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November 2009

Swiss banker seeks whistleblower billions; Swiss electorate to vote on tax pacts

For a country that usually likes to stay under the radar, Switzerland continues to get a lot of attention when it comes to its banking laws and international taxes. Yes, things are still shaking out, with the names of the "most-wanted" account holders at the giant Swiss bank UBS to be handed over to U.S. tax investigators. Just last week, the Federal Tax Administration in Bern finished reviewing the first 500 files of UBS clients that the IRS suspects of tax fraud. But the Swiss will not turn over the list, per two countries agreement, until the account holders have... Read more →


White House party crashers owe IRS

No wonder Tareq and Michele Salahi, the Virginia couple and "Real Housewives" wannabes that crashed Obama's first state dinner last week, are looking for big bucks to tell their story. They apparently owe a lot of money to a lot of people. CNN Politics reports that the Salahis are in debt to everyone from the Montgomery County, Md., traffic court (a $65 parking ticket) to a gasoline giant ($3,000 due Exxon-Mobil) to other credit card companies ($60,000 in unpaid billings), not to mention almost $100,000 allegedly owed attorneys who got involved in various Salahi dealings. And amidst all those IOUs... Read more →


I've blogged repeatedly about the dire financial straits most states find themselves in nowadays. If things don't change, and soon, some state officials might decide to follow Colorado's latest revenue-raising move: taxing medical marijuana. Colorado's Attorney General John Suthers has informed Gov. Bill Ritter that, yes, the state does have the authority to tax medical marijuana. "Medical marijuana is tangible property that is generally subject to state sales tax," Suthers wrote in his Nov. 16 formal opinion. The legal analysis was in direct response to a query by the governor, and was issued just as Denver was about to impose... Read more →


The investment tax is back!

A few months ago, the possibility of a tax on investment transactions was floated. It didn't go too far then. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner even noted that he "hadn't seen a version of the tax that'd make much sense" Now, however, with ballooning deficits, war costs to pay and health care financing about to dominate the waning days of this Congressional session, the transaction tax idea has resurfaced. The levy often is referred to as a Tobin Tax after James Tobin, the late American economist and Nobel laureate. In 1972, Tobin was the first to suggest a securities transfer tax... Read more →


Schwarzenegger hit with $79,000 tax lien

California's Governator is dealing with more tax woes. This time, though, they're federal. And they're personal. The IRS filed a tax lien against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for $79,064 in May. The governor's apparently overdue federal taxes came to light Friday when celebrity news site TMZ.com posted a copy of a lien document reportedly filed with the Los Angeles County recorder's office. That document shows that Schwarzenegger owes the IRS $39,047.20 from 2004 and $40,016.80 from 2005. Ahnold's office blames the unpaid taxes on "a minor paperwork tracking discrepancy." Apparently, there were problems with information returns, filings that alert the IRS... Read more →


It's nearing 10 a.m. on Black Friday. That means that for the last six or so hours all across America, shoppers have piled into stores looking for bargains. In a couple of states, South Carolina and West Virginia, shoppers will get even better deals as certain purchases -- guns in S.C. and energy-efficient appliances in W.V. -- are free from sales tax. Many other folks are shopping online today, with a bigger Internet surge of buyers expected on Cyber Monday. In some cases, those folks purchasing via their PCs also escape sales tax payments. The New York Times says it's... Read more →


Texas, taxes, close enough

What a difference one little letter makes. see more Epic Fails Where's Vanna and her supply of vowels when you really need them? Texas-sized thanks: On this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for every chance to laugh, thrilled that I'm back home in Texas and grateful that most of the time I can spell easy words, although the hubby, my unofficial copy editor, still catches plenty of blog uh-ohs, usually before they're posted. I'm also thankful for friends, both real life and electronic. And on this holiday, two of them, @mxwll and @mbhunter, get big Thanksgiving thanks for tipping me to this... Read more →


Giving thanks for tax amnesties

Taxpayers in 18 states and cities have a great reason this year to be thankful. Their revenue offices offered them tax amnesties. These folks were given a chance to make things right with the tax man. Even better, the programs typically waive some, if not all, of the penalties and interest that usually are tacked on to late payments. The reason for the offers? States in dire need of revenue have jumped on the short-term term amnesty bandwagon as a relatively easy way to get people, lured by the promise of leniency, to pay up, writes Arden Dale in the... Read more →


In conjunction with the impending Thanksgiving holiday, specifically the dessert portion of the day, a blog item containing pie charts seemed fitting. And since Turkey Day-related overeating or reckless wielding of a carving knife or straining your voice yelling for (or at) your favorite football team could result in a trip to the doctor, it's even more appropriate that we've found some pie charts dealing with health care reform. All of us tax geeks and political wonks can be very thankful that instead of forcing us to squint at rows and rows of tiny numerals, the Tax Foundation (and its... Read more →


'Pay as you fight' war surtax introduced

"Obamacare" has been replaced as the current political catch phrase, at least momentarily, by "Pay as you fight." That's the headline grabbing name (yeah, I went there, too) given to a proposal to impose a surtax on taxpayers to help fund the ever-growing Afghan war costs. Officially dubbed the Share the Sacrifice Act by its sponsors, the would impose a surtax on most taxpayers. The levy would increase with the amount of income earned, reaching 5 percent on those in the highest tax bracket. The legislation exempts anyone who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan since the 2001 terrorist attacks,... Read more →


