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May 2007

Phishing nets out again

Scammers, hoping to cash in on the fear that the IRS is digging more deeply into taxpayer financial dealings, are once again invading e-mail boxes. The IRS announced today that con artists are sending out messages purportedly from the agency's Criminal Investigation division. The correspondence falsely claims that the recipient is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. As with all previous phishing schemes, this e-mail tells readers to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint. And again as in earlier cons, the... Read more →


Astronomical alert

Tonight take a minute to check out the sky. You'll see a Blue Moon. By now, we all know that when a calendar month contains two full moons, the second one is the Blue Moon. But Sky & Telescope magazine says that's not necessarily correct. According to an article about the astronomical phenomenon, investigation of farmers' almanac items from 1819 to 1962 that refer to more than a dozen Blue Moons shows that not a single one was the second full moon in a month. Rather, there's a seasonal pattern. Full details can be found in What's a Blue Moon?... Read more →


Pre-hurricane tax bargains

Florida always gets a jump on the sales-tax holiday season, which typically arrives each autumn. Unfortunately, the reason for the earlier-than-usual tax exemptions is not a particularly welcome one. Hurricane season begins this Friday, so Sunshine State officials are providing shoppers with a storm preparedness tax holiday from June 1 through June 12. During that time, folks can pick up, sans sales taxes, items they might need to cope with hurricanes and their aftermath. Qualifying purchases range from artificial ice (those reusable packets that can be frozen) to ice chests to hold the real or fake stuff to flashlights to... Read more →


Tech taxes back on the table

For all of us who thought that talk of e-mail taxation was a hoax, think again. In a story posted just as we were heading off for the long holiday weekend, CNET News warned: The era of tax-free e-mail, Internet shopping and broadband connections could end this fall, if recent proposals in the U.S. Congress prove successful. State and local governments this week resumed a push to lobby Congress for far-reaching changes on two different fronts: gaining the ability to impose sales taxes on Net shopping, and being able to levy new monthly taxes on DSL and other Internet-service connections.... Read more →


Musical Memorial Day

Most of us will, in some form, honor and remember our sailors, soldiers and airmen and women this Memorial Day. Whether it be at official parades or other ceremonies or simply at personal outings, music is likely to be a part of the event. So I've compiled a personal list of songs that I would include. Note to link-clickers: Most of the ones below go directly to sound clips, so be prepared. Of course, the national anthem tops the list. Today is much more appropriate for listening to the Star Spangled Banner, rather than its overused (and incongruous) playing before... Read more →


Pirates, tax cheats and speeders, oh my!

No, not the ubiquitous Capt. Jack Sparrow and his crew, although Slate's review of the third Pirates of the Caribbean flick does make a cinematic point using a tax audit analogy. We're talking Internet pirates. E-arrgghhh! Parks Associates, in its latest look at international technology trends, found that on the moral outrage meter, pirated music and video content ranks right up there with tax cheating. Specifically, the market research and consulting firm's investigation of digital habits and attitudes in 13 countries, revealed that 69 percent of American households believe it is wrong to purchase pirated movies or music, 66 percent... Read more →


Trans-Atlantic tax tattlers

Although English common law serves as the foundation for the U.S. legal system, British officials are now looking at an American legal concept to boost U.K. treasury collections. The British Home Office announced last week that it was considering a program based on the U.S. False Claims Act, also known as "qui tam," the first words of a Latin phrase meaning "he who sues for the king as well as himself." This allows anyone who learns of fraud to launch a legal claim on the government's behalf. And a successful claim means money for the person who got the ball... Read more →


Get to know me!

While I was sleepy in Seattle last week, consumed by all things TAP, something special happened back here in the blogosphere. I was featured on taxgirl's "Getting to Know You Tuesday." Yes, I bared my soul, or at least that part of it related to blogging and taxes, for my fellow tax blogger's feature. So if you want to know a little more about moi, click on over there to, as Jon Lovitz used to say, get to know me, as well as learn about the fine taxgirl site, too. Read more →


Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending May 25, 2007

What do a California businessman, a Michigan gambler and a former museum administrator in Massachusetts have in common? They make this week's list of folks facing tax troubles. Let's go West to East, meaning we start with Robert Gene Cable of La Crescenta, Calif. The 75-year-old former owner of Enmark Aerospace in Valencia pleaded guilty this week in federal court to conspiracy to "impede, impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful functions of the Internal Revenue Service." Moving on the Michigan, we find a gambler whose luck ran out when he, according to federal charges, filed false reports to avoid paying... Read more →


