Shout Out Feed

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 →


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 →


Close-up of National Geographic United States wall map. Click image to see all 50 states. Most states tend to operate on fiscal years, with July 1 being an effective date for a lot of law change State leaders, however, realize that their residents follow the Gregorian calendar, so they still make Jan. 1 the effective date for major revisions of law. I was surfing the Web on New Year's Day — doesn't everybody?!? — and ran across some interesting state tax law changes that took effective with the arrival of 2019. Below is a look at what I found. New... Read more →


The Dallas Cowboys, in white uniforms during a game with Detroit at Jerry World a few years ago, are heading back to the NFL playoffs. The Pokes last won a post-season game in 1996, when they ultimately won Super Bowl XXX. Will they change their dismal playoff run in 2019? (Photo by Kay Bell) National Football League fans in Texas are pretty happy this final regular season game weekend. Both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys will play the post-season, with the Pokes actually winning their division. Go figure. I haven't been paying as close attention to the NFL this... Read more →


We're now into the third shutdown of federal offices this year. The other two were brief closures back in January and February. Will this latest federal government shutdown, which began at midnight today (Saturday, Dec. 22) be similarly short-lived? Maybe, but closure #3 of 2018 already is the longest of the year, with the January shutdown lasting three days and the one in early February technically shutting federal doors for just a few hours. Nothing is expected to happen until after Christmas. Some are predicting the impasse will continue into the new year. And Donald J. Trump has vowed that... Read more →


Welcome to Part 10 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. This final part of the annual inflation tweaks focuses on vehicle mileage rates. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. If your job requires you to be on the road, you'll get a bit bigger tax break for... Read more →


I've never been a big shopper. So when the ability to virtually peruse shelves and racks came along, it was like a gift from heaven. I am not alone. Even folks who enjoy the in-store experience have been shifting to online shopping in recent years. Cyber Monday 2018 hit a new shopping record. You'd think that this burst of online shopping would be good for state tax departments, more of which are now getting additional sales tax money following this summer's 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. That ruling struck down the prior Quill nexus requirement... Read more →


It's Dec. 1. That means we have to wait just 24 days until we can unwrap our presents, or 23 if you rip 'em open on Christmas Eve. It's also the first day in six months that we haven't been counting down the annual Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled the above video that compresses Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) East satellite imagery of the entire six-plus-month season (yes, it started early again this year) into one minute. NOAA's YouTube presentation also gets this week's special video Saturday Shout Out. A secondary shout... Read more →


Have you stopped by your locally-owned shops today to show some Small Business Saturday support? This specially designated holiday shopping day was initiated by a major credit card, American Express, in 2010 as a way to encourage shoppers to encourage Black Friday bargain hunters to expand their buying to small, local retailers. The next year the Shop Small movement had gained enough momentum to receive boosts from all 50 state and many local officials, as well as nationally. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the day. And this year, New Mexico lawmakers have gone even further... Read more →