Tuesday, August 29, 2017


* A truly heartfelt “thank you” to Andy Frye for “My Review of Robert Flach's New Book So You Want to Be a Tax Preparer” at the PRONTO TAX BLOG.
No, I did not pay Andy to write this!
* Kelly Philips Erb, FORBES.COM’s TaxGril, was the first to give us the word that “IRS Announces Tax Relief For Taxpayers Affected By Hurricane Harvey”.
Click here for the official IRS announcement.
* At POLITICO Ben White reports “White House yielding to Congress on tax details” -
The White House does not plan to release its own version of a tax reform plan and will instead leave that to the congressional leadership and the major tax-writing committees, a senior administration official said Thursday.”
No surprise here.  Trump could care less about actual legislation, and, realizing that like health care tax reform is hard, is too lazy to actually think out sound policy and make detailed proposals. If legislation is passed he will take undeserved credit for it.  If legislation is not passed he will blame the incompetence of Congress and his Party.  
To be perfectly honest, I am glad that Trump has passed the buck on tax reform.  If he were actually involved he would just fuck it up.  If left to Congress there is hope.
* Speaking of tax reform – if you haven’t already seen it why not read my thoughts on the subject in A TAX PROFESSIONAL FOR TAX REFORM.
* In this week’s THE TAX PROFESSIONAL post I have “A Couple of Questions for Fellow Tax Pros”. 
* Tim Murphy, CPA explains “When Business Meals and Entertainment Are Deductible” at TAX BUZZ.
* There is still time to take advantage of the special offer for my newsletter ROBERT D FLACH’S 1040 INSIGHTS. 
And I also have a special offer for my non-tax newsletter LOIS.
* Jason Dinesen discusses “Donating Professional Time to Charity” at DINESEN TAX TIMES -
The bottom line with it is, you can’t deduct the value of your donated time.”
* Sad but true.  Over at FORBES.COM Stan Collender points out that “Congress Can't Do Tax Reform Without A Functioning President
Congress really can’t do much of anything without a functioning – and intelligent, competent and mentally stable - President.  We certainly do not have one now!
* Many of my clients always get a big refund.  While I can understand and sympathize with the use of withholding as a form of “forced savings”, especially considering the pitiful pittance of interest that savings and money market accounts currently pay, I also understand the wisdom of what Kay Bell says in “Got a refund? Paid a big tax bill? Time to adjust withholding!” at DON’T MESS WITH TAXES.
So instead of letting the U.S. Treasury hold onto your money — emphasis on your — for more than a year (without, by the way, paying you any interest on it), adjust your withholding so that it comes as close as possible to what your actual tax liability will be.”
One way to continue a plan of forced savings is to have the reduction in federal income tax withholding automatically deposited in a bank or credit union money market account or used to purchase Savings Bonds – this way the money is never in your hands.  Another good use of the reduction in withholding is to pay down credit card balances.
* Kay, a resident of Austin TX, also tells us “How to help Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts”, and reminds us -  
Don't forget about furry family members. Animal shelters and rescue groups are taking in pets displaced by the storm. They would appreciate your help in meeting these needs.”
* Great advice from IRS Summer Tax Tip “Divorce or Separation May Affect Taxes” -
Report Name Changes. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of any name changes after a divorce. Go to SSA.gov for more information. The name on a tax return must match SSA records. A name mismatch can cause problems in the processing of a return and may delay a refund.”
This advice also applies if you changed your name due to marriage.
* Tina M. Kleckner provided an “Identity Theft Update” at her blog.
* Let me end this installment of the BUZZ where I began – with a post from the PRONTO TAX BLOG.  Jamie Waggoner asks “Is Doing Taxes Fun?
There is no reason why it can’t be.  As a veteran tax pro I should know. 

