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May 2013

The IRS tax-exempt status saga continues next week with a new round of Congressional hearings. In separate appearances before different committees, IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel and members of groups whose applications for 501(c)(4) got special attention will tell their stories. The temporary commish is up first. Although Werfel has only been on the job since May 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government wants to hear from him how the IRS allocates its money. "As the subcommittee drafts the Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services Appropriations Bill, it is critical to gain a clear understanding of... Read more →


The prospect of paying millions in state taxes was a key of the reason that a giant floating oil platform ended up beached off an Alaskan island at the end of last year. The Kulluk, Shell's Arctic-class drill ship was grounded near Kodiak Island, Alaska, during bad weather on Dec. 31, 2012. Before the Kulluk settled into the shallow water, the U.S. Coast Guard sent in a helicopter to rescue the drill ship's crew. A week later, with the help of the high tide, recovery crews refloated the Kulluk and towed the conical drill ship to safe harbor at Alaska's... Read more →


This just in from the IRS' Worst Day-Week-Month-Year Ever Department: A group of tax professionals has officially lent its support to the legal effort to stop the Internal Revenue Service from testing and requiring continuing education of certain tax preparers. In January, a federal judge halted, at least for the time being, the IRS' Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) program. The idea, formulated during the tenure of former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, was to set up a system that would help ensure that more tax returns are correctly completed. The RTRP rules do not apply to Enrolled Agents (EAs), attorneys... Read more →


Shawnee and Moore residents are not thinking about taxes today. They're still trying to salvage what they can from the deadly tornadoes that ripped apart their central Oklahoma towns just more than a week ago. Moore, Okla. (May 26, 2013) -- President Barack Obama delivers remarks alongside what remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School. Oklahoman Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials stand with him. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza) And they might have to be looking later today for storm-sturdy shelter as twisters are again forecast in the area, as well as into neighboring... Read more →


Could the Internal Revenue Service's public image right now get any worse? Yes. An IRS secretary in the agency's Lanham, Md., office has been charged with embezzlement. Yetunde Oseni, 37, allegedly used an IRS-issued Citibank MasterCard to buy a wide variety of personal items during an almost four-year long buying spree. According to the court filing, Oseni had been given the credit card in order to buy supplies for her business unit in suburban Washington, D.C. The alleged embezzlement was discovered during a routine audit of the IRS purchase card program by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).... Read more →


Did you take a quick trip over the Memorial Day long weekend? If so, you probably drove. But when it comes to longer vacation jaunts this summer, many of us will fly. Yes, despite current boarding hassles and new charges for in-flight amenities, air travel still is preferred for longer excursions. And adding more fiscal injury to those flying insults is the possibility that we soon could be paying more for our airline tickets. President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget includes an increase in the aviation security fee, generally known as the passenger security tax that supports the Transportation Security... Read more →


Folks spend the long Memorial Day weekend different ways. Many travel, visiting family or friends or just seeing new sites. Others take advantage of the ubiquitous sales that are pegged to every holiday. Some shoppers even get a few sales tax savings this weekend and beyond. And millions of us have, will or will again fire up the grill. But, as the poster below notes, it's Memorial Day, not National BBQ Day. Memorial Day is the official day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It began as Decoration Day to... Read more →


Although I am glued to my couch today, autos are still a major component of this Sunday. The Sunday of the annual Memorial Day weekend is gearhead nirvana. There are three major car races today. Don't worry, race fans, no spoilers here! It starts early, 6:30 a.m. here in the Central time zone, with the Formula 1 race from Monte Carlo. I love F1 racing, but I must admit that I watch these land-based rockets maneuver the twists of Monaco as much for the scenery as for the race itself. Grandstands set up in front of Monaco harbor await spectators... Read more →


It's been crazy, so I'm cutting right to the chase this week in looking at what I posted last week at my other tax blog. The Internal Revenue Service's mishandling of tax-exempt status applications by conservative groups stayed in the spotlight. So it was no surprise that questions kept coming from Congress. Later in the week the focus detoured a bit thanks to upcoming sales tax holidays over the Memorial Day weekend in Texas, Louisiana and Virginia. You can find my Bankrate Taxes Blog thoughts on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you happen to miss my posts over there during... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and its leaders, past, current and now on administrative leave, got most of the public attention last week as Congressional hearings continued into how the agency screwed up reviews of applications for tax-exempt status. The agency, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report, used "inappropriate criteria" when employees placed conservative groups, notably those affiliated with the Tea Party, on a "be on the lookout" list when it came to determining whether the organizations should be given preferable tax status. But there was another Capitol Hill look into taxes that didn't have anything... Read more →


