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September 2006

Do you know how to ...

... title an inherited IRA or get an emergency fund going or even find the right dog for you and your family? No? Then head over to AllFinancialMatters where JLP has created an ongoing post that has the answers to these and many more personal finance "How do I ..." questions. He's organized them alphabetically by category to make your searching a bit easier. You'll find a couple Don't Mess With Taxes items in the Taxes section: how to organize your tax records and how to get Uncle Sam's help in making your home more energy efficient. JLP plans to... Read more →

The power of pie

My cousin Kathy and I pulled into the exurban edge of West Austin around 8 p.m. last night. We would have been home a bit sooner, but we had to make one last stop in Marble Falls at the Blue Bonnet Café. The reason for delaying our return by about 20 minutes was simple: The Blue Bonnet's pie prowess. The restaurant is "world famous" for its food, especially its wide dessert section, which is limited to pies. I know what you're thinking. I'm in Texas and we Texans have been known to exaggerate now and again, but it is certifiably... Read more →

Out and about in Alpine

We're in Alpine today, but just for a little while longer. We rolled into this West Texas town -- Hub of the Big Bend, home of Sul Ross State University and creative hotbed with dozens of art and artisan galleries scattered about town -- on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, all of the shops were closed when we got here. If I were truly paranoid, I'd think our husbands phoned ahead and pleaded with local merchants for a little economic pity in light of the stress we've already put on our respective family bank accounts with this trip. Sorry, gentlemen, but since... Read more →

Government accountability back on track

Remember Senator Ted Stevens' attempt to kill a bipartisan effort to establish a Web site where we all could easily see what projects Congress funds? If you don't, check out the zefrank video item in Tax Carnival #4. Well, the Republican from Alaska had a change of heart. Or maybe he finally felt an iota of shame for blocking a measure designed to make federal lawmakers more accountable for their often pork-barrel actions. Whatever the motivation, the bill got its day on the Senate floor last week and that body passed it. Essentially, it authorizes a Google-like search engine to... Read more →

Holiday hiking, history and hotels

Hello from the wilds of West Texas. All is going quite nicely on the trip down memory lane that my cousin Kathy and I are taking. We haven't gotten irreversibly lost yet. We've generally agreed on what attractions to see (and avoid) in each of our stops. And we're still getting along, despite not having spent this much time together since we were small children and had our parents to whine to if necessary. I am happy to report we are not whining. Just a little wining with our dining. Our first extended stop was in Kermit, which I mentioned... Read more →

Ribbit, Texas

No, my hometown was not named for Kermit the Frog. It's a lot older than the genial green Muppet, named instead in 1938 for Kermit Roosevelt, the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. But ever since Kermit the Frog became so well-known, we've heard the question or comment or joke about the faux frog and the town's name. So finally the town decided if you can't beat the ubiquitous amphibian, adopt him! Actually, Kermit came to Kermit. Literally. Last October, in celebration of his 50th showbiz birthday, the Muppet and his entourage showed up in Kermit, Texas, to kick off... Read more →

Trickle down tax enforcement

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating more than 100 companies suspected of manipulating options awards so that executives got a substantially bigger payout when they exercised them. Specifically, the firms allegedly backdated the options to a low point in their stock's price. Lower options/purchase price = potentially larger gain when sold. Yes, we all could make a killing in the stock market if we had such precise 20-20 hindsight. Charges have been filed against executives of two companies so far, SEC chief Christopher Cox this week told a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the issue. But more charges are... Read more →

Private tax-debt collectors clock in today

The big tax collection experiment has begun. The IRS has turned over the accounts of 12,500 delinquent taxpayers to three private bill collectors and today they officially start tracking down those folks. By the end of the year, the agency hopes to hand over another batch of names, bringing the total to 40,000 unpaid accounts that will be in the hands of the private sector instead of being followed up on by IRS employees. As I've mentioned many times before here in the blog, I'm not alone in thinking this is not the best idea the IRS has ever come... Read more →

Electronically thumbing through austinwoman

AustinWoman story links are now updated on their own new blog page, Worth: All about finances in Austin Woman magazine. One of the first publications I picked up upon moving to Austin in 2005 was austinwoman. I was new to town, new to freelancing and the magazine appealed as a way to learn a bit about my new hometown, as well as serve as a potential job source. I'm pleased to report that it has more than met both expectations. On the newcomer front, I've learned a lot about Austin and some of the city's many notable women. Professionally, I... Read more →

'Paris, Texas. Athens, Georgia. Not what I had in mind.'