Monday, August 28, 2017


L O I S (Lots of Interesting Stuff) is my new bi-monthly “e-newsletter” with, as the title suggests, lots of interesting stuff. 
While I talk each issue about a tax topic, this newsletter will cover a multitude of topics – including entertainment, popular culture, politics, and travel.
Each issue will contain -
  • BOBSERVATIONS – my observations on popular culture and life in general.
  • IF YOU ASK ME – my thoughts on important issues.
  • SURFIN’ USA – links to and descriptions of helpful and interesting websites.
  • TAXING TALK – a discussion of federal tax issues.
  • THINGS NO ONE EVER TOLD YOU – stuff you probably didn’t know.
  • TRAVELIN’ MAN – tales of my past and present wanderings.
  • WORKS FOR ME! – stuff I have come across that save time, money, and effort.
  • TRIVIA CHALLENGE – no prizes, just for fun.
  • And other interesting “stuff”.
This is an “e-newsletter”, and will only be available in pdf format.  Each issue will be delivered as an email attachment.  There is no print version available.
An annual subscription to LOIS is only $7.95!  The first 50 readers of THE WANDERING TAX PRO can get one year of LOIS for only $5.00! 
If you want to check it out before you subscribe I will send you a copy of the premiere September 2017 issue for only $1.00.
To order send your check or money order payable to ROBERT D FLACH and your email address to –

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Donald T Rump, the 45th President of the United States, is a dangerous, delusional, deplorable, despicable, ignorant, incompetent, mentally unstable and mentally incompetent, unprepared and unfit demagogue, narcissist, sociopath, and just plain worthless piece of shit.
The most important part of the above description is “mentally unstable and mentally incompetent”.  Every single day he confirms this fact by his tweets, words and actions.
A person whose entire world revolves around feeding his ego and punishing those who don’t do what he wants or who question his infallibility – and whose every thought, word and action is based solely and exclusively on his extreme narcissism – is mentally unstable and mentally incompetent.
Trump's pathological NEED to insult and belittle anyone who disagrees with or criticizes him makes him mentally unstable and mentally incompetent.
Trump's pathological NEED to always lie about how great he is or what great things he's done makes him mentally unstable and mentally incompetent.
Trump INABILITY to accept any reality other than the deluded "alternative reality" in his mind makes him mentally unstable and mentally incompetent.
Trump's pathological DELUSION that he's smarter than everyone else and can do anything better than anyone else makes him mentally unstable and mentally incompetent.
Go to the Mayo Clinic website and look up the description and symptoms for Narcissist Personality Disorder and Sociopath.  They describe Donald T Rump to a “T”.
A politician does need SOME ego – but a politician also needs character. Donald T Rump is ALL ego and NO character!
Trump is also a deplorable and despicable human being – truly a worthless piece of shit.
Mitt Romney got in trouble because he paid a low percentage of his gross income in federal income taxes.
We have no idea if Donald T Rump pays any federal income tax because he refuses to release his tax returns. We do know that in one year he paid absolutely no federal income tax.
Bill Clinton got in trouble for being a womanizer and cheating on his wife.
Donald T Rump cheated on two wives and bragged about being able to “grab pussy” with impunity because he is famous.
The list goes on and on.
Trump has done many times over, often gleefully and always unapologetically, every single “bad” thing that any other politician has ever been criticized for doing, and often which has derailed and defeated that politician's campaign.
Donald T Rump used his family’s charitable foundation, often funded by contributions from others, to pay bribes and purchase personal memorabilia.  He once showed up at a charitable presentation that he had no involvement with or connection to, and did not contribute to, merely to be photographed.  I have never heard of Trump ever performing a single truly charitable act in his lifetime.
While touted as a “smart and successful businessman”, Donald T Rump has had more failures than successes.  Just about everything he has done that did not directly involve real estate development has failed.  He did not build a fortune from scratch based on intelligence, entrepreneurship, and hard work.  He inherited millions from his father, screwing his deceased brother’s children out of their rightful inheritance in the process, and invested in real estate in New York City.  Duh!  And as a business man he consistently, and again unapologetically, screwed his investors, shareholders, contractors, vendors, employees, and customers while lining his pockets. 
Politicians have always been charged with being “truth-challenged” and for “spinning” the truth.  Donald T Rump has no concept of truth.  He wouldn’t know the truth if it grabbed him by the p---k.  He lies every time he opens his mouth – and often about little and inconsequential things.  I doubt he has made a completely true statement since he threw his hat into the ring.

