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April 2006

Hurricane 2006! An early alarm, a timely tax break

I have eight e-mail addresses. One is for tax communiqués, another for my other writing jobs, a third for messages from my family and friends, number four collects sports-related material, a fifth holds birding data, and numbers six and seven … Well, when I get to know you a bit better, we'll talk. A message in e-mail box number eight, however, sent a chill through me yesterday. I was scrolling through the box, the one dedicated to weather topics, when this subject line stopped me cold: TD ONE Forecast/Advisory 1. The year's first warning that a tropical depression has formed.... Read more →

Gas-efficient online driving

Tired of hearing, reading and worrying about how much gasoline costs? Well, you can still enjoy miles and miles of the cyberhighway for just the cost of your Internet connection, thanks to the latest Carnival of Cars now up at Tapscott Behind the Wheel. This week's offerings include (shameless self-promotion alert!) my posting on the new hybrid vehicle tax credit. But since you've probably already read that here, Mark's autorama has 33 more recommendations for your online motoring pleasure. These two offerings are interesting companions to my hybrid post: Cars, Religion and Politics and Cars! Cars! Cars!, both of which... Read more →

Tackling tax recordkeeping

As promised, it's time to look at tax recordkeeping. "Wait," you're saying to your computer screen. "Didn't you just cover that last week?" Thanks so much for remembering. But that dealt primarily with filing records in preparation for tax returns to come, specifically documentation for 1040s you'll submit next year. This time we're talking records of tax returns past. Obviously, the most critical piece of tax data is a copy of the return you sent to the IRS. This includes not just the 1040, but any schedules or other forms and addenda you filed. Now to the information that you... Read more →

On the gas tax road again

Just a few days ago I wrote about hybrid vehicles as a way to deal with outrageous gasoline prices and claim a nice tax break. Since then, a couple of things have happened. The IRS announced two more autos, Lexus and Toyota 2007 models, are now on the clean-fuel tax credit list. I added them to the original post. And Congress continues to toy with taxes as an answer to the pump price problem. To go along with the current hybrid vehicle tax break, Congress is said to be considering another credit for gas-electric cars. Also being discussed is a... Read more →

Happy Tax Freedom Day

Today is Tax Freedom Day, the day when Americans will finally have earned enough money to pay off our total tax bills for the year. Or so says the Tax Foundation. Every year, the tax research organization looks at all taxes we pay and calculates the happy moment when our incomes become all our own again. The annual date is arrived at by dividing the official government accounting of all taxes collected in previous years by the equally official government tally of all income earned in those years. Tax Foundation analysts then take that historical (since 1900) trend and the... Read more →

Nothing to sneeze at

My husband is the master of the TV remote when commercials come on the screen. He zaps them so quickly that you rarely get more than a split second of product pitching. Personally, I don't really mind commercials. In fact, some are more entertaining that the programs they interrupt, although that's usually because of unintentionally idiotic and laughable comments, premises, etc., on the part of the ad creators. Last night started out normally enough, with the hubby happily flipping through channels at the mere hint of a commercial. Then suddenly he started cursing and frantically pushing remote buttons and almost... Read more →

Happy $3 a gallon motoring

Have you filled up your car lately? How long did it take fellow gas station customers to revive you? (You like to think they were being Good Samaritans. In reality, you passed out in the lane blocking access to the next pump.) For Americans in love with and addicted to their autos and trucks and vans and yes, still some SUVs, gasoline prices are creeping into the realm of truly shocking. The latest Lundberg Survey reports that in the last two weeks, self-serve regular jumped nearly a quarter a gallon. Lundberg now places the national average at $2.91 a gallon.... Read more →

Touting (and horn tooting)
tax re-Sources

Tax season is over, but the need for tax planning continues. Among those still keeping an eye on tax happenings is Top 10 Sources, which this weekend bestowed upon Don’t Mess With Taxes the honor of inclusion in its Top 10 Sources for Taxes. Top 10 Sources is a directory of sites that, according to its home page, brings readers "the freshest, most relevant content on the Web. We know it's impossible for anyone to keep track of the 20 million+ online sources of information. So [Top 10 Sources] editors search Web 2.0 -- blogs, podcasts, wikis, news sites, and... Read more →

The Ferris wheel just keeps spinning

Carnival of Personal Finance #45 is now taking tickets over at Million Dollar Goal, and I'm happy to report that "IRS error in your favor," my recounting of official reviews of a couple of my tax returns, is part of this week's financial fun. Several other tax topics also are covered, including one of the same name but the tale of a different taxpayer with a much larger refund amount. You'll also find some tips on what not to do if you're self-employed and how to avoid those pervasive work-from-home scams. And with a title like Financial Voyeurism, well you... Read more →

Frugality's finest

Looking for ways to save a penny? Check out the 20th Festival of Frugality, assembled by All Things Financial hosted by the Money Blog Network. Pinching pennies is about as frugal as you can get, and that lowliest of coins is now worth a bit more, as I note in "My 2.8 cents worth" and which is included in this latest frugal fest. You'll also find tips on how to save on transportation costs (consider a scooter), landscaping (think perennials) and periodicals (really cheap magazines). You can even learn how to drink frugally. Party hearty, within your budget, of course! Read more →

