Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast on Aug. 25, 2017. (National Hurricane Center satellite radar image) After a record-setting run of tornadoes over the last two weeks across not just Tornado Alley and the Midwest, but also into the MidAtlantic, the Big Apple even the nation's capital city, it's time for a weather break. Or not. The 2019 hurricane season officially starts June 1. Yes, I'm starting to look at the tropics a bit early, especially since we got a bit of a preview on May 20 when this year's first name storm popped up near Bermuda.... Read more →


Taxes are a pain in the derriere, regardless of what form they take. Most folks tend to focus on — and hate — income taxes more than other types. That's because the majority of workers tend to pay a portion of our earnings to Uncle Sam. Then there are the myriad state and local taxes (SALT). SALT covers income taxes from these lower taxing jurisdictions, as well as real estate and, to some degree, personal property taxes. SALT taxes have come under renewed scrutiny since the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which has limited the amount... Read more →


The Alchemist, an 80-foot motor yacht photographed by D Ramey Logan, would qualify for a substantial sales tax break under a new Texas law awaiting the governor's signature. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0) Texas lawmakers say the property tax reform bill they've sent to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk will slow the increases homeowners have complained about for years. The Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act, which if enacted will require cities, counties and other taxing units to get voters' OK before levying new taxes. We shall see if what's been worked out on paper in Austin's... Read more →


Pete DuPré, a 96-year-old WWII veteran, wowed the crowd at the U.S. Women's National Team soccer match on May 26 with his harmonica rendition of the National Anthem. Most of us will, in some form, remember and honor this Memorial Day all the sailors, soldiers and airmen and women who sacrificed all in service to our country. Whether it be at official parades or other ceremonies or simply at personal outings, music is likely to be a part of the event. I've compiled my own playlist. Note to link-clickers, most of the ones below go directly to sound clips, so... Read more →


Donald J. Trump is golfing this Memorial Day weekend, this time with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe during Trump's visit to that nation. (Photo courtesy Japan Prime Minister Instagram account) Memorial Day weekend obviously is about honoring the men and women who died in service to our country. But it's also a major recreational weekend. Folks will be taking time to spend with family and friends and, in many cases, enjoying their favorite avocations. For some, that's a round of golf, not to mention a few rounds at the 19th hole. Trump's links love: Golf gets a lot of attention... Read more →


Killmonger and crew steal a Wakandan vibranium ax in 2018's "Black Panther." This scene was filmed in Atlanta's High Museum of Art. (Watch full museum heist scene at YouTube) If you spend part of this long Memorial Day weekend watching a movie or two, chances are good that it was made in a particular place thanks to tax breaks. Movie makers have been getting tax incentives, at both the federal and state levels, for decades. The practice, however, is controversial. Supporters see the films, traditional television shows, streaming productions, commercials and even video games made in some part within their... Read more →


Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. Millions will begin the annual vacation season this long holiday weekend. Others will wait a few weeks or months before taking a break from work. Regardless of timing, all these travelers will need places to stay. Nowadays, more vacationers are using short-term rentals of private homes or apartments. They like the hominess and feeling like a local. They also often can get good deals. But one thing is the same in most cities and states for local rentals or hotels: taxes. Levies for sleeping over: Yep, when a homeowners lease... Read more →


If you're hitting the road for the long Memorial Day holiday, you'll have lots of company. AAA is predicting the strongest kick-off to the summer travel season since 2005, and the second-largest travel volume on record dating back to 2000. Overall, AAA says nearly 43 million Americans will celebrate the unofficial start of summer away from home. For the 37.6 million Americans that AAA says will travel by automobile during some part of the Memorial Day weekend, today, May 24, is not your travel friend. Neither is Friday, May 25. AAA predicts most drivers will experience the greatest amount of... Read more →


Gold Star families aren't the only ones facing unexpectedly higher taxes under kiddie tax changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Some students who receive college scholarships or grants now face bigger tax bills, too, under the tax reform law that took full effect in 2018. Previously, scholarships or grants for nontuition expenses like room and board were taxed at the same marginal rate that the students' parents paid. That meant lower- and middle-income students generally paid lower tax rates on the educational financial assistance. But the TCJA now applies the higher trust and estates tax rate, which... Read more →


It's that terrible time of year when Mother Nature is on the rampage. In the last few days, at least 19 twisters have touched down in Tornado Alley. That dangerous weather pattern is expected to repeat and expand over the coming days. 3:57 PM - We know have TWIN tornadoes northwest of Crescent in far western Logan county, north of OKC. Both of these are currently on the ground. Storm is moving northeast at 35 mph toward Mulhall. #okwx @NEWS9 pic.twitter.com/fAkqaGemmZ — Matt Mahler (@themahler) May 20, 2019 In addition to spawning twisters that destroyed stretches of property, but luckily... Read more →


