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August 2010

Got credit card rebate cash piling up in your account but nothing really catches your buying fancy? Then donate the plastic-produced money to your favorite charity. Not only does the IRS say it's cool with that philanthropic move, the tax agency says you can deduct your rewards rebate donation. The only thing you have to be careful about is complying with existing charitable donation rules. This means, first off, that the charity getting your rebates is an IRS-authorized organization. A couple of credit card issuers, according to the Wall Street Journal, already have rewards donation systems in place; the newspaper... Read more →


Iowa film credits back, but California out of money for its moviemaker tax break

Despite many detractors, state programs that provide tax breaks to lure filmmakers continue to be popular among the agencies doing the doling out. In Iowa, where scandal forced the suspension of the Hawkeye State's film tax credit program and the filing of criminal charges alleging theft and mismanagement, two movies have just received Iowa Film, Television, and Video Promotion Program tax credits. Sam Steele & the Junior Detective Agency, set in Des Moines, and Ash are the first two productions to receive the tax breaks under the state's "fully revised process" that is administered by the Iowa Department of Economic... Read more →


County won't permit man to pay overdue property tax bill with 33,000 pennies

This happens every so often all across the country. Folks ticked off with a tax bill try to make a statement with their payment method. The latest incident (or at least the latest that I've read about) happened in Cle Ellum, Wash., where Ron Spears carted 33,000 pennies into the Kittitas County Treasurer's Office to pay a $330 past due tax bill. There are a few interesting things about this attempted payment. First, Spears is on the town's City Council. Second, the original bill was for $34. Spears ignored multiple payment notices, which meant penalties and interest charges kicked in,... Read more →


Real estate flipping is back, along with the tax costs of quick property turnarounds

Residential real estate is still in the dumps, but that's not deterring some buyers. However, these aren't folks who are looking for a bargain on a house into which they can settle. Rather, they are real estate flippers, who pick up distressed properties for a song, fix them up and turn a nice profit when they resell, or in real estate parlance flip them. Sounds like those late-night cable TV ads on how to get rich buying real estate, right? But flipping has always been an investment option. And now a new breed of real estate flippers has jumped into... Read more →


Oklahoma pastor, political group under scrutiny for alleged tax status violations

As the Nov. 2 midterm election date nears, political watchdogs are getting picky. That's not to say they shouldn't, regardless of how near or far an election day is. Everyone should play by the rules when it comes to campaigns. And IRS rules under tax code section 501(c)(3), which provides nonprofit status to churches, religious groups and other organizations, say that such entities "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office." However, efforts that are strictly designed to educate voters... Read more →


The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Broad, aka PERAB in D.C.-speak, today released its long-awaited report on tax reform options. Chairman Paul Volcker (pictured at right) and his panel colleagues note that they weren't asked to "evaluate competing proposals for overarching tax reform." So don't dive into the document expecting a 2010 version of the historic 1986 tax reform act. The one directive the Board did have was that it not consider tax options that would raise taxes for families with incomes less than $250,000 a year. But PERAB didn't take that to mean that "every option we considered must avoid... Read more →


Frivolous tax argument repeat offender slapped with $25,000 penalty

Charles Raymond Wheeler has been adamant for years more than a decade that he doesn't owe taxes on military retirement payments he's received. The IRS disagrees. And this week, a federal Tax Court judge decided that Wheeler has taken quite enough of the legal system's time with his frivolous arguments for not paying the taxes and his continual stalling techniques in court. U.S. Tax Court Judge Mary Ann Cohen imposed the maximum $25,000 penalty against Wheeler. In her ruling, Cohen noted that in refusing to send in his 1040s, Wheeler relied on "a variety of repetitious and frivolous arguments. …... Read more →


Tale of two tax defendants: Snipes' jailing delayed, Crocodile Dundee detained

The continuing tales of two actors facing tax trouble have recently taken quite different turns. Wesley Snipes, convicted in 2008 on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file a tax return, doesn't have to go to jail yet. He was sentenced later that year to three years in federal prison, but has been free while appealing his case. U.S. District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges has overturned an order that Snipes report to prison on Sept. 2. The new court order says that Snipes is a free man indefinitely, that is, "pending further order of the court." Apparently feeling like... Read more →


The old saying goes, "A boat is a hole in the water into which you pour your money." Well, it looks like that needs to be changed to, "A boat, especially a big one, is a tax and political liability." This summer, Italian tax officials have been conducting raids at beaches, yacht clubs and discos across that country as part of a crackdown on tax evaders. Italy is coping with an estimated 10 billion euros (that $13 billion in U.S. currency) in unpaid taxes this year. Apparently, tax cheats run rampant in Italy, where only 0.2 percent -- you read... Read more →


One of the great things about the Internet is that there is such a wealth of information on how to increase your personal wealth. Camille Gaines' Nest Egg Investor show on Blog Talk Radio is a perfect example. Last week, I was a guest on Camille's program. We talked, of course, about some ways that taxes affect your bottom line. It was a fun half hour. When you have time, give it a listen. Listen to internet radio with Camille Gaines on Blog Talk Radio You also should check out Camille's website, Financial Woman. Related posts: Talking Taxes: Adjusting your... Read more →


