Politics Feed

More than a dozen states now provide marketplace options to health care shoppers. And although the federal enrollment mandate and penalty is gone, some states still require their residents to get coverage or pay a price. Plus, federal tax help remains for some seeking medical insurance on their own. The annual employee benefits enrollment period, usually referred to as open season, is underway or about to begin across the country. During these weeks, workers choose from an array of employer-provided and usually tax-favored benefits. I'll be writing more on this shortly. You can read more on the annual benefits selection... Read more →


I've dealt with bill collectors over the years. Fortunately for me, it's been on behalf of a couple of relatives who found themselves in over their heads financially. Fortunately for my family members, after much — way too much — and often contentious back and forth, we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution. That's why I tend to share former Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson's skepticism about the way that private collection agencies, or PCAs in tax-acronymese, interact with folks who owe taxes. But despite my, Olson's and many others' lingering distrust of these operations, private debt collect is... Read more →


This is a regular spread in our kitchen, not just on Taco Tuesday or today's National Taco Day. (Kay Bell photo) Today is National Taco Day, which raises a big question here in Texas. Why is there just one specific day celebrating taco consumption? (Corollary question: why isn't it on an alliterative Tuesday?) We Lone Star State residents consume vast quantities of soft and crispy/crunchy tacos multiple times every day, starting with the most important meal of the day, the breakfast taco. Various foodstuffs, various taxes: The day commemorating a Tex-Mex favorite also raises the question among tax geeks about... Read more →


The wealth-tax proposal advocated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes a hefty marriage penalty, according to one leading economist's analysis. (Photo courtesy Warren's Facebook page) It's another weekend, so that means it's time for another look at wealth tax proposals. Yeah, I know it seems like I'm in a bit of a rut, having posted about proposals from Democratic presidential hopefuls in recent weekends (on Aug. 18, Sept. 14 and a Monday, Sept. 16). But the suggested ways to get more money from the rich are still getting attention. Wealth tax roadblocks: Personally, I don't think any of these sweeping measures... Read more →


Nonprofits are a bigger part of our lives than we tend to realize. The hospital your or your children were born in likely was a nonprofit. That museum you visited on your last vacation opens its doors as a nonprofit entity. And, of course, the house of worship you attend each week is one, too. In addition, millions annually give time and money to nonprofit groups. In most instances, cash donations to charities are not driven by tax breaks. Folks simply give to a favorite charitable organization because they support its goals. Still, says a new report from the National... Read more →


Lyft and Uber rides would face a new fee in Seattle to help pay for a public transportation option. (Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil via Flickr Creative Commons) The hubby inherited some gas leases from a distant relative many years ago. It's not quite the same as Texas legend Eddie Chiles' famous urging that "if you don't have an oil well, get one," but the royalties have come in handy. One of the first purchases we made using this money was to buy new bicycles. We got a kick out of fossil fuels paying for a more climate-friendly way to... Read more →


Vaping was once thought to be a safe alternative to cigarettes. That perspective is changing. Dramatically. Nationwide, 530 cases of lung illnesses believed to be from vaping have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory. Seven deaths have been reported from six states. When the illnesses and fatalities started surfacing, even the White House reacted. Donald J. Trump initially floated a ban on some electronic cigarettes, but that position apparently has been revised. Some Republican political data show that a no-vaping position could pose a problem with Trump's electoral base. Maybe that's why Trump more recently walked back... Read more →


The Trump Administration currently is embroiled in a whistleblower controversy. But another situation where a witness to tax wrongdoing — not any alleged Donald J. Trump activity! — has worked out much more satisfactorily. A $11.5 million award has been presented to a person whose information led to the government collecting over $44.4 million in taxes, penalties and interest, according to the whistleblower attorneys involved in the case. In announcing the award, attorneys Stephen M. Kohn of the Washington, D.C. firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto and Dean Zerbe of the Houston-based firm Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, lauded... Read more →


