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Welcome to Part 9 of the ol' blog's 2020 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Nov. 6 with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at how much tax penalties could cost you or your tax preparer next year. Note: The 2020 figures in this post apply to 2020 returns to be filed in 2021. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2019 amounts to be used in filing 2019 returns due April 15, 2020. IRS agents don't throw flags like football referees, but the tax agency isn't afraid to blow the whistle... Read more →


Welcome to Part 2 of the ol' blog's 2020 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Nov. 6 with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at standard and itemized deductions, certain limitations on some Schedule A claims and the sort-of still around personal exemption amount. Note: The 2020 figures in this post apply to 2020 returns to be filed in 2021. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2019 amounts to be used in filing 2019 returns due April 15, 2020. Historically, around 70 percent of filers have claimed the standard deduction on... Read more →


It's that time of year again. Actually, that time was at 2 a.m. today (Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019). That's when most of us said goodbye to Daylight Saving Time and hello to the return of Standard Time. As we deal with the timepiece trickery, a lot of us (me!) suffer a sort of jet lag as our body clocks adjust to the new time and impending earlier arrival of sunsets. But the fall back to Standard Time also is a good reminder that standard is a good thing for millions of taxpayers. A couple of tax standards, the standard deduction... Read more →


These ghostly trick-or-treating dogs are more cuddly than scary. But ghost tax preparers can be terrifying. Don't let one haunt you. There's one thing that scares the Internal Revenue Service and taxpayers alike. Tax scams. One such ploy that popped up during the summer is making rounds again this Halloween season in a new, shall we say, costume. It's the one where the calling crook pretends to be from the Social Security Administration. "In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim's SSN. It's yet another... Read more →


Halloween is almost here. Are you still looking for a costume? Here's a suggestion. Go as the Internal Revenue Service. On this annual night of frights, Uncle Sam's tax collector offers plenty of scares. Here are four terrifying tax situations to get you in a Halloween mood. Be afraid, but also be prepared, on this Oct. 31 as well as year-round. 1. Audit: There's no need to build up to this scare, which can occur any time of the year. Fear of an IRS audit is one of the biggest tax terrors for most people, even (or maybe especially) those... Read more →


Around 2 million Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) must be renewed by year's end. Here's a look at these special tax identification numbers, who uses them and how to renew or get one if you're not eligible for a Social Security number. Numbers obviously are what the Internal Revenue Service is all about. There are special identification numbers for a variety of tax circumstances. There are earnings amounts and tax code references and line numbers on forms and of, course, identification numbers of both tax professionals and taxpayers that must go on returns. For most individual filers, a Social Security... Read more →


It's Columbus Day. Stop. Before you start with the emails, yes, I know this second Monday in October is a controversial holiday. In recent years, many jurisdictions beyond the federal government have opted to spend today commemorating the original inhabitants of our country. That's why you'll read and hear about Indigenous Peoples' Day events today. pic.twitter.com/l2LymtmS2J — Bobby (@Bobbyobbo) October 14, 2019 But, like it or not, today still is officially Columbus Day, a celebration of Christopher Columbus' accidental discovery of North America. And it's still a federal holiday in the United States. Holiday tax effects: A federal holiday can... Read more →


Attention, tax preparers. Next week is a big one. The filing extension deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 15. Then the very next day, the renewal season opens for paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) applications and renewals. Also note that while there won't be any requirement to pay a user fee to obtain or renew a PTIN, this likely is the last time that the identification number assignments will be free. Last week, as the U.S. Supreme Court began its new term, the justices decided not to hear the case that reinstated the fees for PTINs. That means the ruling affirming... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers will be working on their 2018 tax returns this weekend, frantically filling out forms to meet the Oct. 15 filing extension deadline. Some of them will likely take advantage of Free File, the Internal Revenue Service partnership with the tax software industry that allows eligible filers — this year that's those whose adjusted gross income is $66,000 or less — to prepare and electronically file their returns at no cost. Free File came under fire earlier this year when Pro Publica reported that some of the tax prep major players that participate it the program also used... Read more →


You've now got one week, until next Tuesday, Oct. 15, to file your 2018 Form 1040 that you extended earlier this year. During these next seven days, you need to at least get a start on that return. The deadline will be here before you know it. And this time, there's no more time. Here are 9 tips and reminders to help you get that 1040 on its way to the IRS by next week. 1. Gather all your tax material. By now you should have every document you need to file your taxes. Double check. Now. There's no give... Read more →


