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November 2005
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January 2006

December 2005

Our house is a very, very, very taxed house

My bank account took a hit today. Nope, not from Christmas gift charges finally showing up on credit card bills. And nope, not from post-Christmas bargain hunting. It seems, according to the New York Times, that I and lots of other nonshoppers didn’t head to the malls yesterday to load up on marked-down merchandise, although the Washington Post found folks there streaming back to malls in search of deep discounts. This time my money -- a whole lot of it -- went to the Travis County Tax Assessor Collector. Home appreciation. It’s great when you’re selling. A challenge when you’re... Read more →

Keeping perfect moments

My family left today after spending the holidays here in Austin. We shared fond memories, ate way too much good food and made it through four-plus days (and nights) without a single fight. In fact, I was the one this time who proposed they stay a bit longer. I think my mother and I both are finally growing up! But it was time for them to hit the road. We had a very mini-parade, my car leading theirs out of our twisty, hilly neighborhood. Once we got to the highway, they knew the rest of the route and passed me.... Read more →

Last-minute gift ideas

Are you starting to panic yet? Dec. 25 is almost here and you’ve not set foot one into a mall. Or maybe you’ve bought a few gifts, but not the most important ones. You’re not alone. The Washington Post reports on marathon shoppers, folks who are so far behind on their holiday purchases that a serious nonstop session at local retailers is the only way they’ll get it all done in time. I saw a few of those harried folks today. My mom’s in town for the holiday this year and she needed to pick up one final gift. Of... Read more →

Miles and miles of Texas … and taxes

Just a few weeks ago here on the ol’ blog, I bemoaned the fact that I had only been able to see Ray Benson, lead singer of Asleep at the Wheel, on video at an exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum here in Austin. Well, that has changed! On Dec. 16 we moseyed on out to the Broken Spoke to chow down on some chicken fried steak (billed as “the best in Texas and that means the world to us”) and listen to the best in Texas swing music. The Broken Spoke is a local -- hell,... Read more →

Ho, Ho, Hand over your taxes

It seems that Argentina's tax officials take the holiday spirit of giving very seriously as long as they are the ones on the receiving end. According to the BBC, tax inspectors clad in Santa Claus outfits are being deployed in Buenos Aires to try to encourage reluctant taxpayers to cough up what they owe. As part of a campaign to reduce tax evasion, the Santas are stopping passers-by in the in Argentine capital to tell them about special benefits if they pay up this month. Thanks to TaxProf for the tip. A few other fiscal Santa observations as we near... Read more →

College memories, college costs

I want to suggest a new moniker for Austin, currently known as the Live Music Capital of the World. I propose Networking Capital of the Universe! Today I attended my third meet-and-greet of the week and I'm a rank amateur at this networking business. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for making new friends and business contacts. That's a crucial element of any business, especially small ones that depend heavily on personal references to drum up new clients. But the intensity and dedication that Austinites show to networking is outstanding, and I know networking, having spent almost 20 years in... Read more →

Troubling tax priorities

Congress, it seems, wants to make sure that investors have happy new years through 2010. The Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist “feel[s] strongly” that capital gains and dividends tax breaks should be part of legislation that the Senate will consider before it takes its holiday break. This is important to Frist and friends even though the law that keeps these rates low doesn’t expire until the end of 2008. Meanwhile, those 15 million middle-income households that might have to pay more in 2006 because they’ll fall under the alternative minimum tax (more about this parallel and... Read more →

Coats for Kids

He wanted a red coat. I don’t know his name. He didn’t say. In fact, he didn’t say a lot, probably due as much to the fact that he was the only boy in a group of four females as to his own natural temperament. I could see where it would be hard to get in a word with his grandmother and three more ebullient sisters alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) taking charge. But he did manage to tell me he wanted a red coat, not the blue one that had been picked out for him. So we found him a... Read more →

Family tax advice

When it comes to giving family members tax advice, my general rule is DON'T! If you help them out, they'll never quit coming back for more help. And if you can't keep the IRS out of their pockets, you'll never hear the end of it. That said, I must thank my cousin J.B. for a question he posed after reading my post about the annual holiday letter my husband and I send. After he got over his shock that our letters contain some, uh, exaggerations, he pulled himself together enough to pose a personal tax query. He's always been resilient... Read more →


Careful readers of Don’t Mess With Taxes will notice a new look today. Of course, you don’t even have to be very careful. That big ol’ snowman now up top pops right out at you, sporting a glazed look very reminiscent of someone who’s just been audited. Maybe he got the same notice that our South Wales Santa got a couple of days ago. In addition to going all wintry on you, I’ve also changed the layout. Now the very crucial tax information is squeezed between two side columns. I know this makes you have to scroll down a bit... Read more →

The tortuous life of tax-cut legislation

By now you've heard the big news. Bush won a major legislative battle in the taxation of investment income when the House agreed to extend lower rates for capital gains and dividend income for two more years. Of course, those rates were already set through 2008, so there was no immediate need to worry about them. Meanwhile, several other popular tax breaks, discussed in my earlier post on now-dormant tax overhaul efforts, expire when the clock rolls past 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. What about them? And what happens now to those of us -- teachers, students, folks in high... Read more →

Santa's bad day

Seems like Santa is having a bad day over at this blog originating from New South Wales, Australia. (When did he move there?) Before you click, one quick link content caution: I’m not kidding. This particular Santa’s is having a really, really bad day. In fact, I think he must be the model for Billy Bob Thornton’s R-rated “Bad Santa.” So you might not want to let the kiddies read. What caught my eye in the post was, of course, a tax reference. Apparently, the IRS says St. Nick owes them, which prompts the query, who has ever sent Santa... Read more →

Congressional ethics 101

Ran across an article over breakfast and I can't resist commenting. The New York Times reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, apparently concerned about Capitol Hill's (and his GOP's) image in the wake of several investigations into and indictments of Members and associates, has broached the subject of new ethics training for lawmakers. He wants to make sure they understand the "nuances of House rules." Nuances? Let's see. Bribery = Wrong! Money laundering = Wrong! Creating tax breaks for generous PAC contributors = Wr… Standard operating procedure. Read more →

Brrrr and more Brrrr!

A brief "brrr!" update. It's still COLD! Roads are icy (but people are still driving like idiots, the one unifying factor across America), schools are closed for the day (but, alas, no snow to play in), one of the local TV stations has pre-empted regular programming to do continuous weather reports and a section of the city is without power. It's sort of like being in hurricane bizarro world, where the same things happened but at temperatures about 70 degrees higher. It will be interesting, yeah, that's the word, interesting, to see what our first heating bill is after this... Read more →


Here in Austin, we are in the midst of the coldest weather of the season. It's 27 degrees right now and the WeatherBug icon on my PC keeps chirping with winter weather advisories. Freezing rain and sleet have been falling for hours. As a result, according to the local TV reports, there have been more than 70 accidents on area roadways. I'm not complaining. I'm a four seasons kind of gal, believing that each time of the year has its own special attributes. My husband, however, just thinks winter stinks (not an exact quote, but you get the idea). Well,... Read more →