Music Feed

Hello New Orleans! I mean, hello Orlando! That geographic confusion reminiscent of Spinal Tap happened at day two of the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in, you got it, the House of Mouse land. Yep, all of us, including presenters, are finding ourselves a bit overloaded, occasionally flummoxed and feeling a bit dislocated. Still, we're hanging in there and here. Here's an overview of my Wednesday at the final tax forum of 2014. First thing we do, let's mute all the lawyers: Thank god for tax attorneys. Really. That's not a joke or sarcastic slam. These folks definitely come... Read more →


I'm back in Florida this week for the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in Orlando. It's a bit of a homecoming. My very first tax forum was here in 2000 when we lived in Palm Beach Gardens. I try to attend at least one continuing education tax conference, either run by the IRS or by one of the tax professional organizations. I always learn stuff, plus it's fun to be among a large gathering of tax geeks. Things have gone pretty well so far, aside from my smartphone freezing up unexpectedly this morning and me losing my reading glasses... Read more →


Thirty-seven years ago the musical world was in shocked mourning. Just a day earlier, Aug. 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley had died. Many people can still tell you where they were on that Tuesday afternoon more than three decades ago when they got the news that the King was dead. I can't. I was probably in a class at Texas Tech University. But I wasn't then and am not now a big Elvis fan (despite what I've discovered is a surprising number of Elvis-related blog posts), so it doesn't stick in my memory. Still, I recognize his place in the... Read more →


KISS' Gene Simmons' tax tongue wagging is off base

KISS sure knows something about putting on a good rock and roll show, but apparently the band's bassist Gene Simmons doesn't know quite enough about taxes. In a July 4 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Simmons wagged his famous tongue about, among other things, the joys of being wealthy. The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of KISS, Simmons told the newspaper that even in the band's early days back in the '70s he was doing alright financially. "I'm duly diligent. I do a better job of balancing my budget than the U.S. government... 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 →


I'm old enough to remember many momentous things, including the storming of America by the British. No, even though I'm a fan of Sleepy Hollow, I'm not that old. But I am plenty old enough to remember 50 years ago when the The Beatles arrived in the United States. I was too young to attend a Fab Four concert, but my parents, younger brother and I did watch John, Paul, George and Ringo perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. And my mom bought me Meet The Beatles! OK, so she listened to it as much as I did, but officially... Read more →


Married couples filing joint returns share all tax liability, too

Singer, songwriter and political and social activist Pete Seeger died last week. He was 94. Seeger was as well known for his commitment to causes that at the time were unpopular as he was for his songs, and that's saying a lot. After being blacklisted for being a "godless communist," Seeger turned to the Bible (and gave co-writing credit to Ecclesiastes) to compose Turn, Turn, Turn, one of the most beautiful and timeless songs ever. It became a No. 1 hit for the Byrds in 1965. Other widely beloved Seeger songs include "If I Had Hammer" and "Where Have All... Read more →


If you're rushing around this Christmas Eve to finish up your shopping, I hope you find everything you're looking for without too much trouble. And I hope it doesn't cost you as much as the collection of gifts given to a true love in the classic Christmas song The 12 Days of Christmas. Yes, I'm still stuck in a song loop, having just wrapped up the Christmas Tax Tip Tunes feature on the day before the day before Christmas. And while it's not strictly tax-related, the annual PNC Christmas Price Index is always fun. So fun, in fact, that the... Read more →


What child tax breaks are these?

The birth of Jesus is one of the most well-known stories. For Christians, it is, as the saying goes, the reason for the season. But even many non-believers are moved by the tale of the birth of a child in stable, with a manger serving as his crib. One of the most beautiful renditions of those humble circumstances is in What Child is This? It was a tough call, but that song barely beat out Away in a Manger for the final spot on the 2013 Christmas Tax Tip Tunes play list. Both songs celebrate the birth of a child.... Read more →


Winter wedding wonderlands and tax-filing status

The part of West Texas where I grew up definitely had winter weather, but not much snow. We'd get a dusting now and then. And one Christmas when I was in high school we spotted some flakes falling. So I always romanticized the snow. And no song does a better job of creating a perfect vision of the coldest season than Winter Wonderland. OK, it's not technically a Christmas song. But I'm guessing that Winter Wonderland gets its most air play in December. And it's on just about every Christmas carol collection every recorded. So the song is today's featured... Read more →


Singing the praises of tax-favored retirement savings

Welcome Winter Solstice! We Northern Hemisphere residents are glad you're here because after this shortest day of the year (and the accompanying longest night of 2013), we'll start getting a bit more sunlight every day for the next six or so months. The incrementally longer days, however, won't do much to warm us up in the short term. Winter, which officially begins today, Dec. 21, will continue to have most of North America in its cold clutches for a while. All this climatological data makes for an obvious choice for today's 10th Christmas Tax Tips Tune. It's Mele Kalikimaka. OK,... Read more →


