Politics Feed

Today technically is George Washington's Birthday, but we've come to call it Presidents Day in honor of all our commanders in chief, like these four greats on Mount Rushmore National Memorial. (Image courtesy Mount Rushmore Facebook page) How are you celebrating George Washington's birthday? Yep, that's what today officially is, despite all the Presidents Day sale signs in retailers' windows. Technically, America's first president was born on Feb. 22, 1731. However, since 1971 we've celebrated his arrival day on the third Monday of his birth month thanks to a law that took effect that year mandating most federal holidays be... Read more →


NASCAR's 2019 season started today with the auto racing series' biggest event, the Daytona 500. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing for taking the checkered flag in the Great American Race. Things aren't so clear-cut, though for the expired tax break for motorsports speedway improvements and more than two dozen other assorted tax benefits. These tax breaks expired in 2017 and are not on track for reinstatement. Yet. In fact, they're looking as messy as today's closing laps pile-up. Extenders indecision: These assorted tax breaks are known collectively as the extenders. They get that name because they are... Read more →


Open-close sign via Giphy.com The drama continues in Washington, D.C., as far as keeping the federal government open. It looked like, despite some grumbling from all sides, that a bipartisan, bicameral deal reached this week would keep all of the federal government open past Feb. 15. We all need to keep our fingers (and toes) crossed that it happens, especially those of us — which mean most Americans — who deal with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS obviously among those pushing for a resolution that will get the agency through the 2019 tax filing season. The agency is still... Read more →


One of my favorite recent TV shows was The Americans, FX's series on embedded Russian spies during the 1980s Cold War. For six seasons, we fans watched the couple known to their suburban Washington, D.C. neighbors as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings raise their two U.S.-born children, run their small travel agency and spy, sometimes in deadly fashion, for their native U.S.S.R. One of the underlying themes was how well and easily the Jennings assimilated into the America they were trying to bring down. It's a common trope, but one done well and with nuance by the television program. A radio... Read more →


This tax filing season is a troubling and troublesome one for millions of filers. They're dealing with major tax law changes which many are finding have adversely affected their expected tax refund amounts. Things are slowly getting back to normal at the Internal Revenue Service following the recent federal government shutdown. Some quick indicators that more IRS workers are back include my email box getting more messages from the agency, more updates on IRS.gov and reports on how well (or not) the 2019 filing season is going. About that last matter, IRS has resumed its annual weekly postings of tax-filing... Read more →


I never seem to be able to submit our joint Form 1040 early in the filing season, partly because I have to sort through all this material to fill out the forms! There are many reasons why millions of taxpayers procrastinate when it comes to submitting their annual returns. Much of the time, those excuses aren't good. But there are some times when you shouldn't rush to finish your Form 1040 early in the filing season, even if you're expecting a tax refund. Here are six reasons to wait a bit before filing: 1. To get your return right. Doing... Read more →


Updated Feb. 20, 2019 We're well into the 2019 tax filing season and things have been a little slow, thanks in large part to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history that hampered Internal Revenue Service preparations for the millions of tax returns it receives each year. Still, millions of taxpayers already have filed their returns. After the second week of the filing season, which ended on Feb. 8, the IRS had received almost 29 million returns. Most, if not all, of those filers were expecting refunds, although some were unpleasantly surprised. At least, though, they have their taxes out... Read more →


The red light has changed to green for the IRS now that the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history is over. (Photo by Kari Bluff via Flickr) The Internal Revenue Service should be fully staffed as we official start the 2019 tax filing season on Monday, Jan. 28. Holdover shutdown issues, however, still could cause delays, which many taxpayers and tax professionals already have experienced. Donald J. Trump signed into law late Friday, Jan. 25, a bill to end the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. That same day, the White House Office of Management and Budget notified... Read more →


Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's 2013 movie The Great Gatsby. (Photo courtesy Warner Bros.) We're about to go into a tax filing season under a new tax law that, despite plan promoters' promises, gives major tax breaks to wealthier taxpayers. That law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), is also why a lot of Democrats are looking at ways to at least revise the Republican-written tax bill. The U.S. Constitution says that tax measures must originate in the House of Representatives. Some in that chamber, now under Democratic control after last fall's midterm elections, would like... Read more →


UPDATE, 9:05 p.m. Central Time: Donald J. Trump has signed into a law a short-term funding bill that should get paychecks flowing again for the around 800,000 federal workers affected by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. UPDATE 2:30 p.m. Central Time: A deal to reopen the federal government fully for the next three weeks was announced by Donald J. Trump this afternoon. The government will reopen; Trump gets no funding (yet) for his campaign-promised physical border wall. This should solve the current furloughed workers' sick-out crisis. Will this truce last beyond Feb. 15, or will we go through... Read more →


