Tax help Feed

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 →


The National Taxpayer Advocate this year selected 21 major problems that taxpayers encounter in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. I found five of those issues particularly troublesome. Every year, the National Taxpayer Advocate issue a report to Congress. The 2018 version released this week included a look at, not surprising, how the recent government shutdown affected not only Internal Revenue Service operations, but also the taxpayers who, particularly at this time of year, are relying on IRS services. Part of that annual report also includes at least 20 tax matters that the Taxpayer Advocate identifies as the most... Read more →


Open-close sign via Giphy.com The drama continues in Washington, D.C., as far as keeping the federal government open. It looked like, despite some grumbling from all sides, that a bipartisan, bicameral deal reached this week would keep all of the federal government open past Feb. 15. We all need to keep our fingers (and toes) crossed that it happens, especially those of us — which mean most Americans — who deal with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS obviously among those pushing for a resolution that will get the agency through the 2019 tax filing season. The agency is still... Read more →


Hello, February! If we ever were in need of your hearts and flowers, it is now. January was tough tax-wise. We had to worry about whether the Internal Revenue Service actually would get filing season open as the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history dragged on. It opened as promised on Jan. 28, but be patient. Plus, we're dealing with our first filing season under the many, many changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Yep, we definitely need some tax love. And some tax guidance, whether we're earlier filers awaiting refunds or procrastinators taking... Read more →


Just like the Highlander character of film and television fame, the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under which we're now filing our 2018 tax returns says there can be only one. One Form 1040, that is. The Internal Revenue Service today begins processing millions, if you go by the agency's prior filing season data, of early-filed tax returns. IRS staff are going to face more than the usual filing season chaos since most of them are coming back to work after 35 days of being shutout. (Short story: Get ready for some delays.) Filers, too, are in for some... 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 →


Internal Revenue Service offices nationwide, like this one in New York City, are closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikipedia Commons) Most of us don't have personal interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. We simply do our taxes every year, send them to the federal tax collector and move on with our lives. It's a different story in many places across the country. Those places have physical IRS offices where friends and family usually go each weekday to do their jobs. They want the government shutdown shut down so they can get back... 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 →


Hello 2019! I'm not sure we're ready for you, particularly when it comes to the major tax code changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). We'll deal with the real-life effects of the new tax laws for the first time when we file our 2018 returns. When that will be is still up in the air and depends on a resolution to the partial government shutdown. But even though Capitol Hill and many of Uncle Sam's offices remain in limbo, we taxpayers need to start now taking an up close and personal look at what the TCJA will... Read more →


Like helping people? You can extend your volunteer penchant beyond the holidays and into the coming tax season by becoming a volunteer with an Internal Revenue Service-approved free tax help site. Don't worry. You'll get, like the folks pictured here, the tax training needed to help others fulfill their tax tasks. (Screenshot from IRS video) The holidays are here. Yeah, I'm not ready either, but … In this season of giving, many folks donate to charities. This year, much of the focus in on helping nonprofits that assist folks who've suffered through natural disasters, notably the deadly wildfires still burning... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 15: Additional areas in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia now receive tax relief in connection with Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Details below. Monday, Oct. 15 is a big tax day for millions. The Internal Revenue Service says more than 14 million taxpayers requested added time to complete their 2017 tax returns. While not all of them put off that tax task until the very last minute, it's a safe bet that a lot did. If' you're among that group of uber-procrastinators, I wish you well in getting the job done by tomorrow. The tax and... Read more →


Did you get an extension back in April to wait until Oct. 15 to file your 2017 tax return? Guess what? That's Monday. Like this coming Monday. Like three days from now! Sorry. That means no weekend fun for you. You need to spend your weekend, or at least part of it, working on your 2017 Form 1040. I feel for all y'all ultimate procrastinators. I've been there, but not this year, thank goodness. The hubby and I still got an extension, joining more than 14 million other taxpayers who sidestepped the April 18 deadline, but we filed our return... Read more →


Port St. Joe on Florida's Panhandle was hard hit by Hurricane Michael. Residents of this small Gulf County, Florida, town now are eligible for special tax relief. (Photo courtesy Florida National Guard via Facebook) As expected, the Internal Revenue Service is giving Hurricane Michael victims extra time to take care of tax tasks that the deadly storm interrupted. The eligible taxpayers now have until Feb. 28, 2019, to file returns, pay taxes and perform certain other time-sensitive acts that had original or extended deadlines between Oct. 7 and the new filing due date next year. Extension deadline considerations: The IRS'... Read more →


Hurricane Michael is bearing down on the panhandle of Florida. It's expected to make landfall It made landfall this afternoon, possibly as category 4 strength (or stronger; wind instruments blew away before getting final readings), a speed at which it's been churning up the Gulf of Mexico for almost half a day. It's too late to evacuate, so I hope folks have found secure places to hunker down. And while I know no one is thinking about taxes when a hurricane is heading their way. The Internal Revenue Service was far from the hubby's and my minds back in 2004... Read more →


Old-school passbook savings accounts are safe, but have been paying minuscule interest over the last few years. The White House might be unhappy, but all of us with money in safer assets like certificates of deposit (CDs) or plain-old savings accounts are sending the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, aka the Fed, a big fat thank you. The Fed's decision yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 26) to raise rates to a range between 2 percent and 2.25 percent means we'll be seeing few more pennies of earnings in our accounts. And it is just pennies. Those of us old enough to remember... Read more →


When you hire a tax professional, you want someone you can trust. In Paul Manafort's case, that apparently meant someone he trusted to file fraudulent returns. The accountant for former Donald J. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told jurors hearing the bank fraud and tax evasion charges against the long-time political operative that she helped backdate documents and falsify financial records. Cynthia Laporta, who has been given limited immunity for her testimony, said the accounting maneuvers suggested by Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates, who's also working with the prosecution and expected to eventually testify in the case,... Read more →


Since its appearance in 2003, around 50 million taxpayers have used Free File. As the name indicates, this partnership of the Internal Revenue Service and tax software manufacturers known as the Free File Alliance gives most taxpayers the opportunity to do their taxes on their computers and then e-file them at no cost. But, notes Pro Publica in an article co-published with Quartz, the number of Free Filing taxpayers comes to just around 3 percent of eligible households. That, according to the article by Tik Root, means that folks have spent around $1 billion on tax prep and filing fees... Read more →


Kilauea lava flow from U.S. Geological Survey via Giphy.com Hawaiians got some relatively good news this week in connection with the continuing lava flow from Mount Kilauea. The volcano is continuing to spew potentially deadly gases and pour flaming lava across a growing southeastern section of the 50th state's Big Island. The eruption, which started May 3, also is still producing explosions and earthquakes. Now, however, the catastrophe has been declared a major disaster by the White House. That is good tax news for affected residents, which is everyone on the state's largest island, also named Hawaii, as is the... Read more →