Monday, October 31, 2016


In light of the new suspiciously-timed release about emails involving Hillary Clinton – take a look at “The George W. Bush White House ‘Lost’ 22 Million Emails” by Nina Burleigh at NEWSWEEK  on 9/12/16 -
For 18 months, Republican strategists, political pundits, reporters and Americans who follow them have been pursuing Hillary Clinton’s personal email habits, and no evidence of a crime has been found. But now they at least have the skills and interest to focus on a much larger and deeper email conspiracy, one involving war, lies, a private server run by the Republican Party and contempt of Congress citations—all of it still unsolved and unpunished.
Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails. This correspondence included millions of emails written during the darkest period in America’s recent history, when the Bush administration was ginning up support for what turned out to be a disastrous war in Iraq with false claims that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and, later, when it was firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.
Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—it was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. “It’s about as amazing a double standard as you can get,” says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. “If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers’ emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails set up on a private DNC server?”
Most troubling, researchers found a suspicious pattern in the White House email system blackouts, including periods when there were no emails available from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. “That the vice president’s office, widely characterized as the most powerful vice president in history, should have no archived emails in its accounts for scores of days—especially days when there was discussion of whether to invade Iraq—beggared the imagination,” says Thomas Blanton, director of the Washington-based National Security Archive. The NSA (not to be confused with the National Security Agency, the federal surveillance organization) is a nonprofit devoted to obtaining and declassifying national security documents and is one of the key players in the effort to recover the supposedly lost Bush White House emails.”


A lean BUZZ this week.

* I have compiled a report of “What’s New In Taxes For 2017” based on the recent IRS announcements.  It contains the inflation-adjusted and COLA numbers for tax year 2017.  Click here to download this report.

The IRS has announced streamlined procedures for loans and distributions from retirement plans in order to help benefit victims of Hurricane Matthew. Participants in 401(k) plans, employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities, and state and local government employees with 457(b) deferred-compensation plans may be able use these streamlined loan procedures and liberalized hardship distribution rules. Although participants in IRAs are barred from taking out loans, they may be eligible to receive hardship distributions under the new procedures.”

* Bruce McFarland asks the question “Are You Having Enough Withheld?” at THE TAX PREPARER’S GROUP blog and provides some good advice -

To avoid surprises at tax time, it’s a good idea to periodically check your withholding.”

Now, as you are doing year-end review and planning, is a good time to see if you will be under withheld for 2016.  My “2016 Year-End Tax Planning Guide” suggests one way to fix things if you are.

* THE TAX FOUNDATION identifies the “Top State Tax Ballot Initiatives to Watch in 2016” that involve tax issues –

Ballot initiatives and referenda are often an afterthought on Election Day, but in many states, voters going to the polls on November 8th, 2016 will have the opportunity to weigh in on significant—in some cases, momentous—policy questions.”


An excellent "tweet" from David Schneider @davidschneider puts the election in proper perspective -

"Poor America. Such a tough choice: a lying, misogynist, racist, dangerous, unpredictable narcissist, or a woman who used the wrong email."


Thursday, October 27, 2016


The IRS has announced the 2017 limits for contributions to tax-deferred pension plans.  The basic numbers remain unchanged – they are the same as 2016.
·      IRA = $5,500
·      IRA Catch-Up Contributions at age 50 and older = $1,000
·      SIMPLE Plan = $12,500
·      SIMPLE Catch-Up Contributions at age 50 and older = $3,000
·      401(k), 403(b), 457, and federal Thrift Savings Plan = $18,000
·      401(k), 403(b), 457, and federal Thrift Savings Plan Catch-Up Contributions at age 50 and older = $6,000
The 2017 Adjusted Gross Income phase-out ranges for deductible traditional IRA and ROTH IRA contributions have also been announced.  There are minor increases to these ranges.  These ranges will be included in the compilation of “What’s New for 2017” that I am currently putting together.  I’ll let you know when it is available to download.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


The IRS has announced many of the 2017 annual inflation adjustments.  Some numbers remain unchanged.  Below are the 2017 Standard Deduction and Personal Exemption amounts and the tax rate schedules.
I am working on a compilation of “What’s New For 2017”, and will let you know when it is available for download.
  Single and Married Filing Separate = $6,350
  Married Filing Joint and Qualifying Widow(er) = $12,700
  Head of Household = $9,350
The Standard Deduction for a dependent is the greater of (1) $1,050, or (2) the sum of $350 and the individual's earned income (up to $6,350).
The additional Standard Deduction amount for the age 65 or older or blind is $1,250 for married individuals and $1,550 for Single and Head of Household.
The personal exemption is $4,050.


