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December 2008

Are you ready to party!? I don't want to get in the way of your New Year's Eve preparations, but I do want to mention a few literally last-minute tax moves that could be a real cause for celebration. Since time is fast running out, I'll be quick. Charitable giving You've got to make charitable gifts today if you want to claim them on your 2008 return. This means getting any clothing or household appliances to your favorite charity's drop-off location before it closes this afternoon. You have a bit more leeway with monetary contributions. Most nonprofits take credit cards,... Read more →


If you really believe gasoline will continue to cost around $1.50 a gallon, give me a call. I have a personal bailout package you might be interested in funding. Sooner rather than later, OPEC is going to say "enough" and do what it takes to push pump prices up again. They may not reach $4 a gallon again, but they likely will be at least double what we're paying now. And there is some sentiment to add to our fuel costs via increased gasoline excise taxes. So if you've got some cash to spare, it might be a good time... Read more →


2008 is almost over, but there's still time to take care some financial housekeeping. Today, Part 5 of our Year-end Money Moves looks at ways to deal with these necessary fiscal tasks. Completing these tasks now and updating them at least annually, will help you stay on top of your money. And knowing what you have will help you maximize it. Get organized I admit it. I've neglected this for the last 11¾ months. I have all my monthly bank, bill and investment statements, but they are just stacked up in my office. Separate stacks, at least, but not properly... Read more →


Chiefs stumble on field, but score big Missouri tax breaks

The Kansas City Chiefs sure had a tough time on the football field this season, but at least they've scored some big tax points. The Chiefs lost their final 2008 NFL regular season game today to Cincinnati and managed only two wins this year. Such a dismal record usually portends a lot of changes in the off season. But the team is happy about one change. The Chiefs are moving their training camp from Wisconsin to Missouri, thanks in large part to state tax breaks. Earlier this month, the Missouri Development Finance Board unanimously approved $25 million in tax credits... Read more →


Time to hike the federal gas tax?

So many good headlines on today's New York Times' editorial pages. "Heaven for the Godless?" "Curbing Credit Card Predators." "Why We're Still Happy." And my favorite: "Stop Being Stupid." But since the ol' blog's bread and butter is taxes, I'm directing your attention to "The Gas Tax." The paper's editorial writer argues that the only way to make the auto bailout work is to ensure that motorists purchase the fuel-efficient vehicles the car makers must build in order to keep the federal money. The worry is that as long as gasoline stays below $2 a gallon, we'll all go back... Read more →


Another Christmas has come and gone and, as always, it was a fine one. Every year the hubby comes through on special (and other) occasions. As for me, sure, there were a few things I wanted to get but didn't get around to picking up. No problem. My unpurchased gifts can wait until January. That's the month the hubby and I were married, so I can always call them anniversary presents and still get "good wife" credit! That's our secret, OK? After the holiday hubbub dies down it's also a good time to think about giving to strangers, specifically folks... Read more →


You might never be too rich or too thin, but New Yorkers say that it's the wealthy, regardless of body mass, who should pay more taxes. That's among the findings of the latest Quinnipiac University poll that questioned New Yorkers about the proposed soda tax. Sixty percent of those surveyed oppose the so-called fat tax that would add an 18 percent levy to non-diet beverages. Just 37 percent support Gov. David Paterson's proposal. Rather, New Yorkers say they prefer taxing millionaires, by an 84 percent to 13 percent margin. As for other products that could be taxed, they suggest tacking... Read more →


The New York baseball club has hammered out an eight-year, $180 million deal with Mark Teixeira. Bah the Yankees. Bah Scott Boras. And just plain bah humbug. OK, I'm not going to let the team that. as noted by New York Times sports scribe Harvey Araton, "in the world of economic pain that has set upon the country, their audacity and gluttony tend to make the stomach feel queasy," spoil my holidays. So the Yankees get another great player. They still might go yet another year without making it to the World Series or even without playing past the regular... Read more →


Yikes! Christmas Eve! That exclamation of dismay is not, well, dismay. I love Christmas. It's just proof of the adage that time moves more quickly when you get older. Remember when you were a kid and it seemed to take forever for anything to happen, like for Christmas Day to arrive? Now I find events and tasks and special days are here and gone in a flash. Anyway, that rambling is my way of saying I meant to point y'all earlier to a story a wrote a couple of years ago for Brankrate about what we can learn from Yuletide... Read more →


Once again this year, the TaxProf made a list of potential Christmas gifts for the tax geek in your life. This Coca-Cola ad from 1969 is my favorite find this year. If you're interested in it, from a tax or carbonated beverage perspective, it's available from Steve's Vintage Ads. Read more →


