The individual tax filing season doesn't officially open until Jan. 27, but you're ready to file your taxes. Or are you? Tax filing, whether you do it yourself via tax software that you buy, use online or access via Free File or hand off the annual task to a tax pro, requires its own specific preparation. You've got to have all your tax-related documentation before you can start filling out that Form 1040. Here's a checklist of forms and documents you'll need to complete your taxes, as well as a look at tax situations you need to consider before filing.... Read more →


The tax world is atwitter, literally on social media and figuratively for those not addicted to the sociability component of their electronic devices, now that the Internal Revenue Service is already accepting business tax returns and will start taking 2019 tax year 1040 forms from individuals on Jan. 27. Everyone, from taxpayers to income payers to tax professionals are already at work, with most at this point gathering data in preparation for the actual filings. For tax professionals, that includes a written security plan to safeguard all the sensitive tax and financial information they handle for their clients. Tax data... Read more →


MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr CC It's official. The Internal Revenue Service will start accepting, and more importantly for folks expecting refunds, processing 2019 tax year individual returns on Monday, Jan. 27. Way to give me some breathing room (NOT!), IRS, after my post earlier today about the opening of business tax filing tomorrow, Jan. 7. OK, only kidding (sort of) about the back-to-back business and individual filing season blog items. It's always good news for all when the IRS announces filing season starting dates. Almost ready to go: The annual announcement of the individual tax return filing season means the tax... Read more →


Click image for a large, clearer view. Ready to do your 2019 taxes? The Internal Revenue Service says it will be on Jan. 7. Yep, that's tomorrow. But whoa up there, cowpokes. This starting date is just for IRS acceptance of business returns. On the Modernized e-File (MeF) Operational Status page noting the Jan. 7 starting date for business returns, the IRS also says, "Individual tax returns will begin at a date to be determined in early 2020." Still, it's a good sign that Uncle Sam's tax collector is looking at any return processing date in early January. Business returns... Read more →


Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels A staple feature each New Year's Day is the fixation on babies born just after the clocked clicked past midnight. For the families, it's usually a joyous event, with their new bundles of joy being showered with first baby themed gifts from local merchants. Tax professionals, even those with families, however tend to see such celebrations as a tad misplaced. Or, as Jerry Gaddis, an Enrolled Agent in Florida, describes it, "bad tax planning." Am I the only one who sees this and thinks "bad tax planning"? #EnrolledAgent — Jerry Gaddis. EA, MBA (@TropicalTax)... Read more →


Supporters of a minimum wage increase at rally in Chicago last year. (Photo: Charles Edward Miller licensed under CC by SA 2.0; cover of the National Employment Law Project 2020 report) New tax laws aren't the only ones that went into effect on New Year's Day across the United States. A record number of states, cities and counties have or will boost their minimum wages in 2020. On or around this Jan. 1st, the minimum wage increased in 21 states. Another 26 cities and counties also hiked their baseline pay at the start of this year. In the coming months,... Read more →


Owning a home has long been a symbol of the American dream. For some, however, homeownership turns into a nightmare. Those horrid homeowner dreams became evident in the Great Recession. In the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, artificially high home prices, questionable lending practices and an explosion of subprime mortgages to buyers who under regular lending standards would not have been given a home loan, created a housing bubble. It finally burst in 2007, leaving many homeowners broke as the loans on their properties suddenly were many thousands more than their homes were worth. Many went into foreclosure or walked... Read more →


How Texans see the United States. Each new year brings hope. A flip of the calendar pages, and the suddenly clean slate, at least metaphorically, means better things ahead are possible for us personally, professionally, financially and, of course, on the tax front (taxically, which spellcheck wants to change to toxically…). When it comes to taxes, the goal every year is to pay less. While we're still working under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes at the federal level, we still see some changes in 2020. Notably, especially when it comes to our always hoped for lower tax... Read more →


via GIPHY If you used your car for business purposes last year, you probably did the same thing I did on New Year's Eve. You took a quick look at your auto's odometer and jotted down the miles. Keeping track of your annual miles driven and those specifically attributable to business travel can help you reduce taxes on your self-employment income. There are a couple of ways you can track this travel, either by keeping good records of your actual business-related auto usage (more on this in a minute) or by claiming the optional standard mileage amount. That standard amount... Read more →


The countdown is on! In a few hours, 2019 will be outta here and we'll be celebrating a brand spanking New Year. But if you want to celebrate a less costly tax bill when you file your 2019 return in 2020, you've got to make some year-end moves now. Here's a collection of my latest posts on tax tasks with a Dec. 31 deadline. 10 year-end tax moves to make now — My first nag list of end of 2019 tax moves from Nov. 4 10 December tax presents for you instead of the IRS — Another nag reminder on... Read more →


