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May 2012

First $250,000 was designated the dividing line between wealthy taxpayers and the rest of us mere mortals. Then along came a really rich guy, billionaire Warren Buffett, who complained that the tax code was too easy on him and his rich compadres. That led to Obama's proposed Buffett Rule, which set the cutoff for potentially higher taxes at $1 million. Now the $750,000 difference between the original Democratic top tax bracket and millionaires is causing a bit of a stir, both politically and financially. A higher top tax bracket? Although Obama agreed to let the Bush tax cuts continue through... Read more →


You just got home from a quick Memorial Day holiday trip, but if you're planning more travel this summer, you might be able to get some help from Uncle Sam. The Weekly Tax Tip today looks at how business travelers can tack a few personal days onto the trip and still get tax breaks to cover most of the work-related expenses. The key to getting travel help from the tax code is to make sure that your main reason for hitting the road (or flying or taking the train) is work. That way those legitimate expenses, including transportation and lodging... Read more →


We humans are a funny, and stubborn, lot. It seems that, as the saying goes, we are doomed to repeat mistakes because we don't learn anything from the first time we make them. Two surveys taken by LIMRA a couple of months apart indicate just how that tendency is hurting Americans' retirement prospects. In February, two-thirds of U.S. workers still on the job said they weren't saving enough for retirement. In April, nearly half of America's workforce admitted to not contributing to any retirement plan. Who's not saving for retirement? OK, if you know you aren't saving enough to retire... Read more →


It's primary day here in Texas. Thank goodness! I'm a life-long political junkie, but I've gone beyond even caring about who wins. I just want the elections over so that I can answer my phone or turn on my television without being blasted by some candidate's spiel. Lone Star State politicians, if you believe their campaign ads, are just like many of their vote begging counterparts across the country. Not a single one of them is going to ever raise taxes. They're all lying. Number five in SmartMoney's list of the 10 Things Presidential Candidates Won't Say is "I will... Read more →


Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was established just after the Civil War as a way to remember the soldiers who died in that tragic campaign. Now on the fourth Monday of every May we recognize the sacrifices of all U.S. servicemen and women in all battles. Photo by DVIDSHUB via Flickr Creative Commons In addition to commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice, also keep in your thoughts the many service men and women who are serving today in combat zones. Taxes and the troops: Military personal do get some special tax considerations. Military.com's list of the top... Read more →


This post updated Feb. 18, 2017. Part of your hurricane season preparation should be an accurate inventory of your property. This information is critical regardless of which destructive possibility -- hurricane, tornado, blizzard, flood, earthquake, wildfire -- might be prevalent in your area. It's also good to have even for more run-of-the-mill casualty losses. Both your insurance company and Uncle Sam will appreciate the attention to detail when you file a claim. Today's By the Numbers figure can help. It's 2194. Internal Revenue Service Publication 2194 is the agency's Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses. The 20-page document contains... Read more →


As the April filing deadline neared, I asked did a crook file your taxes? For many folks in Florida, the answer apparently is "yes." A story by Lizette Alvarez in today's New York Times says: With nothing more than ledgers of stolen identity information — Social Security numbers and their corresponding names and birth dates — criminals have electronically filed thousands of false tax returns with made-up incomes and withholding information and have received hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongful refunds, law enforcement officials say. The criminals, some of them former drug dealers, outwit the Internal Revenue Service by... Read more →


The arrival of the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, means it's time for my annual post on gasoline taxes. Yes, I am that predictable. But it's a long holiday weekend and none of us wants to do any heavy lifting, right? So let's hit the blogging road. AAA projects that 34.8 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more between Thursday, May 24 and Monday, May 28. That's 1.2 percent more travelers than last year. And most of them will be on the road. AAA says about 30.7 million people will drive to... Read more →


If you think doing your taxes is easier than figuring out how to eat healthy foods, then you are not alone. The 2012 Food & Health Survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 52 percent said it's easier to fill out their own 1040 forms than it is to figure out what they should and shouldn't eat to be healthier. Click image for a larger view. The survey findings were not a big surprise to me, a tax geek who's had food issues my whole life. The fact that healthy dieting is harder than taxes is particularly pertinent as... Read more →


Today is one of those days that really makes you think twice, or more, about commemorations and the state of today's world. May 25 is National Missing Children's Day. It was established in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. The date was selected because May 25, 1979, was the day that 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared. Thirty-three years later this week, the New York City police department announced an arrest in this highly-publicized child abduction case. Sadly, Etan's situation is not an aberration. Thousands of kids go missing every day. Unless you are a parent of a missing son or daughter, there... Read more →


