U.S. Holiday Feed

I hope you're having wonderful holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas for religious reasons or secularly. I've bounced between the two motivation over the years, usually tending toward the 'tis the season for joy and goodwill for all. However, every December I do put out our Nativity. Yep, that's it pictured above, our Raku pottery depiction complete with a photograph of a Texas sunset, Lone Star State star, Zapotec textile background and Mexican folk-art armadillo joining the usual stable animals. Universal, time-honored tale: Church doctrine aside, I love the story of Jesus' birth and what it tells us about handling difficult... Read more →


Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 classic "Miracle on 34th Street") gets in a little sleigh practice at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Santa Claus is already hard at work, according to the Christmas specialists at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, who are tracking his gift deliveries. (Yes, they're on the job despite the federal government's partial shutdown.) Santa's travels during this 24 hours of dropping off gifts for good girls and boys means he will travel around 212 million miles around the globe. As a small business owner, that's a lot of tax-deductible mileage — presuming that... Read more →


George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, lying in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday, Dec. 3. (Screenshot from C-SPAN video.) President George H.W. Bush, who passed away Nov. 30 at age 94 at his Houston home, will be honored today, Wednesday, Dec. 5, at a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral. The current President and First Lady, along with four others commanders-in-chief — the late 43rd president's son George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with their wives — are among the dignitaries from around the world who will be... 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 →


It's turkey time! Thanksgiving spread photo courtesy Zeetz Jones via Flickr CC. Happy Turkey Day! I hope you and yours are having a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. It's subdued at our house this year, just the hubby and me. My mom is spending the day with some extended family. Plus, due to some dining issues created by recent oral surgery, our menu — OK, my menu — is limited to mashed potatoes and gravy. That means the hubby gets to pig out for the both of us. But I'm thankful that I can still enjoy the super creamy pumpkin pie that... Read more →


The poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1922. One century ago today, history's bloodiest war to date ended after more than four years of slaughter. The Veterans Day holiday was conceived as Armistice Day to honor the 4.7 million Americans who served — and the 116,500 who died — in World War I, or what was then called the Great War. The original specificity has a solemn meaning. It marks the armistice between World War I's Allied forces and Germany ending the fighting on the Western Front at precisely 11 a.m.... Read more →


The scariest thing about Halloween this year is we're expecting rain. If the meteorologists are right, it should start by late afternoon and run through early evening. Of course, that's prime time for young ghouls to arrive in our neighborhood, meaning much trick-or-treating likely will be washed out. That frightens me more than the costumed kiddos because I will have to face all the candy that we have on hand. Heck, I've gained 3 pounds just having it in the house, so there's no way I want it around longer! So what to do with the sweets? Here are some... Read more →


Labor Day 2018 doesn't bring much good news for unions. Membership in the workplace organizations has, at best, stalled. Politicians and the public tend to view them unfavorably. And they lost a tax break in last year's tax reform bill. But there's a faint light for unionized workers thanks to a bill to restore their dues deduction and make the expense easier for more members to claim. Mention "unions" and most of us think of hardhat wearing men, like these members of the Utility Workers Union of America clearing storm damage. But union memberships cover a wide range and variety... 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 →


Two days ago, Americans celebrated our declaration of independence from Great Britain. That July 4th revolutionary spark was ignited, of course, by our protests against taxation by King George III without adequate representation. Over the years, however, the words of our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, have proven prophetic. "The nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren't much happier about taxes with representation," noted my outspoken and observant fellow Texan. Still, most of us have come to realize the importance of taxes, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.... Read more →


Traffic jam. (Photo by Danielle Scott via Flickr CC) If you're on the road today, sorry. AAA is projecting a record-breaking 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day holiday. That's an increase of more than 5 percent over last year and the highest number since AAA started tracking July 4th travel 18 years ago. And Tuesday, July 3, travel is the worst day to be hitting the highway, at least when it comes to major metropolitan areas. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times in the most congested cities in... 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 →


"On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses." — Richelle E. Goodrich, author During holidays, we're generally encouraged to remember the reason behind the special day. The two instances where this is most prevalent is Christmas and Memorial Day. Memorial Day's purpose often gets lost in the revelry of summer's arrival … except when your awash in a tropical storm's rain bands. But today is supposed to be more than time with family and friends at picnics, trips to... Read more →


A sampling of some of my favorite beers. Yes, this photo is a few years old (note the 2011 Christmas brew label), but rest assured, I regularly restock the refrigerator. Across much of the United States this Memorial Day weekend Sunday it's hot. Very hot. We're pushing 100 here in Austin. That's why many beverages will be consumed by folks out today at beaches, picnics and sporting events. Tax collectors thank you for your thirst, especially if you're slaking it with a cold brewski. Beer tax tallies: Beer drinkers annually make a $5.3 billion excise tax payment to state and... Read more →


Packed and ready to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend! Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and apparently we are ready for the lazy, hazy season. AAA says that travel during this long holiday weekend is expected to be at near-record levels. And it actually began on Thursday. More than 41.5 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. That's nearly 5 percent more than last year and the most in more than a dozen years. You know what that means. Travel delays, especially in urban areas this afternoon where holiday revelers heading... Read more →


A tropical system off of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula is expected to move north over the Memorial Day weekend. (The Weather Channel screenshot) The 2018 tropical storm season has arrived a bit early. Officially, the Atlantic (and Gulf of Mexico) hurricane season doesn't start each year until June 1. But the weather gods operate on their own schedules, so we often get early forming storms. That's the current situation. A tropical system has developed off the eastern coast of Yucatan, Mexico, and is expected to move north, ruining the Memorial Day weekend for thousands of Gulf Coast residents and vacationers. Depending... Read more →


Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Today is a commemoration of the Mexican Republic's victory in 1862 over French forces at the Battle of Puebla. While it's a national holiday in Mexico, festivities in that country are mostly located in and around the Puebla region. Here in the United States, however, Cinco de May is a big deal. That's especially true in Texas, where my native state once was part of Mexico. The Lone Star State's origins and the role of Mexican nationals and other Texians in helping establish Texas' independence in 1836 is one reason why we celebrate Cinco. That, and... Read more →


A view of Connemara, along Ireland's west coast, by Fred Bigio via Flickr CC. St. Patrick's Day is almost here, but it's not the lush Kelly green landscapes of the Emerald Isle we taxpayers are thinking about right now. We want to know ways to save some greenbacks on our taxes. Inspired by the man brave enough, at least in myth, to face down snakes and the March 17th day we honor him, here are 17 ways to round up some tax savings from the almost as scary U.S. tax code. 1. Non-cash charitable gifts: If you gave household goods... Read more →


I hope she said yes! (Photo by Matt via Flickr) Valentine's Day has become one of the most popular days of the year to propose. If you're anticipating popping or answering the big question at an intimate romantic dinner tonight, taxes likely won't be on your mind. But perhaps they should be. Love and money: I'm a big fan of marriage. I've been in a mostly happy one with the hubby for a looong time. (Yes, I was a child bride!) But even back then, I was a tax geek. That's why our choice of wedding date — the year... Read more →


The Rev. Gilbert Caldwell (left) was part of the civil rights movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (center). Click the screenshot above to watch the full CBS Sunday Morning feature on how a group of fifth-graders helped correct a 60-year-old act of discrimination against Caldwell and his wife. As a young man, the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell marched with Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we honor and celebrate on this federal holiday. Racial discrimination was among the many wrongs King, Caldwell and other civil rights activists back then were working to right. It's a... Read more →