Relationships, even in the best of circumstances, are hard. When one partner is abusive, then things get untenable. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and similar groups are highlighting the victims and survivors, their children and families, their friends and family and their communities that are impacted by domestic violence. More importantly, these organizations are providing assistance and counseling to those in abusive relationships and looking for ways to leave them. Financial as well as physical abuse: While most of us immediately think of physical harm when we hear of... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service's form revision process isn't quite the red-pencil technique used on text documents, but it gets the job done. The latest group of revised tax forms will affect corporate taxpayers. (Photo via pxhere) Many business taxpayers and their tax advisers are working this week on the Form 1120 returns that that they extended until Oct. 15. Next year, though, these corporate filers will be looking at a new return. The Internal Revenue Service is continuing to tweak a wide variety of returns, many in response the changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The... Read more →


We've yet to see autumn leaves here in Central Texas. It's still too hot and dry. But the arrival of October does bring another seasonal certainty: the Oct. 15 tax deadline. October is here and I've got to say that although it's still early, the month so far is disappointing. Here in Central Texas, by now we're usually enjoying daytime temperatures in the 80s, with overnight lows dropping into the 60s. That typically means our windows are open 24/7 to get full enjoyment of autumn weather. Not in 2019. We're at least 10 degrees higher both days and nights. One... Read more →


The wealth-tax proposal advocated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes a hefty marriage penalty, according to one leading economist's analysis. (Photo courtesy Warren's Facebook page) It's another weekend, so that means it's time for another look at wealth tax proposals. Yeah, I know it seems like I'm in a bit of a rut, having posted about proposals from Democratic presidential hopefuls in recent weekends (on Aug. 18, Sept. 14 and a Monday, Sept. 16). But the suggested ways to get more money from the rich are still getting attention. Wealth tax roadblocks: Personally, I don't think any of these sweeping measures... Read more →


The tax gap is holding as steady as this gap on the old Florida Keys bridge. (Photo by Ewen Roberts via Flickr) We might want to revise Benjamin Franklin's famous tax saying. The new version could read, "In in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the tax gap." The tax gap is the difference between the amount of tax that filers should pay and the amount that they actually hand over voluntarily and on time to the Internal Revenue Service. And IRS data continues to show that while tax years come and tax... Read more →


It's Friday the 13th and a full moon will rise late tonight. Werewolves and Friday the 13th. Scared yet? Take a breath. Depending on where you live, and how superstitious you are, tonight might not be so bad. The Farmers' Almanac says folks in the Pacific, Central and Mountain time zones will get to gaze on the full moon before midnight this Friday, Sept. 13. However, if you live in the Eastern time zone, the moon won't be full until 12:33 a.m. on the less spooky Saturday, Sept. 14. Micro Harvest moon: Plus, it won't be a very big full... Read more →


Andrew Luck announces his retirement from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The main reason the young quarterback quit the game was injuries. A bonus to his departure: no more jock tax calculations. The National Football League's 2019 season kicks off tomorrow night, but Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck won't be on the field. The 29-year-old stunned the sports world on Aug. 24 when he confirmed rumors that he was retiring from the sport. Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated that Luck could be giving up as much as $450 million in future salary. Luck, however, obviously thinks he has made enough money... Read more →


September usually is a welcome month. The summer's hot temperatures finally moderate as the official start of fall nears. Parents and children get their routines back as school is in session. Then there's the reason why usually comes into play as far as September's arrival. It's traditionally the most active month of the annual hurricane season. Nobody wants to see that. We'll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that holds for 2019, but September's start is ominous. Hurricane Dorian, which already has smashed all sorts of intensity records, is stalking Florida as I type. If forecasts... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is continuing to tweak tax forms, releasing yet another version of the document workers use to figure out their paycheck withholding. The new draft of Form W-4, updated as of Aug. 8 and shown below, incorporated suggestions that Treasury and the IRS got on the version it made public at the end of May. The changes are being made (again) to ensure that taxpayers adjust their withholding to most accurately reflect the tax code changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Click image to see the full Aug. 8, 2019, draft 2020 Form... Read more →


U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Gordon A year ago, the Internal Revenue Service alerted combat-injured veterans that some of them might be due tax refunds. This is the case for eligible service members who received disability severance payments after 1991 and then claimed that money as income on their tax returns. That was a mistake. The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 says that most veterans who received a one-time, lump-sum disability severance payment when they left the military are entitled to a refund if that payment was claimed as income. To qualify for... Read more →