Tax Tip Feed

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 →


Contributing to a 529 plan is one tax move you need to work into your hectic year-end holiday schedule since most states require you do so by Dec. 31 in order to claim associated state tax benefits on your next tax return. We're almost halfway through December. Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Sorry, but I'm here to add to it. As I've already nagged suggested back in November and earlier this month, you need to take care of some year-end tax tasks, too. One of those tax moves — contributing to a youngster's 529 plan — is worth another... Read more →


Welcome to a new week, another seven days for cyber criminals to try to steal your personal, financial and tax information. Last week, the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners in state tax departments and the tax world's private sector spent five days alerting us to potential tax identity theft schemes and ways to ensure we don't fall victim. Unfortunately, we need to be aware of the dangers of online tax and financial crime every single day of the year, not just for one designated week. That's why today I'm recapping the National Tax Security Awareness Week warnings.... Read more →


If you have a medical flexible spending account, or FSA, one of the key year-end tasks you need to take care of this month is ensuring that you don't lose any of this tax-free money. Yes, some employers give workers a 2½-month grace period, until March 15, to use the prior year's FSA funds. Others let their workers roll over up to $500 left in their medical accounts. Both of those options are at the discretion of the companies offering the tax-favored benefit. A lot of companies, however, still just take advantage of the use it or lose it rule.... Read more →


Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days. But e-commerce platform Shopify Plus says cyber shoppers this December are expected to spend $7 billion more than they did in November. Crooks also are well aware of the increase in online shopping as Christmas nears. It's the perfect time for them to try to snag financial account information, Social Security numbers, credit card information and other sensitive data they can use to steal individuals' identities. In the short term, cybercriminals can turn the stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards or creating new... Read more →


Truman the cat guarding presents under the Christmas tree. (Photo by Shawn Kinkade via Flickr CC) Ho, Ho, Ho, Happy Holidays! December is here. Time to decorate and, most importantly, get cracking on those gift lists. If you're not into frantic, crowd-fighting, last-minute shopping trips, here are five easy tax-related gifts for just about everyone on your nice list, including yourself. 1. Give to your favorite charities. You're probably already well aware of this option, since nonprofits have been sending out year-end donation solicitations since Halloween. Their urgency can be forgiven a bit more this year because of the tax... Read more →


This is the first in a 10-part series on the upcoming 2019 tax year inflation adjustments. Links to additional tax-related inflation changes for next tax year are at this end of this article. It's the most wonderful time of the year. And while, confession time, I have been watching a lot of Hallmark holiday movies, I'm talking today about the overlap of one tax year and the approaching one. As the annual count of days winds down, we taxpayers must pay attention to ways to cut our current tax year's bill as well as make some initial plans to keep... Read more →


Don't let tax turkeys gobble up your money. Make these tax moves, a couple of which are related to recent tax reform, this November and for sure by the end of 2018. South Park turkeys via Giphy It's November! The start of the holiday season. Time to get into the festive spirit with some year-end tax moves. "Whoa! Wait! What the what are you thinking?" you say. "I'm still adjusting to Standard Time and already have a huge to-do list to make sure my family has the perfect Thanksgiving. Then as soon as that's over, I've got to start with... Read more →


Texas, according to veteran Lone Star State meteorologists, is the land of perennial drought, broken by the occasional devastating flood. Such flooding occurred today, opening up the possibility that parts of the Texas Hill Country could be deemed major disaster areas. If that happens, affected property owners can claim their losses on their tax returns. Mansfield dam image Excessive rainfall has produced devastating flooding in Central Texas, forcing area officials to open floodgates at local dams. The amount of water flowing into area rivers and lakes is so heavy that even Mansfield Dam in Austin, the structure that holds back... 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 →


Some of my retirement money is in stock funds. They've been going gangbusters. Until this week. I'm fighting the urge to look at what's happened with these plans' value. Did they tank along with the broader market a few days ago? Or are they edging back up with today's sort-of recovery? I'm curious, but I don't need that money right now. And I believe my investment choices are sound. So I'm going to ignore the current market gyrations and just let things ride. That's the advice most financial gurus are offering now. This week's downward trend is just an overdue... Read more →


