Finances Feed

Record-setting Cyber Monday sales means more porches across the United States will look like this. But the remote sales' boost to state tax coffers wasn't as big as some expected. $9.4 billion. That's how much U.S. shoppers spent on the just-passed Cyber Monday. That was nearly 20 percent more than last year's $7.9 billion tally for the annual and over-hyped Monday-after-Thanksgiving online shopping day. Obviously, the $9.4 billion in sales is a Cyber Monday record. Also obviously, all those online transactions will help out the state treasuries that now, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Wayfair 2018 decision, are... Read more →


Congratulations! You made it through Thanksgiving. And Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Are you ready for one more special day before the end-of-year biggies? I'm talking about today, Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday, a post-Thanksgiving fixture since 2012, is the unofficial kick-off of the annual end-of-year charitable season Today was designed as a global day during which folks are encouraged to give back to their communities and the charitable causes they care about. The timing fits right into the end-of-year solicitations by nonprofit organizations and the annual tax considerations of donors. Tax cuts also cut donor numbers: Over... Read more →


These carolers, dressed in Dickensian attire, are no doubt singing traditional Christmas tunes, not my reworked and tax-themed "O Tannenbaum." (Photo by Chris Waits via Flickr CC) O Tax Year-End (O Tax Year Moves) O Tax Year-End, O Tax Year-End, How are thy days so nearing! O Tax Year Moves, O Tax Year Moves, How are thy days so wearing! Not only in the wintertime, But even in young spring is thy prime. O Tax Year-End, O Tax Year Moves, How are thy days so nearing! Yes, that's my attempt at tax lyrics to the tune "O Tannenbaum," known here... Read more →


Photo by Elaine Smith via Flickr CC It's been more than a year since the Supreme Court said states could collect online sales taxes from retailers who don't have any physical presence, aka nexus, in their states. But the internet tax collection process is still evolving. Going from a system where nationwide online sellers rarely if ever collected sales taxes from their customers to one — or actually multiple given the various tax system of states — where these purchasing levies are collected is not easy. Still, progress has been made. Online sales tax collection evolution: These taxes still are... Read more →


Thanksgiving is still a week away. It's another month-plus until Santa puts presents under trees. But holiday shoppers have been hitting the stores and online hard thanks to early Black Friday sales. In fact, more than half of consumers have already started this year's holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of planned purchases have been made, according to the annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Still, there's plenty of shopping and shoppers to do it out there. That means that retailers still are looking for help to handle the remaining seasonal shopping... Read more →


This summer the Internal Revenue Service launched an effort to make sure cryptocurrency owners comply with tax law. The IRS treats the online money as an investment, not cash. It sent more than 10,000 Bitcoin et al investors letters to educate them of their tax responsibilities, encourage them to report their transactions and get payment where due. The IRS crypto asset outreach appears to have worked. Positive taxpayer and IRS responses: Not only did the IRS get responses to the letters (which is what you should always to when you get a notice from the federal tax collector), in many... Read more →


Welcome to Part 7 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 changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and next year's Social Security wage base. 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. Thanks to tax reform's changes, the AMT is no longer an ATM for the tax collector. The... Read more →


Welcome to Part 6 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 the annual changes help investors their families and eventual heirs. 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. OK, maybe the rich don't literally burn money. But as the saying goes, the very wealthy really are different from... Read more →


November is the place for perfectly roasted Thanksgiving bird, not the many tax turkeys that can gobble up your money. These monthly tax moves are a great garnish as you finalize your 2019 tax year menu. Turkey attack from South Park via GIPHY It's November. You know what that means. Year-end tax move time. Oh yeah, and holiday plans. I hear ya. It's that crazy hectic part of the year, whether you're the host/hostess with the most/mostest or planning to travel to your Thanksgiving festivities. But you also need to add taxes to the mix. Now. Before you get all... Read more →


Leonardo DiCaprio living the rich life in a scene from The Great Gatsby. (Film publicity photo courtesy Warner Bros.) The hubby and I are of that age where we're thinking about our estate plan. I know, financial planners say that every age is a good one to think about your estate. Planning helps you accumulate it, not just decide where it goes after you're gone. Still, most people, rightly or wrongly, don't tend to think about their estates until they get older. One thing a lot of us won't have to worry about, at least not if we shuffle off... Read more →