Then, how about Kermit and Pecos and Marfa? Yep, the big day, teased earlier here and here, has finally arrived. My cousin, Kathy (aka Kate for all her Kansas friends who are reading this) and I are hitting the road. We're going back to my tiny West Texas hometown, a place where, when we were both much younger, her family would come visit. Helping us roll down the highway will be the rest of the lyrics from the Dixie Chicks song, "Lubbock or Leave It," from which today's headline comes. (More on the soundtrack of our trip a bit later.)... Read more →

PF Carnival 64

Think your e-mail box stacked up over the long Labor Day holiday? Then you can commiserate with Aridni, the host this week of a very crowded Carnival of Personal Finance #64. You'll find 50 blog items there, ranging from the anatomy of a credit report from Lording the Land to true tales of dumpster diving by My Financial Awareness, as well as three reasons it costs more to be a woman (just three?) from Adult ADD and Money. Also making the massive Carnival this week is my examination of the financial troubles Jack Bauer will have to deal with when... Read more →

'Fabulous' frugal fest

Looking for some "hip tips that will make you sound smart, look great, and live fab? That’s fab as in f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s frugality!" Then look no futher than the 38th Festival of Frugality. Our hostess with the mostess this time is Nina at Queer¢ents, who has so fashionably constructed the Festival's presentation along the Fab Five's specialties. You'll find my look at efforts to shift cents-off coupons from newspapers to online in the Culture category, along with The Finance Journey's tips on how to save on phone service and The Frugal Duchess' strategies for cutting cable bills. And you'll also want... Read more →

Warning! Congress is back in town!

Summer vacation --- I'm sorry, "district work session" -- is over for our Representatives and Senators. They've headed back to Washington, D.C., where they have about a month to deal with issues such as how to pay for various federal programs (including IRS operations), find a way to increase the minimum wage that some GOP leaders were so hot to hike back in August and rescue the wealthy from the estate tax, an effort that failed before lawmakers went on vacation back home to meet with their constituents. Congress also has to follow through on revival of some tax breaks... Read more →

Working through Tax Carnival #4

Welcome to the Labor Day edition of the Carnival of Taxes. Since this holiday honors the efforts of those making a living, and complying with tax law is a job unto itself, it seems fitting that many of our submissions make that work-tax connection quite nicely. So let's quit lazing around and get right to the job at hand. We start this edition with a new contributor, Sheila Livingston, a CPA and blogger at Get Sheila!, who has some words of advice -- or warning -- for clients about their unrealistic ideas about the job of a tax preparer. Apparently,... Read more →

Catching a Car Carnival ride

Did your auto get you to your long-weekend destination? Will it get you back home? If the answer to either question is not what you'd like, then you can at least console yourself with some better automotive news at the Labor Day edition of Carnival of Cars, courtesy of our regular host, Mark at Tapscotts Behind the Wheel. I'm with Mark in not getting the appeal of drifting (although I did get his tongue-in-cheek reference), but Jalopnik does. I admit to liking it when WoO drivers slide into and through corners, so maybe I'll give drifters another look-see. I definitely... Read more →

Labor Day largesse

Here's a Labor Day story to warm the heart of every working Jane and Joe out there. Cindy Kienow has worked the past eight years as a bartender at Applebee's in Hutchinson, Kansas. Cindy isn't saying what she makes at that job, but I suspect the $10,000 tip she got a couple of weeks ago represents a sizable portion of her annual salary. You read right. Ten thousand. A 10 grand, 10-comma-zero-zero-zero, 10k tip. On a $26 check. Don't you feel a little stingy for only adding 15 percent to your last restaurant tab? The big tipper is a regular... Read more →

One for the road

I know you're sitting there at your desk, counting down the hours until the benevolent boss (we all have one of those, right?) decides you can skate out a bit early. As soon as that happens, it's on the road for one final summer trip over the long Labor Day weekend. Not to start your journey out on a bummer, but this is a tax blog. So I'm compelled to share a report from AccountingWEB on state gasoline taxes. Gas prices have stabilized (yeah, that's what we'll call it, stable ...) around $3 a gallon nationwide, but a chunk of... Read more →