Last year, some tax software companies allegedly hid their Free File option on their corporate websites, instead sending otherwise eligible free filers to paid products. That won't happen again, says the IRS, under a new Free File agreement that was just signed and takes effect for the upcoming 2020 tax-filing season. The only thing people like more than getting their annual tax refunds is getting things for free. The IRS says that this coming tax-filing season, its new agreement with tax software companies will help ensure that eligible taxpayers will know that they can combine those loves via Free File.... Read more →


One of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration is tariffs, either put in place or threatened, on a variety of imported goods. If you have money in the stock market, you're probably pretty happy with 2019. Despite some blips, the market this year maintained its continued upward march. The positive news for investors, however, goes against conventional wisdom that tariffs are bad for the economy. Wall Street bulls say that tariffs eventually will take their toll. And others, including a pair of Federal Reserve economists, cite evidence that tariffs already are costing jobs and hiking prices. No tariff trouble for... Read more →


I don't know who came up with all these holidays in quick succession at the end of each year, but that person needs to be fired. We, and by we I mean U.S. residents since Canadians are smarter about Thanksgiving's timing, have a lot of special days in the last calendar quarter. Holiday avalanche: It starts in mid-October with Columbus Day, still one of 10 federal holidays recognized by Uncle Sam, although many areas now celebrate that Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day. At the end of the month, we have Halloween and, depending on your heritage or geography, Dia de... Read more →


Paying property tax bills by Dec. 31 used to be a surefire way for many filers to bump up their Schedule A deductions enough to make itemizing more advantageous than using the standard deduction. That's no longer the case thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). In addition to capping state and local real estate tax deductions at $10,000, the tax reform bill also nearly doubled prior tax law's standard amounts. So fewer folks are worrying about paying tax bills that may be due later, like the end of next January here in the Austin area, by year's... Read more →


Some of the Christmas cookies the hubby and I make and decorate. Yes, we over-bake. And yes, we slather on the sugary icing and decorations because the mainly sugar and butter cookies themselves are not fattening enough. Gotta keep Santa (and friends, family and ourselves) happy! Was Santa apparently full by the time he got to your house, leaving you with some extra Christmas cookies? No worries, even if you're low on milk … or are lactose intolerant. All the adults in your household can loosen their belts and finish off those goodies with a brew or two. Sugar and... Read more →


Merry Christmas! Here's hoping you were good enough this year to get at least some of the things you asked Santa to place under your tree last night. Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street") gets in a little sleigh practice at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. St. Nick delivered for the hubby and me. We got our wish for a quiet Christmas. But I did want to pop in and offer holiday greetings to all the ol' blog's readers. If, since you stopped by, you do want some tax info (or just a break from... Read more →


Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate this late December holiday. I must confess that, despite my grandmother's and, to a slightly lesser degree, my mother's best efforts, I love Christmas for mainly secular reasons. I love the lights, especially the gaudy, multicolored ones that glow and flash. I love the ornaments, particularly the kitschy ones that remind me of special times, events and people. And, of course, there are the presents. Over the years I've enjoyed more than my fair share of delightfully packaged goodies. But I've also come to realize that I like searching for, finding and giving... Read more →


"Do nothing" has long been the derisive descriptor attached to the U.S. Congress. Actually, though, the House and Senate could more accurately be described as a legislative body that does things that don't have any chance of becoming law. That's the case most recently with a bill that would eliminate, at least temporarily, the $10,000 cap on tax deductible state and local taxes, referred to by the acronym SALT. Cutting SALT in the tax diet: The House last week narrowly passed, by a 218 to 206 margin, H.R. 5377, dubbed the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act. The... Read more →


Congress played Santa this week, averting a government shutdown and approving a wide variety of anticipated tax breaks. Merry Christmas U.S. taxpayers. H.R. 1865, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, is now law. In a surprise move earlier this month, House and Senate negotiators cobbled together a massive bill that not only, as the name indicates, assures that the federal government stays open, but which also included some long-awaited (at least by those who will benefit) expired tax provisions. In addition, lawmakers corrected — and by corrected, I mean repealed — some obvious — and by obvious, I mean universally... Read more →


Christmas is next week! So of course you're thinking about filing your 2019 tax return. Maybe not this coming week. But you will soon. And when you do think about it, if you're like most U.S. taxpayers, you'll use tax software. E-filing encouraged: The Internal Revenue Service encourages us — and in the case of most paid tax preparers, requires — to use the tax preparation programs and accompanying electronic filing option. We follow those prompts and pushes. This year, more than 138 million returns were e-filed. That was almost 89 percent of all the 1040s and other annual returns... Read more →