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A Billion Years Ago

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I know Trump is unique in ways, but both the ridiculousness and evil of the two administrations really aren't so different. The Bush administration, also, too, was headed by a really dumb guy and was filled with right wing nutcases who were also quite dumb who then went on to hire a bunch of failsons and faildaughters. They started two major wars. Aside from crazy tweets, the big difference between now and then is that few questioned the brilliance and nobility of Ari Fleischer at the time, while some do point out that Kellyanne is full of shit.

In other words, that era was, in a lot of ways, worse. More crazymaking, anyway.
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HarlandCorbin
12 days ago
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W started two wars? I like to believe that bin laden and the taliban started one of those.
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How to File Your State and Federal Taxes for Free in 2020

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ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Most Americans are eligible for free tax preparation services, but the truly free options can be hard to find. If you’re not careful, you could end up using a service that says it’s free but demands payment after you’ve spent time entering your information.

How do you file online for free?

If you make less than $69,000 a year, you can find free tax filing options at the IRS Free File webpage.

There are options from TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer and others.

Each site has its own eligibility requirements, so be sure to find one that will be free for you.

It can take a bit of effort to find the correct option to fit your situation. Try using the IRS lookup tool to find the right one. Most of the options provide tax prep for both federal and state returns.

Best for: People who make less than the income cap and want a convenient and easy way to file online.

If you make more than $69,000 a year and have regular wage income, you may be able to file for free on MyFreeTaxes.com, a service offered by United Way.

In 2020, there is no income limit for this service, but it will not work if you need to file Schedule C (like income from driving for Uber), Schedule D (capital gains) or Schedule E forms. You can learn more about the different schedules and types of income here.

This site uses a version of H&R Block’s software. It is free for both federal and state returns.

Best for: People who don’t qualify for Free File but have income only from a standard job and perhaps a bank account, and want to file online.

If you’re in the military, you can use MilTax, a service provided by the Department of Defense that uses a version of H&R Block’s tax software. It is available for free to active-duty service members as well as those in the Guard or Reserves, as well as their families. There are no income or tax form restrictions.

You can also get free advice from a professional who understands tax issues specific to the military. The phone number is 800-342-9647, or you can live chat with them here.

Best for: People in the Military, Guard or Reserves and their families.

How can I get in-person tax help for free?

You can qualify for the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program if you:

  • Make less than around $56,000 a year, OR
  • Live with a disability, OR
  • Speak limited English

The program matches you with IRS-certified volunteers across the country who can help with free basic income tax preparation and electronic filing. You can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance locator tool or call 800-906-9887 to find someone to help you. Keep in mind that some locations may require an appointment.

Best for: People who are confused by the tax process and want someone to help walk them through the process.

If you’re in the military, you can get free in-person tax help on many U.S. military bases worldwide. Military.com’s base guide is a good place to start.

Best for: People in the military and their families who want advice from someone who knows the ins and outs of military tax filing.

Why is TurboTax charging me?

If you make less than $36,000 a year (or $69,000 if you’re in the military) and TurboTax is telling you it costs money to file, you are probably using the wrong version of TurboTax. Don’t worry, there is a way to access the truly free version.

As ProPublica reported last year, TurboTax purposefully hid its Free File product and directed taxpayers to a version where many had to pay, which is called the TurboTax Free Edition. If you clicked on this “FREE Guaranteed” option, you could input a lot of your information, only to be told toward the end of the process that you need to pay.

You can access TurboTax’s Free File version here. This version is offered through the Free File agreement.

TurboTax’s misleading advertising and website design directed users to more expensive versions of the software, even if they qualified to file for free. After our stories published, some people demanded and got refunds. Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, faces several investigations and lawsuits because of this. The company has denied wrongdoing.

Following ProPublica’s reporting, the IRS announced an update to its agreement with the tax-preparation companies. Among other things, the update bars the companies from hiding their Free File offerings from Google search results. It also makes it so each company has to name their Free File service the same way using the format: IRS Free File Program delivered by [COMPANY NAME].

What’s the difference between TurboTax’s “Free Guaranteed” and IRS Free File Delivered by TurboTax?

TurboTax Free Edition is not always free. It has only been free for tax returns that the company defines as “simple.” That means people with student loans and the unemployed had to pay to file. Look for Intuit’s “IRS Free File Program delivered by TurboTax.” This year, you are eligible if you:

  • Make less than $36,000 a year, OR
  • Make less than $69,000 a year and serve in the military

Lucas Waldron/ProPublica

What is Free File, and who is the Free File Alliance?

The Free File Alliance is actually a group of tax companies that — contrary to the name — is in the business of charging people to help them file their taxes. They have spent a lot of money to make sure that the IRS does not develop its own free tax filing service that would compete with what they have to offer. As part of the new Free File Alliance deal, the IRS is now able to offer a competing service, but is not doing so this year.

The Free File Alliance companies have agreed to offer free tax filing for a certain percentage of the population based on your income. Head to the IRS website to see which option is the best for you. These are the companies in the alliance:

  • 1040NOW Corp.
  • ezTaxReturn.com
  • FileYourTaxes
  • Free Tax Returns
  • H&R Block
  • Intuit
  • OnLine Taxes
  • TaxACT
  • TaxHawk
  • TaxSlayer

Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

For more coverage, read ProPublica's previous reporting on the IRS or the tax prep industry.

