however, you're looking for a drink that's a bit more elaborate that the basic one preferred by the animated (in so, so many ways!) and self-absorbed bon vivant, check out the Cooking Channel's top 28 margarita recipes. Personally, I prefer beer. But if a 'rita is your drink, I hope you enjoy a safe happy hour today — I hear they are quite... Read more →


There's some good news for people paying student loans. Shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden's directed the Department of Education to continue loan payment relief. The next day, the Department complied. "At the request of President Biden, the Acting Secretary of Education will extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0%," noted the brief statement on the Education Department's website. The Education Department announcement also reiterated the reason cited by Biden: the economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden's Student Loan Executive Order Issued... Read more →


UPDATE, Dec. 29, 2020, 4:20 p.m. CST: Good news for those who saw their unemployment benefits lapse by the delayed signing of the second COVID relief bill. The Department of Labor say they will get the full 11 weeks of benefits, although most will have to wait a few weeks for state agencies to reprogram the package's provisions into their computers. To reflect this decision, the original headline "Millions out of luck and money as federal unemployment assistance ends" was changed. UPDATE, Dec. 27, 2020, 7:34 p.m. CST: The presidential COVID bill holdout is over. Donald J. Trump tonight signed... Read more →


Add "The 12 Days of Christmas" to the list of things that were affected by the coronavirus pandemic this year. No, not the iconic holiday song. That's still around. But some of the lyrics took a hit when they were evaluated in 2020 for the annual PNC Christmas Price Index (PNC CPI). For this 37th look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Consumer Price Index and how it applies to procuring the song's 12 gifts from a True Love, The PNC Financial Services Group had to make some hard choices. Notably, the 2020 PNC CPI had to adjust for... Read more →


Christmas at the computer. (Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels) You've adjusted to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Now are you ready for the virtual office holiday party? That's the route some companies are taking as they try to hang on to some semblance of seasonal traditions. Fewer parties, some virtual: Plans for any type of office holiday party are, not surprisingly, down dramatically from last year. In 2019, nearly 76 percent of companies planned year-end events. This year, just 23 percent of businesses are planning parties, with almost three-quarters of the 2020 festivities expected to be virtual,... Read more →


One of the many U.S. Capitol ornaments that adorn our Christmas tree each year. (Photo by Kay Bell) We all have our holiday traditions. That includes Congress. Almost every year, Representatives and Senators return to Washington, D.C. in December to take care of must-pass legislation. This year, there are two big items on the legislative to-do list. One is to approve federal government funding for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year. Without that money, Uncle Sam's offices nationwide will shut down (again). That's definitely the Congressional equivalent of Santa putting coal in stockings! The other issue is another COVID-19... Read more →


Photo by Emanuel Kluge via Flickr CC Could the COVID-19 pandemic produce changes in tax systems worldwide? That's what one global economic group thinks could and should happen. There's no argument about the revenue problems caused by the coronavirus in 2020. They are being felt acutely as we head into the heart of the year's holiday season. In addition to the coronavirus' disruption of traditional get-togethers due to health concerns, there's the pandemic's financial component. COVID-19 business cutbacks and closures have left too many with reduced, or no, paychecks. Businesses that are open are seeing fewer customers because of those... Read more →


Congressional leaders are continuing to discuss at least some form of coronavirus relief package. Right now, the idea is to include any pandemic help as part of a spending bill that will keep the federal government open past Dec. 11. Things are still fluid. Right now, it looks like there won't be a second stimulus check, at least in the waning days of the current Congress and White House Administration. But there is a tax proposal that might encourage more of us to give to charities that are trying to pick up the slack — and pieces of people's lives... Read more →


Among those who need to pay particular attention to this coronavirus money deadline are some college students, families who get government benefits and homeless individuals. If you didn't get a COVID-19 economic relief payment or didn't get all to which you were entitled, you can still apply for the financial help this year. But act soon. Really soon. The deadline to let the Internal Revenue Service know you're due some of the relief money is 3 p.m. this coming Saturday, Nov. 21. Note not only the date but also the time. That's 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, not your local... Read more →


