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February 2014

I am shocked, shocked that Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) disagrees with those, me included, who have said his tax reform plan is DOA. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee made the media rounds following release of his comprehensive proposal to revamp the bloated U.S. tax code. One of the stops was MSNBC's Morning Joe, where he detailed for co-host Mika Brzezinski the merits of his 979-page plan. Click image to watch the interview. As my written impersonation of Capt. Renault indicates, I fully expected the Ways and Means chairman to defend his bill, or rather discussion draft as... Read more →


Despite my best intentions, my posting lately of the Daily Tax Tip has been, let's be honest, crappy. I won't bore your with my excuses explanations reasons. But as way of apology, I am pleased to report that I have finally updated February's running tax tip list. In doing so, I noticed that last week four of the five tax tips dealt with family tax issues. Was your last family reunion as well attended as the Miller gathering in 1951? Photo shared by Hilary Kanupp Perez via Flickr CC. Most families today, be they as large as the Miller clan... Read more →


Food and beverages have long had tax connections. Some states tax groceries. Most tax restaurant and other prepared meals. State and federal excise taxes add to our potent potables' costs. Recently, though, taxes on the serving side of meals and drinks have caused trouble. One in three businesses with a liquor license in North Carolina is behind on taxes, according to an investigation by Raleigh television station WRAL. No tax toasts: Those establishments' nonpayments are costing the Tar Heel State nearly $46 million and some state officials want to start taking away liquor licenses as way to get the money.... Read more →


Congress loves acronyms. I swear I think some bills are named by coming up with the initial based moniker first and then working backward to get a relatively reasonable name for the legislation. Recently we had the TEAM Act (Tax Exemptions for American Medalists Act) dealing with Olympians' taxes. And a few years ago we got the HAPPY Act (Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) that wanted to make pets' medical costs tax deductible. But here's an acronym that no bill sponsor wants attached to a measure: DOA. That, however, is the assessment of the chances for action, at... Read more →


For many of us, our phones today are "smart." They are essentially handheld computers and we don't use them for actual speaking that often. For tax crooks, however, phones are a vital tool. Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service warned us about a national telephone tax scam. In this ploy, folks get a call from someone purporting to be with the IRS who tells them that they owe Uncle Sam money and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim balks, the caller threatens them with arrest, suspension of a business or... Read more →


Some tax professionals and judges on two federal courts might not think much of tax preparer regulation, but most Americans support the concept. That's the word from the 2013 Taxpayer Attitude Survey. The querying of Jane and John Q. Public's thoughts about the Internal Revenue Service in particular and tax matters in general is an annual undertaking of the IRS Oversight Board, a presidentially appointed independent panel created to offer guidance to the IRS. A whopping 96 percent told the IRSOB that it's important that tax preparers meet basic competency standards. That percentage is this week's By the Numbers figure.... Read more →


The U.S. economy is getting better. Except in sectors where it isn't. About the only thing economists, politicians and consumers can agree on is that we have no good idea yet of the country's real economic direction. And that means lots of folks are still looking for work. Tax season can be an added hassle for the unemployed. But it also can provide some folks a shot at a job, at least for a little while. FlexJobs.com, the website that focuses on positions that offer worker flexibility, such as telecommuting, part-time, freelance or flextime posts, has come up with some... Read more →


This blog post was updated Feb. 13, 2017. Getting married means lots of changes for the newlywed couple, even at tax time. That's when new husbands and wives file their first post-wedding federal Form 1040, choosing a new-for-them filing status. Since the 2014 tax filing season, that decision has affected even more couples. That year marked the first time that same-sex married couples were able to file federal tax returns jointly or as married filing separately. And that means that even more couples now encounter the marriage tax penalty or tax bonus. Just Married Bride and Groom image courtesy photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net... Read more →


Well, at least the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team members won't have to worry about paying tax on their Sochi efforts. They were shut out earlier today, both in their final game against Finland's team and the medals. If you've been focusing on the Winter Olympics' events more than tax proposals, you might have missed the proposal by some U.S. Representatives to keep the Internal Revenue Service out of the victory celebrations by U.S. Olympians. The Tax Exemptions for American Medalists Act, also known as the TEAM Act, would exempt the value of any Olympics medal or any prize money... Read more →


Supporters of legal recreational marijuana always said it would be a boon to Colorado's coffers. They weren't kidding. A budget proposal released this week by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper reveals that the state expects taxes on marijuana next fiscal year to raise around $98 million. That's $28 million more than the original tax collection projection presented to voters when they approved legal weed. As part of the legalization of marijuana, Rocky Mountain State voters agreed to two taxes on the plant, a 15 percent tax on wholesale transactions and another 10 percent tax on retail sales. Local pot taxes also... Read more →


