Economy Feed

Some worry that smaller refunds will be a drag on our consumer-driven economy. There's a smidgen of good data news for the Internal Revenue Service. One category the tax agency tracks each filing season has moved into positive territory for 2019. For the week ending Feb. 15, the number of returns that were prepared and submitted directly by taxpayers hit 21.77 million. That was 18,000 more than the third week of the 2018 filing season, or a 0.1 percent increase from last year. Yay all y'all folks who plugged in your tax data on your own and hit send. Unfortunately,... Read more →


One of my favorite recent TV shows was The Americans, FX's series on embedded Russian spies during the 1980s Cold War. For six seasons, we fans watched the couple known to their suburban Washington, D.C. neighbors as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings raise their two U.S.-born children, run their small travel agency and spy, sometimes in deadly fashion, for their native U.S.S.R. One of the underlying themes was how well and easily the Jennings assimilated into the America they were trying to bring down. It's a common trope, but one done well and with nuance by the television program. A radio... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


The World, Mostly by Leif Kurth via Flickr CC Donald J. Trump got a lot of attention when he popped down to Texas last week for a midterm campaign rally. He told the Houston crowd that he was a nationalist. That term, he explained, describes the philosophy he's espoused since the get go of his presidential political life. He wants to put America first. There's nothing wrong with wanting your country to get the best deals and treatment in international relationships. But Trump also narrowly, and to my thinking incorrectly, defined globalists as people who want to put global issues... Read more →


It's called the dismal science, but Donald J. Trump's vision of the U.S. economy was anything but gloomy after the Commerce Department on July 27 reported gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the second quarter of the year was 4.1 percent. That's a welcome amount of growth based on the economy's broadest measure of goods and services. That's why it's this week's By the Numbers figure. But, say most of the practitioners of the dismal science, aka economists, let's not get carried away. They caution that while the latest measure of economic growth is good news for both U.S. businesses... Read more →


Losing your job. It's one of the worst things that can happen, especially when it comes as a total surprise. That's what folks who worked on Roseanne are dealing with after ABC pulled the plug on the rebooted sitcom. Being out of work is not so high-profile for most of us. But we all share the panic, anger and helplessness of suddenly losing the reason we get up every morning. To help you get through being let go, here are six steps you can take. And, of course, there are tax implications (nine total) for each of these post-job moves.... Read more →


Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, shown with some of his coworkers, was brought to the United States by his mother when he was just six. He is one of the almost 800,000 young people facing potential deportation if the Trump Administration revokes an Obama-instituted immigration leniency action. Click image to see the full NBC News report, via Twitter, on Contreras and the law. The White House is expected to make a decision on President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as soon as Tuesday, Sept. 5. UPDATE, Sept. 5: It's official. DACA is ending. In a press conference this... Read more →


Regardless of your thoughts, political or otherwise, when it comes to L'affaire Comey, most of us can relate to the recently fired FBI director. Like James Comey, we've at some point been out of job, either by our choice or because we, too, were let go. If that happens to you, here are five steps to take. And, of course, there are tax implications for each of the post-job moves. 1. File for unemployment. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, for example, a corporate downsizing, you should be eligible for unemployment. Depending on the circumstances,... Read more →


Would a tax break be enough to change your shopping habits? One Scandinavian country is hoping to test that theory, and possibly permanently reshape consumers' attitudes, when it comes to many common household goods. Brian Beatty of Zen Cog Bicycle Company in Jacksonville, Florida, repairs a bike. (Photo by Jax REcycle via Flickr) It's not a new idea. Taxes have been used for, well, forever to try to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. That's why we have sin taxes on things most of us agree are not good, like smoking. And that's why we get tax benefits for actions perceived... Read more →


Special tax treatment for businesses has received a lot of attention this week in the wake of the European Commission's ruling that Apple received illegal tax breaks from Ireland. Philadelphia, whose skyline is shown here, offers more business tax breaks than other major U.S. city. Now it must decide if that foregone tax money is worth it. (Photo by Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia Commons) Daniel Shaviro, law professor at New York University and author of the tax (and more) blog Start Making Sense, notes that Apple's $14.5 billion of under-taxation over 10 years divided by 60,000 jobs (6,000 per year... Read more →


I'm a big movie fan. I also am a personal finance/tax nut. So it's a big day for me as those two worlds converge. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced its nominees for its annual Golden Globe awards. Two financially-themed movies, "99 Homes" and "The Big Short," were tabbed. Christian Bale, nominated for a Golden Globe as best lead actor, rocking out in a scene from "The Big Short." Both films are based on the housing industry collapse that followed the reckless subprime mortgages banks handed out right and left during the 2000s. That led to the disastrous (and... Read more →


