Shout Out Feed

Among the flags celebrated on Fun With Flags, the online show within a show in CBS' The Big Bang Theory, was Old Glory. (Photo of Amy Farrah Fowler play by Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons, who played Sheldon Cooper and Betsy Ross, courtesy Sheldon Cooper presents Fun With Flags Facebook page). Happy Flag Day! Long-time readers of the ol' blog already know that June 14 is an extra special day for me. It was my younger brother's birthday. One of my fondest memories of him was when as a preschooler he thought all the U.S. flags were flying in his... Read more →


Although the June 7 jobs report showed that U.S. unemployment held steady at 3.6 percent, its lowest level in nearly 50 years, wage growth also was slow. That might help explain this week's Saturday Shout Out article from MarketWatch that one-third of Americans say they need a side gig to pay expenses. "A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant," Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. "For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work." Side gigs include everything from working as... 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 →


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 →


"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 →


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 →


In a few hours, we'll find out which thoroughbred will be wearing this year's coveted Garland of Roses. (Photo by Craig L. Duncan via English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0]) OK Tax and tax fans, have you placed your Kentucky Derby bets yet? By now, you know that tax, in addition to being the main focus of my professional writing life also is the name of a horse entered in today's 145th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. Betting basis: Is Tax a good bet? Depends on what you want to get out of it. If you have some spare... Read more →


Most of us don't cheat on our taxes. And by cheating, I mean intentionally enter false information on our returns. Sure, we don't like paying taxes, even after they're trimmed a bit via periodic federal tax law changes. Still, we suck it up every spring and do our tax duties. But most is not all. Some folks do fiddle with the figures they put on their 1040 forms. The Internal Revenue Service does what it can to stop and/or catch such evasive entries. Budget cuts and staff attrition, however, hamper such audit efforts. That's why the IRS takes all the... 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 →


March Madness is heating up. We're down to the Elite 8. I usually don't pay too much attention to college basketball, or college sports in general. I follow the professional games because I like to yell at the players, and I feel much more comfortable cursing guys who're pocketing beaucoup bucks instead of unpaid college athletes. I am in the minority, even in my house. The hubby has been sneaking some TV time watching the NCAA men's basketball championship tournament, though truth be told that's mainly because our alma matter, Texas Tech, is doing pretty well. Only the ELITE remain!#MarchMadness... Read more →


We've got just more than three weeks before our 2018 tax returns are due, but most of us aren't in any hurry to complete this task. Through March 15, the Internal Revenue Service reports that it has received almost 76 million 2018 tax year returns. That's 2.5 percent fewer than this point in last year's filing season. In fact, the IRS latest filing season data shows that 9 of 12 tracked areas are still slightly behind last year's pace. Only visits to IRS.gov, tax returns directly e-filed by taxpayers and directly deposited refunds are up over 2018 numbers by 11.2... Read more →


Nobody likes to owe taxes at filing time. And if you owe too much, you could face added penalties for not having enough money withheld or underpaying estimated taxes throughout the year. But every year, lots of folks find they have to write a check to the U.S. Treasury or set up a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service. The financial technology company SmartAsset.com recently took a look at where the U.S. taxpayers have the biggest tax bills. High plains tax bills: Sorry, Dakotans. You are the unlucky winners. Yep, residents of both South and North and South Dakota... Read more →


Even with a new, shorter Form 1040 in use for filing our 2018 returns, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that it will take, on average, a taxpayer 11 hours to file taxes. This time frame includes ancillary tasks like sorting through tax records, planning tax moves and filling out and submitting a complete return. Those hours also take into account dealing with all the associated forms and schedules, of which there are six new ones that now apply to just the revamped 1040, you'll have to deal with to meet your annual tax-filing responsibility. It's no wonder so many of... Read more →


I admit it, as a native Texan I get a kick out of this depiction of Lone Star State residents' skewed point of view of the United States. Click the image for a larger view of the map, which was part of a calendar I bought at Marfa Book Company while revisiting my West Texas roots a few years ago. Here on the ol' blog, I tend to focus on federal tax filings. That's because almost all of us at some point in our lives have to file paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service. But there also are state, and... Read more →


Do you overwithhold to get an annual tax refund because money burns a hole in your pocket? (Photo by Matthew via Flickr) It's no secret that Americans like their tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service for years has reported that most filers get at least some money back at tax-filing time. That refund data has fueled another annual debate. How to get people to adjust their withholding so that they get use of their money throughout the year in paychecks instead of having to wait for it in the form or a tax refund. As a tax journalist, I get... Read more →


There's better news for taxpayers this week. Internal Revenue Service data for the second week of the 2019 tax filing season shows a slightly larger refund amount. When the IRS released its first-week data, which covered 2018 tax returns filed by Feb. 1, the number of 1040s submitted and processed, as well as the number of refunds and average amount of those fewer checks, were dramatically lower than at the same time last year. That led to much grumbling by filers and arguments among supporters and opponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) about how the major tax... 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 →


Super Bowl Sunday is the single largest betting day of the year. And now, Nevada is no longer is the only state where bettors can place legal sports wagers. A historic Super Bowl LIII will finally kick off in Atlanta late Sunday, Feb. 3, afternoon. It's the is the first National Football League championship game where legal sports gambling has expanded beyond Nevada. Bettors now also can head to casinos or other betting establishments in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island or West Virginia to put their money down on the NFL's biggest game. You can bet... 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 →


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 →