Personal Finance Carnival #184

It's Christmas Carnival Time this week! The 184th Carnival of Personal Finance is now available for your holiday viewing pleasure, thanks to Saving to Invest. This edition of the PF Carnival gets turned on it's head thematically. Saving to Invest is Down Under for the holiday and notes, "I am giving this carnival an 'Aussie' theme." So fire up the financial barbie, mate, and check out: 125 More People Personal Finance Junkies Should Follow On Twitter, courtesy of Bible Money Matters 42 Ways I'm going to make my 2009 Awesome! from Master Your Card Why I'm Done With Big Banks,... Read more →


Christmas arrives in just three days. That means it's time for our annual Stocking Stuffers edition of the Carnival of Taxes. As we all wish for this time of year, we have a nice variety of Tax Carnival gifts. So with Christmas and tax planning time at a premium, lets start emptying out the goods from our Tax Carnival #44: Stocking Stuffers 2008. It's not surprising that many of our holiday edition tax carnival bring us good tidings of ways we can still whittle down our 2008 tax bills. Money Ning assures us, "There's still time to make sure you... Read more →


When I started blogging about taxes just over three years ago, my sweet hubby wanted to make sure that I didn't get frustrated with or disappointed by the endeavor. "Honey, you'll probably need to pace yourself," he told me. "You don't want to run out of things to write about." I appreciated his concern, but as a certified (or certifiable) tax geek, I was confident that I'd have no trouble coming up with tax matters to discuss on a regular basis. But even I was surprised at just how much tax material is out there. Often I have to restrain... Read more →


Companies dropping 401(k) match

The conventional year-end wisdom is to max out your workplace defined contribution retirement plan.The argument made by many, including me in my recent year-end retirement moves post, is that you're leaving money on the 401(k) table if you're not putting in enough to at least get your employer's full matching contribution. Well, the economy has once again turned conventional wisdom on its head. The New York Times reports today that In Need of Cash, More Companies Cut 401(k) Match. Thanks a lot. Piling on: This latest assault on retirement savings comes on the heels of a stock market, in which... Read more →


I love Will Smith movies, but I've been sort of ambivalent about his new flick, Seven Pounds Maybe it's the name. It reminds me 21 Grams, a movie I enjoyed, but mainly for the great performances rather than the downbeat story. And Seven Pound's promoters haven't done much to convince me to give the movie a chance. The TV ads are vague and mysterious. Apparently there's a twist and everyone's trying to keep the film's particulars under wraps so that potential audiences don't know the secret before buying tickets. Then last night (or really early this morning), I was half... Read more →


Few things are worse than being sick over the holidays. With Austin's literally hot and cold weather, a lot of my friends have the sniffles. I'm sure thing are much worse for folks dealing with really bad winter conditions. That means in addition to tending to last-minute gifts, all these under-the-weather shoppers also are popping into the local drug store to pick up some cold, allergy and/or sinus medications. The good news for my ailing friends, readers, and the family and friends they'll be visiting, is that most of the over-the-counter treatments do a decent job of relieving symptoms. The... Read more →


It's good to see the New York Times finally caught up. In today's edition, the paper looks at how a Tax Break May Have Helped Cause Housing Bubble. It's a comprehensive review of the same topic blogged about here on Don't Mess With Taxes back in September in Did the home sale tax exclusion kill the economy? You know the tax break that I talked about months ago and the Times examines today. It's the exclusion from taxable income of large amounts of profit reaped on the sale of a principal residence. Single filers can shield up to $250,000 from... Read more →


Despite pleas from lawmakers and advocacy groups, the Treasury Department has decided against granting any relief to folks who were hoping to get a break in 2008 on required withdrawals from their tax-deferred retirement accounts. Last week, Congress passed a bill (still awaiting Dubya's signature into law) that will suspend in 2009 the required minimum distribution, or RMD, rule. The RMD for the 2008 tax year, however, was left as is. The RMD kicks in once the owners of traditional IRAs and other retirement accounts turn 70½. At that time, give or take a grace period for the first withdrawal,... Read more →


The Year-end Money Moves series is back, this time with tips on giving by by Dec. 31. Apologies for the fits-and-starts appearances this year of the five-part presentation. It's been a crazy winding down of 2008 and we've still got a couple of weeks to go! Part 1 of our Dec. 31 deadline series took a look at tax moves to make and debuted Dec. 2. Part 2, investment moves to make now, showed up on eight days later. And year-end retirement steps, Part 3 of the series, appeared on the ol' blog on Dec. 11. Today's installment, Part 4:... Read more →