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June 2015

May 2015

Patriot Act battle set for Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Tonight, with little time to spare before the Patriot Act expires at midnight, the Senate will vote on renewal of the controversial legislation. Or not. Sen. Rand Paul, the Libertarian-leaning junior GOP senator from Kentucky, has decided to go to the mat in fighting the National Security Agency (NSA) and the post-9/11 legislation that gave it power to spy on U.S. citizens. We can only hope his Capitol Hill battle will be as entertaining as America's Liberty PAC envisions in its digital ad. UPDATE, June 1: Paul was successful in killing the act that reauthorizes NSA spying on U.S. citizens.... Read more →


Do you do things because other people do? You know, the kind of actions that always prompted my mom to ask, "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you, too?" Sorry, Mom, but apparently that is what we do. We are sheep. Or at least that's what a sizable chunk of United Kingdom taxpayers did when it came to paying Her Majesty. When the British government saw that a lot of folks weren't paying their taxes on time, it turned to behavioral experts for help. These psychologists, anthropologists and other observers of human nature suggested that a couple of lines... Read more →


May 29 is an important if unofficial holiday if you're facing or expect one day to deal with the ever escalating costs of college. It's 529 Day. While 529 plans are nicknamed for the section of the Internal Revenue Code that authorizes them (they're officially known as qualified tuition programs), this 29th day of the fifth month is the perfect time to commemorate the many benefits of these college savings accounts. 592 plans have been around since 1996, but many folks still are unaware of them. Financial services firm Edward Jones' fourth annual 529 Plan Awareness Survey found that 66... Read more →


After learning that cyber criminals had accessed more than 100,000 tax return transcripts, I joked to the hubby that we're OK. As soon as they crooks saw that we never get tax refunds, they tossed our info. I wish my humorous take on this very serious situation were true. Unfortunately, identity thieves will use any piece of personal information, good or bad, to their advantage. That's the fear that 104,000 taxpayers are facing now that crooks, thought to be a part of a sophisticated Russian crime syndicate, have their hands on the filers' Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses... Read more →


You've got to give props to Italian tax officials for their persistence. Last fall, Italy's highest court overturned the tax evasion convictions of fashion icons Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, whose luxe label bears their surnames. That, however, has not deterred Italian tax collectors. Now they are going after high-end jewelers Paolo and Nicola Bulgari. The brothers, whose watches and bracelets adorn the wrists of the world's wealthy, are accused of tax evasion. An item from the new Bulgari, or BVLGARI in the trademarked classical Latin lettering that appears in their packaging and ads, line of Serpenti jewelry. Click image... Read more →


Want to spend some up-close and person time with a potential presidential nominee? It's not exactly the type of sweepstakes that most Americans want to enter, but some folks are entering contests in which they can win face-to-face time with the next potential U.S. president. National Journal reports that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican nominee wannabe counterparts Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson have all gotten into this additional type of political contest. And just like the more popular nonpolitical games of chance (you do have your ticket for tonight's Mega Millions $214 million jackpot, right?), there... Read more →


The 2015 Memorial Day weekend weather was horrid for much of the United States. The unofficial start of summer kicked off with record rainfall across the midsection of the country, causing flash floods in formerly drought-stricken areas. Tornadoes touched down. People lost their businesses, homes and tragically some lost their lives. Central Texas was among the hard hit areas. Twisters get a lot of attention and rightly so. There was damage in the Austin area from straight-line winds and small tornadoes that danced across the area. But it was the water that wreaked the most havoc, here and in neighboring... Read more →


Military casualties are the high price of freedom. Memorial Day commemorates those who paid this ultimate price. American Soldiers, American Wars by Beverly and Pack via Flickr Over the years more than 42 million American men and women have served their country in armed conflicts. More than a million died doing so. The Memorial Day Foundation, using Department of Defense statistics, has tallied the terrible cost of war since our country's first Revolutionary War battle to the latest troops lost in Operation New Dawn in Iraq. There are many ways to show respect for the men and women who died... Read more →


It's here! The greatest day in motorsports. It starts early for Formula One fans in the United States. We set our alarm clocks to watch those multimillion dollar wheeled rockets maneuver the streets of magnificent Monte Carlo, Monaco. Click image to view Formula1.com's onboard camera capture of $155 million dollar man Lewis Hamilton's Monaco Grand Prix pole winning run. Midday the green flag drops on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. Then late afternoon racing turns to night driving at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, where NASCAR holds the Coca-Cola 600, its longest race. You now know... Read more →


Yeah, I know, I've already written not long ago about the crazy convergence of dangerous weather this time of year. I'm repeating myself because threatening weather is keeping me awake at 3 a.m. and I need a diversion. Thank you for letting me ramble as I await the next storm wave making its way through the region. I promise to add some helpful tips, too, in addition to my weather ranting. The next batch of heavy rain and wind is heading our way. Good for drought, but not for my nerves! Water, water everywhere: Weather reports like the one above... Read more →


