Web/Tech Feed

The only thing that comes close to the chaos that is tax law is a telephone bill. Especially a cell phone bill. In addition to the phone charges — Remember those? That's when you use your device to talk to another person. — there are, among lots of other line items, things such as data charges, text charges and, of course, taxes. My monthly mobile phone bill is six pages long. One of those pages, thankfully sent digitally, is full of taxes and user fees. That's an excerpt of some them in the photo at the top of this post.... Read more →


No, that's not me. I would be the person face down on my exercise mat next to this woman. (Photo by Stefano Montagner via Flickr) My exercise class instructors are trying to kill me. OK, not exactly and not me specifically, but for all practical purposes I'm on their hit list. My fitness club's new teachers are real feel-the-burn, you-can-do-it types. Plus, due to some recent pressing personal matters, I haven't made it to my regular classes for a while. Now that I'm attending again, my out-of-practice aging body is having a harder time keeping up with the reps. I'm... Read more →


Emmanuel Macron, left, and Donald J. Trump at the beginning of the just-completed G7 session in France. As the international gathering closed, the pair announced a deal had been reached to ease U.S. concerns over France's digital tax and French worries about possible U.S. tariffs on Gallic wines. Good news for French wine fans. Donald J. Trump and Emmanuel Macron apparently arrived at a rapprochement at the G7 meeting in France this weekend. The threatened tariffs on French wines won't be imposed. That means the only taxes we wine drinkers will face are the long-standing U.S. federal and state-levied excise... Read more →


Do you simultaneously use multiple digital devices? Me, too. Our online addictions are big money for tech giants and now France and other European nations want to get a piece of the tax pie from the global conpanies. Poor Facebook and Twitter and Google. (You noticed the sarcasm font, right?) They were shut out of Donald J. Trump's Social Media Summit on Thursday, July 11, which didn't end too, well, sociably. Worse, that same day France approved a measure to tax the tech giants. Since most of us live inordinately digital lives nowadays, I'm giving an early Saturday Shout Out,... Read more →


At least one state, Texas, joins the Internal Revenue Service in making filing accommodations for those affected by software company's malware troubles. Watch the full classic Roseanne Roseannadana skit at NBC's Saturday Night Live video page. As the wonderful Gilda Radner character Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It's always something." That's particularly true in the tax world. Just when we thought we had made it relatively unscathed through the 2019 tax season, which already was crazy since it was the first one in which most of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes took real life effect for taxpayers,... Read more →


Multiply this computer trouble by 150 million taxpayers and you'll get an idea of the scope of the IRS' new plan to upgrade its technology systems. The Internal Revenue Service made it relatively unscathed through the 2019 main tax filing season. That's pretty amazing when you consider the agency: had sworn in a new commissioner just a few months earlier, had to tailor the season's opening around the longest-ever federal government shutdown, was still working on implementation of and guidance for the first major tax reform bill in more than 30 years and did it all using antiquated computer systems.... Read more →


One of my favorite recent TV shows was The Americans, FX's series on embedded Russian spies during the 1980s Cold War. For six seasons, we fans watched the couple known to their suburban Washington, D.C. neighbors as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings raise their two U.S.-born children, run their small travel agency and spy, sometimes in deadly fashion, for their native U.S.S.R. One of the underlying themes was how well and easily the Jennings assimilated into the America they were trying to bring down. It's a common trope, but one done well and with nuance by the television program. A radio... Read more →


Electronic gadgets are on a lot of Dear Santa lists. If you're planning to play the Jolly Old Elf and get a family member or friend a phone, tablet, speaker or TV that depends mobile reception, also might want to slip a few extra bucks into the gift recipient's stocking. They'll need it to cover the taxes, fees and governmental surcharges on wireless services that have increased dramatically. Wireless service costs drop, but taxes increase: A typical American household with four wireless phones paying $100 per month for taxable wireless service can expect to pay about $229 per year in... Read more →


Are you an Instagram fan? I have an account, but it's not my go-to social media platform. That's not too surprising since, according to various data, I'm not part of the app's primary demographic. The digital marketing firm Omnicore says 59 percent of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram. The Internal Revenue Service has found other research that shows an even larger slice of young Instagrammers. The tax agency says more than 70 percent of U.S. young adults age 18 to 24 are active on the photo and video sharing app. And since young people... Read more →


Did you get all your shopping done on Cyber Monday? A lot of us did. Adobe, which tracks the multitude of transactions among major U.S. retailers, projects that online sales this Cyber Monday will be $7.8 billion. That's an 18.3 percent increase from the $6.6 billion spent last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving. If that figure is reached (or bettered), it would make Cyber Monday the highest-selling day of the 2018 holiday season. Those sales amounts seem to support the argument made by online sales tax advocates that the levies wouldn't materially deter cyber shoppers. Court opens door for... Read more →


