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February 2010

January 2010

This weekend we got a lot of tax statements. I guess that means it's time for me to at least think about filing our 1040 and see if I can attain what has been an elusive goal: getting it done well before April 15. I'm hopeful, but realistic. Life gets in the way. I make the most of my income during tax season, which means I don't have a lot of time to spend on reporting those earnings to Uncle Sam. And Congress sure doesn't help. Folks on Capitol Hill can't leave well enough, or too often when we're talking... Read more →


Airline bags fly tax-free

That's the word from the IRS. In a private letter ruling (that's a determination made at the request of a taxpayer, corporate or individual, on a particular situation), the IRS told the inquiring airline that "charges for transportation of baggage" aren't subject to excise taxes. That's a hefty chunk of change that's going to escape tax. A recent report found that the five largest airlines will collect $1.76 billion to check first and second bags, a $117 million increase over last year. The bag charges, as I'm sure all of you are painfully aware, started showing up as airlines looked... Read more →


Walmart is back in the tax business

Last year, the world's largest discount store partnered with United Way and the nonprofit One Economy Corporation to offer free filing services. For the 2010 filing season, Walmart, through its Foundation, is back in the temporary tax help business, bringing in 2010 a new partner, the National Disability Institute. Regardless of what you think about the Arkansas-based company, it's hard to scoff at tax time help, especially for folks who can't afford to pay a professional to decipher the tax code for them. Like last year's program, the filing assistance is available in a variety of ways. United Way Worldwide... Read more →


Travis! You're the 5th winner of access to free online tax preparation software. Congratulations on snagging the CCH CompleteTax code, bringing our first week of tax-season giveaways to a very successful conclusion. We'll pick back up on Monday, with winner #6 being selected and announced the afternoon of Feb. 1. But just because I'm taking the weekend off doesn't mean you have to. If you haven't entered already, feel free to do so. If you need details on the giveaway, check out Tax software giveaway time! And you folks who already sent me an e-mail, you can take the contest... Read more →


Music is a vital part of life here in Austin. I love how songs are playing just about everywhere you go, a lot of times live, but definitely from radios or sound systems. In fact, the last time I went for a hair cut, the beauty shop (yes, that's what we call salons here in Texas) radio was tuned to a hard rock station and I heard one of my favorite Queensryche compositions. So you can image the shock when I heard that hairdressers in Spain are fighting a radio tax assessed their shops. Really? A tax on some businesses... Read more →


Igor! Congratulations and happy 2009 tax prep and filing. Sorry I'm a bit late today, but the process was the same. Entrants. Random picking. Winner of a code to use CCH CompleteTax online software. We'll be doing this 11 more times, every weekday through Feb. 12. If you want a chance to win a software access code and, even better (OK, even as good!) see your name on the ol' blog, check out Tax software giveaway time! For the record, I want to repeat that folks who are already entered but haven't yet won will be automatically part of Friday's,... Read more →


Yeah, I know that headline looks like a flat-out attempt to get you to click. Worked! Seriously, or as seriously as you can get when talking about rich celebrities talking to each other on TV, there is a connection. Here are the dots. Jay is bearing his soul to Oprah on her television show, scheduled to air this afternoon. Is your DVR set? A preview from NPR's Monkey See blog says that Leno apparently doesn't provide any shocking new insight into the network's best reality soap opera. He's still standing by his "I'm a victim, too" position, pointing out to... Read more →


I see dead people's tax refunds

With apologies to all connected to The Sixth Sense (one of my favorite flicks, by the way), "I see dead people's tax refunds" apparently was the catch phrase of a California man who ran a temporarily successful scheme to claim false refunds. Haroon Amin of Upland, Calif., has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by filing at least 250 tax returns of dead people. Amin and another Golden State resident, Ather Ali, were were accused in December 2008 of filing returns in 2002 and 2003 on which they falsely stated that the deceased individuals earned wages from... Read more →


This time the program at Random.org pulled Meg's name out of the list. Congrats! We're just getting started here with our giveaways this filing season. This first batch of goodies is access codes to CCH CompleteTax's online software. If you want to get in on the fun, check out Tax software giveaway time! Folks who are already entered will be automatically part of Thursday's, Jan. 28, random drawing. I'll announce that lucky winner around this same time tomorrow. Thanks to all who've participated so far. Welcome to newcomers. And good luck to you all! Full disclosure: Just so everyone knows,... Read more →


What are you planning to do with your refund? Some folks are dividing the money they get from the IRS into multiple accounts, including emergency savings, retirement and even brokerage or mutual fund accounts. And they're doing so without even touching the cash they get back from Uncle Sam. Since the 2007 filing season, taxpayers have had the option of having a federal tx refund amount directly deposited into up to three accounts. But over the years, it's also highlighted a potentially costly problem for folks who use this ostensibly convenient way of divvying up their federal tax refund. If... Read more →


