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August 2013

Sometimes being an Internal Revenue Service employee can be a dirty job. But a pair of tax agents were shocked last November when an angry taxpayer literally dumped dirt at their feet. Actually, what really startled them was how Walter M. Trizila III delivered the soil. Trizila jumped into a front-end loader, scooped up a full load of dirt and then headed straight for the IRS agents. Photo courtesy Associated General Contractors of America The 45-year-old Omaha, Neb., man stopped the piece of heavy construction equipment just short of the IRS employees. But he wasn't done. He then dumped the... Read more →


The hubby and I have been filing joint federal returns for 31 years. Yes, I was a child bride; that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Now that the Internal Revenue Service is accepting 1040s from same-sex married couples nationwide, I thought it a good time to review the process of filing federal taxes as married taxpayers. This also is something that all newlyweds, regardless of gender, need to know. And it's not a bad refresher for those of us who've been filling in joint 1040s for a very long time. So take your spouse's hand and let's look... Read more →


Welcome to my tax world, same-sex married couples. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service today announced that you can file a joint tax return regardless of where you live. If you were legally married in one state, that's good enough for the federal government when it comes to your tax returns. Even if you move to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, the IRS will still take your joint 1040. The decision applies to affected couples who got extensions of their 2012 returns (due Oct. 15), those who married in 2013 and will file their first taxes as... Read more →


Are you taking a road trip this Labor Day weekend? You'll pay more for gas if you're traveling in one of these 10 states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Washington. Those states, according to the American Petroleum Institute's July 2013 report (the oil industry trade group updates its data quarterly), top the list of taxes added to the pump price of gasoline. The listing above is alphabetical. Here's how they line up when you sort them based on the taxes charged per gallon of gas: California, total gas taxes = 71.9 cents per... Read more →


Fat Joe has traded in his fur coat for an orange prison jumpsuit. The popular rapper, whose real name is Joseph Cartagena, surrendered Monday, Aug. 26, to officials at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, where he lives. Cartagena, 42, will serve four months in Club Fed for tax evasion. He pleaded guilty in December 2012 to failing to pay the Internal Revenue Service tax due on $1 million he earned in 2007 and 2008. Federal prosecutors had charged that Cartagena made more than $3 million between 2007 and 2010, owing around $700,000 in taxes on the money. In addition... Read more →


One of my favorite T-shirts was the one the hubby brought back from Spain when he went there in 1997 to cover the Ryder Cup golf tournament. On the shirt's front was Spain's tourism logo, a colorful, stylized sun. I wore out that shirt and now it looks like the sun -- or at least those who use it for energy -- has worn out its welcome in España. Technically, Spaniards can still use the solar panels they installed to power their homes with the same resource that attracts millions of tourists. They just have to pay more for it.... Read more →


French actor Gerard Depardieu is now Belgian actor Gerard Depardieu. The award-winning actor raised eyebrows last year when he decided to take up residency in Belgium after the Socialist government in his native France sought to impose a 75 percent tax rate on annual incomes over 1 million euros, or around $1.34 million U.S. Depardieu decided to move 800 yards across the French border to the village of Nechin, Belgium. It already had earned a global reputation as being the spot for French nationals disillusioned with their country. On Saturday, Aug. 24, those expatriate French got a taste of home... Read more →


I'm not here to shoot, or disparage, the messenger. And I freely admit that this is not hot off the presses info. But I just ran across it and there's a tax component, and lesson, so ... Glenn Greenwald, the reporter for The Guardian who broke the story of Edward Snowden leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents, is working through some personal tax troubles. Click image to view Greenwald's appearance June 10, 2013, on MSNBC's Morning Joe program. The New York Daily News reported back in June that: "The New York County Clerk's office shows Greenwald has $126,000 in open... Read more →


Tens of thousands converged on Washington, D.C., today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. It's a few days early; the original march was on Aug. 28, 1963. On that late summer day in 1963, men and women of all backgrounds rallied to advance civil rights in America. And they were privileged to hear one of the greatest speeches ever, King's delivery of his "I have a dream" vision of equality. That speech and the march are widely credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting... Read more →


Sen. Ben Cardin says it's time for the Internal Revenue Service to finally decide how federal tax laws will apply to same-sex married couples following the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And, says the Maryland Democrat, the IRS should follow the ground rules it already set to recognize all legally performed same-sex marriages regardless of whether the couples subsequently move to a state that does not recognize their marriages. "American taxpayers need clarity and they need it quickly," said Cardin in releasing the letter he has sent to Treasury and the IRS. "The midyear decision... Read more →