I just got back from the grocery store. That's the extent of my Memorial Day three-day weekend shopping. But if you plan to purchase something other than tortilla chips, lemonade, roasted cashews, microwave popcorn, avocados and onion/horseradish dip (I bought more, but I just picked a few of my favorite snacks) and you live in Texas, Virginia or Louisiana, you could save some tax dollars. Those three states are holding sales tax holidays starting Saturday, May 25. In each location, certain items will be free of state and, in some cases, local sales taxes. Here's a quick rundown of the... Read more →


There apparently was no constitutional recourse that Lois Lerner could use to stave off actions of her own employer. Lerner has been relieved of her duties as director of the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organizations (EO) unit. Her apology on May 10 for the actions of EO employees in Cincinnati who inappropriately screened tax-exemption applications from conservative groups set additional investigative wheels in motion. The 34-year federal employee (she also held positions at the Justice Department and the Federal Elections Commission before joining the IRS), Lerner became director of the IRS' tax-exempt unit in 2006. Fifth and out: On Wednesday,... Read more →


While the man who previously was in charge of the Internal Revenue Service was being lambasted by the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee on Wednesday, a new acting tax commissioner was settling into his office. Douglas Shulman served as IRS Commissioner when employees at the agency's Cincinnati field office went overboard in scrutinizing Tea Party and other conservative organizations' applications for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status. And Shulman's leadership was roundly criticized by Oversight Committee members during the four-hour hearing. I wouldn't blame the former commissioner for thinking that perhaps Lois Lerner had the right idea when she chose not... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service was able to push off sequestration effects until the main tax-filing season ended, but time has run out. IRS offices will shut down tomorrow, May 24, in the first of five furlough days scheduled for this summer and early fall. Closed sign by voteprime via photopin cc So if you're trying to finish up some tax work before you head out for the long Memorial Day weekend, you'd better get to it today. And judging by the pace of Capitol Hill budget talks, you probably should mark the four other scheduled IRS furlough dates -- June... Read more →


It's been one of those days -- don't ask, or I'll never stop! -- so I'm really looking forward to the upcoming Memorial Day break. The hubby and I aren't going anywhere, but a lot of folks are hitting the road or boarding planes, trains or buses on this traditional beginning of the summer vacation season. Vacation is the operative word here. When any of us take a pleasure trip, it's totally on our dime. But if you sometimes combine business and personal travel, your Uncle Sam could help cover some of your on-the-road costs. Of course, you must be... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service executive whose apology blew the investigation into the agency's improper use of screening criteria for tax-exempt applications had a chance to explain things today. Instead, Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against giving self-incriminating testimony. Lois Lerner, reading her opening statement to the House Oversight committee. Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations, was scheduled to testify today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on what she knew about IRS employees in the Cincinnati field office using terms such as Tea Party in pulling applications for closer review. People both inside and outside the beltway... Read more →


The tornado that plowed through Moore, Okla., Monday afternoon now rivals the one that hit in the same area on May 3, 1999. The National Weather Service, after its personnel surveyed the damage, has classified the May 20, 2013, twister as a category 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. Click for larger view of the two EF5 tornadoes that hit Moore, Okla., 14 years apart. Image courtesy Norman, Okla., National Weather Service office. You also can see the paths of the 1999, 2013 and May 8, 2003, twisters that all touched down in the same area at KFOR-TV NewsChannel 4's... Read more →


Helping Oklahoma tornado survivors, planning for the next natural disaster

It is that horrid time of year. Instead of enjoying the return of welcome warm weather, we're watching the tragic aftermath of Mother Nature's fury. As everyone knows by now, what will likely turn out to be the second category F5 tornado in 14 years devastated Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City, on Monday, May 20, afternoon. Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy But while Moore residents took the hardest hit, that city isn't the only one that must rebuild. Over the last four days, more than 50 tornadoes have been reported in... Read more →


Clear your calendars tax wonks and scandal mongers. Two more Congressional hearings are scheduled this week to make political points look into how the Internal Revenue Service dealt with Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status. Representatives got the first formal whack at the IRS on Friday, May 17, when the full House Ways and Means panel grilled outgoing (aka fired) Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. The tax-writing panelists also had a few questions for J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. At issue is whether the IRS improperly targeted conservative groups when reviewing their requests for a... Read more →


Enjoy the song stylings of Steve Miller, the singer, not tax guy

Admit it. For the last week or so, the song "Take the Money and Run" has been playing continuously in your head. That musical inclination is natural if you grew up listening to tunes on the radio in the '70s, are a Texan, or both (guilty!) because the recently sacked acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner shares the same name as a popular Lone Star State band. But I've had friends from elsewhere in the country mention that the same thing has been happening to them. Steve Miller in the news: This actually started back in November 2012. That's when a... Read more →