Taking time for a literary tax break

There's more to us tax geeks than just the Internal Revenue Code. When we tire of thumbing through Title 26, we go to movies, watch television and even read books. In recognition of how well-rounded tax folks are, I want to recommend for your reading pleasure David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel "The Pale King." Today is a particularly fitting time to note this book. Feb. 21 would have been Wallace's 52nd birthday. So what's the book about, you ask. Boredom. The tedium theme is understandable thanks to Wallace setting much of the book in an IRS office. Other tax tomes:... Read more →


The Swiss women's Olympic hockey team took home a bronze medal today, but in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, that country is the gold standard for offshore accounts. For years, the IRS has been encouraging U.S. taxpayers who have foreign accounts to 'fess up about where they keep their money. The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, or OVDP, and related efforts offer incentives for taxpayers to disclose their offshore accounts. As long as they pay their delinquent taxes, interest and slightly reduced penalties, they won't face criminal prosecution. They IRS doesn't like the term tax amnesty, but that's essentially... Read more →


Jimmy Fallon, the new host of NBC's iconic The Tonight Show, was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Saugerties, about 100 miles due north of New York City. After a brief stint on the West Coast, Fallon moved back to his birthplace, landed a job on Saturday Night Live and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Live weeknights from New York: So it's no surprise that Fallon didn't want to leave the town so nice they named it twice when he got his shot at helming late-night television's most popular network program. NBC executives agreed with the... Read more →


Guns and taxes are two hot-button issues, regardless of whether you're pro both, con both or split in your support of the two. And they converge or collide more often than you might think. There are the Second Amendment sales tax holidays, like the one held last September in Louisiana. There are the various proposals at federal and state levels to tax firearms and/or ammunition. There are the crazy tax protestors who use weapons against tax collectors. And there are the guns that the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division has so those agents can literally combat violent tax opponents.... Read more →


Updated Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 Presidents Day -- OK, officially Washington's Birthday -- is a federal holiday. Many state employees and private sector workers across the country also get a day off on this third Monday of February. You know what that means. Folks are hitting the stores looking for Presidents Day sales bargains. I hope your shopping spree is successful. And if you are a big shopper, be it special holiday sales ties to federal holidays or any day because "Bargains!", then remember to use the taxes on your purchases as a way to reduce your federal IRS bill.... Read more →


After a late start, the Internal Revenue Service has managed to process more than 26.9 million tax returns and get refunds on their way to more than 19.4 million folks. Even better news is that the average refund for the first week of tax-filing season is $3,317. That's 4.6 percent larger than the 2013 early season average refund amount. That $3,317 also is good enough to earn this week's By the Numbers honors. Beginning rush to file: There obviously was pent-up tax refund demand, as the IRS reports that tax filings for between Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 outpaced returns... Read more →


Good for the U.S. Olympic hockey club on its victory over Russia today. Anything that pisses off Vladimir Putin is OK by me. But I'm still pulling for Canada to defend its gold medal. My unlikely hockey romance: I am a native Texan. In fact, I'm from a small town in the desert section of West Texas. While we had decent winters, ice never really was a part of my life. I fell in love with the United States' northern neighbor when the hubby and I lived in the Washington, D.C. area. It happened when I saw my first hockey... Read more →


If you're planning on working on your tax return over this long Presidents Day weekend, expect to be on hold for a while if you call the Internal Revenue Service for help. That's not just my prediction. That's the official word from the tax agency. To save yourself some hold time frustration (even if you happen to like the background music), the IRS says don't call us. Just that. No we'll call you. Simply Don't. Call. Us. Instead, use the IRS online offerings. That request is not a surprise. As I discussed over at Bankrate Taxes Blog back in December,... Read more →


I now pronounce y'all husband and husband. Or wife and wife. The key word in those declarations is not the same-sex spouses. It's y'all. Yep, it looks like same-sex marriage is coming to the South, the region most resistant to this continuing cultural shift. Courts in Kentucky and Virginia this week handed down rulings declaring unconstitutional their states' prohibitions of gay and lesbian marriages or refusal to recognize such vows legally exchanged elsewhere. The decisions are great Valentine's Day gifts for couples looking to take the next legal step in their relationships. But actual vows won't be exchanged in either... Read more →


If recent winter storms left you stuck on an icy road or without power, you can quit cursing Mother Nature, highway departments and power companies. Your anger might be better directed at cows. Most scientists say a major contributor to climate change, which covers not only global warming events like Australia's recent hot spell, but all types of extreme weather worldwide, is carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But a group of international researchers say we also need to pay more attention to other greenhouse gases associated with livestock. In the opinion commentary "Ruminants, Climate Change and Climate Policy" published in the... Read more →