Manhattan businessmen meet over lunch. (Photo by Phillip Capper via Flickr Creative Commons) The way to a business contract is through a client's stomach. That revised adage underscores what every business person, whether they run a major corporation or a mom-and-pop company, knows: that personal relationships are key to success. And much of the time, those relationships are cemented over business meals. Business meals still tax deductible: The Internal Revenue Service this week gave business a break — or really left a tax break in place — when it comes to deducting the cost of business meals. The tax agency... Read more →


The Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots already are close to a combined $600 million. As the drawing times near, more people will play, creating even larger eventual jackpots. Of course, the chances of winning both drawings — roughly 1 in 75 quadrillion (that's 15 zeros) by one estimate — is even more minuscule than the general winnings odds of either alone. Still, millions of us will buy lottery tickets. Full disclosure: I'm one of them. Don't judge me. But don't call me either if I win! In fact, whoever wins Mega Millions major jackpot on Tuesday (Oct. 2), which as... Read more →


If you're looking for a job to boost your holiday spending budget, the Internal Revenue Service might be able to help. I got the postcard shown above in today's mail. No, even though I write about taxes, I'm not special in the IRS' eyes — and that's fine with me. The taxman doesn't have to pay me any extra attention at all, ever! The postcard was addressed to "Resident" so all my neighbors got one. Probably most Austin area folks did, too. Seasonal hiring ritual: There's an IRS facility in the Texas capital and almost every year as the holidays... Read more →


Each year, the Internal Revenue Service assesses estimated tax penalties against millions of taxpayers. This added money typically is due the IRS when a taxpayer pays too little total tax during the year. The last time the IRS released complete estimated tax penalty data was three years ago. The federal tax agency said back then that the average estimated tax penalty, which is based on the interest rate charged by the IRS on unpaid tax, was about $130. Back in September 2015, the IRS said it was seeing more taxpayers run into the estimated tax penalty. The number jumped about... Read more →


Trees in September will see their first fall color. (Photo by Jonathan Bloy courtesy Bloy.net) Hello, September. It's nice to have you back. You are a month that offers mostly-welcome transitions. There are beginnings, as students start a new school year. Parents nationwide say "thank you!" There are endings, as summer gives way to fall's cooler temps and foliage changes. Those of us tired of heat waves want to know what took you so long!?! There are expectations, as the end of the year and its many holidays approach. It's never too early to start planning for these. My Christmas... Read more →


Summer is winding down, but someone needs to tell the thermometers. Across much of country, it feels like the mercury is about to burst and everyone is doing everything they can to stay cool. Sorry, I can't help you beat the heat. But I do have eight tax moves you can make in this eighth month of 2018 — which, with all those 8s, makes that this week's By the Numbers figure — that might be able to help lower the heat you're feeling when it comes to taxes. 1. Adjust your withholding. I know. I nag remind y'all of... Read more →


If you're superstitious or suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, today is not a good day. In case you haven't checked your calendar, it's Friday the 13th. Even scarier is the reality that any day can be unlucky if you happen to fall for a tax scam. It's true that most tax crooks use scams to steal your identity and then file fake returns to get fraudulent refunds in your name. It's also true, though, that these scammers work year-round. That's why Friday the 13th is a good day to look at 13 scary tax scams that have appeared so far this year.... Read more →


Fathers Day Happy Fathers Day GIF from Fathersday GIFs Happiest of days to all the dads out there. And thank you Sonora Dodd. Dodd was raised by her father after her mother's death during childbirth. While listening to a sermon at church on Mother's Day, Dodd thought about all her father had done for her and her siblings and decided fathers should have a day, too. Because Dodd's father was born in June, she encouraged churches in Spokane, Washington, where she was living, to honor fathers that month. The first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane in on June 19,... Read more →