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October 2012

We're celebrating Oct. 31, but with a little thought, you can make today pay off on April 15, too. Don't eat, donate: Did you one again overestimate the number of ghouls invading your neighborhood? You can get rid of the candy (without eating it yourself!) and possibly claim a tax break. Take your unopened bags of Halloween treats to a local shelter. It's a great way to brighten the days of families who are spending some time there. Or send your excess treats to solders stationed abroad. Operation Gratitude and Soldiers Angels accept such donations. But make sure that the... Read more →


Today's politicians have learned their storm lessons well. As Hurricane Sandy was just beginning her trek up the east coast, pre-emptive disaster declarations were issued by governors of the states that expected to take a hit from the so-called Frankenstorm. This is a map of the winds at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey. Her eye is clearly visible. Click on the image for a larger view and go to Wind Map to see what's blowing around the country right now. And today President Obama announced what are likely... Read more →


Halloween is two days away. Have you decided on your costume yet? Since it's an election year, political masks are popular. The seasonal retailer Spirit Halloween says that Barack Obama masks are outselling Mitt Romney masks 60 percent to 40 percent in nearly all of the company's 1,000 stores. Internet orders are included in the tally. And the company also has an online ballot where Obama is leading (when I voted) with 76,803 votes to Romney's 35,731 votes. Write-in candidate Batman is a distant third with only 240 votes. Spirit Halloween's final costumed consumer poll, aka sales of potential president... Read more →


I know, I know, Hurricane Sandy is almost knocking on our doors up there in the MidAtlantic/Northeast. But here are some tips both for before she arrives late Monday night and after she's gone. If your stores haven't already sold out, here are some items that will help you make it through the storm itself and any powerless days afterwards: Water, and lots of it. Drinking water is at the top of your list. But you also should have some containers with water you can use for personal hygiene (hand washing, teeth brushing). If you have a spare tub, fill... Read more →


When Congress returns after the election, you can be sure that lobbyists also will be there to welcome them back to Capitol Hill. In the tax area alone so far this year, 1,627 lobbyists have filed the required federal paperwork noting that they contacted Representatives and/or Senators about pending or possible tax legislation. That's down from the high of 1,891 registered tax lobbyists in 2010, according to OpenSecrets.org data, but it's still an impressive number, earning it this week's By the Numbers honor. Almost 5,000 reports listed tax issues, ranging from the general topic of corporate tax reform to the... Read more →


Regardless of who wins the White House, the president will have to deal with myriad tax issues. A couple of them were topics last week at my other tax blog. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested letting us pick which tax deductions we want to claim, up to a certain dollar amount. Currently he's been focusing on a $25,000 limit. That brings up the question of which tax deductions would you pick? It also forces taxpayers and lawmakers alike to consider the high cost of popular tax breaks. If tax reform is ever achieved, many of these deductions, credits... Read more →


Criminals who target taxpayers do their dirty deeds year round, but some nasty tax crooks are haunting individual filers and state tax officials this Halloween season. Actually, on the state level, the tax ghouls got an early start. South Carolina's state law enforcement and tax officials learned earlier this month that an international hacker broke into the Palmetto State's Department of Revenue computer files and gained access to about 3.6 million tax returns, along with around 387,000 credit and debit card numbers. The theft of personal financial information, however, might have started as early as late August. Photo by elhombredenegro... Read more →


OK, I know what you're thinking. I complained last weekend about how Congressional procrastination on tax legislation is causing problems for the Internal Revenue Service -- and ultimately for us taxpayers -- when it comes inflation adjustments. Then I turn around and blog a few days later about how some tax items, such as the kiddie tax and gift exclusion amounts, were tweaked for inflation for the coming tax year. Well, here are a few more 2013 inflation adjusted numbers, this time for retirement plans. In my and the IRS' defense, we just work with what we've got. And the... Read more →


The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November for a good reason. You can never be sure what Mother Nature is going to do. Right now she's churning Hurricane Sandy, a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, across the Bahamas. As the National Hurricane Center (NHC) photo below shows, Sandy's reach also is producing some weather problems in Florida. And things could get worse for the Atlantic Seaboard if Sandy follows the NHC's projected path. Click image for a larger view. Weather watchers say that after smacking the Bahamas, Sandy will head northeast for a while.... Read more →


The presidential race is tight. Basically a toss-up. But thanks to the electoral college, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are concentrating on just a handful of states. I'm not in one. The campaigns already know Texas' 38 electoral votes are going to Romney. And California's 55 electoral votes are safely in Obama's camp. That means the hubby and I aren't subjected to all the campaign television ads. That's good. But what's bad is that we feel like our votes don't really matter, that we're hostage to voters in those few states that could help Obama or Romney reach the... Read more →


