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Eighty-five years ago today -- Oct. 17, 1931 -- a federal jury in Chicago convicted gangster Al "Scarface" Capone of tax evasion. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, ultimately ending up in fabled Alcatraz. Al Capone's U.S. Department of Justice mug shot, taken four months before his tax eviction conviction on Oct. 17, 1931. Keep that in mind if you're thinking of blowing off today's extended filing deadline for getting your 2015 tax return to the Internal Revenue Service. All these years later, the IRS and Treasury still proudly point to Capone's conviction. It was T-men who put... Read more →


Christmas is Friday!!! Those exclamation points aren't just for show. The holidays have sneaked up on me this year. Yes, it's beginning to feel a lot like mid-April here, with last-minute shopping panic replacing the annual tax-filing freak-out. If you're in the same fix and are still trying to find a gift for the tax and/or financial person in your life, here are some suggestions that might help make Dec. 25 a bit less stressful than April 15. Dress the tax part: Tax preparation can often tie the best of us up in knots, so your pro might appreciate some... Read more →


Summer's almost over, but there's always time for some recreational reading. Tax geeks who enjoy thrillers might want to check out "The Patriot Threat." Author Steve Berry says he looks for a "cool thing from history" as the core premise in each of his novels. In "The Patriot Threat," the 10th in his Cotton Malone series, Berry uses the ratification in 1913 of the 16th amendment. You know this one. It's the constitutional language that created the income tax. What if someone found a way to use the destruction of our income as a weapon to bring down America, asks... 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 →


Mama Mia! Swedish tax break prompted ABBA's wild outfits

What do you remember more about ABBA? The 1970s Swedish pop quartet's outrageous outfits or the catchy songs? If you answered the wild clothing, the band and its tax adviser thank you. Those platform boots, brightly colored jumpers, ruffled bell bottoms and the occasional cape helped Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson reduce their taxes. The clothing tax break was revealed in ABBA: The Official Photo Book, published to mark the 40th anniversary of the group's Eurovision song contest win singing Waterloo. Swedish laws allowed performers to deduct the cost of outfits as long as the clothes... 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 →


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 →


If you can pull yourself away from that DVR of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl -- Hey, don't be embarrassed; I watch it as often as I can myself. -- it's time on this International Talk Like a Pirate Day to discuss some swashbuckling taxes. Yes, taxes and pirates have many connections. Pirates as tax collection catalyst: Let's start with some early U.S. tax history. Before we broke away from Great Britain, we had relied on that country's vaunted naval force to help protect colonial ships from Barbary Coast pirates. During the Revolution, Benjamin Franklin... Read more →


As obsessive-compulsive television detective Adrian Monk learned, public bathroom attendants are a dwindling breed. A German cleaning company owner, however, apparently found the job lucrative enough. The so-called toilet queen is now facing 12 counts of tax evasion on undeclared bathroom tips. Lucrative loos' change: German officials allege that the unnamed 53-year-old woman dodged tax payments on more than €40,000 (more than $53,000 U.S.) in tips reportedly gathered by her team of 60 toilet attendants. The money, in various coin denominations and reportedly weighing more than a ton, was piled in the garage of the woman's Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, home,... Read more →


Stephen King doesn't pull many punches in his tales of terror. So it's no surprise that he goes right to the jugular in a caustic and profane (consider yourself warned if you keep reading) post on The Daily Beast aimed at his wealthy peers who are tired of hearing that they should pay more taxes. "Cut a check and shut up, they said. If you want to pay more, pay more, they said. Tired of hearing about it, they said. Tough shit for you guys, because I'm not tired of talking about it. I've known rich people, and why not,... Read more →


It's Valentine's Day so you know what I'm thinking about. Taxes. And yes, the hubby has learned to live with my idiosyncratic approach to most holidays. One of the Internal Revenue Service's most famous victories was a direct result of one of the bloodiest days in mob history on Feb. 14, 1929. This day for lovers 83 years ago was marred by the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. As the Roaring '20s were winding down, Al "Scarface" Capone was weary of Chicago's escalating gang warfare, so he decided to bring it to an end by eliminating criminal rivals. Although Capone was... Read more →


