Shout Out Feed

Thoreau's Cove, circa 1908, on Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. (Photo from the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons) Nature is a healing touchstone for many. That was especially evident when we reduced our socializing due to COVID-19. A walk in a park was a way to get out of our self-imposed lockdowns and stay safely distant from others while embracing the environment. Many people went further as the coronavirus pandemic continued, moving from crowded cities to suburban or urban retreats where they could work from home. They found, in a fashion, their own modern day Walden Ponds. At... Read more →


The University of Alabama soon might have some new competitors in the SEC. (Pixabay via Pexels) Sure, the COVID-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics are finally underway, but here in Texas we're fixating on, what else, football. The Dallas Cowboys will kick off the NFL's 2021 preseason in a couple of weeks, but it's college football that is dominating the conversation right now. It looks like the Big 12, which only has 10 colleges in the conference, is about to lose two more. Oklahoma (OU) and Texas (UT) reportedly are joining the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Not only would that mess up the... Read more →


View from the Astros' dugout in Minute Maid Park. (Photo by Kay Bell) The National Basketball Association's (NBA) championship series is on and, at least to this casual fan, surprisingly competitive. Major League Baseball (MLB) has started its second-half, with my two favorite teams at polar opposite ends of the playoff picture. National Football League (NFL) players will report to training camps this month. But aside from summer crossover, there's one other thing professional sports teams have in common. The billionaire owners of major league sports franchise owners are always the winners, even when their teams lose. How? By utilizing... Read more →


As this recent report from my local Community Impact newspaper shows, Austin's housing market is en fuego. That's good news for sellers, but bad news for homeowners sticking around and seeing the increased prices drive up our property tax bills. My relationship with my neighbors, regardless of where we've lived, has been … interesting. They all and always intrigue and annoy me on a daily basis. To be fair, I suspect they feel the same about me. Right now, however, my real beef is with my former neighbors. Specifically, the ones who recently sold their homes in Austin's astoundingly (some... Read more →


It's the Fourth of July weekend. The 2021 celebration is getting added attention, since last year most of America's birthday parties were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But July 1 is another date of note. The year's midpoint is the first day of the fiscal year for most states and, according to The Tax Foundation, 13 have notable tax changes that took effect last week. There are individual income tax changes in Idaho and Illinois, corporate adjustments in Indiana and Montana, inheritance tax alterations in Iowa, and revisions of sales, use and gross receipts taxes in Florida, Kansas, New... Read more →


Don't fall, regardless of your age, for tax or other types of fraudulent schemes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last week that it is sending checks totaling more than $316,000 to 10,689 people who lost money to a student loan debt relief scheme. The FTC began investigating this scam last year after reports of a company telling consumers that, for an upfront fee of $699 and a monthly fee of $39, the company would permanently lower or eliminate the individuals' student loan debts. In reality, says the FTC, the payments could change every year, and loan forgiveness was not... Read more →


Juneteenth, which first began in Texas, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. But today's Juneteenth celebrations are especially notable. This commemoration of June 19, 1865, the day when slaves in Texas got the official word that they were free. It's been a state holiday here since 1980. Now it's a national holiday. Officially, it's now known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. That name change happened when President Joe Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and luminaries like 94-year-old Opal Lee, the Texan who had worked for decades to get to... Read more →


Photo by Roberto Nickson via Pexels On May 26, sky watchers across much of the world were awed by the Blood Moon lunar eclipse. It coincided with the moon's closest approach to Earth, meaning the so-called supermoon took on a reddish hue during the event, giving it the dramatic name. Then just last week, some of us were treated to an annular solar eclipse that appeared as a ring of fire when the moon blocked out only the middle of the sun, leaving its glow around the edges. Most, however, saw the June 10 astronomical phenomenon as the moon taking... Read more →


It's a good summer for young people looking for jobs. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels) Before COVID-19, one of the traditional rites of passage for young people was getting a summer job. After literally being locked out last summer due to business pandemic precautions, young workers are returning. In fact, for American teenagers looking for work, this may be the best summer in years. The share of teenagers working is above pre-pandemic levels. The staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas projects teens will add about 2 million jobs to the economy this summer. Still, despite all that economic and... Read more →


Happy College Savings Day! Or to be more tax specific, Happy National 529 Day! May 29, or 5/29 if you go the numerical route, is the day to celebrate 529 plans, even though the tax-favored educational savings plans get their name from the Internal Revenue Code section under which they were created, not the calendar. Provenance aside, these educational savings accounts grow tax-free as long as you eventually use the money to pay for qualifying school-related expenses. In addition to the usual classroom fees, books, supplies and equipment, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded 529 funds usage.... Read more →


