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March 2014

It's spring and young couples' fancy lightly turn to thoughts of love. And if they're like the hubby and me, they're also thinking about baseball. That's right. Today is Opening Day! The 2014 Major League Baseball season technically started on Saturday, March 22, when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks faced off in Sydney, Australia. Yes, the first game of the season was outside the country. So was the second on March 23. The Dodgers took both games at Sydney Cricket Ground. Then we had the 2014 U.S. opening night on Sunday, March 30, at Petco Park, where the... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and state tax offices have for years accepted digital documentation when it comes to tax claims. Now a Philadelphia man's selfies are getting attention as yet another way to make a tax-saving point. Architect Andrew Jarvis calls Philadelphia home, but spends time in both his firm's New York City and Philly offices. After commuting between the two cities one too many times, he decided to rent an apartment in the Big Apple for those visits when meetings ran late. Then he learned of New York City's tax residency rules. If the New York State Department of... Read more →


It's no secret that tax filing season is tax scam season. It starts in January as the first group of taxpayers, eager for their refunds, flood Internal Revenue Service offices with their returns. And as the Internal Revenue Service's annual list of the Dirty Dozen tax scams underscores, crooks employ many creative schemes to steal our identities and our tax dollars. So it worth repeating in today's Daily Tax Tip to be careful out there as you file your return or wait for your refund. In fact, the IRS last week announced a new tax scam in which identity thieves... Read more →


As regular readers of the ol' blog know, I'm fixated on retirement. Maybe it's just because every year about this time, the tax season begins to wear on all of us who are connected to the industry. I'm sure I am not alone in thinking about being able to not do anything, tax or otherwise! Maybe it's just because I'm getting older. Whatever the reason, the topic of post-work taxes has shown up in recent tax tips. So I thought it might be fun as we're winding down both the day and the week to look at the recent retirement-related... Read more →


Read the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's lips. You, George H. W. Bush, are a recipient of the 2014 Profiles in Courage Award. Each year, the Foundation recognizes public servants who have made courageous decisions without regard for personal or professional consequences. The Foundation said the Bush patriarch earned this year's honor for the political courage he demonstrated as 41st President when he agreed to a 1990 budget compromise that reversed his 1988 campaign pledge not to raise taxes. That move, following his famous "Read my lips: no new taxes" declaration when he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 1988,... Read more →


It has been a terrible time for so many people across the world. Many of us have been following the Malaysia Air and Washington State mudslide tragedies. But now there's a tax-related way to help those who endured an earlier catastrophe. President Barrack Obama on Tuesday, March 25, signed the Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act. This new law offers a tax benefit for those who give now to the continuing relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated a portion of the archipelago nation last November. A destroyed house on the outskirts of Tacloban on Leyte Island, Philippines. This region was... Read more →


What did we learn during IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's appearance today before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee? First, real witnesses aren't necessary. Koskinen was making his first visit before the Oversight panel to discuss how the Internal Revenue Service previously handled and is now dealing with applications for 501(c)(4) nonprofit status. Just in case you have 3½ hours and want to watch the fireworks yourself. The new IRS chief was treated the same way as most other witnesses on this topic have been. He was asked long, politically-tinged questions and then, for the most part, was not allowed... Read more →


2013 was not a good year for rich folks. That's when tax laws designed to get more money from the wealthy went into effect. And making matters even worse for those with bigger bank balances is that there's no universal tax definition of just how much money makes you rich! Today's Daily Tax Tip, courtesy my slide show at Bankrate.com, looks at five higher taxes on wealthy taxpayers. A couple of the new, higher taxes are part of Affordable Care Act, popularly (or unpopularly, depending on your political persuasion) known as Obamacare. The others are part of the American Taxpayer... Read more →


IRS gives Colorado flood victims until Oct. 15 to file 2012 or 2013 tax returns claiming disaster losses

Six months ago, north-central Colorado was ravaged by floods. Back then, the Internal Revenue Service gave Coloradans extra time to meet impending tax deadlines. The agency is doing it again. The IRS is giving affected Colorado taxpayers until Oct. 15 to decide which tax year in which to claim disaster losses sustained from the severe storms that struck the state between Sept. 11, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2013. Last fall, historic rainfall swept through the state, with some areas receiving more than 17 inches of rain, followed by flooding, landslides and mudslides. Ten people lost their lives. More than 18,000... Read more →


Sin taxes are problematic. If they work as many advocates hope, people will be priced out of their bad habits, but federal and state treasuries take a hit. Even worse, in some cases they could cause some jurisdictions to spend more public funds as they deal with one of the common consequences of sin taxes. The taxes tend to provoke illegal activity. That's the key finding, again, of a recent analysis of cigarette excise taxes. Higher taxes, more smugglers: As state and local governments continue to increase cigarette and other tobacco excise taxes to raise revenue, smugglers continue to profit... Read more →


