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April 2006

Despicable dementia scam defrauds IRS

We all complain about taxes. They're too complicated. They're unfair. We don't want our tax dollars going to programs that we're philosophically, politically or morally opposed to. As Yul Brynner would say, etc. etc. etc. Fine, whine and moan all you want. And by all means take all the available legal tax breaks you qualify for in order to lessen the annual IRS hit to your bank balance. Some folks, however, step over the legal tax line. In fact, pushing the tax envelope is an annual enterprise this time of year. A couple of weeks ago, almost half of Don’t... Read more →

Putting off today what you can put off tomorrow

Austin apparently is a city of tax-filing fiends. In fact, it looks like most of my fellow Texans are on the ball this tax season. Except me. Maybe. I'm not sure. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm still slogging through the bulk of my taxes. I figured the self-employment component enough to get some ancillary tasks completed. But as far as the whole, as we say here in Texas, enchilada … well, I've still got some chiles to chop and cheese to grate. Hey! Back off! I've got a few days to meet Uncle Sam's deadline! Maybe I need to knock... Read more →

Taxes, taxes and more taxes

Bogged down a bit today, trying to finish up our personal 1040, get a self-employed retirement account established and working on some stories for paying clients so I can stay self-employed. One out of three ain't bad. I set up the SEP. Have you looked at all the retirement options out there for self-employed folks? Probably not. Like the overstuffed shelves at your local grocery store, there are beaucoup choices. This Miami Herald story offers an overview. I wouldn't have looked at the possibilities either except that I had to. And by "had to" I mean that a self-employed retirement... Read more →

Gate is now open for a new carnival

The latest Carnival of Personal Finance (#43 if you're counting) is now accepting visitors over at MyMoneyBlog. My posting on tax return errors by non-professionals is part of the festivities. But there are plenty of all-around money matters to examine, as out host notes, "from frugality to anti-frugality, giving to the homeless to winning the lottery, and differing investments." Among those that caught my financial fancy this week are "the wife's perspective" on shared (or surrendered) finances and a discussion of the wisest, financially speaking, payout method for the aforementioned lottery winnings (yes, I'm still dreaming!). But my favorite carnival... Read more →

Deductions for all

If you're like most taxpayers, you claim the standard deduction. And because so much attention is paid during tax season to ways to cut your IRS bill by itemizing, you also might have this nagging little feeling that you're being cheated out of tax breaks. But what are you to do if you rent and have no mortgage interest or property taxes to write off? Your state income tax or sales tax amount, even when added to your charitable donations, might not be enough to exceed your allowable standard deduction. That's $5,000 for single filers, twice that for married taxpayers... Read more →

!!%$#@! Deductions!

That was the subject line from a reader's e-mail the other day. She was at wit's end trying to find and decipher information on potential tax breaks. As truly empathetic as I am to her plight, I must admit that her e-mail not only jumped out at me from all the other missives crowding my e-mail box, it also cracked me up! Most of us curse. Many of us curse way too much. And few of us need to chew on that bar of soap my mother always threatened. But the reality of life in the 21st century is that... Read more →

To err is human, especially at tax-filing time

Yesterday I threw a couple of rocks at tax preparation chains that messed up client returns. Today, I've been Windexing all the glass around my house and realized it's time to spread the tax gaffe blame around a bit. We all make mistakes. Hold on a second. I have to go revive the hubby, who's staggered to one knee and is gasping a bit after hearing my declaration. OK, he's fine. He's going to pay for his smart*** attitude later, but he's fine right now. Theatrics aside, I repeat: We all make mistakes. And tax returns are a prime showcase... Read more →

Problems with paid preparers

Did you pay a tax preparer to do your return in February or March? You might want to pull that sucker out and give it another look. Apparently some tax pros screw up returns pretty badly. At least those that the Government Accountability Office encountered did. Michael Brostek, director of strategic issues for the GAO, told a U.S. Senate committee yesterday that the government investigative office visited 19 branches of large, commercial tax chains in a major metropolitan area over the last two months. Find the full GAO report here, and coverage of the hearing in this Washington Post story.... Read more →

Line right up

Taxes are about numbers, right? I just got this e-mail from reader Dan M. with some intriguing numbers: This coming Wednesday, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. That won't ever happen again. I'm usually a night owl anyway, but I definitely will be up tonight watching the clock, although not the one my grandmother left me! Read more →

Take an investing twirl

The latest Carnival of Investing is now up at Free Money Finance. My blog explaining why I prefer moolah to stock options is part of the collection: Say it with cash - Stock options. Sure they can be a nice benefit, but personally I'm of the "say it with cash" school. There are 19 other items that also might pique your interest. Those that caught my eye include a look at why more baby boomers aren't taking advantage of retirement plan catch-up provisions and 12 investment tools that might (or might not) fit into your financial planning strategy. Read, learn,... Read more →

De end for DeLay

Wow! I just came back to my computer after an evening of baseball (the Orioles and Astros, by the way, both won their season openers at home) and find this Washington Post news alert in my e-mail box: Rep. DeLay Won't Seek Reelection -- Texas Republican and former House majority leader announces his retirement rather than face a fight that appears increasingly unwinnable. Other than "Wow!" the only other thing I have to say is "It's about time." I was thrilled when DeLay surrendered his House leadership position, but feared that was only temporary. That eventually he'd be back, terrorizing... Read more →

Batter up!

Thank the sporting gods! Baseball is back! Don't get me wrong. I'm a native Texan and cut my teeth on football. I think there might even be something in the state constitution about required early childhood lessons on the game. But Texas is a big state, and there's plenty of room here for the more deliberative game of baseball. The two are the yin and yang of spectator sports, as comedian George Carlin so wonderfully noted in this stand-up routine. And today the safe-at-home season begins anew. Yeah, I know a game was played last night. In case you couldn't... Read more →

Nest egg omelet time for some. No fooling!

A lot of us pay attention to our individual retirement accounts at this time of year. In fact, tax-filing season may be the only time that many people ever think at all about saving for the future. With the tax return and IRA contribution deadline fast approaching, investment companies and financial institutions are frantically advertising their plans, trying to get you and me to put some cash into existing IRAs or open new ones. If you can afford it, that's not a bad idea. You should start with your 401(k), since most employers at least match a portion of the... Read more →