2021 already has brought us tornadoes, floods, fires and more. Now the annual Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season has arrived early, again, meaning it's time to get ready for that and whatever disaster is common where you live. The Atlantic hurricane season doesn't start until June 1, but we already (again!) have an early forming storm. Subtropical Storm Ana developed today, May 22, near Bermuda. (Screen shot of The Weather Channel video.) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) 2021 Atlantic hurricane season forecast calls for another active six (or more) months. So far, that prediction looks spot on. The... Read more →


The time left until tomorrow's Tax Day is tick, tick, ticking away. If you're feeling like silent movie legend Harold Lloyd, hanging on by your fingernails as you try to finish your Form 1040, take a break by filing for an extension instead. In a survey earlier this tax filing season by Credello, more than three-quarters of respondents said they know what they're doing when it comes to filing their taxes. Oh, really? Not that I'm questioning the poll participants' honesty, but taxes are not really the area where you want to fake it 'til you make it. If you... Read more →


Among the many numbers critical to tax filing is the deadline returns are due. That's not always the same for all taxpayers. This year we have three due dates for filers in five states. I love tax visuals. There are tons of fun tax graphics (yes, I used "fun" and "tax" in the same sentence) out there, many from the Internal Revenue Service. I just ran across another one, an infographic from WalletHub. A very long infographic that, since I'm awarding it this weekend's Saturday Shout Out, you'll find at the end of this comparatively brief post. But before you... Read more →


The Biden Administration's proposal to up the Internal Revenue Service budget so it could go after more rich tax cheats got a lot of attention. But the White House also wants to cut down on some audits. That, according to the president's American Families Plan, can be accomplished by giving the IRS more oversight of unregulated tax preparers. The audit/tax pro regulation connection is noted in a White House fact sheet hyping the proposal: These Tax returns prepared by certain types of preparers have high error rates. These preparers charge taxpayers large fees while exposing them to costly audits. As... Read more →


Spring has come and gone here in Central Texas. We're heading into a stretch when afternoon high temperatures are going to push 90 degrees. But it's still a good time for some spring cleaning, especially since it's going to too hot to be outdoors. And especially if you decided to get your taxes done well ahead of the May 17 Tax Day 2021 deadline. Over the years, I've posted my post-filing record retention recommendations. My tax document record keeping suggestions following last year's also-delayed Tax Day still are good, even if I say so myself. True, if you need but... Read more →


While those who work in the tax world must be precise, taxes are full of a particular type of shortcut. I'm talking about those sometimes creative, other times eye-roll inducing abbreviations or acronyms for tax terms. Tax terminology is full of them. AGI, AMT, EIN, EITC, EFTPS, GAAP, FATCA, IRA, NOL, PTIN, and VAT just to name a few. Good, bad and ugly acronyms: Tax bills themselves also usually are shortened, with the verbal results sometimes fine and even fun, most times meh and other time invariably ugh. The historic 1986 tax reform bill got the basic moniker Tax Reform... Read more →


Sometimes it's worth the extra time and effort to file an amended tax return. In its regular email to tax professionals last week, the Internal Revenue Service remined them that their clients who filed 2020 returns before the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) excluded a portion of unemployment from tax don't need to file amended returns. The IRS says it will recalculate the tax liability of these filers, taking into account the tax they paid on $10,200 per person in unemployment benefits before ARPA's March 11 enactment date. If the early-filing taxpayers are due a refund, the IRS will automatically... Read more →


New York last week became the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. New Yorkers now can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis for recreational use. But don't expect to pick up some of that legal weed any time soon. While using marijuana is legal for adults age 21 or older, the process of approving dispensaries and establishing precise regulations and tax rules for cannabis distribution will take a while. 17 cannabis OK locales: Still, the Empire State's move is a big one. New York is the 17th jurisdiction to join the legal cannabis club. The toking fraternity includes 16... Read more →


Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created to help small businesses continue to operate in the face of COVID-19 complications. Its execution, however, has been a mixed bag for many businesses and their tax pros, not always working as smoothly as its creators had hoped. Still, the forgivable loan program has its fans. And those worried about its impeding March 31 expiration can rest easier. The Senate last week agreed to the House bill extending the PPP. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. When that's done, borrowers will be able to apply for... Read more →


Some people got less COVID-19 relief money because the IRS took some to pay other debts. Every year, some taxpayers find the tax refunds the Internal Revenue Service sends them are less than they expected. The usual reason for the shortfall is that the federal refund amounts were offset by other debts, such as unpaid taxes, student loans or delinquent child support. That situation cropped up last year when the Recovery Rebate Credit was created as part of COVID-19 relief legislation. The rebates were paid in advance to millions of taxpayers. And in some, but not all, instances, economic impact... Read more →