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July 2015

The highway funding bill that President Obama signed today may be short-term (money runs out again on Oct. 29) when it comes to providing money for roads and infrastructure, but it will have some lasting tax effects. Here are some of the tax highlights from the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. More mortgage reporting: Mortgage lenders already issue annual statements, either the official Form 1098 or an approved substitute document, to borrowers and the Internal Revenue Service. This form goes to homeowners who paid at least $600 loan interest during the tax year and... Read more →


Americans and Canadians share a lot of things. There's the coast-to-coast border. There are National Hockey League teams. There's even a common language, or two for French-speaking residents in both countries. We do not, however, share the same tax system. Canada-United States border marker image by rlyx6x via imgur Some tax scammers, though, are hoping they can find a few Canadians who might not notice that they're using a script cribbed from crooks south of the 49th parallel. Blair Rhodes, in a report for the CBC, tells of a recorded message being left on Canadians' answering services: "Notice against your... Read more →


Hello, Cleveland and the rest of the Buckeye State. Welcome to the state sales tax holiday fraternity. Ohio will hold its first-ever tax holiday next weekend, Aug. 7-9. Like many others, it's aimed at back-to-school shoppers and offers tax savings on certain clothing and school supplies. Meanwhile, Massachusetts once again took its sweet time in deciding whether to offer Bay State shoppers some sales tax savings. A measure for a mid-August holiday weekend finally cleared the legislature on Wednesday, July 29, and is awaiting the governor's signature. Georgia and Mississippi kick off the 2015 summer sales tax holidays this Friday,... Read more →


"I apologize for not being able to take all your questions, but I have a flight to catch. I have friends waiting for me in Washington. In case you didn't notice, a handful of them think we need a new commissioner. I don't want to disappoint them." That was Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen wrapping up the Q&A session that followed his address this afternoon to tax professionals attending the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Denver. Yeah, so I'm not a good photographer, especially in a huge room and using an iPhone camera. Sue me (not really!). But that... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen apparently was a bit too optimistic a few months ago when he declared his agency had turned a corner when it came to the problems it had encountered. IRS chief John Koskinen at one of his many appearances before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Republican leader of that panel and 20 of his colleagues are tired of Koskinen's testimony and now say he should be fired for his part, or lack thereof, in resolving the Tea Party tax-exempt application scandal. Congress, particularly Republicans in the House, continues to focus on the... Read more →


It's summer. Not to overstate the obvious, that means it's hot, hot, hot. It also means that pool contractors are making out like bandits, at least here in my Austin neighborhood. This time every year, the backhoes and dump trucks and cement mixers form a regular parade. And I get the same question from neighbors: Can I deduct my new swimming pool costs? If your backyard pool is mainly used by you and your family for this type of cooling off fun, you won't be able to deduct its construction costs on your taxes. Photo courtesy Tim Pierce via Flickr.... Read more →


Those of us who constructed nine-planet models of our solar system for grade school science projects have been in space geek heaven these last couple of weeks. Pluto, which was demoted from planet to dwarf planet status, has been the recent focus of scientists and the space-loving public. NASA's New Horizons probe flew past Pluto on July 14, completing a 3-billion-mile journey that started almost a decade ago. Four images from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this sharper global view of Pluto. Image Credit/Courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI. As... Read more →


You can't blame tax cheats if one of Martha and the Vandellas' biggest hits has been playing on a loop in their heads of late. Thanks to a new global effort, tax evaders will have nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. Click image to view Martha and the Vandellas YouTube video. Crossing borders to chase down tax cheats: Tax Inspectors Without Borders, or TIWB, is a new initiative from the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Its goal, is as its name indicates, is to send trained tax professionals from richer OECD nations... Read more →


A tax battle between the nation's capital and seven online travel companies has ended with the websites being ordered to pay almost $61 million in sales taxes. The taxes, which apply to Washington, D.C., hotel rooms booked from 1998 to 2010, could be the largest tax settlement ever paid to the District of Columbia government. It also ends a tax fight between the national capital's tax collector and the online room reservation agents at Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity and Travelscape that began in 2011. Retail taxes due: At issue was the tax difference between applying Washington's 14.5 percent... Read more →


Look out. Some hitchhiking private tax debt collectors could stall the Highway Trust Fund, which already is running on fumes. Claudette Colbert shows Clark Gable how to catch a ride in the classic film It Happened One Night. Their characters were much more welcome hitchhikers than are private collectors of tax debt who are hitching a ride on the Senate bill to pay for the Highway Trust Fund by July 31. Photo/movie trailer screenshot courtesy Wikipedia. The Senate late Wednesday, July 22, finally restarted its transportation funding effort thanks to a 62-36 vote that will let debate on the actual... Read more →


