Tax help Feed

Taxpayers got their first experience with new filing forms with last year's 2018 returns. There are more changes to the 1040 for 2019 taxes, too, but the revisions actually could be helpful. Tax season is about to start in a less than two weeks. Jan. 27, in case you forgot. Many of us are already working on our 2019 returns, either by working with a tax preparer or filling out our forms on our own. Doing taxes has never been a fun job for most folks. But filing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has made that job... Read more →


Ready to file your taxes? Ready to do so for free? The Internal Revenue Service is ready, too. Its Free File tax preparation and electronic filing option is open for business. As usual, the online no-cost way for millions to complete and electronically file their taxes is available before the IRS actually starts accepting and processing returns. That won't happen until Jan 27. But you can still get a jump on your annual tax filing obligation. The Free File program you select will simply hold your return until Jan. 27 and then submit as soon as the IRS officially kicks... Read more →


Image via GotCredit.com The year's first obvious and, for some, painful acknowledgement of taxes is next week. Jan. 15 is the due date for the final estimated tax payment for the 2019 tax year. That upcoming deadline day is this weekend's By the Numbers figure. Generally, if you expect you'll owe more than $1,000 in taxes, then you must pay estimated taxes throughout the year. If you've been paying estimated taxes for a while, you already know that these payments cover earnings that aren't subject to withholding. This includes things like investment earnings that pay out periodically during the year... Read more →


Topher Grace is known by millions of fans as television's Eric Forman. But when he's not acting, he also has a side gig. Side hustles aren't just for struggling wage slaves. From the "what I learned today" files, I literally learned today that actor Topher Grace has a side gig doing projects for Disney. Yes, the man who was Eric Forman in That '70s Show, and a buddy put together, as a lark, a consolidated trailer of all the Star Wars movies. Their unsanctioned YouTube post got a gazillion hits. OK, around 2 million from all the various postings. But... Read more →


Last year, some tax software companies allegedly hid their Free File option on their corporate websites, instead sending otherwise eligible free filers to paid products. That won't happen again, says the IRS, under a new Free File agreement that was just signed and takes effect for the upcoming 2020 tax-filing season. The only thing people like more than getting their annual tax refunds is getting things for free. The IRS says that this coming tax-filing season, its new agreement with tax software companies will help ensure that eligible taxpayers will know that they can combine those loves via Free File.... 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 →


December is, for the most part, a festive month. The holidays and all that accompanies them, from songs to movies to the joy of youngsters and young at heart, bring out the best in most of us. But things aren't quite so bright and jolly for everyone. Despite an economic recovery that's lifted people out of poverty in most areas of the country, poverty increased in at least one county in every state between 2016 and 2018. The poverty rate — defined as the percentage of people in households earning less than the current $25,750 threshold for a family of... Read more →


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 →