Shout Out Feed

Supporters of a minimum wage increase at rally in Chicago last year. (Photo: Charles Edward Miller licensed under CC by SA 2.0; cover of the National Employment Law Project 2020 report) New tax laws aren't the only ones that went into effect on New Year's Day across the United States. A record number of states, cities and counties have or will boost their minimum wages in 2020. On or around this Jan. 1st, the minimum wage increased in 21 states. Another 26 cities and counties also hiked their baseline pay at the start of this year. In the coming months,... Read more →


I don't know who came up with all these holidays in quick succession at the end of each year, but that person needs to be fired. We, and by we I mean U.S. residents since Canadians are smarter about Thanksgiving's timing, have a lot of special days in the last calendar quarter. Holiday avalanche: It starts in mid-October with Columbus Day, still one of 10 federal holidays recognized by Uncle Sam, although many areas now celebrate that Monday as Indigenous Peoples' Day. At the end of the month, we have Halloween and, depending on your heritage or geography, Dia de... Read more →


Christmas is next week! So of course you're thinking about filing your 2019 tax return. Maybe not this coming week. But you will soon. And when you do think about it, if you're like most U.S. taxpayers, you'll use tax software. E-filing encouraged: The Internal Revenue Service encourages us — and in the case of most paid tax preparers, requires — to use the tax preparation programs and accompanying electronic filing option. We follow those prompts and pushes. This year, more than 138 million returns were e-filed. That was almost 89 percent of all the 1040s and other annual returns... Read more →


Quick email question for you. Are you getting more online sale announcements or more requests to donate to good causes? It's close in my inbox, but charitable solicitations seem to be winning. That's not really a surprise. I'm not much of a shopper, in real life or online, so I don't generate enough of a cookie trail for e-tailers to follow. Plus, in the wake of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes, charities are making concerted efforts to encourage donors. That means every nonprofit to which I've given over the years, as well as the groups they sold... Read more →


The days left in 2019 are dwindling. Quickly. Don't just take my work for it. Check out the countdown clock over in the right column of the ol' blog literally clicking away the seconds left in this year. That means it's time to act to cut your taxes. You can check out my monthly tax moves (thank you!) for November and December for some possibilities. While I did mention in those earlier posts (the November one specifically) the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act's 20 percent tax break for small businesses that operate as passthrough entities, most of those earlier tips... Read more →


Some food delivery apps apparently are shorting states when it comes to sales tax on the delivery fees. The 2019 holiday shopping season is officially underway. The kickoff remains Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as many shoppers remain committed to post-Turkey Day sales. Early data from Adobe Analytics shows in-store sales were up 4 percent from last year. But consumer patterns are changing. The store of choice for more and more of us is the internet, which is open 24/7 365 days a year. Online Black Friday sales were up early in the day by more than 19 percent... Read more →


The men and women hoping to win the Democratic presidential nomination have gotten a lot of attention for their proposals to tax the wealthy. That's obviously an area to watch, as the money could help pay for some other tax and public policy pitches. But most of us aren't wealthy. So what is really important to us is how much of a tax bite the Internal Revenue Service would take out of our average Jane and Joe Taxpayer income under Democratic plans. The Tax Foundation has looked at the tax proposals from the four Democratic White House wannabes who, at... Read more →


Photo by Chris/spike55151 via Flickr There's a saying that any tax law bill should be subtitled the Perpetual Employment for Accountants Act. The thinking, in both the financial and political worlds, is that no matter what Congress does to the Internal Revenue Code, we'll need tax professionals to decipher at least some of it. Or to help guide you, if you can afford it, through the legislative and legal maze that will allow you to avoid or at least reduce the effects of some of the tax laws. That's the point of Paul Sullivan's analysis of proposed wealth taxes. "Name... Read more →


Welcome to Part 4 of the ol' blog's 2020 series on tax inflation adjustments. We started on Nov. 6 with a look at next year's income tax brackets and rates. Today we look at changes to tax credit, deduction and income exclusion amounts. Note: The 2020 figures in this post apply to 2020 returns to be filed in 2021. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2019 amounts to be used in filing 2019 returns due April 15, 2020. The hubby has a chant he breaks into every year when I start working on our annual tax return: "Deduct! Deduct! Deduct!"... Read more →


Even more intriguing, will Donald J. Trump now become social media's definitive Florida Man? Donald Trump, especially early in his presidency, spent a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago, his South Florida club and residence. Here, Trump and Melania in April 2017 welcomed the People's Republic of China president Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan to the Palm Beach abode. Now Trump says it, not Trump Tower in New York City, will be his official residence. (Photo via Trump's Twitter account and Wikipedia Commons). The hubby and I used to live in Donald J. Trump's future full-time home. Alas, for... Read more →


Leonardo DiCaprio living the rich life in a scene from The Great Gatsby. (Film publicity photo courtesy Warner Bros.) The hubby and I are of that age where we're thinking about our estate plan. I know, financial planners say that every age is a good one to think about your estate. Planning helps you accumulate it, not just decide where it goes after you're gone. Still, most people, rightly or wrongly, don't tend to think about their estates until they get older. One thing a lot of us won't have to worry about, at least not if we shuffle off... Read more →


Nestor, show in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image above as it gathered steam yesterday (Oct. 18) in the Gulf of Mexico, moved today closer to the Florida panhandle. The good news is that Nestor is now a post-tropical storm. That designation change, however, doesn't mean this 14th named storm of the 2019 hurricane season is harmless. As Nestor moves inland across the southeastern United States, it is projected to bring heavy rains and associated flooding, coastal surges and severe thunderstorms, some with tornadoes. Meanwhile, in the northeastern part of the county, a large bomb cyclone wreaked havoc.... Read more →


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 →


Märzen Oktoberfest beer photo courtesy Kegerator Oktoberfest celebrations are wrapping up here in the German communities of Central Texas, as well as around the rest of the Lone Star State, nation and world. That means we'll all be back to drinking our regular routine beers. What won't change are the federal and state excise taxes collected on brewskis. Tax price of imbibing: It's a notable amount. The Beer Institute says that more than 40 percent of the retail price of beer comes from taxes. A big chunk of that is from the federal alcohol tax of up to 58 cents... 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 →


Flooding along I-10 in the Port Arthur, Texas, area due to Tropical Storm Imelda's excessive rain. (Photo by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office via Twitter) Coastal and East Texas is flashing back to 2017. That year, major Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Many parts of Space City and the Gulf Coast are still recovering. Now it's Tropical Storm Imelda, which now has devolved into a depression, that has dropped way too much rain on the area. At least five people have died and the southeastern part of the Lone Star State is facing record-setting flooding. Google Maps Using nest egg to make... 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 →


Some of the devastation facing Bahamians following Hurricane Dorian's direct hit on the islands. (Photo courtesy Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance via Facebook) Hurricane Dorian is still traveling up North America's eastern coastline, but it did its most damage on Sept. 2 when it made landfall as a Category 5 storm in The Bahamas. More than 40 people were killed and that toll is expected to rise. At least 70,000 people are homeless. Early estimates of property damage are around $7 billion in losses. Concerned people are looking for ways to help the residents of the island nation. This... 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 →


Yes, I know I've been fixated of late on computer security. First there was the ransomware warning. Then the new Internal Revenue Service impersonation tax identity theft scheme appeared. Part of the reason such topics have captured my fancy recently is that for the last week I've been away from my office a lot. That's meant doing much of my work on other systems. Even though I trust them, I always get a twinge of fear that somehow, someone will hack me. So thanks for bearing with me on my repetitive focus on computer — and tax — security, as... Read more →