Tax help Feed

These ghostly trick-or-treating dogs are more cuddly than scary. But ghost tax preparers can be terrifying. Don't let one haunt you. There's one thing that scares the Internal Revenue Service and taxpayers alike. Tax scams. One such ploy that popped up during the summer is making rounds again this Halloween season in a new, shall we say, costume. It's the one where the calling crook pretends to be from the Social Security Administration. "In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim's SSN. It's yet another... 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 →


Relationships, even in the best of circumstances, are hard. When one partner is abusive, then things get untenable. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During this month, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and similar groups are highlighting the victims and survivors, their children and families, their friends and family and their communities that are impacted by domestic violence. More importantly, these organizations are providing assistance and counseling to those in abusive relationships and looking for ways to leave them. Financial as well as physical abuse: While most of us immediately think of physical harm when we hear of... Read more →


The U.S. and British Virgin Islands took a whacking today from Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Caribbean islands as a category 1. Puerto Rico, still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, was spared major damage as Dorian decided to take a more northward turn. Dorian is expected to shift westerly, however, and head to Florida. Forecasters say it could be a category 3 'cane by the time it reaches the U.S. mainland over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Thanks Mother Nature. Not! Stay safe: The main thing for anyone in a hurricane's path is to do whatever... Read more →


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was created more than 40 years ago as a way to give lower-earning workers a tax break. But from the get-go, the EITC has been problematic. Now, just weeks before the National Taxpayer Advocate retires, her office has offered Congress some suggestions on how to improve the tax credit, as well as how it can be more effectively administered. Some tax credit history: The way we got to today's EITC is almost as complicated and intricate as the tax break itself. When created in 1975, the EITC was supposed to be a temporary tax... Read more →


Washington, D.C., subway car awaiting Red Line passengers. (Photo by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) Moving from West Texas to Washington, D.C., was a revelation for many reasons. One of the key differences was transportation. The hubby and I came from a part of the country where cars (OK, trucks) were, and still are, the predominant way to get around. Suddenly, as the "On the Town" opening song goes, we were riding in a hole in the ground. We quickly fell in love with the D.C. Metro, even though when we arrived there in 1981, its routes were somewhat limited.... Read more →


These pups probably would be cooler inside under the A/C instead of atop the condenser. As a general rule, your cooling system works better when you keep the outside air conditioning unit clear of everything, including pets! Summer's been official for just a week, but folks in many areas have been dealing with hot temperatures for a while. Some, including my neighbors who've had air conditioning repair trucks parked in front of their houses for what seems like weeks, already are feeling the often costly effects of warmer weather. That's why it's a good time to think about tuning up... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, shown here in a screen shot from an earlier C-SPAN appearance, takes parting shot at 'woefully inadequate' IRS customer service in her final report to Congress before she retires in July. Nina E. Olson is nothing if not consistent. The problem for taxpayers with this trait is that it means much of the change to and improvement of the Internal Revenue Service that Olson has championed for almost two decades remains unfinished. Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), at least for another few weeks. She was appointed to the IRS oversight post in... Read more →


Image courtesy SimpsonsWorld via Giphy.com The IRS reform bill could not have come at a better time, based on a recent report from the federal tax agency oversight office. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the IRS gave its taxpayer telephone assistance program better grades than it deserved. IRS customer service improvements planned: Each year, millions of taxpayers call the IRS toll-free telephone assistance lines seeking help to understand the tax laws and meet their tax obligations, notes TIGTA. Telephone assistance is one of the agency's crucial customer services, but the methods the IRS uses to... Read more →


IRS building photo by Kari Bluff via Flickr CC The Taxpayer First Act, which is awaiting the president's signature to become law was signed into law on July 1, got a lot of attention for what wasn't in it. The controversial section that would have codified the Free File Alliance was removed in the bill's revised House version, which was approved by voice vote in that chamber on June 10. Three days later, the Senate approved the reworked bill, also by voice vote, and sent it to the White House. Opponents of the formalized Free File section argued that it... Read more →


