Finances Feed

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 →


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 →


Oops! Someone at Topps was thinking about someone else when Shane, not Justin, Bieber's baseball card was produced. Did your mom throw out your baseball card collection when you went off to college? If so, you can start anew today, National Baseball Card Day, by picking up some brand spanking new cards. The Topps Company, the official trading card partner of Major League Baseball, is celebrating today by giving out free specially-made cards at MLB stadiums across the country, local hobby shops and a couple of major retailers. The new packs feature MLB stars and up-and-coming rookies. Lucky fans also... Read more →


Many things, like family considerations, prompt people to go into business for themselves. Whatever your reason for being your own boss, here are some tax matters to consider. The millions of taxpayers who hold wage-paying jobs where income taxes are withheld from their checks obviously will benefit from the Internal Revenue Service new tax withholding estimator. But what if you don't have a job where there's withholding? That's the case for millions of individuals who are self-employed See Also: 5 things to consider if you're thinking about becoming an independent contractor The work freedom of being your own boss comes... Read more →


Paycheck withholding is most Americans' introduction to taxes. But even though millions of us have been seeing income taxes come out of our checks for years, the system still is confusing for many. It became a bigger mess this filing season, when folks filed their first tax returns under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. A lot of them were not amused. The unexpected price of wrong withholding: They discovered that they weren't getting the same big tax refunds they had in prior years. These annual spring payouts had served as distributions from their withholding tax deposits to... Read more →


Poland has many historical sites, such as Wawel Castle in Kraków. But young Poles are more interested in their futures than the past. They have been leaving the country in droves to find work. Polish officials hope a dramatic new tax law will change that emigration pattern. (Photo by Zespol Wzgórza Wawelskiego via Wikipedia Commons) Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have been worrying for years about people wanting to come into the United States. Many European countries also have been pulling up their welcome mats when immigrants approach their borders. One nation, however, is concerned about the... Read more →


Bitcoin and other virtual currencies fascinate me, but that's as far as it goes. I don't own and have never had any interest in cryptocurrencies. I'm basically a say it with cash kind of gal. Part of my crypto trepidation is that I've yet to grasp how Bitcoin is mined, despite the hubby's patient, and repeated, explanations. And like many Senators during a recent hearing on Facebook's proposed Libra digital money, I'm skeptical of the concept (as well as suspicious of the online social media platform proposing it, but that's another blog post). My disavowal of cryptocurrency, however, has been... 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 →


This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration back in 2017 of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed graduate home. Attention class, here's you latest assignment. Wait. Didn't the school year just finish? Yes, for younger students. But those looking for financial help as they head off to college need to do some homework now. Students, or their parents, who are seeking financial assistance to meet higher education costs need to file a Free Application for Federal Student... Read more →


The summer solstice has finally caught up with Texas temperatures. The first day of the sunniest season arrived today at 10:54 a.m. Central Time. By then, here in Austin we already were at nearly 90 degrees. It wasn't much of a climb for the thermometer, since our overnight temps for the last week or so have been hovering in the 80s. By the time we get to mid-afternoon, it will feel like triple-digit heat for the third straight day. That's why so many of us are thinking of heading to the Texas Gulf Coast, or as we called it when... 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 →