If your holiday gift list includes "dishwasher for Mom" or "deer rifle for Dad," then get ready for a tax-free bonus if you do your Black Friday bargain hunting in West Virginia or South Carolina. These two states are offering shoppers a chance to pick up energy efficient appliances and guns tax-free. That's right, you can get a new environmentally friendly refrigerator … . Oh, you want to hear about the tax-free guns first? Gotcha. S.C. Second Amendment tax savings: Yes, it's almost time for South Carolina's second annual Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday. Initiated in 2008, this two-day no-tax... Read more →


Health care debate is on!

OK, you're right. The debate's been going on for years. But the official, formal, legislative debate on Capitol Hill, specifically in the Senate, will go forward, thanks to Saturday night's vote. The House passed its $1 trillion health bill two weeks ago. Senate leaders hope to get a completed vote on their $848 billion overhaul proposal before the Christmas break. If that happens, and that's still a bit if, we would kick off the second session of the 111th Congress with negotiations between the House and Senate on how to meld the bills into one piece of legislation. That's going... Read more →


Remember when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie spent some time on a farm? That's OK. Not many folks do recall their ostensible reality show The Simple Life. But being a vidiot, the chasm depicted on that TV program between the two rich girls and the farm family with which they spent some time popped into my head when I read the opening paragraph of Ray D. Madoff's New York Times op-ed piece Protect the Farm, Tax the Manor: "How do you tell a wealthy heiress from a family farmer? It sounds like the setup for a joke. But in fact... Read more →


'Accidental' mortgage interest deduction

The write-off of interest paid on a home loan, one of the most popular tax breaks out there, actually sort of sneaked into the tax code. That's the word from Dennis J. Ventry Jr., acting professor of law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. Ventry examines this iconic tax deduction in his paper The Accidental Deduction: A History and Critique of the Tax Subsidy for Mortgage Interest. You can find out more about this itemized deduction's history and why many think that while it has been good for homeowners, it's been bad for the economy in my... Read more →


No, you are not caught in a time warp. Another candidate tapped by President Obama for federal office has a bit of tax trouble. Lael Brainard has been nominated to serve as Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Her confirmation hearing finally got underway last week. The process was held up when Brainard's tax troubles were revealed. Brainard was late in paying property taxes on her Rappahannock County, Va., home in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, incurring $1,401.09 in interest and penalties, according to a Senate Finance panel staff report. She also was late on $485 in personal property taxes owed... Read more →


A BUZZing tax Saturday

Looking for a way to get your weekend off to a taxalicous start? Sure you are! Then you've got to check out The Wandering Tax Pro's WHAT’S THE BUZZ? TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’. It's a regular Saturday (and Wednesday) feature from my tax blogging colleague. And I am honored that he found so many of my tax ramblings worthy of inclusion in today's edition. Thanks, RDF! Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Click the Tweet This or Digg This buttons below or use the Share This icon to spread the word via e-mail, Facebook and other... Read more →


Covering excess Making Work Pay credit

One more quick hit on the topic of excess Making Work Pay credit payments. I wrote a piece for Bankrate.com on some steps you can take now if you fear you might be one of the folks who will have to pay back the credit next filing season.Related posts: Making Work Pay tax problems ... again Making Work Pay payroll considerations Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Click the Tweet This or Digg This links below or use the Share This icon to spread the word via e-mail, Facebook and other popular applications. Thanks! Read more →


Is it just coincidence that this morning a federal judge, who reportedly is a movie buff, heard the tax conviction appeal of an actor who played a vampire hunter on the very day that the second installment of the pop culture phenomenon Twilight film series hit theaters? And could that convergence mean that things are lining up on this freaky Friday for Blade star Wesley Snipes to have his tax troubles legally erased? Probably not. I personally enjoy interesting intersections of randomly related occurrences, but most of the time they are indeed just happenstance. And that's likely the case for... Read more →


A look at who's paying how much taxes

Who's paying taxes and just how much, relatively speaking, are they handing over to the Treasury? That's been the topic of debate since several groups released income tax studies this year. First, the Tax Foundation reported that the tax burden of the top 1 percent of taxpayers now exceeds that of the bottom 95 percent. Then the Tax Policy Center released its latest analysis of the distribution of federal taxes. And now the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) says lower- and middle-income families spend much more of their incomes on state and local taxes than do wealthy families.... Read more →


2,074 pages + $849 billion =
Senate health care bill

Do you have a flexible savings account? Are you planning on claiming medical expenses as an itemized deduction? What about your workplace insurance plan; is it relatively expensive coverage? Then you'll face some costs in the Senate's humongous health care reform bill. I'm not kidding about the size, both on the pure number of pages (almost 2,100) and the dollars ($849 billion). I haven't yet read the text of H.R. 3590, otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But I have looked over the Joint Committee on Taxation's more manageable revenue estimates of the bill. This three-page... Read more →