Things that are never good: an unexpected envelope from the Internal Revenue Service. That's the assessment of one of my personal finance writer pals. Today, she's working to clear things up in connection with one of those mailing she got from Uncle Sam's tax man. It's not a fun exercise, but it's definitely one you should undertake if you disagree with an IRS decision. In fact, the IRS own Taxpayer Bill of Rights covers this situation in several of its tenets. Specifically, I'm looking at every taxpayer's right to: Pay no more than the correct amount of tax, Challenge the... Read more →


If you filed your taxes before May 16 and your earnings included investment income, you might want to take another look at your return. The Internal Revenue Service announced on its website yesterday, May 16, that the 2018 Schedule D tax worksheet in that form's instructions contained an error. "The tax calculation did not work correctly with the new TCJA [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] regular tax rates and brackets for certain Schedule D filers who had 28% rate gain (taxed at a maximum rate of 28%) reported on line 18 of Schedule D or unrecaptured section 1250 gain (taxed... Read more →


Free File is finally getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately for companies involved in the Internal Revenue Service/tax software partnership, it's not the kind of attention they want. The IRS now is following state officials in California and New York in looking into whether potential Free File users were intentionally directed away from the program. Free but not that popular: Free File, as the name indicates, was designed to allow most taxpayers access to no-cost online tax return completion and electronic filing. The 2019 filing season is its 17th. It's still available to taxpayers through the Oct. 15 extended filing... Read more →


Photo by Ken Hawkins via Flickr CC Free. It's the most magical word in the world. Everyone is always looking to get something for nothing. That includes tax filing. A couple of weeks ago, the tax and consumer protection worlds were abuzz over a provision in the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 that cleared the U.S. House with a provision that keeps the Internal Revenue Service from developing its own no-cost tax filing program. Such total IRS ownership of the form filling and electronic filing is the unicorn of the tax world for many. They oppose Uncle Sam acting as... Read more →


We made it! Tax Days 2019 — and yes, Days is correct, since there were two April deadlines this year — are done! OK, maybe we made it because we filed for an extension. That's OK. We got something in to the Internal Revenue Service on time. Now we can relax. But not too much. In addition to meeting that Oct. 15 due date, all of us need to be proactive with tax moves over the next few months to ensure that our 2020 bill is as small as possible when we file next year. That's what the Weekly Tax... Read more →


Two tornadoes struck the small East Texas town of Alto on Saturday, April 13. The National Weather Service confirmed on Sunday that the first was an EF-2 tornado and the second was an EF-3. Click image to see video from Disaster Compilations on YouTube. There are some things more important than taxes on April 15, 2019. Too many folks in the southern half of the United States are dealing with the loss of family and friends after a deadly weather system moved across that region over the weekend. At least eight people were killed by the storms, which in addition... Read more →


This wading bird doesn't mind being knee-deep, but it's not a good position if you're trying to dig through your taxes on this last weekend of the filing season. (Photo by I Am birdsaspoetry.com via Flickr CC) We're knee- or in some cases neck-deep into the final days of Tax Season 2019. How's it going for you? If you're among the more than 103 million U.S. taxpayers who have already filed their returns, you're probably feeling pretty good about things. So is Charles Rettig, who's overseeing his first federal filing season as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. "The filing... Read more →


My mother and my furry little brother Willie having a conversation. While walking Willie last October, my mom fell and broke her leg, a common occurrence among older dog owners. That accident has prompted ongoing discussions (OK, fights) on possible more hands-on care options for my octogenarian mother. (Photo by Kay Bell) I'm a cat person. Fight me. Or don't. Like cats, I'm not really concerned about your pet opinion. For almost a decade, though, I've been dealing with a dog. Not mine. My mom's. She has a dog, Willie, and he's the most spoiled animal I have ever known.... 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 →


Prior year tax returns serve many purposes. This filing season, a check of last year's return will show you what your tax liability for 2017 was. You can compare that to your final 2018 tax bill to see if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did indeed lower your taxes even though your refund this year was smaller. You'll also need past year tax data if you're applying for a major loan, such as a mortgage. And if you're electronically filing your tax return this year, you'll need data from your previous year's taxes to complete that task. Record... Read more →