My 2.8 cents worth

This story in today's New York Times says that because of the rising cost of the metals used to create a penny, the United States mint will now lose nearly half a cent on each new penny it makes. Under this new valuation, a penny will actually be worth 1.4 cents, meaning we should now get about a penny and a half for our thoughts. The penny's production price is rising because the coin is now mainly zinc (just a layer of copper gives it the traditional color) and zinc prices have tripled since the end of 2003. The real... Read more →

2006 cleanup, 2007 prep

I found the carpet in my office today. It's that oatmeal color favored by builders and people who are sprucing up the house before they put it on the market. Neutral shades, you know, tend to appeal to more potential buyers. Unfortunately, I also found a couple of gray, smudgy spots on the carpet that I didn't remember seeing before. Since about mid-January, the spots apparently were covered with tax material that took up about half my office's floorspace. Now in my defense, a lot of that stuff was tax books, IRS publications, various magazine and newspapers, online tax documents... Read more →

Robison redux

I've taken some teasing this week for getting my taxes done at the last minute. I never intended to take tax filing down to the wire, but life kept getting in the way. And then on that final weekend, we did make a conscious decision to take a tax-filing break. Actually, I took the break, but since hubby has to listen to my curses as I work through the tax morass, he deserved a break, too. So on what is usually the traditional tax-filing deadline, April 15, we headed into Austin for a concert by Bruce Robison, sometimes known as... Read more →

IRS error in your favor

In all my years of filing taxes, I've gotten two follow-up letters from the IRS. The first was back in September 1996, and it began: "We're proposing changes to your 1994 tax return." Yep, almost 2½ years later and IRS examiners are hard at work. It took them that long to notice that "the information on your tax return isn't the same as the information reported to us by your employers, banks, and other payers." In this case it was those "other payers" that tripped me up. Although I'd been reporting dividend and capital gains distributions for years on our... Read more →

Tax refund recommendations

Judging from readers who voted in our filing extension poll, it looks like most of you got (or planned to get) your taxes done in the nick of time. Final results are in the lower half of the left column (poll #5). Conventional wisdom is that most of us procrastinators put off the tax task because we owed, but that's not always the case. As I mentioned yesterday, the hubby and I are getting a refund. Now we must decide whether to save or spend the money. If you, too, got tax cash back, here are some suggestions on what... Read more →

24 more hours for a lucky few filers

If you live in Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont or the District of Columbia, chill! Your federal tax return isn't due until midnight tomorrow. Yep, these lucky taxpayers send their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service Center in Andover, Mass. But today is Patriots Day, a state holiday in the Bay State. Cognizant that it was Massachusettsans who got the revolutionary party started over some beverage tax all those years ago, the IRS recognizes the state holiday and each year that the April filing deadline falls on Patriots Day, the feds say its OK for folks in... Read more →

No more tax snoozing

It's a little after 2 a.m. Central time and I'm through with our taxes. Thank goodness there's no state income tax here in Texas or I'd be bald from tugging on my hair! Honestly, it wasn't that bad. I just pushed things off to the last minute ... again. My excuse: I was working on tax stories (and the blog), so how was I supposed to find time to file my own!? At least I did get the first estimated tax payment of 2006 in the mail before today's deadline! The AP put out an interesting story yesterday that the... Read more →

The tax price of being President

As you struggle to complete your tax return this weekend (and I'm right there with you, back to working on our 1040 as soon as I post this), take some solace in knowing that at least you probably wont end up owing as much as the Prez and Veep did this filing season. The annual release of the tax returns from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shows that W and Laura owed $187,768 in 2005 taxes. Over at Number One Observatory Circle, the Cheneys' bill to Uncle Sam came to $529,636. And both families made what tax advisers say is a cardinal... Read more →

Hunting for tax Easter eggs

It's the do-or-die weekend for taxpayers. With only a few days until your 1040 (or extension) has to be on its way to the IRS, you might be looking for some shortcuts. Well, there really aren't any ways left to circumvent the annoying necessity of filing. But we can offer some last-minute tips to make sure you get the job done correctly. Think of these multiple tax tips as Easter eggs you don't have to hunt for. They're not as satisfying as chocolate bunny ears, but they can help make sure your tax basket is filled properly. File for free:... Read more →

Pay yourself first

Personal finance gurus are always telling us that when we set up our budgets, include a line item for ourselves. No, I'm not talking about adding $500 a month to blow at the nearest mall. The bookkeeping entry is what budgeters (Why did a vision of a Mickey Mouse Club kid with a ledger sheet just pop into my head? Or maybe an accountant with a mouse-ear hat?) like to call "paying yourself first." It's a good approach. If each month alongside your electric bill, rent and car payment notations, you see an entry that says "Me," you'll be more... Read more →