Welcome to the first Tax Twitter Tuesday of 2010! We're into the filing season, the economy is still giving us fits, we've been giving like crazy to Haiti's earthquake victims and, as usual, politics are playing a big part in tax legislation. What a way to get a year going! And all this means the Twitterverse is abuzz with tax talk. So let's get to it! @CPALetter_Daily Today's Top Story in #CPALD - Obama to propose aid to middle class, freeze on some federal spending http://ow.ly/10xXX @CLT_CPA North Carolina is now taxing digital property http://bit.ly/91kiqu @freefrombroke RT @arohan 5 (plus... Read more →


Carolyn! Congratulations on being the lucky winner of our second CCH CompleteTax online software giveaway. I just e-mailed Carolyn the access code. I'm sure she's already started working on her 2009 return. If you want to get your taxes going, too, then be sure to enter our giveaway. We have 13 more access codes to hand out. Folks who are already entered -- details on how to do that are in Tax software giveaway time! -- will be automatically part of Wednesday's, Jan. 27, random drawing. I'll announce that lucky winner around this same time tomorrow. Thanks to all who've... Read more →


Did you e-file your tax return on Jan. 15 when the IRS began accepting electronic submissions? Then you should have your refund money soon. That is why you were among the first wave of filers, isn't it?The IRS has issued its annual chart showing when filers can expect to get their tax money. If you e-filed between Jan. 15 and Jan. 21 and directed the IRS to direct deposit your refund, then the agency says it should be en route to your bank account on Jan. 29. If you opted to get a paper check, that will be mailed Feb.... Read more →


Shane. Congratulations on winning Don't Mess With Taxes' first tax giveaway of 2010. The access code is on its cyberway to Shane so he can start filling out his tax return with CCH CompleteTax online software. Don't despair if you didn't win this initial drawing of the tax season. Another code will be awarded around this time tomorrow. If you've already entered the giveaway, your name will go back in the hat for the next random selection. If you haven't entered and would like to, check out how at Tax software giveaway time! Thanks to all who've participated so far.... Read more →


Yeah, right. Like that's going to happen any time soon. But that's how some folks think our tax system should work. They contend that it would save us taxpayers time and the IRS money if the tax agency just took the info it already gets about what we make and filled out our returns for us. In the New York Times piece Why Can't the I.R.S. Help Fill in the Blanks?, Randall Stross says: "In the digital age, filing income tax returns should be a snap. The important data from employers and financial institutions have already been sent to the... Read more →


Just to close the loop here on the ol' blog, the ability to time shift your donation to Haiti earthquake relief is official. Obama signed the bill into law on Friday. The new law also clarifies record keeping rules for those of you who donated via text message. Your telephone bill will be sufficient if it shows the name of the organization to which you donated, the contribution date and its amount. In addition, the IRS has designated the Haiti situation a qualified disaster for federal tax purposes. As I noted in my first post on donations to the devastated... Read more →


A new form for the tax undead

I've blogged about the new tax forms Schedule L (add-ons to the standard deduction) and Schedule M (to officially claim the Making Work Pay credit). I've even gone totally tax geeky and bemoaned the breakup of the long-time pair Schedules A and B. But even though many of us feel like we're in a horror movie during tax-filing season, Form Z-MBIE is a new one to me! tax lawyer Thanks to @taxdoctoralerts for the gory heads-up.Related posts: Breaking up Schedules A and B Schedule L, a new form for nonitemizers Schedule M, yet another new form Filling out your pet's... Read more →


If you're filing your taxes in January, it's probably because you're going to get a refund. But for folks who will be facing an IRS bill and likely filing and paying later, one credit card company is already touting its new tax payment option: reward points. American Express customers who have Membership Rewards accounts can use those points to pay federal, state and local taxes. The company says the arrangement is a first for the credit card industry. To make the option available, AmEx has partnered with Pay1040 and Official Payments Corp., the two firms that the IRS and most... Read more →


Are you ready to e-file your taxes? If you are but haven't picked up any tax software yet, I've got a deal for you. I have 15 access codes for CompleteTax online tax preparation and filing software, courtesy the nice folks at CCH. CCH is widely known in the tax geek world for its tax, accounting and audit information, as well as the software and services it offers tax professionals. But its consumer tax prep package, CompleteTax, got good marks in this review. Each access code will let the lucky winner prepare and file one federal and one state tax... Read more →


If you expect to get a refund, then your initial answer to my query about your readiness to file your taxes will be an immediate and emphatic "Duh!" But my question is really about the filing process itself. Even if you use tax software and e-file, whether via your own computer or via Free File, you need to do some pre-filing preparation The same is also true if you take your tax material to a professional for filing. So here are some things to think about before you sit down at your PC or Mac or head out to your... Read more →