The post-Thanksgiving shopping ad inserts, stacked at left, consumed more newsprint than my local newspaper in which they were stuffed! Welcome to the first holiday shopping season after the U.S. Supreme Court's Wayfair decision. That ruling last June OK'ed states' efforts to collect sales tax from companies even if they don't have a physical presence, aka nexus, in the locales. Some states were champing at the bit and quickly enacted or tweaked laws mandating at least some sellers, generally those of larger size, start collecting from their customers and sending the tax cash to the appropriate offices. Others are being... Read more →


It's International Podcast Day! Why are you reading (although thank you for stopping by)? You should be listening. That's why on this day celebrating the internet's audio offerings, this Shout Out Saturday goes to seven of my favorite financial podcasts. 1. Money Girl Laura Adams is the Money Girl of the title, offering her self-described "quick and dirty tips for a richer life." This one caught my ear because Adams' typically short and sweet 'casts often include comments about my favorite financial subject, taxes. Even better, her tips typically are pretty actionable, so as soon as you're through listening, you... Read more →


Marvel's reluctant superhero Jessica Jones, portrayed by Kristyn Ritter on the eponymous Netflix series, is back this month in The Defenders. She's why I subscribe. But will I, and millions of others, keep watching if streaming services are taxed? It's the weekend, so that means binge watching. Especially with The Defenders — gotta get me some more Jessica Jones! — now out on Netflix. I'm not alone in subscribing to a streaming service or two. It's a relatively cheap entertainment option, especially when you consider that the 10 or so bucks a month are still less than one night's price... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service has expanded its digital options, offering email notification for some e-paying taxpayers and web video conferencing for appealing tax disputes. You have IRS email: Yes, this time that email really could be from the IRS. But only in certain circumstances. The IRS announced its new email notification for folks who pay via Direct Pay and Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) in, what else, an email. The July 21 electronic message to tax professionals let them know that their clients who use those two payment options can sign up to get notifications about those payments in... Read more →


UPDATED July 17, 2019 Happy World Emoji Day! It's held on July 17 each year as a way to promote the use of emojis — like we need to do that! — and, according to Emojipedia (really!), spread the enjoyment that the colorful icons bring. The enjoyment goal got me thinking of how emojis might make one of our worst tax tasks more pleasant. I'm talking, of course, about our annual filing of returns. Most of us already use tax software. Surely it wouldn't be that difficult to incorporate the option of adding emojis to the lines we fill electronically... Read more →


Lots of taxpayers today, June 15, are making their second estimated tax payment electronically. That makes the Internal Revenue Service very happy, as it works to get the majority of taxpayers dealing with tax matters online. Ultimately, the IRS is looking to fully implement its Future State with its mostly electronic tax transactions. To that increasingly electronic end, the IRS this week announced expansions to its online taxpayer account tool. This e-option debuted last December and lets taxpayers have online access to their IRS accounts. Expanded account options: Initially, the Taxpayer Online Account online tool let those who registered for... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is continuing its Future State efforts to get more of us digitally involved with our taxes. The latest move is a new an online way to check on our tax balances. Essentially, each of us has a taxpayer account with the IRS based on our filings. The online access option introduced last week lets us view our tax account balances, including what we owe in tax and any added penalties and interest. The IRS is hoping that when we digitally discover that we owe Uncle Sam some money, we'll then take advantage of the agency's various... Read more →


Computer users, which nowadays means almost everyone, used to be told to follow the X-file's advice when it came to cyber security: Trust No One. IRS is moving to two-step authentication for more of its online services beginning in late October. That's still true, but unfortunately, it's not enough. Crooks cracking everyone's computer codes: Nowadays, as First Lady Michelle Obama, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton and millions of Yahoo email account owners know, in today's increasingly hackable electronic world, the operable phrase for online life is No One is Safe. And Uncle Sam's tax collector is not immune from... Read more →


It's official. Or as official as anything ever is with Donald J. Trump's run for the White House. The Republicans' 2016 presidential nominee will not be releasing his personal income tax returns. Click image to view the full interview. Tax question/response at 1 minute, 27 seconds. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, appeared today on CBS This Morning and, in response to a query by Norah O'Donnell, reiterated his candidate's position on keeping the returns private. "Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them," said Manafort said. Trump originally indicated he would... Read more →


Attention Pennsylvania digital aficionados, your electronic addictions are about to cost you a bit more. Gov. Tom Wolf on July 13 signed into law his state's fiscal 2017 revenue package. Among its provisions is an extension of the Keystone State's 6 percent sales and use tax to digital downloads of books, music, satellite radio and video and audio streaming. The new tax collection will take effect Aug. 1. It's expected to bring in nearly $47 million in its first year. Those millions of dollars in extra revenue are tempting targets for this week's By the Numbers honor. So is the... Read more →