The rising cost of summer driving

Lots of folks will be leaving work early today, getting a head start on Memorial Day travel. But the trip will not start on a happy note for most. That's because most of this weekend's 38 million travelers will be driving and they'll have to fill up their cars before hitting the road. Given the pump prices -- I saw a station charging $3.44 when I was in Seattle -- it's going to be an expensive getaway. And since this is the just the beginning of the summer driving season, don't expect any gas price relief any time soon. I... Read more →


I'm back ... but backed up

It was great to sleep in my own bed last night. So good, in fact, that I slept late. So I'm off to a slow start today. While I was in Seattle (What a nice town! And it was fun to buy a Starbucks coffee from a franchise so close to the mothership.) earlier this week, I collected several items to blog about. Unfortunately, I only had time to post a few things from the hotel. Plus, the hotel's online connection was a bit balky, which further hampered my updating ability. But I've saved the material and it will be... Read more →


2007 filing season is another record breaker

The 2007 tax-filing season wound down a little over a month ago, once again setting records. This year, e-filing continued to climb, hitting a new high of 76 million electronically submitted returns. While e-filing has always been popular among early filers who typically are expecting refunds and like the way the cyber system gets them their money faster, this year’s tax season saw another e-surge in April. The number of electronically-filed returns sent by last-minute filers, a group that until this year has tended to send in paper 1040s, jumped 35 percent during the final weeks of this filing season... Read more →


Sleepy in Seattle

That's me, since I got up at 4:30 a.m. Central time Monday to head to the Pacific Northwest for three days of Taxpayer Advisory Panel (TAP) meetings. As it turned out, I could have slept a bit later, since traffic to the Austin airport was no problem. But I didn't know that, so I got up at o-dark-thirty. Once at the airport, however, travel to the actual plane was not so smooth. First, at the self-check-in kiosk, I couldn't find my reservation. I was using the first confirmation sheet the TAP office sent me; apparently, they canceled it and rebooked.... Read more →


Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending May 18, 2007

Chris Cohan, owner of the Golden State Warriors, is turning his attention from the NBA court to the federal court system. That's where he's facing charges that he owes more than $160 million in back income taxes and penalties. The IRS alleges that Cohan set up three tax shelters to avoid a hefty bill in 1998 after selling cable TV company Sonic Communications for more than $200 million. Uncle Sam is demanding about $95 million in past due taxes and another $66 million in penalties. This is the second attempt by the IRS to get what it says is due... Read more →


Whistleblower wins

It wasn't printed on any calendars, but last week was National Whistleblower Week. It's an effort to raise public awareness of the importance of reporting wrongdoing and abuses, whether in public agencies or private industry, and to garner support for increased protections for whistleblowers. More than 40 national public interest groups were in D.C. for last week's whistleblower panels, presentations, speeches, seminars and special events. And while the IRS wasn't on any official program last week, the agency also is cashing in on the whistleblowing trend. Literally. In his May 16 Tax Report column, Wall Street Journal writer Tom Herman... Read more →


Loonie going crazy

When the hubby and I lived in the Washington, D.C., area, we became hockey fans. It's a great game, I swear. Its main problem, aside from over-expansion into the U.S., but that's a discussion for another time, is that it just doesn't translate on TV. To really appreciate the sport, you've got to go to the game. And we did. We soon were season ticket holders of the Washington Capitals. We were there when the team made it into its first playoff game ever. We still have the goofy certificates the team's marketing department passed out as we entered the... Read more →


Tax-free French OT

Europeans have always had a different take on work than we Americans. That could be changing, at least in France. New French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to do away with his country's cherished, at least by employees, 35-hour work week. Currently, French employees who work more then 35 hours a week get comp time. Sarkozy wants to tweak the system so that instead of more time off, workers who clock in for hours 36 through 40 would get tax-free overtime pay. According to this report on NPR's Morning Edition, Sarkozy is listening to foreign (i.e., American) employers, who argue that... Read more →


Carnival of Financial Planning

If you plan to spend some time this weekend evaluating your investments, then you might want to first check out the latest Carnival of Financial Planning. Carnival host The Skilled Investor has compiled a collection that provides a nice information return on your blog reading investment. Along with the expected financial planning topics of the carnival title (the top 5 ways to go broke immediately caught my eye), you'll find postings on budgeting, savings (the art of price haggling), college costs, mortgages (prepay vs. equity investing), investing and taxes. You'll find my contribution on the need for couples to coordinate... Read more →


AMT across the USA

As candidates continue along what they hope will be the road to the White House, taxes and tax breaks keep coming up. That's not unusual in any election. And it's especially relevant for the next occupant of the Oval Office, since that person will have to deal with the 2010 expiration date of W's many tax cuts. One common campaign theme is how to preserve middle- and lower-income tax breaks. A popular answer so far is to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for continuation or expansion of tax breaks for those in the other tax brackets. Last... Read more →