Politics Feed

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (top row, center), is looking to renew at least some expired tax provisions, known as extenders. The ranking Republican on the House tax-writing panel, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas (top row, right) is not impressed with Neal's proposal. (Photo courtesy House Ways and Means Democrats Facebook page) Is it finally the end for extenders? Yes, no or maybe, depending on who you ask. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say enough is enough with the perpetually renewed technically temporary tax breaks known as extenders. They... 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 →


Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when his party pushed through tax reform in December 2017, celebrates in June 2018 the six-month anniversary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A new Congressional report, however, doesn't have much positive to say about the new tax law's first-year economic effects. During the rushed, ahem, debate of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in late 2017, its Republican sponsors touted the bill's economic benefits. The cuts to U.S. businesses would prompt more domestic investments. Workers would get bonuses and/or raises. This would speed up the... 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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


Photo by vxla via Flickr CC If gratuities are part of your work, then the 10th of the month is an important tax date for you. It's the day — or the next businesses day if the 10th falls on a weekend or holiday — that you must report your tip amount for the previous month when it totals $20 or more. The Internal Revenue Service requires these reports because the tax code considers all types of tips as discretionary, fully taxable income. Wisconsin workers, however, may soon get a break on the state tax level when it comes to... Read more →


Free File is finally getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately for companies involved in the Internal Revenue Service/tax software partnership, it's not the kind of attention they want. The IRS now is following state officials in California and New York in looking into whether potential Free File users were intentionally directed away from the program. Free but not that popular: Free File, as the name indicates, was designed to allow most taxpayers access to no-cost online tax return completion and electronic filing. The 2019 filing season is its 17th. It's still available to taxpayers through the Oct. 15 extended filing... Read more →


Around two dozen tax breaks are now in a legislative zombie state, much like these creatures in George Romero's classic zombie film "Night of the Living Dead." The tax versions are waiting for federal lawmakers to bring them back to life or finally and completely put an end to them. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons) A dozen groups spanning the political spectrum are urging Congress to let zombie tax extenders remain dead. Are you still waiting on expired tax provisions to be resurrected? If a motley crew of public policy, tax and advocacy groups get its way, you'll be waiting forever.... Read more →


Today is the start of the annual Small Business Week. And yes, you can combine it with Cinco de Mayo and raise a margarita to your favorite entrepreneur. These 30 million or so smaller companies are hailed as America's backbone. Approximately 10 million are women-owned, 29 percent are minority-owned and nearly 10 percent are veteran-owned. Running a small business has never been easy. In fact, their size tends to put more pressure on such operations. Profit margins are thin. The ability to offer benefits to workers is stretched. And small companies tend to be more at the mercy of the... Read more →


Photo by Ken Hawkins via Flickr CC Free. It's the most magical word in the world. Everyone is always looking to get something for nothing. That includes tax filing. A couple of weeks ago, the tax and consumer protection worlds were abuzz over a provision in the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 that cleared the U.S. House with a provision that keeps the Internal Revenue Service from developing its own no-cost tax filing program. Such total IRS ownership of the form filling and electronic filing is the unicorn of the tax world for many. They oppose Uncle Sam acting as... Read more →


It was a gorgeous sunset at this Astros game at Minute Maid Park, but the Houston MLB franchise and other professional sports teams are looking at a recent IRS ruling that provides them a bright new dawn for favorable tax treatment of player trades. (Photo by Kay Bell) It's a busy time for professional sports fans. National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are in full swing. Major League Baseball's (MLB) early season is already full of surprises. Just what is wrong with the World Series champion Red Sox and Chris Sale? The National Football League (NFL)... Read more →


High tax filing season is over and the numbers have been tallied. Unfortunately for Republicans who still are fighting the public relations war over their major tax reform law, the figures aren't good. Yes, fractionally more money has been delivered to taxpayers through April 21, almost a week after the filing deadline for most U.S taxpayers. But the average refund check remains smaller than it was last year. In 2018, the average refund was $2,780. This year, it came to $2,725. In case you're not good at math in your head (I'm not) and don't have a calculator handy, that's... Read more →


Social Security might be in trouble, but as long as it's around in some form, Uncle Sam will keep collecting taxes related to it. That includes not only the payroll taxes from workers that go toward funding the federal retirement benefits, but also in some cases on the benefits themselves. If you have enough money when you're older to enjoy time the way you want with your grandchildren, you might face taxes on your Social Security benefits. Stop me if you've heard this before. Social Security is running out of money. That's the latest word from the trustees of the... Read more →


Multiply this computer trouble by 150 million taxpayers and you'll get an idea of the scope of the IRS' new plan to upgrade its technology systems. The Internal Revenue Service made it relatively unscathed through the 2019 main tax filing season. That's pretty amazing when you consider the agency: had sworn in a new commissioner just a few months earlier, had to tailor the season's opening around the longest-ever federal government shutdown, was still working on implementation of and guidance for the first major tax reform bill in more than 30 years and did it all using antiquated computer systems.... Read more →


420 Day celebrant photo by GoToVan via Flickr Happy 420 Day, when marijuana smokers commemorate cannabis. It's not surprising that the origins of this unofficial holiday to celebrate weed are fuzzy. Some say it's based on the California police or penal code number 420 that designates marijuana smoking. Not true. Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana. That count must have been made after a few tokes over the line. There are more than 500 active ingredients in marijuana, with only about 70 or so being cannabinoids unique to the plant. A more likely explanation is... Read more →