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February 2009

January 2009

So much for a "new" post-election Washington. When the House approved its stimulus bill last week, not a single Republican voted for it. Over on the Senate side, a measure to provide medical coverage to 7 million children from poor families was approved on a party-line vote. But such partisan posturing isn't limited to votes. Some members of Congress are getting their political licks in simply by introducing legislation. Last week, Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) dropped H.R. 735, The Rangel Rule Act of 2009, into the hopper. It which would add a new section to the tax code that would... Read more →


This is getting unreal. Yet another Obama appointee has, or rather had, a back tax issue. Tom Daschle, tapped by Obama to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, earlier this month paid more than $100,000 in back taxes and interest. Daschle, a former U.S. Senator from South Dakota, determined that he owed the taxes on free use of a car and driver that was provided when he was on the board of and consultant to InterMedia Advisors. In a financial disclosure statement filed with the Office of Government Ethics, Daschle reported that he had received more than $2 million... Read more →


A few days ago,we looked at how tax experts and economists rated the House's stimulus plan Now it's the Senate's turn. And just like the House version, the Senate's proposal gets a C+ grade. Actually, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) gave the Senate Finance Committee plan 14 different grades on 14 separate provisions in that legislative body's proposal. As I did with the grades that TPC issued the House Ways and Means measure, I averaged them. "Each grade depends on both timeliness and targeting," says TPC in its notes on Senate stimulus report card. "To receive an A, a provision... Read more →


Times are tough, so squeezing every cent you can out of your paycheck is critical. So why are you letting Uncle Sam hold onto some of your hard-earned money? That's what way too many folks do every year by having their employers overwithhold payroll taxes. You know that nasty line item on your pay stub that shows how much of your money doesn't make it into your hands. It's a necessary evil. This collection process is in place because our tax system is pay as you earn. Uncle Sam has found that it's the best way for him to get... Read more →


And the book winners are ...

Congratulations to Nicole, Sanjeev and MBHunter. You each won an autographed copy of my new book, The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes. Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. Before tax season is over, I hope to give away a few more copies, so please keep reading. Meanwhile, the second TuboTax Deluxe Online giveaway is still going on if you want to try your luck there. Read more →


I have been married a long time. In fact, when the hubby and I celebrated our last wedding anniversary, it meant that we've spent more of our lives married to each other than we ever lived as singles. It's been mostly great, but, as with every relationship, there were some downs to go along with all the fun ups. That's cool. We both took that vow about for better or for worse seriously. Now I'm not so young (obviously!) or naive as to believe that every marriage can weather every storm. I know that sometimes that other part of the... Read more →


The stimulus plan approved by the House Ways and Means Committee last week gets a C+ grade from one tax policy group. While that's probably not a grade you would want to take home to your parents, another group is a bit more forgiving, at least by comparison. It says the House Democrats' stimulus package is better than what Republicans offered. A so-so grade: The middling grade comes from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). Actually, that's my averaging of the 10 separate grades the nonpartisan group gave different sections of the proposal. The TPC, a joint project of the Urban... Read more →


Geithner sworn in as Treasury Secretary

By now you know that Timothy Geithner was confirmed by the Senate yesterday afternoon and immediately sworn in as the new Treasury Secretary. But in case you missed the ceremony, here are his first official remarks. They aren't long, starting at six minutes into the video below, or here if you can't see it in your browser or are reading this via a feed rather than the blog page. There were no big surprises in Geithner's remarks. Obviously, Treasury's first and major task is helping implement programs to get our economy back on track. Geithner also hit all the right... Read more →


Today's media reports are full of horrible employment news. Heavy machinery giant Caterpillar says it will eliminate 20,000 jobs (12,000 employees and 8,000 contractors). Sprint Nextel says 8,000 of its workers will be out of work by March 31. And the housing-dependent Home Depot plans to lay off 7,000 workers, including positions that will be lost when it closes its Expo Design chain. If you're thinking it's just workers lower on the job ladder that are in danger, think again. The dismal economy is knocking people off all employment rungs. The Wall Street Journal even has a feature, Laid Off... Read more →


My book, "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes," is out, at least from mail-order outlets. I've gotten some copies (note to friends and family: guess what you're getting for birthday presents!). And now comes the fun part -- waiting. Waiting for sales numbers. Waiting for reviews. That latter wait is over. The first review (that I know of) is in from fellow blogger Jim at Bargaineering. Now it's time to get more "Truth" out, literally. If you'd like your own copy of my book, just leave a comment here at this post by 10 p.m Central, Wednesday, Jan. 28. I'll... Read more →