Those who continue to, perhaps reluctantly, support him, and who are not outright white trash racists, must be made aware that just because a person may “allegedly” agree with you on a few issues DOES NOT negate that person’s lifetime history of truly bad – unacceptable and inappropriate, deplorable and despicable - words and actions and give that person any degree of “acceptability” or “appropriateness”.
There is much talk about Trump’s “agenda”.  Donald T Rump's only agenda is this - (1) feed his ego and (2) line his pockets.  Nothing else matters to him at all.  Arrogant demagogue Trump has absolutely no political philosophy or ideology.  His only true belief is “Trump is great and Trump is good”.
Regardless of what he may think or say, Trump lost the 2016 election by almost 3 Million votes.  He is only in the White House on a technicality – put there by the Electoral College, which was actually originally created by our Founding Fathers to prevent a dangerous demagogue like Trump from being elected.
America and its values may not be able to survive 4 years of this dangerously mentally unstable idiot in the White House.  The Republican Party, all Republicans, all conservatives, and all Americans must vocally and aggressively disavow, denounce and oppose the Presidency of Donald T Rump.  He must be removed from office as soon as possible.
America can only begin to be great again when Donald T Rump is told, “You’re fired!”
Please share this post with anyone you know who, on any level, still supports Trump’s Presidency.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I write a newsletter, published 5 times a year - May, July, September, November, and January, titled ROBERT D FLACH’S 1040 INSIGHTS.  This newsletter shares in detail my insights on tax deductions, credits, strategies, and issues based on my 45 years in “the business”.
This newsletter is not written for the “wealthy” – but for the average middle to upper-middle class taxpayer.
The September 2017 issue, currently being “proofed”, deals with the “Just About Everything You Always Wanted to Know About an IRA”, including how an IRA contribution can be partially “reimbursed” by the government via the Saver’s Credit and how a deductible IRA contribution can affect the Premium Tax Credit, and explains what I think tax reform should look like.
The July 2017 issue discussed medical deductions in detail, and also discussed keeping track of investment cost basis, forming an LLC, and some tax-related “nevers”.
The May 2017 premiere issue covered deducting charitable contributions, taking a tax-deductible vacation, how long to keep tax records, and when to contact your tax preparer.
A one-year subscription to ROBERT D FLACH'S 1040 INSIGHTS is normally only $11.95 delivered as a pdf email attachment.  A print edition sent via postal mail is available for only $17.95. 
But as a special offer – if your subscription order is postmarked by August 31st you can subscribe to this newsletter for only $7.75 or $11.65 – a 35% discount!  Your subscription will include the May and July 2017 issues, but will run through July 2018.
One tip from an issue could return the cost of a subscription many times over.
To order send your check or money order payable to TAXES AND ACCOUNTING, INC and your email or postal address to –

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


* Good advice from Tony Nitti of FORBES.COM – “Tax Preparer Promises A Big Refund? Beware Of Claims Too Good To Be True” -
If a preparer guarantees they can get you a refund before you've given them your tax information, be afraid.
If a preparer guarantees you the exact amount of the refund they can get you after seeing only your W-2, be very afraid.
If a preparer requires you to pay a fixed percentage of your projected refund over to them as their fee, walk away; and
If a preparer plans to generate your refund by offsetting your wages with a substantial business loss -- and you, you know...don't actually own a business, for the love of God, run away.”
While it is my plan to no longer accept ANY new clients – I might be willing to echo Tony’s bottom line lesson (highlight is mine) –
The lesson, of course, is if you've got a return that needs prepping with only a W-2 and you're willing to pay $4K for the process, call me first. I can't promise you a refund, but I can promise that I'll happily take your four grand.” 
* Over at THE TAX PROFESSIONAL my post this week is "A Question of Ethics". 
Fellow tax pros - what do you think about what I say in this post?
* JOE TAXPAYER talks about “The Broken 401(k) Solution”.
* Jason Dinesen answers the question “Can I Claim My Disabled Daughter as a Dependent?” at DINESEN TAX TIMES.
* And for those interested in tax history Jason gives you “Revisiting a History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3”.
* Do you volunteer for a charity? Charities can reprint my VOLUNTEER TAX GUIDE free of charge!  
* While I would certainly NEVER recommend that ANYONE use Henry and Richard to prepare their tax returns, I will acknowledge when they give good advice in their blog.
Case in point –What School Expenses Are Tax Deductible?” from Julieann Wood Riley.
An always important bottom line, regardless of the tax topic –
Once you understand what expenses will count as a tax credit or deduction, you should keep records of those expense so they can save money later when they file your return.”
* Paul D Allen explains the “Military Reservist Travel Deduction” at the PIM TAX SERVICES BLOG.
* Fellow tax pro and tax blogger Doug Spiker tells it like it is in “The Forgotten Eclipse of November 8, 2016” at TAX SNAFU -
His bombastic, bullying nature, his ego-maniacal narcissism, his self-aggrandizing manner make him wholly unsuited to lead this great nation.”
Trump's pathological NEED to insult and belittle anyone who disagrees with or criticizes him makes him mentally incompetent.
Trump's pathological NEED to always lie about how great he is or what great things he's done makes him mentally incompetent.
Trump INABILITY to accept any reality other than deluded "alternative reality" in his mind makes him mentally incompetent.
Trump's pathological DELUSION that he's smarter than everyone else & can do anything better than anyone else makes him mentally incompetent.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Parents, if your children are preparing to begin or return to college here is some good advice.
The US Tax Code currently provides several benefits to help pay for a college education.  You should save the following documentation and information as it is received and give it to your preparer next year at tax time
(1)  All “Burser’s Statements” and other financial statements from the college that identifies charges and payments for all tuition and fees.  Sometimes a “hard copy” of these statements is not provided – but they are available to download and print from the student’s “account” online at the college website.  While you must give your tax pro any Form 1098-T you receive from the college – the college’s financial statements are usually more important, and provide more accurate and useful information, than the 1098-T (historically the Form 1098-T has been as useful as tits on a bull).
(2)  Receipts for all books and other required classroom materials purchased, regardless of where purchased.  If the student sells back used textbooks to the college or other book store be sure to make a note of the amounts received (this is NOT taxable income, but will reduce the amount of allowable expenses).
(3)  Receipts for any “off-campus” apartment or room rentals during the school year that are not paid to or through the college and included on college financial statements – for example if your son or daughter rents, alone or with other students, an apartment in town as an alternative to campus housing.  This expense may not provide a tax benefit – but it is important to have the information available just in case. 
FYI, the IRS website has a good “Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center” with, as the title suggests, explains the various tax benefits for education. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017