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HarlandCorbin
12 days ago
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Pennsylvania has an online free file through the state's website. Simple form, no charge. Online tax prep services ALWAYS try to sell me a $20 or $30 state filing.
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1 public comment
CallMeWilliam
11 days ago
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If you make more than $69,000 a year and have regular wage income, you may be able to file for free on MyFreeTaxes.com, a service offered by United Way.

If you make less than $36,000 a year (or $69,000 if you’re in the military) and TurboTax is telling you it costs money to file, you are probably using the wrong version of TurboTax. Don’t worry, there is a way to access the truly free version.

Calvin and Hobbes for Thursday, January 02, 2020

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HarlandCorbin
20 days ago
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A shovel full of snow is excellent in a snow fight! Even better if you can use it like a catapult! :-D
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Boris Johnson And Conservative Party Win Large Majority In U.K. Parliament

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff returns to 10 Downing Street after visiting Buckingham Palace, where he was given permission to form the next government during an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

The party now has the biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher's win in 1987, all but ensuring the United Kingdom will exit the European Union in January.

(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau /WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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HarlandCorbin
41 days ago
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Bend over Britain, you're about to get the no-lube brexiting you asked for. Maybe we should start calling this "being Boris'ed" ?

After this painful pullout, look for more. Like Irish unification, or Scottish independence.
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Republicans storm ultra-secure “SCIF,” some with cell phones blazing [Update]

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On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers committed a major breach of security guidelines when they carried cell phones as they tried to force their way into a secure room where a closed-door impeachment hearing with a Defense Department official was taking place.

At least one House member, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, got inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the House of Representatives. Despite strict rules barring all electronics inside such closed-off areas, Gaetz openly tweeted: "BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside—more details to come."

After the tweet came under criticism, Gaetz later tweeted “sent by staff.” It remained unclear how the representative was able to communicate with his members of his staff.

Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina also issued a tweet that said he was "in the SCIF." A picture published by The New York Times showed a man identified as a House Republican holding up his phone as if taking pictures or video as he entered the secure room. A sign on the door of the room said, "Cameras and other recording devices prohibited without proper authorization." The room has lockers outside the doors where people are required to store electronics before entering.

Lawyers said bringing phones into the secure area was a potential felony. Security officials, meanwhile, stressed how damaging the move could be to national security. The SCIF is designed to prevent electronic eavesdropping so members of Congress can receive sensitive information that is often classified. Often, the materials in the room reveal sensitive operations or show how intelligence officers collect information on adversaries. SCIFs are carefully controlled to prevent electronic signals or electronic devices from leaving the rooms. Chief among these restrictions is no unauthorized electronic devices.

Compromising national security

Cell phones in particular are known to be a risk since it's easily within the means of a nation to infect both iOS and Android devices with full-featured spyware. From then on, the hackers can make the devices record audio and video, take pictures and download and upload files. Lawmakers are particularly prone to such attacks given the large amount of sensitive data they often have access to.

"Storming the SCIF without respecting the security protocols that require people to leave their electronic devices *outside* the space is actually compromising our national security," Mieke Eoyang, who regularly used the room while she was a former staffer for several security-related congressional committees, wrote on Twitter. "Bringing electronic devices into a SCIF, and this SCIF in particular, is *very* problematic, especially when done by members of Congress."

The event has parallels to a covertly made recording in the White House situation room last year by then-Trump administration staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Update:Hours after the protest, Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat representing Mississippi and the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to the Sergeant at Arms calling the event "an urgent security matter."

"Such action is a blatant breach of security, violates the Oath all Members of Congress sign to gain access to classified information, and contravenes security controls established by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency for the protection of classified information," Thompson wrote. "The unprecedented breach of security raises serious concerns for Committee Chairmen, including me, responsible for maintaining SCIFs."

Wednesday's event occurred as members of the House Intelligence Committee were preparing to hear from Laura K. Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Chanting "let us in, let us in," the protesting lawmakers prevented the hearing from proceeding. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff turned the protesters away and called on the sergeant-at-arms to break up the crowd.

According to the Associated Press:

Lawmakers described a chaotic scene. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said she had just walked into the room when the Republican lawmakers blew past Capitol Police officers and Democratic staffers. The staff member who was checking identification at the entrance was "basically overcome" by the Republicans, she said.

"Literally some of them were just screaming about the president and what we're doing to him and that we have nothing and just all things that were supportive of the president," Wasserman Schultz said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized his Republican colleagues for the tactic, calling them "nuts" to make a "run on the SCIF."

"That's not the way to do it," he said.

The Republicans were protesting the closed-door hearings taking place in the impeachment process underway in the House. Only members of the House Intelligence Committee (which includes both Democrats and Republicans) have been permitted to attend hearings, though Rep. Schiff has pledged to make transcripts available after they have been scrubbed of any classified information. Some Republicans have claimed the restrictions resemble a Soviet-style proceeding, even though Republicans routinely held closed-door hearings when they controlled the House.

Post updated at 16:44 California time to add details about Thompson letter.

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HarlandCorbin
91 days ago
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Break up the crowd? Why not detain them? Unauthorized access into a secure facility, that usually means some time in a holding cell!
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By RKD

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Today, my girlfriend, whom I thought I would marry, broke up with me. She broke up with me because I don't believe the government controls the weather. Um, what? FML
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HarlandCorbin
91 days ago
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Dodged a crazy bullet there!
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