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December 2005

November 2005

Money for nothing and more tax breaks for me

OK, maybe that's not exactly the lyric to the Dire Straits ("I want my MTV") song, but it's what Mark Knopfler and his colleagues could soon be singing. Tucked into S. 2020, the voluminous tax bill approved by the Senate on Nov. 18, is a provision that would let songwriters count their royalty payments as capital gains instead of ordinary income. The benefit: up to 20 percent less in taxes owed. The tax can be as much as 35 percent on ordinary income, the category into which songwriters now must put their lyric sales. But the tax is just 15... Read more →

Tax (and political) trouble, U.S. style

It's been a rough week for government officials who tangled with tax officials. First, former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest while South American officials move forward with various charges, including failure to pay $2.4 million in taxes. Then stateside, GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California resigned from his House seat after admitting to tax evasion and conspiring to take $2.4 million in bribes in the form of a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and antique French furniture. What's up with this $2.4 million amount? You can count on Democrats, after years of being left out in the... Read more →

Upping the Cotton Bowl ante

John and I worked together in Florida. He's now in Tuscaloosa, reveling in being right there where one of his heroes, Bear Bryant, actually walked. After my post about the impending Cotton Bowl battle between Texas Tech and Alabama, John sent me the following note: You guys plan to sing the fight song after every touchdown? Every? How droll. Well, I guess this could be the start of a beautiful rivalry. At least we don't have to play Yankees. I suppose there needs to be some sort of traditional wager here. I really don't know what Red Raider people consider... Read more →

A new homeowner tax break on the horizon?

If you’ve been worrying about the possible loss of your mortgage interest deduction, stop it. In fact, it looks like the folks on Capitol Hill might be ready to give some homeowners yet another tax break. First a little background. On Nov. 1 when the President’s Advisory Panel on Tax Reform suggested axing this beloved deduction, you could hear the screams of real estate professionals, bankers and homeowners across America. If you don’t believe me, check out my colleague Holden Lewis’s observations on this reaction in his blog Mortgage Matters. No one in these groups wanted to consider in the... Read more →

Hooray for the team

I skipped posting yesterday. Some post-Thanksgiving clean-up, some pre-Christmas preparations, but mostly just vegging out and watching stray college football games on TV. Our school, Texas Tech, had the weekend off, but we wanted to see how the Bowl Championship Series dominoes fell to get an idea of where and against whom the Red Raiders will go bowling. Personally, I think this whole BCS deal is wack. You can definitely count me among those who think BCS is one letter too many. I miss the classic Rose, Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowl match-ups, where decades-old rivalries were played out with... Read more →

Post-turkey retirement ruminations

Yesterday truly was a day to be thankful. My husband and I played hosts for a Thanksgiving meal for the first time in … well, ever. For most of our married life, we’ve lived 1,500 or so miles away from family so it’s been just the two of us on most holidays. But this year, we’re just down the road from one of my aunts and she and a friend spent the afternoon with us. The weather was gorgeous; maybe a tad too warm for late November to my way of thinking, but I’m alone on this one and it... Read more →

Of turkeys and taxes

It’s a safe bet that on Thanksgiving, few folks will be echoing the esteemed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who once said “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.” Holmes is right. Taxes are necessary to keep any country, and its government, running despite the election-skewed approach many politicians take. Sure you can argue over the merits of various programs. I’m sure that something you think is critical, I’ll think is not worth my tax dime and vice versa. But that’s what makes a democracy great. We get to argue over this and, as a voting community... Read more →

Don’t mess with any taxman

It’s official. Don’t mess with the taxman, anytime, anywhere. Former Chilean military ruler Gen. Augusto Pinochet has been placed under house arrest at his residence in Santiago, Chile, on charges of, among other things, tax evasion. Chalk one up for Chile’s Inland Revenue, which now joins the ranks of the Internal Revenue Service in bringing down bad guys a la Al Capone when other law enforcement agencies couldn’t quite nab them. Chilean officials issued charges against Pinochet earlier this year, alleging that between 1980 and 2004 he failed to pay $2.4 million in taxes. Since then, Chilean courts have been... Read more →