Some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees in Washington, D.C., are being offered financial incentives to move to the agency's Grand Junction, Colorado, office, which is near the scenic McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area pictured above. (BLM photo) Despite objections from workers and some members of Congress, the Interior Department is moving forward with its plan to relocate about 250 Washington-based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees to western states. The Trump Administration says the move ultimately will save taxpayer dollars, but it's willing to spend some federal cash in the short-term to win over employees who have concerns about... 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 →


via GIPHY If you've been following the pack of politicians seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, you know that ways to tax the wealthy is a common thread. But there are as many proposals to do that as there are White House wannabes, although Elizabeth Warren is leading in suggested changes to get more tax money from the rich. There's the general wealth tax, corporate book profits tax, new Social Security wage tax, new Social Security net investment income tax (NIIT), new estate tax and every Democrats' favorite, repealing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) lower rates for higher... Read more →


Click image to watch Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's touting of Tax Reform 2.0 in 2020 via The Hill. There's not much hope that a divided Congress will get much done on taxes in the remaining months of 2019, but at least one Trump Administration official is more optimistic about 2020. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that the White House would consider proposing a new package of tax cuts next year. Will Tax Reform 2.0 actually happen in 2020? Is this just a political ploy leading into what could be a difficult re-election campaign? Will tax cuts become the new... 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 →


As I was making my usual trip between my mother's and home, I noticed a wide range of prices at gas stations along the way. Heck, I noticed some wide differentials in fueling stops less than a mile apart in my area of Austin. The one consistent factor was that they all were down from earlier this summer. That's not a surprise. Now that the long Labor Day weekend is over, the summer vacation season where most folks still load the family in a car and hit the road is done, too. So what exactly affects the price of gasoline?... Read more →


Russia's Tsar Peter I, popularly known as Peer the Great, was a believer in using tax policy to shape people's behavior. He tried to do that with a beard tax. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) Every time we're hit with a new tax, we immediately decry how damaging it will be to us personally. But it's highly unlikely that any of today's Internal Revenue Code assessments will ever hit as close to home as a Russian tax enacted on this day (or thereabouts) 321 years ago. Sept. 5, 1678, is the day according to most accounts that Tsar Peter I, better... Read more →


Andrew Luck announces his retirement from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The main reason the young quarterback quit the game was injuries. A bonus to his departure: no more jock tax calculations. The National Football League's 2019 season kicks off tomorrow night, but Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck won't be on the field. The 29-year-old stunned the sports world on Aug. 24 when he confirmed rumors that he was retiring from the sport. Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated that Luck could be giving up as much as $450 million in future salary. Luck, however, obviously thinks he has made enough money... Read more →


The Trump Administration's latest round of tariffs that took effect today, Sept. 1. The additional 15 percent tariff on around $300 billion worth of Chinese goods as varied as batteries, cereal bowls, coals, pajamas and human hair. Kai Ryssdal, host of APM's Marketplace (which I listen to on my local NPR station KUT-FM), took a look some of the industries affected. Actually, since it's radio, the show enlisted Marketplace's foreign editor John Buckley and his sonorous British-accented voice to read some of the items that now cost more. The full list is 122 pages long so, as Ryssdal notes, the... Read more →


It's Friday. The last Friday of the month. A Friday heading into a three-day weekend. So I'm being lazy. I'm shifting Shout Out Saturday to Friday, or as I call it on these special days Focus Friday. The focus this Friday leading into the Labor Day weekend is tax laws. Lee Reems II, a Twitter tax pal and CEO of ClientWhys, CountingWorks.com and TaxBuzz.com obviously is a busy guy. But he still had the time this week to pull together a good overview of tax law changes still in the works in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs... Read more →


Emmanuel Macron, left, and Donald J. Trump at the beginning of the just-completed G7 session in France. As the international gathering closed, the pair announced a deal had been reached to ease U.S. concerns over France's digital tax and French worries about possible U.S. tariffs on Gallic wines. Good news for French wine fans. Donald J. Trump and Emmanuel Macron apparently arrived at a rapprochement at the G7 meeting in France this weekend. The threatened tariffs on French wines won't be imposed. That means the only taxes we wine drinkers will face are the long-standing U.S. federal and state-levied excise... Read more →


When California last year joined the literal growing ranks of states that have legalized marijuana, initial projections were that the state soon would be raking in $1 billion annually from weed-related taxes. That apparently was a pipe dream. The report on Golden State cannabis excise taxes collected between April and June was just $74 million. That disappointing revenue amount is this week's By the Numbers figure. Even more discouraging, California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office sharply scaled back projected tax dollars from the state's legal weed market. That's been the case in other states, too. In pushing through legal marijuana, both... Read more →