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June 17 is the deadline this year for the second installment of 2019's estimated taxes. It's just one mid-June deadline that millions of U.S. taxpayers face. June 15 is a major tax deadline. Except for this year. For 2019, June 17 is the next red-letter Tax Day. That's because the 15th falls on Saturday, meaning that the usual due date moves to the next business day. A couple of extra days are nice, especially for folks who like to wait until the last minute. But don't get too comfortable. Here are three tax situations which require millions of taxpayers to... Read more →


Although the June 7 jobs report showed that U.S. unemployment held steady at 3.6 percent, its lowest level in nearly 50 years, wage growth also was slow. That might help explain this week's Saturday Shout Out article from MarketWatch that one-third of Americans say they need a side gig to pay expenses. "A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant," Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. "For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work." Side gigs include everything from working as... Read more →


June is one of the most popular months to get married. Why? Some point to the weather. Peak spring thunderstorm season has passed. Temperature wise, it's warm, but not hot (unless you're in Texas, but that's another post). Ditto with humidity, meaning that June is one of the better months for an outdoor wedding. Then there's matrimonial history. The early Romans gave us Juno, the goddess protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing. So a wedding in the month named for Juno was, and still is for many, considered most auspicious, notes the... Read more →


A big part of companies' federal tax responsibilities is paying employment taxes for their workers. These are the Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes on those employees' wages. However, when it comes to workers who are hired as contractors, it's the worker who's totally responsible for these taxes, in addition income tax withholding via estimated tax payments. That's why, when appropriate and fiscally feasible, many firms try to hire independent contractors. Sometimes, though, the line between employees and contractor is fine. It's facts and circumstances in each case when deciding how to classify a worker. And if the Internal Revenue... Read more →


Photo by vxla via Flickr CC If gratuities are part of your work, then the 10th of the month is an important tax date for you. It's the day — or the next businesses day if the 10th falls on a weekend or holiday — that you must report your tip amount for the previous month when it totals $20 or more. The Internal Revenue Service requires these reports because the tax code considers all types of tips as discretionary, fully taxable income. Wisconsin workers, however, may soon get a break on the state tax level when it comes to... Read more →


Independent contractor life could be for you if you're tired of having the boss constantly over your shoulder and on your back. But you and your employer must meet some IRS guidelines in order to achieve this nonemployee work relationship. (Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr CC) Uber is about to go public. It could mean billions for the company and its investors. That folks are so bullish on Uber's initial public offering (IPO) is astounding to most of us, considering the company's fiscal history. Uber lost about $3 billion in 2018 and has lost about $10 billion over... Read more →


Thanks to much larger standard deduction amounts under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), fewer filers are itemizing deductions. But that doesn't mean they aren't still writing off some tax-deductible expenses. During this first filing season after the many changes wrought by the latest tax reform law, taxpayers are still claiming what used to be called above-the-line deductions. Technically, they are and always have been adjustments to income. They got the above-the-line moniker because they previously appeared in the last section of the old long Form 1040, just above the last line of that form's first page where your... Read more →


Broad City image via Giphy.com Do you have to file a return? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer usually is yes. But there's a difference between having to file a tax return and submitting a 1040 form because you should. And by should, I mean when it's to your advantage to do so. Yes, that does happen in the tax world now and then. When filing is required: First, though, let's look at when the tax code says we must send the Internal Revenue Service a Form 1040. Although the 1040 has a new look... Read more →


Screenshot from a look at some of the people who depend on the gig economy. Watch the full YouTube video here. Everybody is looking for more money. Taxpayers want more in their tax refunds, especially those surprised by smaller amounts this filing season. Donald J. Trump wants more to build his campaigned-promised border wall. People who are unhappy with their current earnings are side hustling to get more income. It's that last group, says the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), that the Internal Revenue Service should be focusing on as a way to get more money into the... 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 →


The tax filing season every year starts with a rush of flings. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service received more than 18 million returns (that's almost 12 percent of all the returns filed in 2018) during the first week the filings were accepted. This year appears to be on a similar track. Through mid-day Monday, Jan. 28, the opening day of the 2019 filing season, the IRS says it received several million tax returns. Those early filers obviously are expecting a tax refund. They also had all the documentation they needed to file their returns. Some of us, however, no... Read more →


UPDATE, 9:05 p.m. Central Time: Donald J. Trump has signed into a law a short-term funding bill that should get paychecks flowing again for the around 800,000 federal workers affected by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. UPDATE 2:30 p.m. Central Time: A deal to reopen the federal government fully for the next three weeks was announced by Donald J. Trump this afternoon. The government will reopen; Trump gets no funding (yet) for his campaign-promised physical border wall. This should solve the current furloughed workers' sick-out crisis. Will this truce last beyond Feb. 15, or will we go through... Read more →


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 →


Most taxpayers every year end up getting refunds. But some folks are at the opposite end of the tax spectrum. They owe Uncle Sam at filing time. And some of those owing taxpayers end up in an even worse situation. Their tax bills are large enough that they also face added penalty charges. This filing season, though, those penalty-paying taxpayers could get a break. Tax underpayment penalty calculations: A tax penalty assessment usually occurs when wage earners don't have enough income tax withheld from paychecks or, if they have other income not subject to withholding, don't pay enough (or any)... 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 →


As the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history drags on with no end in sight, furloughed workers are looking at any and all ways to pay their bills. Some have taken hardship withdrawals from their workplace retirement accounts. Thousands of others have applied for unemployment. Few of us can blame folks who are struggling financially for taking these steps. At some point, many of us or our family members and friends have done the same. There's no shame in taking available help when bills you can't pay continue to arrive. And while such actions can help out-of-work folks make... Read more →


The current, and longest-ever, federal government shutdown has made it painfully clear that many of Uncle Sam's employees don't have an emergency savings cushion. They are not alone. A study released last summer found that only about a quarter of all Americans across nearly all ages and generations have no savings whatsoever in an emergency fund. Just more than a quarter of U.S. residents, 29 percent, had saved enough to cover six months' worth of living expenses. When people do save, they tend to do so for retirement. It's not necessarily that they're looking ahead to their golden years. Rather,... Read more →


Today should be payday for hundreds of thousands of federal government workers. The partial government shutdown, however, means they're not getting their money. And even though the White House, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service say that the 2019 filing season will open at the end of January as it has in years past and that refunds will be issued, there's no guarantee that things will go smoothly. We are, after all, talking about Uncle Sam's operations. Can IRS meet refund challenge? The IRS says it will recall "a significant portion" of its currently furloughed workforce to open tax season... 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 →


There's one more day in 2018, but it's too late to adjust your withholding for this almost over tax year. Following enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a lot of folks earlier this year should have tweaked the amount of federal taxes they have taken out of their paychecks. Those TCJA changes, which went into full effect for 2018, could mean some — OK, a lot; one estimate says 30 million — taxpayers could face an unexpected tax bill when they file their returns in 2019. If you discover in a few months that you're one of... Read more →