Rand Paul 'kills' tax code with chainsaw, fire & woodchipper

The hubby and I have a deal. Klutzy Kay doesn't get on a ladder when he's not home and he doesn't use power tools when I'm out of the house. That way we can serve as emergency room drivers for each other if, God forbid, the need ever arises. Our arrangement came to mind when I watched Rand Paul's latest video attempt to boost public awareness of his 14.5 percent flat tax proposal (and punch up his GOP presidential wannabe polling numbers). In the YouTube piece posted by his campaign, Paul uses a variety of methods to, in his words,... Read more →


There were no big surprises -- heck, no surprises of any size -- from the Senate Finance Committee's mark-up Tuesday (July 21) of expired tax provisions known as extenders. Sen. Ron Wyden (left), the Oregon Democrat who is ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chair of the tax-writing panel, kick off the July 21 hearing on which expired tax provisions, known as extenders, to temporarily renew. The $95.2 billion tax package would renew for two years -- through the 2016 tax year -- many popular individual and business tax breaks. Here's a quick... Read more →


Stop me if you're heard this before. And before. And before. Yep, I'm talking, again, about tax extenders legislation. These 50+ temporary tax laws must be renewed periodically, with the one to two year extensions, sometimes retroactively, giving them their name. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Minority Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), left, and SFC Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will guide their tax-writing colleagues today in examining tax provisions that expired at the end of the 2014 tax year. (Official Senate Finance Committee photo) The current batch of extenders expired on Dec. 31, 2014, after being given new life retroactively for... Read more →


It seems that the "SSL Secure Site" notation on AshleyMadison.com was as dependable as the promise of its clients' wedding rings. Which is to say, not very. That's right. The cyber security and privacy of the adultery website has been violated. Hey, no judging here. But I do want to offer the philandering members of the website, which advertises using the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair.", some divorce related tax tips. Just in case the cyber infiltrators follow through on their threat to make public the info on the 37 million marital cheaters. UPDATE: The wait is over.... Read more →


President Barack Obama made history last week when he became the first sitting commander in chief to a federal prison. But he wasn't the only public official looking to change some federal rules that relate to incarceration. President Barack Obama visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City on July 16. It was the first visit by a sitting U.S. President to a federal prison. Click image to view the White House's YouTube report on the visit. Taxes on court awards: Rep. Sam Johnson, a Republican who represents Texas' third congressional district covering the suburbs north and... Read more →


CoreLogic made its required June tax payment to the upstate New York village of South Glens Falls, but it made a big mistake. It overpaid the amount due. That overpayment, along with some calendar issues, resulted in the firm owing a fine. South Glens Falls, a village in Saratoga County, New York, is home to Cooper's Cave, shown above in a vintage postcard courtesy Delcampe, which was made famous by author James Fenimore Cooper in the first American novel, "The Last of the Mohicans". It also has strict rules on tax due dates and payment amounts. Paid, more than in... Read more →


Millennials continue to get a lot of attention, and not just from their parents. This group of 18-to-34-year-olds are shaping and reshaping today's world. Sorry, geezers, but it happens with every generation. And although out hand baskets seem to be filling up, we haven't made it to hell yet. Millennials are changing what we expect from and how we give to charities. They are redefining the workplace and how we get to and from the office and other places. Young adults' living arrangements: Then there's housing. We've heard all the jokes about the young adults who just won't leave home.... Read more →


Numerous powerful tornadoes ripped through the Midwest earlier this week. Expect disaster declarations to be issued in the coming weeks for some the hardest hit areas. This twister (click image to watch Kholby Martin's full YouTube video) was in open relatively (sorry, lone house) open country. Other tornadoes in Illinois and Iowa last week struck more populated areas. Meanwhile residents in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming are still recovering from deadly storms that hit parts of those states in May and June. Special designation means tax help sooner: Getting back to normal could be a bit easier since the Internal... Read more →


Every day seems to bring a new report of another security breach that exposes millions to potential identity theft. Even Uncle Sam is not immune, as evidenced by hackers getting hold of Office of Personnel Management records and taxpayer data from the Internal Revenue Service's online "Get Transcript" option. Now we have yet another report from folks on the tax front line as to just how widespread tax identity theft is. Sixty-three percent of CPAs who responded to the survey in May said that at least one of their clients was a victim of tax identity theft during the just... Read more →


The federal fund that supplies money to build and repair road and other U.S. infrastructure runs out of money on July 31. With that deadline fast approaching, the House on Wednesday, July 15, approved a bill that would provide money for the Highway Trust Fund through Dec. 18. The Senate, however, is less interested in a short-term fix and that chamber could put the brakes on the House plan. Senate leaders are looking instead at a funding solution that would get transportation issues out of the way through 2016. Yes, fellow cynics can join me in noting that the Senate's... Read more →