Hobby or business? That's the costly tax question facing Philadelphia bloggers

In addition to cutting services, many cash-strapped cities are looking for new revenue sources. One local levy that's catching a lot of online flack right now is Philadelphia's tax on bloggers. The tax, which centers on whether bloggers are businesses or write online as a hobby, has gotten a lot of coverage, including at Mashable, Philadelphia City Paper, ComputerWorld, the Washington Examiner and Philly's NBC affiliate. Paying the taxman for your hobby/business: From a federal tax perspective, hobby income is taxable. It's reported on the "other" income line of Form 1040 and any expenses associated with the hobby can be... Read more →


OK. I don't actually have tax tips from the guy who once was the world's best professional golfer and whose divorce is now final. But the Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren divorce can offer us mere mortals some lessons when it comes to taxes and divorce. Since I suspected this was coming back when the PGA Tour player's extramarital extracurriculars came out (I am, after all, a wife), I wrote about Tiger, taxes and divorce back then. You definitely can check out that earlier post, as well as my post on this topic that I just did for my Bankrate... Read more →


The Federal Reserve's interest rate policy is an invisible tax that costs savers and investors roughly $350 billion a year. This tax is stifling consumption and may be causing more economic problems than it's solving. That's the assessment of Todd E. Petzel, chief investment officer at Offit Capital Advisors, a private wealth management firm. "If we thought this zero-interest-rate policy was lowering people's credit card bills it would be one thing but it doesn't," Petzel told the New York Times. The cost to consumers doesn't stop there. Despite the low rate, banks don't seem to be increasing their lending. Savers... Read more →


National parks need crash taxes

The presumption and idiocy of so many people still astounds me, the most recent examples coming from folks who think they can do any wild thing and be safe, or least be rescued if they aren't, because of their high-tech connectivity. But what many are doing is abusing accessibility and running up national park costs -- costs that all taxpayers eventually pay. As an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers, reports the New York Times, technology often figures into mishaps: People with cell phones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide;... Read more →


Oops! My bad. This event totally slipped by me last week. But better late than never, right? So go ahead and celebrate a few days late the Aug. 19 arrival of Cost of Government Day 2010. This is the day the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation (ATR) and the Center for Fiscal Accountability (CFA) calculate as when the average American has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state and local levels. It took 231 days to reach the payoff this year, say the... Read more →


There's an old joke on Capitol Hill that every tax bill, all of which seem to add more complexity to our tax system, has the official subtitle "The Accountants Full Employment Act." In that same spirit, I proclaim that the approaching expiration of Dubya's tax cuts be henceforth known as "The Financial Bloggers Full Posting Act." Of course, if you're tired of the continuing "what if"' blogging stream about what taxpayers might face if Congress lets the 2001 and 2003 tax laws sunset at the end of this year, you can change "posting" in my faux title to "redundancy." But... Read more →


Attention Texas shoppers! Most of the Lone Star State schools are about to start and this weekend's sales tax holiday offers you the chance to buy some sales-tax-free school supplies. Also exempt from state and local sales taxes starting today, Friday, Aug.20, and running through Sunday, Aug. 22, are most articles of clothing and footwear priced under $100 each. The Texas comptroller of public accounts has posted a comprehensive list of just what is tax-free and what isn't during the tax holiday period. This weekend's Texas tax holiday wraps up the back-to-school no-tax events. But other state tax holidays offering... Read more →


Prepare for the crash tax

The taxing possibilities from jurisdictions scrambling for every possible dollar just keep coming. LiveShots reports that in Central California, a number of smaller cities collect emergency responder fees, or as they are popularly called, crash taxes. The crash tax isn't a new idea. It's been around for years. But in these tough economic times, more city and county officials are revisiting the possibility of charging accident-related fees. This reminds me of the fees that law enforcement agencies assess when they dispatch a until to answer a mistakenly triggered residential burglary alarm. But in the case of wrecks, the need for... Read more →


North Carolina tax department vows to resolve overpayment refund backlog

Not surprisingly, a little public attention followed by public and political outrage has prompted North Carolina tax officials to change their tax refund tune. As you might recall, the Tar Heel State tax department had interpreted a tax law change in such a way that it could allow the state to keep tax money that residents had inadvertently overpaid. The problem was that although the North Carolina Department of Revenue computers flagged such returns, the overpayments weren't official until a human reviewed them. And if that personal look-see didn't happen within three years, the state got to keep the excess... Read more →


English prof ejected from NYC Starbucks due to apparent linguistic differences

OK, coffee usually doesn't have a tax connection unless you're working on your return late on April 15. But this story is just too funny or sad, depending on whether you're a fan of the Seattle-based coffee shop giant and/or just how strict a grammarian you are, not to share. Lynne Rosenthal, a college English professor from Manhattan, told the New York Post that three cops forcibly ejected her from an Upper West Side Starbucks earlier this week "after she got into a dispute with a counterperson -- make that barista -- for refusing to place her order by the... Read more →