Business tax reform has been getting a lot of attention the last few years, with both President Obama on the Democratic side and House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp on the Republican side pushing for change. While Congress and the White House debate tax reform as it relates to big business, the Internal Revenue Service already has made a change to ease tax filing for many owners of smaller companies. For 2013 returns, individuals who claim a home office can choose between using the regular deduction method or the new simplified way to write off their residential workspace.... Read more →


Age and wisdom, it is said, triumphs over youth and enthusiasm. With every passing day, I hope that is true! My mom, the lovely lady in red, celebrating birthdays with her friends at her local Seniors Center. One thing, however, I do know about getting older. It offers some tax advantages not available to younger filers. Today's Daily Tax Tip actually is a look at four tax breaks just for us older folks. Don't feel left out. You'll get to join our august group one day! 1. Contribute more to retirement accounts As long as you're earning money, you can... Read more →


"It says the husband gets to retire when he wants and the wife should just go along." That was the hubby this morning, reading the New York Times article on how working couples cope when they don't retire at the same time. That's why I keep him around. He's hilarious. A shared sense of humor is crucial to making a marriage last. So is being able to talk about money. Like how much money you'll need to retire when each of you wants. Making sure we get our rocking chairs on the same porch at the same time is a... Read more →


It's been one of those days. OK, one of those weeks. And I don't even do taxes as a living, just write about them. That's probably why a story about accountants practicing yoga caught my eye. "Yoga improves my physical health, calms my mind and helps me to be more patient and focused," Virginia Hilton told AccountingWeb. But Hilton's not just a yoga teacher. She's also a CPA who is a tax supervisor at Carney, Roy and Gerrol P.C. in Rocky Hill, Ct. Yoga, says Hilton, offers a balance that all CPAs can achieve. And she's sharing how the ancient... Read more →


March Madness is living up to its name. Brackets burst Thursday just two hours into the annual college basketball tournament when Dayton upset Ohio State. World's. Worst. NCAA. Bracket. That's the assessment of the folks at Deadspin, who tracked down this mess. Click image for a larger view. Yahoo reports that 83.7 percent of the participants in its Tourney Pick 'Em game had selected the Buckeyes. I suspect a similar percentage also had their hopes on Ohio in the Warren Buffett backed Quicken Loans billion challenge. For them, March Madness is now March Sadness. Still, hope springs eternal, both for... Read more →


Many taxpayers are wondering if this filing season is their last shot at some tax breaks they regularly claim. These write-offs, for both businesses and individuals, are known as extenders. They are technically temporary tax credits, deductions and other tax savings that expire and that Congress then renews or, per the name, extends for a year or two. Awaiting tax code resurrection: The first part of that process happened most recently on Dec. 31, 2013. That day, more than 50 tax extenders expired. On the individual side, now-dead tax breaks include above-the-line deductions for college tuition and fees and educators'... Read more →


I know you're concentrating on your 2013 tax return right now, but you also might want to check your files for your 2010 Form 1040. If you didn't file a return three years ago and were due a refund back then, time is running out to get your money. And we're talking a lot of money. The Internal Revenue Service has almost $760 million in refunds that around 918,600 taxpayers didn't claim three years ago. So the IRS, as it does about this time every year, is reminding those nonfilers that the only way to get their 2010 refund money... Read more →


How often do you think of moving? I do when Austin's weather is too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry. I also check out moving companies when the Texas legislature is in session. The hubby and I are not alone in occasionally considering relocation. Like many Americans, we've lived in a lot of different places. We've made homes in our native Texas, as well as in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Florida. In each of these cases, work was part of our move. And that meant we got relocation help from our dear old Uncle Sam. No,... Read more →


Here it is, almost time for me to post over at at Bankrate Taxes Blog and I've yet to note here on the ol' blog what topics I recently covered over there. I'm blaming my delay on a persistent Daylight Saving Time hangover. Or the Polar Vortex. Or ... Whatever the excuse reason, I'm finally getting to it. So without any special lead-in or futher ado, here's what I wrote about last week at my other tax blog. First there was my look at the Internal Revenue Service's audit of three college bowls. Apparently, tax examiner interest was piqued by... Read more →


Happy St. Patrick's Day! Almost 40 million Americans (including me!) claim Irish heritage. That's almost seven times Ireland's population. And more of us enjoy any reason to party. That makes St. Paddy's Day a big one for businesses that cater to our festive natures. Internet statistics company Statista says (and illustrates in its infographic) that March 17 has become increasingly more popular in the United States. Last year, 56 percent of us celebrated parades, parties and pints. That figure was just 44 percent back in 2009. Translated to dollars, Americans collectively spend $4.7 billion on St. Patrick's Day every year,... Read more →