Since May, we -- OK, primarily tax geeks and members of Congress -- have focused on the issue of tax-exempt status. This is because on May 10 we learned that the Internal Revenue Service had a questionable system of assessing whether a group that might engage in some political activity should be allowed to operate as a nonprofit. The main issue is whether the IRS improperly relied on its perception of the organizations' political leanings. Tea Party groups said they did and cried foul. It later was revealed that more liberal groups also got extra IRS scrutiny. That battle is... Read more →


The controversy over how and which groups the Internal Revenue Service targeted in assessing applications for nonprofit status is heading to court. Maryland Democratic Rep. Chis Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, will be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit expected to be filed today in federal district court challenging the IRS' interpretation of the law that governs the tax status of social welfare organizations. UPDATE, 2 p.m. Aug. 21: It's official. The lawsuit has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. You can read the press release issued by the... Read more →


Senate tax writers say that no tax break is safe in their quest to overhaul the U.S. income tax code. One credit rating firm, however, says that eliminating or even just reducing the tax exemption for interest paid by municipal bonds could ultimately have negative credit implications for the bonds' issuing jurisdictions. Standard & Poor's (S&P) Ratings Service, along with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and various bond associations, are concerned about a proposal to cut the value of municipal bond tax breaks for higher income earners. Doing so, they argue, would dramatically and adversely affect the $3.7 trillion... Read more →


Max's and Dave's Tax Reform Tour makes its third stop today and tomorrow, Aug. 19 and Aug. 20, in Northern California. The chairmen of Congress' two tax-writing committees, Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) of House Ways and Means and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) of Senate Finance, will hear the tax code change ideas of high tech companies in Silicon Valley. The legislative duo began their tax tour in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., area, stopping by a family owned retail operation and major manufacturer 3M. Their second stop included visits to small businesses in Philadelphia and a nearby New Jersey suburb. Max... Read more →


Last week's (Aug. 15) jobless report from the Department of Labor showed initial claims for unemployment at a seasonally adjusted 320,000. That was the lowest level since October 2007, two months before the recession officially began. That's good news, pushing the country's unemployment rate down to 7.4 percent. Hiring, however, remains sluggish. Companies are laying off fewer workers, but they aren't in a hurry to hire new workers. Payrolls increased by only 162,000 in July. That means that lots of folks still rely on unemployment benefits. These payments come from a federal-state program that's funded in large part by the... Read more →


The summer 2013 sales tax holidays are coming to an end. Maryland's week-long tax-free event wraps up at 11:59 p.m. today, Aug. 17. Then Connecticut closes out this year's "back-to-school" tax-free days with its holiday period beginning Sunday, Aug. 18, and running through Saturday, Aug. 24. In Connecticut, the only other state to offer a full week of tax savings on selected products, no sales tax will be collected on clothing or footwear priced at less than $300. Nutmeg State shoppers can buy as many items as they want and not owe the state's 6.35 percent sales tax as long... Read more →


Ella Mae celebrates Elvis, who is still popular -- and a big earner -- 36 years after his Aug. 16, 1977, death

I am not an Elvis Presley fan, but I grew up with his music. I also fondly remember those hot summer nights at the drive-in in Kermit where we went to see his movies because my dad was a fan. My listening preferences aside, however, I do recognize Elvis' place in musical history. So does Ella Mae. Ella Mae is a cutie pie, a 21-month-old girl who, like me, adores her daddy and, unlike me, loves Elvis. She also looks to have a bright musical future. Check out both Ella Mae's great relationship with her chauffeur father and her melodic... Read more →


Happy National Failures Day! Yeah, I have no idea how official this is or who came up with this lame loser unconventional commemoration. But I've seen a couple of comments about it on social media and, as the saying (or television commercial) goes, if it's on the Internet it has to be true. Bonjour! Plus, Fail Blog and its Facebook page are two of my favorite ways to waste time get insight into the myriad ways people do, or don't, accomplish life's tasks. So I'm celebrating Nation Failures Day, inspired by Thomas Edison's wise words: "I haven't failed. I've found... Read more →


If you're out of work, thank you for taking a break from LinkedIn and job hunting sites to stop by the ol' tax blog. I wish you the best in your job search. But I also must provide some unwelcome news. As this week's Weekly Tax Tip notes, even if you're unemployed, you still could face some tax issues. Paying tax on unemployment: First, the biggie. Unemployment benefits are taxable income. Wait, you say. You heard some unemployment is tax-free. That was the case years ago; in 2009, up to $2,400 in unemployment benefits were not taxed. But that tax... Read more →


Same-sex couples are still waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to issue guidance on how it will process their returns. We might have an indicator from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The federal retirement benefits agency announced on Aug. 10 that, in response to the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it is now processing claims for those in same-sex marriages. But, and it's a big but, Social Security is only issuing benefits for claims by residents of states where same-sex marriages are legal. That limits the benefits, for now, to residents of 13 states and... Read more →