Tax preparers Feed

Even if you've been filling out Form 1040 and any other associated forms and schedules for years, things will be different this filing season. This is the first year we taxpayers (and tax pros) will be filing under the extensive new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes. In addition to new tax rates and deduction amounts, there are a variety of other tax law tweaks that could affect what goes on — or now doesn't — your Form 1040, which itself is new. So before you start working with your tax preparer or open up your tax software, either... 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 →


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 →


Welcome to Part 9 of the ol' blog's 2019 series on tax inflation adjustments. Today we look at tax penalties. You can find links to all 2019 inflation posts in the series' first item: income tax brackets and rates. Note: The 2019 figures apply to 2019 returns that are due in April 2020. For comparison purposes, you'll also find 2018 amounts to be used in filing this year's 2018 tax return due April 15, 2019. IRS agents don't throw flags like football referees, but the tax agency keeps a close eye out for violation of tax rules and laws and... Read more →


Another lingering tax deduction concern created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is finally clearer. The Internal Revenue Service says that half the cost of business meals is still tax deductible as an allowable work-related expense. That's what the pre-TCJA tax law said. But because the Republican tax reform bill was cobbled together so hurriedly at the end of 2017, its legislative language left many confused. And the new law's interpretation created a division among tax professionals (and semantics geeks) as to what exactly is entertainment. Meals or entertainment vs. meals and entertainment: A great number of tax... 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 →


After years of being lambasted for efforts to regulate tax preparers, the Internal Revenue Service is on a roll in its efforts to oversee certain tax professionals. A recently introduced bipartisan Senate bill would give the IRS the authority that many argue it doesn't have to set standards for tax professionals who aren't subject to other professional guidelines. This is not the first time such legislation has been introduced. But those previous bills never went anywhere. However, the tide now seems to be shifting a bit in the tax agency's favor. Influential tax professional groups are among this latest legislative... 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 →


The role of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in preventing the Internal Revenue Service from aggressively regulating tax preparers has prompted some questions about such oversight. Currently, the IRS uses a voluntary tax professional oversight system, but is expected to continue to push for Congressional authority to implement more stringent tax preparer regulations. Those who agree with the IRS (like the agency's National Taxpayer Advocate) argue that regulating tax pros is necessary in order to protect taxpaying clients. It also, they contend, would lead to more accurate tax returns and ensure a fairer and more efficient tax system Opponents of... Read more →


Judge Brett Kavanaugh spoke at the White House after being nominated to be the next Supreme Court justice. (Official White House photo by D. Myles Cullen via White House Instagram) Federal judge Brett Kavanaugh was tapped last night (July 9) by Donald J. Trump to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Kavanaugh, 53, has served on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, a position for which he was nominated by the last Republican Oval Office occupant, President George W. Bush. Like Trump's prior Supreme Court justice nominee, Neil... Read more →


Insightful high school seniors' essays offer valuable lessons about life, finances and, yes, taxes. As I get closer to retirement, I've begun to think what I'll do with the free time that transition is supposed to provide. One option I've considered is volunteering at tax help sites, like those offered by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations. That's why as I was thumbing through the paper this morning, the story about college essays caught my eye. Ron Lieber, who writes The New York Times' "Your Money" column that runs each Saturday, this weekend... Read more →


Most U.S. taxpayers get refunds. But the time it takes to get that over-withheld money seems to get longer every filing season, at least according to the emails I've received and comments on my refund-related blog posts. Part of the reason is the annual mandated hold until mid-February of refunds associated with returns that included Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit claims. Realistically, that money doesn't show up in many affected filers' hands until the end of February. Then earlier this year, Congress decided to renew some tax breaks after the filing season had already been... Read more →


Scott Foster, accountant by day and emergency NHL goalie for one night, makes a save in the Chicago Blackhawks win March 29 over the Winnipeg Jets. Accountants know all about pressure, especially during tax season. But Scott Foster, a Chicago-area numbers cruncher, last night ably handled even more, albeit a different kind of, stress. Foster faced, and bested, some of the National Hockey League's best. Injuries lead to NHL debut: A series of injuries forced Foster to suit up and step into the goal crease for the final 14 minutes of the Chicago Blackhawks March 29 game against the Winnipeg... Read more →


When we pay a tax pro for help, we trust that person. Sometimes we shouldn't. Most of use tax professionals to help get through tax season. Thankfully, most paid tax preparers are honest. They want to help their clients meet their tax responsibilities by legally paying the least amount of tax possible under the Internal Revenue Code. But most is not all. Some tax preparers run fly-by-night operations where they simply look to make a quick buck off of honest individuals seeking tax assistance. These pros, and I use the description advisedly, often get paid based on a percentage of... Read more →


Image courtesy SimpsonsWorld via Giphy.com The Tuesday after Presidents Day generally is the busiest day of the year for calls to the Internal Revenue Service's toll-free help line. That also means that callers find themselves on hold. Such waiting, compounded by being forced to listen to tunes that would never ever make your Spotify playlist, is common throughout the filing season. That then leads to taxpayer frustration, which often prompts filers to try different avenues to get answers to their questions. Don't, however, just randomly call any IRS phone number seeking tax help, cautions the IRS. And definitely don't call... Read more →


Same old, same old. That's the message the Internal Revenue Service got today when the Trump Administration released its fiscal year 2019 budget. The IRS' base budget amount is about the same as prior years and some old tax enforcement ideas are proposed again. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney discussing the Trump Administration budget last year. For release of the 2019 fiscal year budget, Mulvaney decided to stay off camera "because it's really boring." You can decide if he was right by listening to his remarks yourself via C-SPAN. It's no secret that the Internal Revenue Service... Read more →


Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, Except for February, Which has 28 to put to use doing your taxes. OK, I took some liberties with the traditional poem. But it is true that despite its reduced days, February still provides plenty of time to make some key tax moves. Here, since it is a short month, are three. Collect your tax statements: Most of the tax statements that you need to fill out your Form 1040 should be arriving by early this month. They were supposed to be to you or at least... Read more →


Free tax-preparation and filing help, like that shown here at a Rutherford Country, Tennessee, VITA office, is available at thousands of sites across the country. You need help with your taxes but you can't afford a professional. A couple of community-based, Internal Revenue Service endorsed and, best of all, free tax filing help options may just be the answer. If you earn around $54,000 or less, have a disability, are elderly or speak limited English, you may qualify for free tax help from IRS-certified volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations nationwide.... Read more →


Welcome 2018! Yes, I know we're well into day four of this brand spanking New Year. But we all get a pass on the first day to recover from our New Year Eve parties. And days two and three were consumed by looking back at what was accomplished tax-wise in 2017, looking ahead at what we can expect from taxes in 2018, chatting with fellow tax folk (OK, maybe that was just me) and dealing with scary winter weather. Bundle up, all my friends along the East Coast! Now, though, it's time to get down to tax business. Time for... Read more →