      Married Filing Joint
      Qualifying Widow(er)
  Married Filing
      Head of Household
   Up to $9,325
    Up to $18,650
    Up to $9,325
  Up to $13,350
  Over $418,400
  Over $470,700
   Over $235,350
  Over $444,550


Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I recently satisfied the 4 Continuing Education credits required for my ongoing registration as a tax preparer for the State of New York.  This is the second year that this requirement has been in place.  Prior to that all one had to do to be allowed to prepare NY State tax returns for compensation was to pay a $100 extortion fee.  This fee still remains.
FYI – each invoice given to a client for whom I prepare a NY State tax return includes a separately identified $5.00 line item charge for “New York State Tax Preparer Extortion Fee Surcharge”.
And another FYI – CPAs, attorneys, and EAs are exempt from this requirement.  So the State of New York does not care if CPAs or attorneys who prepare tax returns for compensation know their arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to federal or state tax law.  Actually the main reason CPAs and attorneys are exempt is that New York State already gets a registration fee from them for accounting and law license renewals.  EAs had to fight to be exempt.
Some things were different this year -
·      Last year there were 5 individual topics.  This year one had to take 10 separate topics – 9 required and 1 chosen from a group of 4 options.
·      Last year the “classes” were webinars – one had to listen to video presentations of the various topics.  This year each subject was presented in a “power-point-like” printed presentation.
One thing was the same.  The whole process was, for the most part, a total waste of time.  The information presented was for 2015 returns – the returns prepared this past tax season.  They were not for the upcoming 2016 returns – so I have absolutely no idea if there is anything new for the returns I will be preparing beginning next February. 
While I will admit there was some perhaps worthwhile review of items of importance, on the whole it was either redundant (same information as last year or information included in other CPE offerings I have taken on federal issues) or outdated.  To be perfectly honest I learned absolutely nothing new. 
I will admit that my areas of interest for NY returns is limited – I only do about 20 relatively basic individual NY resident or non-resident returns.  I no longer accept new clients, so I would not need to expand my knowledge of NY state issues.  I did not pay attention to any information that did not pertain to returns or issues that would concern my clients or my situation.
Also like last year, while I was asked questions in the course of the 10 “sessions”, it was not really a test.  It was a multiple choice format.  If I got an answer wrong I was told so and given the correct answer.  There was no “consequence” for initially selecting a wrong answer.  I have no problem with this.
Because of the new format completing the “education” took less time than last year.  And, as was also true last year, there was no charge for the “classes”.  So I wasted less time than last year and again no money.
As I had said in last year’s evaluation post, I would have very much liked to have learned what, if anything, was new for IT-201s and IT-203s for 2016.  But, again like last year, I will have to wait for the New York State update presentation at the January state tax update workshop offered by the NJ chapter of NATP.

Monday, October 24, 2016


* Professor Jean Murray details “First Steps to Starting a Business” at THE BALANCE.

* Manasa Nadig EA explains “Running A Gig or Two? What You Need to Know!” at the nicely named THE BUZZ ABOUT TAXES blog -

If you participate in the Gig or the Shared Economy, there are certain tax obligations you have to fulfill.”

* Jason Dinesen gives a straight, firm answer to the question “Do Property Managers Send 1099 Based on Gross Rent or Net Rent?” at DINESEN TAX TIMES.

* Did you celebrate?  October 22nd was the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Tax Reform Act of 2016 (aka TRA86), the last major reform of the federal income tax laws.

Annette Nellen and Jeffrey A. Porter have written an article for THE JOURNAL OF ACCOUNTANCY on what led to the TRA86 and what happened afterwards titled “30 years after the Tax Reform Act: Still aiming for a better tax system”.

* And for THE TAX ADVISOR Annette discusses “Form 8332 Challenges for Divorced Couples”.

The rules for divorced parents claiming children as dependents can cause lots of agita.  What is agreed upon in the divorce agreement is not always carried forward properly at tax time.  Annette’s piece offers some “lessons learned” from some court cases.

This piece just underscores the importance of having your, or a, tax professional review your divorce agreement before you sign it.  Many divorce lawyers are highly competent and knowledgeable in divorce law but don’t know their arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to tax law.

* Now that the tax filing season is truly officially over – the extended deadline has passed – Russ Fox borrows my annual tax season review post title to talk about “That Was the Tax Season That Was” at TAXABLE TALK.

Russ warns that the 2017 tax filing season, for 2016 returns, will bring new problems – more late K-1s (which I truly hate) for limited partnerships because of more extended Form 1065s due to the new earlier initial filing deadline, and more, in my opinion erroneous and unnecessary, work for tax preparers due to additional due diligence for certain tax credits.

My 1040 tax filing season has not yet ended, as I am currently finishing up my last GD extension.  

* Let me end with an interesting item from Kay Bell’s DON’T MESS WITH TAXES – “N.J. man files toilet paper tax class action lawsuit”.


It is vitally important that anyone out there who is still “on the fence” about dangerous and despicable Donald Trump and is considering a vote for him as an option on November 8th, as well as those who already plan to vote for him, read in full the humongous 14-chapter 7,900-word editorial in Friday’s New York Daily News titled “Bury Trump In A Landslide”.

Click here to read this editorial.

It begins (highlights are mine) –

When deliberating over a presidential endorsement, the Daily News Editorial Board strives to identify the person who offers the greatest promise to brighten the futures of Americans and to safeguard the national security.

Never have we questioned a candidate’s fitness to serve.

