Stormy tax policy

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, but I have lots of practical experience. I've done my own taxes for what seems like forever, I've taken some courses and attended conferences, and I spent almost 20 years in Washington, D.C., where I worked for a U.S. Representative who was on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, worked for the Committee itself and then climbed down the Hill to work for two large multinational corporations that lobbied Congress for, in part, tax breaks.

But my raison d'etre is to write, and for the last six years most of my writing has been about taxes, mostly via the personal finance Web site That's what I'll be doing again this coming tax season, as writer/editor of the site's tax channel. Not only will the gig help me pay my bills (both at home and to the tax collector), it'll keep me -- and you -- up to date on what's happening in the tax world.

But, alas, it is not enough tax work to keep me happy and a tax blog was born. I wanted to come up with some catchy, goofy name for my new effort. Something slightly irreverent, even borderline flip. Taxes are a serious subject, but if you don't try to laugh at them sometimes, they'll kill you, emotionally and psychologically if not financially.

I toyed with the idea of Tax Cheats United. Such a sensational name surely would tempt readers, but maybe not the readers I necessarily want. Plus, if the site name ever got shortened to TCU (which I'm sure it would by the hundreds of thousands of kids who will no doubt flock to a tax blog and want to share its info via cell phone text messaging), the Texas Christian University community might be a tad upset. Being a Texas Tech alum, I'm well aware of the fine attributes of TCU, Tech's former Southwest Conference rival, so that name was scuttled.

So I thought about Wacky Taxes, since there are so many wacky taxes. Then I considered the worldly sophistication of Tax Tête-à-Tête and the fact that it conveyed a personal, one-on-one approach, but wondered if I’d be tempting the blog gods by implying that only a handful of my close personal friends would ever click on the site. Plus, it’s French, and the one thing that Americans hate more than taxes is anything French (except French toast ...; that’s damn good!).

Reminiscing about the good ol' days on Capitol Hill, I toyed with calling my ramblings Behind the Tree as homage to the late Russell B. Long, a lawmaker who once said that tax reform means "Don't tax you. Don't tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree." But I feared it might confuse people who were searching for wilderness sites.

Soon, I was spending more time trying to think of a name for my ramblings than I spend doing my own returnTexas_shape_with_flag_colors each April! I had to just make a decision so I went with Don’t Mess With Taxes. It just seemed natural. Being a native Texan (not one of the growing number of Yankee transplants who flock here when they discover the wide latitude and accepted arrogant confidence afforded Lone Star Staters), the flipping of the “e” and “a” immediately appealed. It kept all the letters, along with that attitude that's made the state so great.

All the other implicit meanings were a bonus -- folks who don’t want to mess (i.e., deal) with their taxes, those who mess up their taxes, those who a la the original meaning of “mess with” do indeed throw caution to the wind and mess with the tax collector. You get the picture.

And so we are here, at the beginning of Don't Mess With Taxes. I promise my subsequent entries will not be so long … and will actually discuss, at least a little, tax topics!


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jack vaughan

I stumbled across your blog because I have a fairly complicated set of returns with 2 wholly owned corporations and lots of international implications. Naturally I have a competent accountant.

But your blog is interesting for the reason of liking to be at least conversant with my accountant, and also because I am also here in Austin and love our great state as only native Texans can.


Ms. Bell, you sound like the perfect tax maven! Can't wait to read your musings...

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