Today is a special day for fans of Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, the various Christmas ghosts and Scrooge, both before and after his holiday epiphany. On Dec. 19, 1843, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was published. Although this magical, wonderful tale of humanity and the holidays is among the most well-known of books, it only saw the light of day thanks to Dickens' personal persistence. And the way it was published was as prophetic as some of the ghostly tales it contains. Because Dickens was feuding with his publishers, says David Perdue at his website CharlesDickensPage.com, the author financed the... Read more →


Welcome to the second edition of Follow-up Friday. You might recall that last week about this time I launched the new feature in which I'll provide updates on previous blog post topics. Books are the main focus this week. The memoir "Innocent Spouse" looks at the titular tax issue that's gotten a lot of recent attention, including in my May 2 post on innocent spouse tax time limit concerns. After author Carol Ross Joynt lost her husband, she discovered she was on the hook for his tax problem. Her late husband was under criminal investigation by the IRS to the... Read more →


'The Pale King,' novel set in IRS office

Thanks to favorable reviews and widespread reader interest, David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel "The Pale King" is available in advance of its scheduled April 15 release date. Yep, the traditional Tax Day (it's April 18 this year because of the Emancipation Day holiday) was intentional. Much of the book takes placed in a Midwesteran Internal Revenue Service office, the setting Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008, chose to address "an America so plagued by tedium, monotony and meaningless bureaucratic rules and regulations that its citizens are in danger of dying of boredom." The novel obviously isn't for everyone. In recounting... Read more →


If your summer vacation includes catching up on your reading and you're a tax geek, here are some tax books to take with you. I must admit I haven't read most of them. I'm taking the word of Laura Saunders in her recent Wall Street Journal article."Believe it or not, two recent books manage to present the history of taxation in ways that not only fascinate but amuse," writes Saunders. She highly recommends The Sex of a Hippopotamus (Twinset Inc.) by Atlanta CPA Jay Starkman. Calling it "the only readable book about taxes that this longtime tax reporter has ever... Read more →


George Orwell, Pennsylvania tax collector

Hey, Pennsylvanians, if you owe back taxes the state wants to make sure you know that it knows all about you. It's May 2010, but the Keystone State revenue office has been airing this "1984" style television ad promoting its tax amnesty program that runs through June 18. I don't know how many folks the commercial has prompted to participate in the amnesty, but judging from reaction I'm reading online, it has succeeded in creeping people out. Yes, we know that based on our past tax returns, various government-issued licenses we hold and even our credit records, Uncle Sam and... Read more →


Not only does the hubby read the ol' blog, he acts on its suggestions! Sometimes. One of my Christmas gifts yesterday was Tax Stories, the book edited by TaxProf Paul Caron. I had mentioned it in my Holiday gifts for tax geeks post earlier this month with a parenthetical note to my sweet spouse. Thanks, dear! In addition to editing the publication, Caron wrote the introduction, Tax Archaeology, in which he concludes that the problematic results in the book's 10 Supreme Court federal income tax cases underscore that "perhaps the fault lies…in our income tax itself." "Instead of chastising the... Read more →


I've been thinking about Charles Dickens today. Not because it's December and he wrote the classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol. And not because it was on this day in 1867 that Dickens gave his first public reading in America, kicking off a four-month reading tour. Rather, the impending attempt by Congress to resolve the estate tax reminds me of Dickens' Bleak House. This week, possibly even today, the House will finally consider how to keep the estate tax from dying. The tax currently has a top rate of 45 percent that's applied to estate values that exceed $3.5 million... Read more →


The stock market has been creeping upwards, which is great news for folks like me, who are hoping one day to kick back and do exactly what we want, not what we have to do in order to pay bills. But there's still a lot of retirement planning work to be done by all of us, regardless of where we are on the road to our hoped-for golden years. When you combine the recent market crash with the fact that many folks used whatever retirement funds they had, both IRAs and company 401(k)s, to live on when they encountered day-to-day... Read more →


Bruce Bartlett, whom I cited last month in my post Fiscal responsibility requires higher taxes, is getting more ink. In today's New York Times Economic Scene column Partisan Economics in Action, David Leonhardt looks at Bartlett's approach to politics and taxes. Not to get into a big political debate here, but I was struck, again, by Bartlett's forthrightness. "So much of what passes for conservatism today is just pure partisan opposition," says Bartlett, pictured there at right. "It's not conservative at all." Bartlett addresses what he believes is conservative in a book coming out next week, The New American Economy.... Read more →