The Gallup organization has been catching some flak of late, primarily because of its polls that diverged so dramatically from those showing a neck-and-neck race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Some of the grumbling from Democrats might abate a bit after they look at the pollster's latest presidential numbers. Gallup's tally today finds that among registered voters, Obama is leading his Republican challenger 48 percent to 47 percent. Obama gained a point since Tuesday while Romney lost one. Among likely voters, Gallup's Oct. 24 poll finds Romney ahead of Obama by 50 percent to 47 percent. However, the data... Read more →


Sorry, patrons of Nite Moves, but lap dances are not art. So hand over the sales tax added to the admission fee to the suburban Albany, N.Y., club. That's the decision of the Empire State's highest court. The New York Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday (Oct. 23) that lap dances performed at Nite Moves, described in the court's decision as an "adult 'juice bar' in Latham, New York," -- patrons must buy at least two nonalcoholic juice drinks that cost up to $5 each -- were not "dramatic or musical arts performances." That designation was key to the club's... Read more →


Decide already!

OK, the debates are over. Information on the candidates is out there at their websites, on news sites, at blogs, in videos and photos, via transcripts, even online streaming of campaign events. What else do you undecided voters need! I don't agree with S.E. Cupp's politics, but the cohost of MSNBC's The Cycle nails you vacillating voters in her commentary (after the brief commercial): Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy So decide already! You also might find these items of interest: Tax talk sneaks into foreign policy debate Taxes discussed, sort of, in second... Read more →


"It's the economy, stupid," was the famous distillation of the 1992 presidential campaign by political strategist James Carville. That focus helped Bill Clinton move George H.W. Bush out of the White House and it's pretty much been used as a campaign template since then. So it's no surprise that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney strayed from strict foreign policy discussions in last night's third and final 2012 presidential debate to talk domestic finances. In case you were watching the NFL's Bears beat the Lions or the Giants take game seven of Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series from the... Read more →


Although the Internal Revenue Service had to omit some major tax provisions from its inflation adjustment announcement last week, around two dozen items had their amounts bumped up for next year. Here are some of the more widely used individual tax provision amounts that will change in 2013. Kiddie tax: Although this moniker may sound like it's a tax break for youngsters, sort of the child's menu of the tax code if you will, the kiddie tax actually could cost you more. Officially known as the tax on Unearned Income of Minor Children Taxed as if Parent's Income, it requires,... Read more →


Every fall the Internal Revenue Service announces the upcoming inflation-based adjustments to tax provisions millions of taxpayers use. Not this year. Oh, the IRS did issue its annual revenue procedure -- Rev. Proc. 2012-41 -- last week, setting forth inflation-adjusted items for 2013. But there's a big hole in this year's announcement. Section 2 usually notes some key changes for the coming tax year. This year, however, the IRS takes advantage of the section to tell us what isn't in Rev. Proc. 2012-41. This revenue procedure does not include the following items: the tax rate tables under §1 of the... Read more →


George S. McGovern died this morning at a hospice facility in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90. McGovern was best known as the Democratic presidential candidate who was soundly defeated by Richard Nixon in 1972. That election also was the one during which the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office complex was burglarized, leading to Nixon's resignation two years later. In addition to his presidential aspirations, McGovern represented his home state of South Dakota for more than 20 years, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate. An unabashed liberal, McGovern was a steadfast champion of... Read more →


The presidential election is almost here, so that topic naturally was covered last week at my other tax blog. As expected, the second meeting between President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney had the feel of boxing match. That meant there was some fancy footwork as tax plans were discussed. But Romney and his campaign surrogates also have had to rumble with skeptics questioning the studies that support the GOP candidate's proposal. Meanwhile, despite the importance of the ever-nearer election and what it might mean to our taxes, regular life goes on. And for those of us hoping to... Read more →


Americans are, as they should be, focusing on the presidential election that's just over two weeks away. The winner of the White House could determine what income tax rates we'll pay. But some wealthy Americans who might consider moving based on the Nov. 6 election results also should keep an eye on the electorate in Switzerland. That Alpine nation, long known as a tax haven for the wealthy from the United States and Europe, might be making tax changes that could lessen its appeal to foreign expatriates. Passport stamps by hjl via Flickr Creative Commons Swiss residents who say they've... Read more →


Here we go again. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that health care reform law, popularly known (even among Democrats) as Obamacare, was constitutional. That split decision hinged on the law's controversial tax component -- the money that the Internal Revenue Service eventually will collect from the uninsured. On Thursday, Oct. 18, a federal appeals court has ruled for a widow fighting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because its restrictions caused her to pay more in estate taxes after her wife died than a surviving spouse in a heterosexual marriage would have owed. Ellen and Shelly -- who... Read more →