Armie Hammer and Felicity Jones as Martin and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the movie "On the Basis of Sex." (Photo courtesy Focus Features) The U.S. Tax Court has gotten some unexpected attention of late for two very different reasons. The fun reason is the movie "On the Basis of Sex." The film is based on a real-life gender discrimination case involving caregiver tax deductions claimed by a man. He is represented by a young and future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her tax litigator husband Martin Ginsburg. The Ginsburgs won the Tax Court case and the rest is... Read more →


We're almost 13 months into the largest tax reform measure enacted in more than 30 years and one thing is clear. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is in no way tax simplification. In fact, taxpayers and the professionals they pay to help make filing less taxing in every sense of the word have been struggling with just what Congress meant in way too many of the tax bill's hastily drafted provisions. Big business bill, with small biz break and confusion: Although the TCJA contains many changes that will make filing returns this year interesting for individual taxpayers, it... Read more →


As the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight, furloughed workers are looking at any and all ways to pay their bills. Some have taken hardship withdrawals from their workplace retirement accounts. Thousands of others have applied for unemployment. Few of us can blame folks who are struggling financially for taking these steps. At some point, many of us or our family members and friends have done the same. There's no shame in taking available help when bills you can't pay continue to arrive. And while such actions can help out-of-work folks make... Read more →


IRS headquarters image by Kari Bluff via Flickr Creative Commons The Internal Revenue Service has some good news for taxpayers and sort of good news for its staff. The agency is calling back more than half — specifically, 46,052 or almost 55 percent of its more than 80, 265 — employees. These are workers who, according to the updated government shutdown contingency plan issued Jan. 15 by the Treasury Department, are necessary for the IRS "to continue return processing activities to the extent necessary to protect Government property, which includes tax revenue, and maintain the integrity of the federal tax... Read more →


Even in the best of tax times, folks are impatient when it comes to getting their refunds. They want them yesterday, looking to collect on the forces savings account they created when they intentionally had too much put into their paycheck withholding. Then comes 2019, where every day it's looking more like parts of the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service, will be in shutdown mode when the annual tax return filing season starts on Jan. 28. While the Treasury Department and IRS say they will do what it takes to make this year as normal as possible, many... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service offices nationwide, like this one in New York City, are closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikipedia Commons) Most of us don't have personal interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. We simply do our taxes every year, send them to the federal tax collector and move on with our lives. It's a different story in many places across the country. Those places have physical IRS offices where friends and family usually go each weekday to do their jobs. They want the government shutdown shut down so they can get back... Read more →


Longest U.S. federal government shutdown in history be damned! That's apparently the Internal Revenue Service's motto this year. It announced last week that it will start working on our 2018 tax returns — and issue any related refunds — this filing season, which is set to start on Monday, Jan. 28, even if it's technically still operating in modified shutdown mode. The IRS underscored that commitment on Friday, Jan. 11, when it announced that taxpayers who qualify to use Free File can now access the online no-cost tax preparation and e-filing option. Yep. Free File 2019 is now open for... Read more →


UPDATE, 9:05 p.m. Central Time, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019: Donald J. Trump has signed into a law a short-term funding bill that should get paychecks flowing again for the around 800,000 federal workers — including the 14,000 or so Internal Revenue Service employees who called in sick during the tax agency's partial closure — who were affected by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. ***** Twenty-two Thirty-five days and counting (updated Jan. 25, 2019). We now are in the midst of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. National park properties, such as the National Mall west of... Read more →


Today should be payday for hundreds of thousands of federal government workers. The partial government shutdown, however, means they're not getting their money. And even though the White House, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service say that the 2019 filing season will open at the end of January as it has in years past and that refunds will be issued, there's no guarantee that things will go smoothly. We are, after all, talking about Uncle Sam's operations. Can IRS meet refund challenge? The IRS says it will recall "a significant portion" of its currently furloughed workforce to open tax season... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service still is mostly closed due to the Capitol Hill impasse over how to fund the federal government. Just a relative handful of employees are in a few IRS offices, doing what have been deemed essential jobs, but not getting paid for their work. Some of the agency's online operations, however, are up and running. And other IRS services, particularly those that are funding in part by fees, could be restarted despite the closure of many of Uncle Sam's offices. In fact, one of those, the Income Verification Express Service (IVES) program, was restarted this week (more... Read more →