Frank! His name came up first at Random.org from the 50 folks who entered our first giveaway of TurboTax Deluxe Online. But all you 49 others, hang in there! As I mentioned in announcing the first drawing last week, Intuit sent me three prepaid cards. Each which will allow you access to the company's TurboTax Deluxe Online 2008 filing software. You 49 folks who took time to comment on that last post are automatically entered in this second drawing. But if you didn't enter then, you can enter now by simply leaving a comment at this post. This second giveaway... Read more →


A former advertising giant says the current approach to stimulating the American economy won't work. His idea: government certificates. Philip H. Geier, Jr., chairman emeritus of the Interpublic Group and chairman of The Geier Group, a marketing communications and venture capitalist firm, placed a full-page ad last Thursday in the New York Times. Such non-editorial items are why I still get the old-fashioned paper copy thrown onto my driveway every day. It starts out: Geier then goes on to explain his proposal: A three-tiered, across-the-board tax cut for folks who make up to $250,000. But the cut would be in... Read more →


There are lots of stories each tax season about how taxpayers can find a reputable, qualified tax preparer. Heck, I've done them myself, here on the ol' blog and elsewhere . But there's a flip side to this coin. How do tax professionals find good clients? Unfortunately, as business people, many tax preparers, accountants, CPAs and tax attorneys too often don't have the luxury of vetting the folks who hire them. Oh, sure, there's an interview process, some give and take and expectations enunciated on both sides. But in many cases, the client -- the person who is gong to... Read more →


Sing along, y'all, to The TARP Song!

Singer-songwriter Bill Zucker has put into verse and set to music what every American has been saying for months: I want some TARP! Yes, it does indeed seem, as Bill sings, that the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program is "giving away money for free." The song debuted, as you can see from the video, on CNBC's Power Lunch program. Zucker told the Boston Herald that the idea came to him as he watched the cable business news channel and saw "my life savings dwindle in front of my eyes. I was pretty heavily invested in the real estate and... Read more →


A new federal financial package to try, once again, to kick start the economy is on pace to become law just before next month's Presidents' Day break. The $303 billion measure, $276 billion of it specifically dealing with taxes, was approved yesterday by the House Ways and Means Committee. House leaders are planning a full vote next Wednesday, Jan.28. Then it goes to the Senate, where pressure is coming from not only colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill, but also the new Administration to get a bill on President Obama's desk by Feb. 16. Another prepaid credit: So... Read more →


Geithner's apology works

"These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes. But they were unintentional." So began Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner's mea culpa to Senate Finance Committee members who had been grilling him over his failure to report and pay tax on self-employment income. Let's just let him speak for himself: It apparently worked. By an 18-to-5 vote, the panel endorsed Geithner's nomination and sent it along to the full Senate where confirmation is expected next week. See, your mom was right. Own up to your mistakes, make good when you can and try to sound sincere when you say you're sorry.... Read more →


Wesley, Wesley, Wesley. When a judge is kind enough to let you travel abroad while you're appealing your tax-evasion conviction, you really need to follow orders. Back in July, Judge William Terrell Hodges said Snipes could head to London and Bangkok in connection with movie roles for which he had contracted. Hodges said nothing about side trips. But Snipes detoured anyway. Apparently, the lure of the "party of the decade" last November was just too strong to resist. The grand opening of the Atlantis Resort on Dubai's Palm Island, an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree, cost... Read more →


Prospective Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was back on Capitol Hill today making his case for becoming the country's new top money man. And again, his self-employment tax troubles drew fire from some members of the Senate Finance Committee, which is conducting the confirmation hearing. Geithner has admitted to making more than $40,000 worth of mistakes on his tax returns filed in connection with his employment by the International Monetary Fund. Economy Watch, the Washington Post's blog following the economic crisis, reports there was a "20-question exchange that could best be described as restrained, but intense." Geithner reiterated what he made... Read more →


Good news in 2009! The hubby got a pay raise. And judging from my e-mails, so did some other folks. But the little bit of extra coin didn't come from the usual or expected source. It showed up in the first paycheck that my wage-earning better half got this year. When I first looked at the slightly larger amount on his pay stub, my initial thought was that he got his annual raise a bit early. Then, after doing the per-pay-period math, I wondered what kind of cheap so-and-so's does he work for!? I took a breath. Maybe it was... Read more →


Have you been putting off doing your taxes because you haven't gotten around to getting software yet? Wait no more! The folks at Intuit have sent me three prepaid cards, each which will allow you access to the company's TurboTax Deluxe Online 2008 filing software. The system is much like the boxed program, only you don't have to load the box CD or download anything to your computer. Just sign on to TurboTax.com and do your taxes. And with one of these prepaid cards,when you get to the "review fees" screen, you type in the card's code. The code will... Read more →