Memorial Day, our annual remembrance of the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, is just a week away. Many members of Congress will be back home on May 27 taking part in Memorial Day ceremonies honoring military personnel for their ultimate sacrifice. But before then, Senators and Representatives are focusing how to correct a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that has caused some military heroes' families to face higher tax bills. TCJA advocates, who hurried the Republican-written tax reform through Congress in late 2017, say the revisions to the so-called... Read more →


A big part of companies' federal tax responsibilities is paying employment taxes for their workers. These are the Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes on those employees' wages. However, when it comes to workers who are hired as contractors, it's the worker who's totally responsible for these taxes, in addition income tax withholding via estimated tax payments. That's why, when appropriate and fiscally feasible, many firms try to hire independent contractors. Sometimes, though, the line between employees and contractor is fine. It's facts and circumstances in each case when deciding how to classify a worker. And if the Internal Revenue... Read more →


"The Witch Trial," an 1848 painting by William Powell Frith via Wikimedia Commons Witch hunt. It's been one of Donald J. Trump's favorite phrases for more than two years. He's used the term 310 times, according to Factba.se, the website launched in January 2017 by Virginia husband and wife team Bill Frischling and Jennifer Canty as a way to track and share all of Trump's utterances, be they verbal, written or, most frequently, on social media. The last time Trump invoked witch hunt to decry investigations linked to him was in a Tweet the afternoon of May 12: ....employment numbers... Read more →


If you filed your taxes before May 16 and your earnings included investment income, you might want to take another look at your return. The Internal Revenue Service announced on its website yesterday, May 16, that the 2018 Schedule D tax worksheet in that form's instructions contained an error. "The tax calculation did not work correctly with the new TCJA [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] regular tax rates and brackets for certain Schedule D filers who had 28% rate gain (taxed at a maximum rate of 28%) reported on line 18 of Schedule D or unrecaptured section 1250 gain (taxed... Read more →


Photo by Fisherga via Flickr CC The Preakness, the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, is Saturday, May 18. As a former Maryland resident, the 144th running of the race the Black Eyed Susans will be somewhat bittersweet. It could be the last time the legendary race will be held at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. It also will not lead to a Triple Crown winner. Preakness problems: Country House, the eventual Kentucky Derby winner after Maximum Security, who crossed the Churchill Downs line first, was disqualified, will not run in this year's Preakness. By opting out of the Baltimore... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service has formed a working group to look into allegations that some of its Free File members really didn't (don't?) want taxpayers to file for free. State and city officials have launched official investigations into or taken legal steps in connection with allegations that some tax software companies redirected online searches away from their free options on at the IRS website. Now what is being hailed as the first nationwide class-action lawsuit in the matter has been filed against Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. Tax software giant is legal target: It's no surprise that the tax software... Read more →


This is a big week for Lone Star State businesses. The state's franchise tax is due May 15. For my fellow Texas business owners, that's tomorrow. Unless you're a Wolters Kluwer CCH software client. Then you have until May 22. See my prior post for more on the recent CCH malware problems and the filing accommodations being made by the Internal Revenue Service and Texas tax officials. I don't want to bore all y'all that don't live here, but since other states have business levies similar to ours, here's a quick, general take on Texas' tax system. The privilege of... Read more →


At least one state, Texas, joins the Internal Revenue Service in making filing accommodations for those affected by software company's malware troubles. Watch the full classic Roseanne Roseannadana skit at NBC's Saturday Night Live video page. As the wonderful Gilda Radner character Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It's always something." That's particularly true in the tax world. Just when we thought we had made it relatively unscathed through the 2019 tax season, which already was crazy since it was the first one in which most of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes took real life effect for taxpayers,... Read more →


Mom's obviously enjoying the Mother's Day gifts from her children. (Photo by Loren Kerns via Flickr CC) Anna Jarvis organized the first Mother's Day observances in Grafton, West Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908. As the annual celebration became popular around the country, Jarvis became the driving force behind a special day to honor moms and asked members of Congress to make it official nationwide. She succeeded in 1914. That year, Congress designated the second Sunday in May as the official celebration of Mother's Day. President Woodrow Wilson's proclamation declaring May 9, 1914, the first national Mother's Day.... Read more →


Mothers are the personification of "it's the thought that counts" when it comes to presents. Any mom would enjoy Mother's Day breakfast in bed on these plates made by her youngsters. (Photo courtesy Mrs. Goff's Pre-K Tales) Bought your mom a Mother's Day gift yet? If so, or even if you're still decided what to give her tomorrow, chances are you'll go the traditional route. "This year, besides the traditional cards, flowers, and clothing, spa services have come into their own as they are seen as more personalized and customizable gifts to pamper Mom," noted Robert Passikoff, president of Brand... Read more →