The doctor is in

Most of my morning was consumed by a medical appointment. I'm not gravely ill (so quit freaking out, Mom, if you're reading this), just trying to keep that from happening with some preventative care. It was a interesting experience, as is usually the case when you go to the doctor. First, I got lost. In my defense, I've only been here in Austin for about six months and most of the time, I'm a passenger in the car, not the driver. Thank goodness for a cell phone and a friendly (and highway knowledgeable) doctor's office manager. Once I finally arrived... Read more →

Cinematic shopping

I’m a little late posting today because I took advantage of one of the nicest things about being your own boss: I took the afternoon off to go to a movie. I went to see “Shopgirl,” the Steve Martin movie based on his novella of the same name. It’s the latest in movies from aging funny men who’ve turned introspective … with the help of younger women. That’s not an angry feminist slam, although I have been accused in the past of being an angry feminist. (I would argue vociferously that I was just angry and that my ire usually... Read more →

Monkey, monkey, monkey

Two headlines in today's Washington Post -- Kong Redux: Hey, You Big Ape -- Welcome Back! and Hill vs. Spending: Two 800-pound Gorillas -- immediately caught my eye. Even more interesting, when I read them, the articles seemed to be connected beyond just the headline writer's penchant for primates. Maybe it's simply Tom Shales's lead in his look at how the giant ape with a soft spot for lovely women is reappearing in various forms and formats: "Now is the winter of our greatest ape. 'King Kong' is returning yet again, renewing old acquaintance and, presumably, terrorizing and beguiling new... Read more →

Whew whoops

See what happens when you don't pay attention to the Weather Channel for a day? TD27, which earlier looked like it was fizzling, found new life in the waters off Central America and blossomed into Tropical Storm Gamma. I knew I should have joined a sorority! It now, and I stress now, looks like it might roll over the Florida Keys and across South Florida in a few days, primarily as a rain rather than wind maker. But if we've learned nothing else this season, it's never underestimate any storm's potential to wreck lives. This Thanksgiving season, in addition to... Read more →

Taking it (off) personally

Chill! It's not what you think. Long-time readers of this blog have probably noticed the title change. (Can I can truly count as long-time those folks who've been reading the blog since its inception earlier this week? But I digress. Back to the title.) The blog now is simply "Don't Mess With Taxes." In its original incarnation, the name was longer and, how do I say this, a bit more egotistical. Yep, my name was up there in big, bold letters along with the blog's name. I swear I wasn't just being self-absorbed. I've been a writer for a long... Read more →

Muzzling the gas guzzling

Windfall profits … an interesting phrase. Now that I’m working for myself instead of for the man (or woman), part of me would certainly like to have such a business profit windfall myself. But when a company is already doing pretty well and then getting even more from those of us who are paying our pretty pennies for their product, the transaction and system that created it gets attention. That’s what happened when five major oil companies reported earnings of almost $33 billion in the third quarter of the year while motorists in some areas ponied up $3-plus for a... Read more →


It looks like tropical depression 27 is toast. This morning, the National Hurricane Center announced that while it will continue to monitor that area of the Caribbean, it didn’t plan to issue any more advisories on the system because regeneration “does not appear likely at this time.” Goodbye and good riddance! Will somebody please tell the Hurricane Gods that all tropical areas are now closed?! In case you or someone you know and/or love did take a hit from a hurricane or from any other disaster, you might be able to get some help from the Internal Revenue Service. Yep,... Read more →

Stormy tax policy

As I type, the 27th tropical system of the year is meandering south of Puerto Rico. Twenty -seven … an amazing, terrifying, distressing number, and one that makes me feel a bit guilty. This time last year, my husband and I, along with family and friends in Florida, were still dealing with the aftermath of the one-two punch of Frances and Jeanne. Two ’canes three weeks apart. Living in hurricane country means learning a new acronym vocabulary (ERC, SAL, GOM, GFDL, etc.), figuring out how to convert ZULU time to local time, and finally appreciating your grandparents’ stories of how... Read more →

It's the most wonderful time of the year

You, being a normal human, probably think it's holiday time. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas is bearing down. But it's really tax time. OK, maybe not tax time in the conventional sense, but we all face taxes every day -- sales taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, the list goes on and on -- not just on April 15. So I've created this blog to (1) vent about taxes (the good, the bad and the inevitable) and, I hope, to (2) offer a bit of help in negotiating this generally unwelcome task. I'm not precisely a tax pro,... Read more →