If you thought you just watched the Republican presidential candidates go after each other (and the moderators), you're right. They debated, so to speak, economic issues, sort of, on Oct. 28. But they're back tonight. The eight top-polling Republican presidential hopefuls will face each other in Milwaukee in the fourth GOP debate. And the announced topic is, once again, economic issues, including taxes. Ben Carson has been on a book signing tour (pictured at an event in Wichita Falls, Texas; click image to view News Talk 1290's YouTube video, which includes Carson comments on the tax code), but he's made... Read more →


Last week's jobs report for October was surprisingly good. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent, its lowest level since 2008 and half of the 10 percent rate in the wake of the financial crisis. If predictions are correct for seasonal hires this year, even more workers could be having a merrier than usual Christmas. Businesses in San Antonio are following the national trend in hiring for the holiday season. Click image to see KSAT-ABC's report. But that holiday joy could be dashed at tax filing time if you don't pay attention to how you are classified by your temporary... Read more →


Greece, despite another bailout from Eurozone lenders, is still struggling to get its economy together. Now it faces another internal threat: bartering. The New York Times reports that as the Mediterranean country "grapples with a continued downturn, bartering is gaining traction at the margins of the economy" because money is just not readily available. Liz Alderman writes: "Graphic artists are exchanging designs for olive oil. Accountants swap advice for office supplies. In the agricultural heartland and on the Greek islands, informal bartering, which has historically helped communities survive, has intensified as more people exchange fruits, vegetables, other crops, equipment, clothing... Read more →


Many workers, me among them, enjoy being independent contractors. Businesses also like these arrangements. It relieves them of having to pay the employer's portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, state unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. Plus, there are no workplace benefits to cover. All those costs of hiring a person as a full-time employee can, by some estimates, increase a company's payroll costs by 30 percent or more. So it's not surprising that sometimes companies improperly categorize theirs workers as contractors when they really treat them as employees. Uber, the popular transportation option available contracted via its smartphone app,... Read more →


Today is the day this year when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total 2015 tax bill, according to data analysts at the Tax Foundation. Are you partying? Economists at the Washington, D.C., think tank have been calculating Tax Freedom Day since 1990. They use federal budget projections, data from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and projections of state and local taxes. Click image for a larger view. Tax Freedom Day 2015 is one day later than last year, notes the Tax Foundation, primarily because of the United States' continued... Read more →


The U.S. economy finally appears to be on an upward track. That's good news for the millions of folks who took serious financial hits during the persistent recession that began in 2008. Things were so bad back then that even the Internal Revenue Service decided to lend a helping hand. In 2009, the IRS showed its more compassionate side to taxpayers facing financial challenges, which included having difficulty paying their tax-due balances. The IRS committed to being more flexible in working with taxpayers having trouble paying Uncle Sam because of factors related to the weak economy. Thus began the Fresh... Read more →


It's a dual Groundhog Day this year. There's the traditional meteorological news, which, by the way, is bad. Punxsutawney Phil says we're looking at more winter. An apparently sleepy Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his weather prediction. The final word: Phil saw his shadow, so we're in for six more weeks of winter. Full story and video at Weather Underground. This year, we also get the federal fiscal replay on official Groundhog Day. This is the one where the president issues his annual budget and the members of the opposing political party declare it dead on arrival. Political process replay:... Read more →


Back in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis began, homeowners were literally walking away from their residences. Predatory lenders lured unqualified buyers with subprime mortgages that backfired horrendously for financial institutions and homeowners alike. Those who managed to stay in their homes were deep underwater on the mortgage loan amount. It seemed for the last five or so years that the American homeownership dream, while not dead, was on life support. The patient, however, appears to be making a recovery. Housing markets are picking up in some parts of the country. A recent survey by housing... Read more →


The hubby and I performed our annual holiday ritual today. We bought some toys for Austin area kids who might otherwise find no presents under their Christmas trees on Dec. 25. Our December contributions are to the Blue Santa program, which partners with several local businesses to raise money and collect the toy donations. We always drop ours off at our neighborhood Chuy's restaurant. That way we get to eat Tex-Mex as a reward for our good deed. Presents price tag: We noticed that the goodies jammed in our shopping cart were a bit more expensive than last year's batch.... Read more →