The Little Drummer Boy's tax lesson for volunteers

What's the first Christmas carol you remember hearing as a child? OK, other than Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Everybody remembers that song because every parent uses it to keep the kiddos in line until Dec. 25. My childhood favorite was the Little Drummer Boy. Pentatonix, the a cappella quintet that won NBC's third season of The Sing-Off, talks to Billboard about their new Christmas classic. Maybe it was because as a youngster, I used my fingers as drumsticks to rap along with all songs, seasonal and beyond. I still do; my steering wheel takes a pounding on my... Read more →


Our houses in South Florida and here in Austin each had storage space under the stairway. That's where our 24 boxes of Christmas decorations have lived. In our last Maryland home, the cartons took up a corner of the basement. Yes, 24 boxes. And yes, some of the boxes are small. But most are decent sized because, as I noted last Saturday, I'm a sucker for this holiday. So is the hubby, who has the job of making sure our Christmas tree is properly decked out each year. So it's no surprise that O Christmas Tree -- or O Tannenbaum... Read more →


Homeownership tax breaks to take in December

Is there any popular holiday tune more beloved than The Christmas Song? Its title alone -- THE Christmas Song, not just A Christmas Song or Some Christmas Song -- gives it predominance in the Christmas carol collection. And the prominence is well deserved, especially Nat King Cole's rendition of Mel Torme's classic. It is simply superb. Cole's inimitable voice makes this the quintessential Christmas at home song. We've got a roaring fireplace (mmm, toasty chestnuts!), mom and dad snuggling (remember the mistletoe mention) and the kiddos finally settled in for the night awaiting St. Nick and his flying reindeer. All... Read more →


Donating appreciated assets to your favorite charity

Economic wonks have gathered in Washington, D.C., or if they can't travel to the nation's capital, around their video screens and/or television business news channels. The reason? Today marks the beginning of the final Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the year. The Federal Reserve members will issue a statement on their decisions tomorrow afternoon. We all know what that means. The stock market will be, at best, erratic while the Fed folks are in session. Investors are nervously anticipating any indication as to exactly when the Fed will dial back its monetary stimulus. In early trading today, stocks... Read more →


Medical tax breaks' 10% and FSA year-end considerations

My brother and I tended to get sick around Christmas. Maybe we wore ourselves out with all the excitement. Maybe the sharing of Christmas cards and trinkets with our classmates and neighborhood kids included shared germs. Maybe we were allergic to the decorated pine tree that filled up our living room. Whatever the cause, colds and coughs were part of the holiday tradition at the Bell homestead. We learned to live with it and have a Merry Christmas anyway. As an adult, I still take extra measures -- and extra zinc and vitamin C -- to avoid late-year sniffles. And... Read more →


Tax deductible mileage rate drops a half-cent in 2014

The busiest travel time every year is around Thanksgiving. But plenty of folks also hit the road for Christmas. Despite the craziness of the season and often messy, and dangerous, winter weather, we go. Why? Because, as Perry Como so melodiously notes, There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays. Your travel to and from family gatherings at any time of the year is all on your own dime. But as today's Christmas Tax Tip Tune notes, other types of travel are tax deductible. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service even makes it easier for you to figure your write-off... Read more →


I'm a sucker for Christmas. The food, the movies, decorating the tree and the mantel and, of course, the songs. I look forward to them for 11 months of the year. So if the seasonal time-honored trappings are so important to me, why does a novelty song make my holiday listening list? Because sometimes even the strictest traditionalist needs to get a little goofy. That's why this season's third Christmas Tax Tip Tune is Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. I know, despite its upbeat tempo, it's a bit of a downer. But you can always opt instead for... Read more →


Tax and other fun at deductible office holiday parties

'Tis the season to be jolly, but not too jolly at, as the song goes, the annual office Christmas party hop. OK, Brenda Lee doesn't specify "office" party when she sings Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, but that song is a standard at almost every holiday gathering of workers. And you want to make sure that you make the right impression on the boss who's gone to the trouble to throw the soiree. Of course, as today's second Christmas Tax Tip Tune notes, your employer also gets some help from Uncle Sam in staging the seasonal shindig. Fully deductible office... Read more →


Christmas is less than two weeks away. I must admit that the holiday has sneaked up on me this year, but I'm finally getting into the spirit. And as a tax geek, that means that some -- OK, a lot -- of the holiday trappings remind me of taxes. Take, for example, Christmas carols. Listening to them at a holiday party this past weekend naturally brought to mind some tax provisions. That's right. This is just the kind of thing the hubby lives with, even at this special time of year. You can send your words of sympathy for him... Read more →