Summer is almost here and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is getting in the spirit of the season. The nonpartisan agency of Congress that produces economic analysis and estimates of the cost of legislation just released a tax and spending cut evaluation worthy of the big-budget summer blockbusters coming soon to a movie theater near you. Although the setting is still more than half a year away, the CBO study has a title that disaster film director Michael Bay would envy: "Falling Off A Fiscal Cliff." That's how the CBO characterizes what could happen if the Bush tax cuts were... Read more →


May is not a fun month for a lot of homeowners. It's when many property appraisers send out notices of what they think homes in their taxing jurisdictions are worth. Click on the image for a list of Texas appraisal districts. The Lone Star list was from the Texas Comptroller's Office. Check with your state or its tax department for a similar property appraisal directory for your state. Your home's assessment amount is a key component of your eventual property tax bill that will show up later in the year. Typically, real estate tax bills are calculated using a jurisdiction's... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is going the way of the U.S. Postal Service. Wait. Let me clarify that. I'm not talking "going postal." Rather, the IRS says it will be reducing the number of its facilities, much the way the Post Office looked earlier this year to shutter the doors of some of its operations. The reason in both cases is, what else, money. The IRS today announced a sweeping office space and rent reduction initiative that over the next two years will close 43 smaller offices and reduce space in many larger facilities. The changes are projected to save... Read more →


Taxes on the wealthy, hedge fund regulation and Hammurabi

Just in case your Tuesday was feeling a bit too blah, here's a quick tax tidbit courtesy Bill Maher's HBO show Real Time. Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform and creator of the no-tax pledge, and David Cay Johnston, Syracuse University College of Law professor and Pulitzer Prize winning tax journalist, offer their thoughts on tax rates for higher earners. Ep. 248: May 11, 2012 - Overtime It's the second question in the Overtime segment. But if you thought there'd be a big set-to between these two, sorry. There's also no big political philosophy surprise from either panelist.... Read more →


Today was just the second day of trading for Facebook stock, but the consensus is that the company priced its initial public offering shares too high. Facebook closed Monday, May 21, at $34.03. That was an 11 percent drop from the $38.23 it ended at on Friday. And that close last week was less than a quarter a share above the price set for the IPO. Today's drop in price means Mark Zuckerberg's personal fortune fell by around $2 billion. But don't worry about him, the newlywed social media mogul is still worth more than $17 billion. Plus, Zuckerberg is... Read more →


The good news is that Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named tropical system of 2012, is a fish. That's weather watcher slang for a storm that heads out to sea to dissipate instead of making landfall. The better news is that everyone who might be affected by future tropical storms and hurricanes this year now has time to get a plan in place. When Alberto popped up on Saturday, I posted some tips on physical and financial planning for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Disaster knows no boundaries: But even if you live smack dab in the center of the... Read more →


It's been quite a week for Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder turned 28 on Monday, May 14. On Friday, he watched his collegiate start-up go public. The initial public offering was more subdued than he wished, but the stock did end the day up a few cents per share. A day later, Zuckerberg and his long-time girlfriend, Dr. Priscilla Chan, got married. Photo courtesy Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page. Congratulations to the couple, who pulled off the surprise wedding at the perfect time. While all the world was watching the hoopla surrounding the Facebook IPO, Zuckerberg and Chan invited around 100... Read more →


Wow! That was quick. The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season popped up this afternoon along the South Carolina coast. Residents of America's Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico coastlines officially go on alert each June 1. But this afternoon the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued its first advisory of the year, announcing the early arrival of Alberto as the first tropical storm of 2012. Yes, it sounds like a baby announcement, which seems fitting since tropical storms and hurricanes have been given human names since 1953. What does it take to get a name? Sustained surface wind speed... Read more →


Last week at my other tax blog it was all about Facebook, specifically reactions to expatriation and how it will save one new social media billionaire beaucoup taxes. Eduardo Saverin decided last year to give up his adopted U.S. citizenship and moved to Singapore. He says it was for business reasons, but the Facebook co-founder's tax expatriate strategy will save him around $67 billion in taxes. A lot of people are pounding Saverin for the move. A couple of U.S. senators even drafted a bill to make tax expatriates pay more. But is Saverin's tax move really any different than... Read more →


Do you travel to other states to do your job? Then you probably know the hassle of figuring out the different state income tax filing requirements. It's often called a jock tax because the taxing practice got a lot of attention by collecting from high-paid athletes and entertainers who play and perform at venues nationwide. But the multiple state tax liability issue applies to all traveling workers. The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2011, H.R. 1864, seeks to make things easier for all such workers and their employers. The bill, introduced by Reps. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) and... Read more →