The General Services Administration has released the fiscal year (FY) 2018 travel per diem rates, which will take effect on October 1, 2017.
To find specific CONUS per diem rates go here.
The GSA establishes the per diem rates meals and incidental expenses and lodging each year for the fiscal period October through September.  These rates are “based on Average Daily Rate (ADR) data from the lodging industry, which GSA obtains through a contract with a leading provider of lodging industry data”.  
The new maximum standard per diem rate for travel locations not specifically identified in the per diem rate tables will increase from $142 to $144 ($93 for lodging, $51 for M&IE).   Fiscal 2018 meals and incidental per diems remain at the fiscal 2017 standard range of $51 to $74. 
A refresher course –
The GSA per diem rates can be used by employers to reimburse employees for business travel, and the per diems for meals and incidental expenses can be used by unreimbursed employees and the self-employed to claim a tax deduction for business travel.
Self-employed taxpayers filing a Schedule C, and employees who are not covered by an employer reimbursement plan, cannot use the per diem method that includes lodging. To claim a deduction for lodging expenses these taxpayers must substantiate the actual cost.  And corporations cannot use the per diem that includes lodging for owner-employees with more than 10% ownership, based on direct or indirect ownership.
Similar to how the Standard Mileage Allowance works for business use of your automobile, you can elect to deduct either the actual amount of your out of pocket expenses for meals and “incidental” expenses while away from home on business, or claim the appropriate federal per diem allowance determined by the location of the trip.  If you claim the per diem allowance you do not have to save receipts for actual expenses.
The per diem rates are based on the city where you “lay your head” at night. If your business meetings are in New York City, but you stay overnight at a hotel in New Jersey to get a lower room rate, you would use the New Jersey location to determine the appropriate per diem amount.
You can decide whether to deduct the GSA meals and incidental per diem rate or actual expenses on a trip by trip basis, but you must use the same method for all days within any single business trip. I can use the actual expenses for my trip to Washington DC last week to attend the NATP National Conference and the per diem rate for my upcoming September trip to Atlantic City for the NATP Forum.
The per diem rate for meals and incidental expenses includes tips given to porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel maids (the “incidental” expenses) – so the actual out of pocket for these incidentals are not deductible if you claim the per diem.
There is also a separate per diem rate for incidental expenses only, to use if you do not incur meal experiences while traveling.  It is currently $5.00 per day.
On the first and last day of a business trip you claim 75% of the per diem amount, unless you can show you leave before breakfast on the first day and return after dinner on the last.
Any questions?