Remote work has been among the many COVID-related challenges of 2020. Many employees have appreciated the added flexibility and no commute. Those who aren't that social say they've been more productive since they haven't had to spend time schmoozing with coworkers and bosses. The experience has many workers and companies exploring whether widespread working from home will — or should — continue once the coronavirus pandemic is under control. It's also raised tax questions, including an intriguing and unexpected one. A major European bank says that employees who work from home (WFH) should pay for the opportunity via a new... Read more →


Photo by Erik Mclean via Pexels.com Will the lame duck Congress finally give struggling individuals and businesses a second round of COVID-19 economic relief? That ultimate answer could be as confusing and convoluted as the election aftermath we're now watching play out in key presidential election battleground states. That Capitol Hill action is being anxiously awaited by individual taxpayers who've lost income during the pandemic, as well as by small business owners looking for a legislative tweak to make the coronavirus loan help they did get more palatable at tax time. Early relief was easy: The first relief measure, the... Read more →


A White Walker with an ice spear from the HBO show Game of Thrones. A North Carolina man allegedly took his love of the Game of Thrones books and television program too far. He's been charged by federal officials of trying to steal $6.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by setting up fake companies, some of which were named after the popular fantasy series, referred to as GoT by its millions of fans. Tristan Bishop Pan of Garner, North Carolina, has been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, according to officials with... Read more →


Millions of U.S. government employees in federal buildings across the country, like this one Sacramento, California, are being forced to participate in the Trump Administration's partial payroll tax deferral. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing their efforts to cobble together a second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. Some people, however, don't want the ostensible financial relief they're already getting. They are among the federal workers and military members who've had the Social Security portion of their Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes automatically suspended. Forty-three Representatives say they've heard from these constituents who are... Read more →


Most states' final quarter of fiscal year 2020 took a revenue hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But their annual tax collections, which were probably mostly electronic instead of as official state quarters, wasn't as bad as many had feared. (Photo — and coin collection — by Kay Bell) Most states wrapped up their 2020 fiscal year (FY) on June 30. As you might expect, those annual financial numbers were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is surprising, however, is that states' revenue situations weren't as bad as many had feared given the tax issues created by the coronavirus. Fourth-quarter... Read more →


Labor Day is the time to recognize the contributions of workers. It's one of the United States' oldest official commemorations, with Uncle Sam in 1894 making the first Monday of September a legal federal holiday. In this age of consumerism, however, the meaning of Labor Day and other holidays, official or not, often takes a back seat to associated retail sales. The bargains this year, though, are a bit different. Pandemic precautions have pushed even more shoppers online. COVID-19 closures for good: The country's shift to digital transactions already was well underway before COVID-19 appeared in the United States. But... Read more →


Donald J. Trump's payroll tax deferral for employees technically took effect this week. But most employees shouldn't expect to see a minimal raise in their next paychecks. The reason is that few businesses jumped right in there on Sept. 1, the effective date of Trump's Aug. 8 White House memo, to stop withholding their workers' 6.2 percent portion of pay that goes toward the Social Security trust fund. Employers' reluctant choice: Yes, the decision to temporarily stop this segment of payroll withholding is voluntary on the part of companies. Employees, however, don't have the choice of opting in or, if... Read more →


The vehicle lights coming and going across Pennybacker Bridge in northwest Austin are lovely in the evening, but the image also illustrates, as photographer Manuel Garza (via Flickr) notes, "the traffic sucks." I can't speak for all the country's suburbs, but I know mine is pretty sure that our neighborhood will still be around after the coming presidential election even if Joe Biden does move into the White House. We are, however, a bit concerned about how our continuing life here outside Austin's downtown might be affected by a proposed real estate tax increase that also will be on our... Read more →