Then came Donald Trump — liar, thief, bully, hypocrite, sexual victimizer and unhinged, self-adoring demagogue.

The 16-month campaign since Trump vaingloriously entered the race has horrifyingly revealed that the Big Lie brazenly told — built on smaller falsehoods and spread by social media and a lust for TV ratings — can bring the United States to the brink of electing an aspiring strongman with no moral bearing or self-control.”

And goes on, in 14 separate sections from “Trump the demagogue” to “Trump the enemy of democracy”, to describe in detail, using Trump’s own words and actions, the reasons why he must never become President, and identifying his many, many, many failures as a businessman, a candidate, and a human being.

Here are just two of the multitude of facts the editorial presents, and certainly not the most heinous –

During the campaign, Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact has rated fully 71% of Trump’s statements as mostly false, false, or pants-on-fire false. The Washington Post Fact Checker has given 65% of the Trump statements it reviewed four Pinocchios, its worst rating for truthfulness.”

And –

Researchers at NBC News have catalogued Trump’s positions on major issues since the start of the campaign.

They found, as of early October: 18 different positions on immigration reform; 15 different positions on banning Muslims; nine different positions on how to defeat ISIS; eight different positions on raising the minimum wage; seven different tax plans, and eight different strategies for dealing with the national debt.”

It is impossible to read this editorial without coming away with the firm belief that we must, as its title suggests, “bury Trump in a landslide” defeat in November.

Please, please, please read this editorial in its entirety, and forward it to anybody you know who is planning on or thinking about voting for this vile piece of excrement.

As I have been saying throughout the campaign – if Trump wins America, and the world, truly loses!


 It’s that time of the year again –
time for year-end tax planning!
Only $3.00 sent as pdf email attachment
or $4.00 in print form send via postal mail.
Click here for more information.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


 The following has just been released -

The 2017 Social Security wage base for computing the Social Security component of the FICA tax is 127,200, up from $118,500.  The maximum withholding for Social Security tax for 2017 is $7,886.40.

The self-employment tax imposed on self-employed people is 12.4% Social Security tax on the first $127,200 of self-employment income, for a maximum of $15,772.80, plus 2.90% Medicare tax on the all self-employment income. 

Click here for a chart of historical contribution and benefit bases from 1937 through 2017.

The Social Security Administration has also announced -

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2017. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2016. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.”



Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Do you volunteer your services for, or serve on the Board of Directors of, a church or charity?
As a volunteer, while the value of your time, however important, is not deductible, if you itemize you can deduct as a charitable deduction on Schedule A out-of-pocket expenses incurred while performing your volunteer service, as well as travel and transportation expenses related to your service.
To be deductible the expenses must be -
·         unreimbursed,
·         directly connected with the services you are providing,
·         incurred only because of the services you gave, and
·         not personal, living, or family expenses.
Here are some examples of deductible volunteer expenses –
The cost and cleaning of uniforms that are not suitable for everyday use and that you must wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization, such as the uniform of a Scout Master.   
The ingredients of baked goods - cookies, cakes, etc, - made for a fund-raising event.
The cost of hosting a party or fundraiser for the organization.
Postage and copying charges for sending mailings to members or potential members, or to contributors or potential contributors.
The cost of travel, including reasonable amounts for meals and lodging, If you are selected to attend a regional or national conference or convention as our representative.  
If you use your car for local travel in the course of performing your volunteer duties the easiest way to claim a deduction is to use the standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile.  Unlike the standard mileage rates for business, medical, and moving, which are set by the IRS each year, this amount is set by Congress and has not changed since 1998.   You can instead elect to deduct the actual cost of gas and oil directly related to volunteer travel. 
Charitable travel includes –
  Round-trip travel to attend committee and Board meetings.
  Transporting sports-team and youth club members to games and events, or organization members and clients, such as the disabled or the elderly, to appointments.
  Delivering food and other services to shut-ins.
  Shopping for food or other items for a soup kitchen or for organization members and clients, such as the disabled or the elderly.
  Visiting businesses to solicit or pick up donations.
You must have adequate records to prove the amount of the expenses.  We can provide you with an acknowledgment that contains a description of the services you provided and a statement that we did not give you any goods and services or other reimbursement for the expenses incurred.  
If you use your car to perform volunteer services your records must show the name of our organization, the date each time you used your car for a charitable purpose, where you drive, the nature of the service provided, and the miles you drove.  A mileage log, similar to one used for business driving, should be kept. 
The above discussion of deductible volunteer expenses is taken from my VOLUNTEER TAX GUIDE.  I also have a CONTRIBUTOR TAX GUIDE.  These guides are available free of charge to qualified tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including a qualifying church, to reprint and distribute free to volunteers, members, and contributors of the organization.  The organization cannot use guides cannot be sold to anyone or distributed to the general public. 
All I ask is that the organization that prints and distributes my guides that it sends me a signed letter on official organization stationery telling me so.
To request your free printable copy of these reports, sent as a word document email attachment, send an email to with VOLUNTEER TAX GUIDE in the subject line.