There were no winners last week in literal national lottery games or in a taxpayer's call to the Internal Revenue Service that turned out to be an unexpected gamble. Let's start with the lotteries, since there's a possibility that someone (maybe me!) could soon be a multimillionaire. Lottery prospects, taxes: The Powerball jackpot has climbed to $138 million $154 million, which translates to a lump sum payout of $86.3 million more than $96 million. The numbers will be drawn tonight Wednesday, May 27.* Another chance at a life of lottery-funded leisure comes on Tuesday, May 26, when the Mega Millions'... Read more →


More than 37 million Americans are expected to hit the roads this Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer and its associated vacation travel. AAA says the number of people taking a trip this long holiday weekend is expected to be the most for the holiday since 2005. The bulk of them, around 33 million, will be hitting U.S. highways. And while pump prices have surged in advance of the holiday -- the national average price of $2.71 for a gallon of unleaded gas is a nickel more than last week -- AAA says that price still is the... Read more →


Attention shoppers. You can save some tax dollars thanks to upcoming sales tax holidays in Texas, Virginia and Louisiana. Texas kicks off the May spate of tax-free shopping with its annual energy efficiency tax holiday on Memorial Day weekend. Tax-free Texas shopping will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 23 -- and you can be sure some stores will have special openings as Friday night rolls into the holiday weekend -- and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Memorial Day Monday, May 25. During these three days, Texans won't pay any state or local sales tax on certain energy efficient... Read more →


The only certainties in life, to paraphrase a Founding Father, are death, taxes and the last-minute way Congress does, or doesn't do, its job. The Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of financial fuel at the end of May. Congress is scheduled to be on its annual Memorial Day holiday break when that deadline arrives. So lawmakers are crashing to get some roadway deal done. And, true to form, it's not a long-term or permanent fix, it's a short-term, kick the can down the road extension. The House on Tuesday, May 19, voted 387-to-35 to extend federal funding... Read more →


I once worked for a company that was waaaaaay into scheduling. I mean years and years ahead scheduling. It always cracked me up when I was asked to put such long-term appointments in my datebook. Sure, I'll mark my calendar and be around then…maybe. Dates, however, are crucial to taxes. Miss one and, if you owe Uncle Sam, you'll owe him even more. Tax Day 2016 is April 18: So it's no surprise that the Internal Revenue Service is already announcing a tweak in connection with the 2016 tax filing deadline. At issue is a confluence of tax deadlines and... Read more →


Maryland's county piggyback tax system essentially double taxes Old Line State residents who earn money in other jurisdictions. That's the ruling handed down today by the U.S. Supreme Court in Maryland's fight with Bryan and Karen Wynne. State vs. county tax credits: The Wynnes earned income passed through to them from their ownership stake in Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc. The couple then claimed an income tax credit on their 2006 Maryland tax return for income taxes paid to other states where Maxim operates. The Maryland Comptroller allowed the Wynnes a credit against their Maryland state income tax, but not against... Read more →


Talashia Hinton was arrested May 12 for her alleged part of a stolen identity federal tax refund ring that filed more than 3,000 false tax returns claiming more than $7.5 million in fraudulent refunds. The number of returns and amount of potentially lost tax money are both notable, but it's the dollars that earn this week's By the Numbers (dis)honor. The charges against the Phenix City, Alabama, resident arose from a scheme in 2012 and 2013, according to the indictment. Hinton, who court documents say also goes by LayLay and LaLa, faces one count of conspiracy to defraud the United... Read more →


The second leg of the Triple Crown runs today at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. You know what that means. I'm reminding all bettors of their tax responsibilities when it comes to gambling winnings. All eyes are on American Pharoah, the Kentucky Derby winner who's the favorite today. The horse racing community is hoping that the chestnut thoroughbred will become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. It would be great for the sport. Oddsmakers think he has the best shot at taking today's race. The downside for gamblers is that any bet payoffs won't be that much. But regardless of... Read more →


You know those heart-tugging salutes to the troops you've seen at various sporting events over the years? The teams didn't feature those moments because of unbridled patriotism and a simple desire to recognize and thank military personnel for their sacrifices. The Department of Defense paid for those touching moments. NFL military salutes have prompted official inquiries, but the promotions also have occurred at Major League Baseball Games. These members of the Georgia National Guard participated in a tribute to troops in July 2012 at an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field. (Photo courtesy Georgia National Guard via Flickr Creative Commons)... Read more →


Fun times here in Texas. Our lawmakers are still fighting over changes to the state's tax structure. Since there's no state income tax, the Lone Star State House and Senate have been bickering for weeks over property vs. sales tax cuts, with some business tax discussions thrown in just for fun. The debate, although done with a drawl, is no different than many going on in state houses across the country. Local, state taxes meet: Wait, you tax-savvy readers ask, why are property taxes part of statehouse discussions? Good catch. Nationwide, around 75 percent of local tax revenue comes from... Read more →