It's open season at workplaces across the United States this month. Nope, I'm not talking about team building hunting trips. I'm talking about hunting for the best employer-provided benefits for you and your family. Last year, the big new benefit that bosses were offering was a tax-favored ways to pay off student loan debt. That's still a big draw, with more companies eyeing this option to attract and keep workers, especially younger ones with huge college debt loads. But we're always looking for the new and shiny. This year, emergency funds are attracting employer and employee attention. The reason for... 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 →


U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) during a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing. (Screenshot from Wyden's YouTube channel) Most of the tax the rich action has been coming from Democrats who want to move into the White House in 2021. Now a top Senate tax committee member has joined the call to collect more from wealthier Americans. And he has specific plans for the new revenue. Sen. Ron Wyden's proposal would tax ordinary income and capital gains at the same rates. Currently, capital gains generally are taxed at lower rates, ranging from zero for some lower-income investors to 15 percent for... Read more →


What's worse than losing your home to a disaster? Having to pay taxes on the destroyed property. That's what a Southwestern Pennsylvania family is dealing with now. After losing their home and all its contents to a fire last November, Rich and Catherine Hooks recently learned that they are responsible for the 2019 property taxes due on their no long in existence Westmoreland County home. "The taxes should be lower because the house isn't there," Mrs. Hooks told TribLive.com. But the county tax assessor didn't know that. So the prior tax valuation stood. When a significant change occurs on a... Read more →


Congress is back. But will Representatives and Senators get any more done these last few months of 2019 than they did earlier? Probably not. While this 116th Congress hasn't been a total bust — 56 bills have passed this year — it's not been a particularly productive one. None of these bills was major legislation. In fact, the enacted laws are 16 fewer than the lowest number passed in a single calendar year over the last 30 years. Plus, most of them have been commemorative measures or extensions of prior laws, not bills that change Americans' lives in any substantive... Read more →


The market is still volatile, dropping a bit today because … heck, who really knows exactly why this time? It's likely to keep bouncing a bit until the current and threatened trade wars and associated tariffs are resolved. I definitely am not a financial adviser, but even I know that you shouldn't try to time the stock market. Just when you think you've hit the bottom and cashed out, it drops more. Or it recovers and you miss a run back up that would have replaced (or more) your assets' losses. But if, after careful consideration and consultation with your... Read more →


Donald J. Trump speaking to supporters at an Aug. 15 rally in New Hampshire. (Photo from Trump's official personal Twitter feed) "If for some reason I wouldn't have won the [2016] election, these markets would have crashed. That'll happen even more so in 2020. See, the bottom line is … you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k), everything is going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me." — Donald J. Trump Trump's recent campaign rally exhortation that people had to vote for him... Read more →


With markets down, it could be time to harvest tax losses or perhaps convert a traditional IRA to a Roth retirement account. What's scarier than Superman, the 415-foot tower roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, that hits triple digit speeds? Some investors might say the recent stock market gyrations. (Photo courtesy Six Flags) Is the recent stock market drop freaking you out? How about the roller coaster ride back up, at least for a while, today? Yeah, it's worse than many stomach-churning amusement park rides and I'm right there, holding a barf bag, with you. But... Read more →


The tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and its effect on withholding wreaked havoc this filing season. Some folks found, much to their dismay (and stronger reactions…) that for the first time in their tax-paying lives they owed taxes because they didn't have enough tax withheld from their paychecks. The Internal Revenue Service saw this coming. It tried to warn folks, encouraging them to adjust their withholding so that they wouldn't face this predicament. Then the IRS announced an easing of the penalty owed if you under withheld. Twice. Now, with the 2019 tax season... Read more →


Click screenshot to watch Sen. Rick Scott's full discussion on CNBC of the U.S.-China trade war and his tariff tax break suggestion. Everyone except trade warrior Donald J. Trump views tariffs as taxes on consumers. To offset tariffs' added costs to U.S. buyers, one Republican lawmaker is calling for a corresponding tax cut. "Anything we raise in tariffs we ought to give back to the public in tax reductions so that it doesn't impact American families," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Monday (Aug. 12) during an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box. The Sunshine State's junior U.S. Senator didn't provide... Read more →