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November 2006

Lighting the first candle

One year ago today, I posted my first item on Don’t Mess With Taxes. Happy birthday blog! In my personal life I've long held that birthdays are just arbitrary demarcations of the random passage of time based on a capricious calendar. In other words, I'm older than I want to admit. But since the blog is just a baby, I felt like I had to at least mention this milestone. In the last 12 months, I've rambled on some tax and/or personal finance topic almost every day. In total, you'll find 405 posts, more than 150 comments and a decent... Read more →


Hide the children, tax bloggers have organized!

OK, it might not be that dire, but when you get a group of tax geeks together, even if it's just online, the wonkiness factor goes through the roof. But that's exactly what devil-may-care taxalicious has done. He's thrown caution to the wind and established TaxBlogger.org, "a loose confederation of bloggers, writers and other tax freaks who like to write and talk about taxes." A fool for taxes, I jumped at the chance and became a "founding member." The hubby contends I was just attracted by that "certified" label, but take what he says with a grain of salt. He... Read more →


Cigarettes for Cézanne

Well, not exactly. But when January rolls around, smokers in the greater Cleveland area will be paying a bit more to support arts. In addition to electing a variety of lawmakers, voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approved a local ballot initiative that will hike the county's cigarette tax by 1.5 cents per cigarette starting in January. The tax, which will add 30 cents to a 20-cigarette pack, is expected to raise about $20 million a year for 10 years. The money will go to arts and cultural organizations, as well as individual artists. Surely a few of them will be... Read more →


Eunuchs cash in where tax collectors failed

If you thought the IRS was pushing the tax collection envelope by hiring private debt collectors, think again. India's newest tax collectors are eunuchs. Dressed in bright saris and dancing and singing to the beat of drums, the newest government agents were dispatched last week by the Municipal Corporation of Patna to collect unpaid city taxes from businesses. According to the Times of India, the eunuchs were quite successful. The paper reports that despite the ire of many businesses, the group of about 20 eunuchs did what substantially more official tax collectors could not do in months: they actually got... Read more →


This weekend's cyber drive is up

The latest Carnival of Cars is officially on the road. Stops along the way include a look at the artistic side of autos, tips on leasing a car and my report on the IRS' 2007 mileage rates. As always, Mark at Tapscotts Behind the Wheel has many, many more auto offerings in his Carnival collection, so get in gear and head on over there. Read more →


Your taxes and the
new Capitol Hill

So what does the political power shift in Washington, D.C. mean to you and me and our future tax returns? First, Congress and its old cast of characters have some outstanding issues to wrap up, starting with the expired tax breaks. Dubya talked about bipartisanship on Nov. 8, but yesterday he met with his party's Senate and House leaders to discuss ways to push through legislation that won't have a chance in January when the Democratic Congress is sworn in. High on that agenda is the estate tax. Will Frist et al again try to force repeal through by tying... Read more →


GM hybrids not humming along

Not to pick on a company when it's down, but GM is running on fumes as far as its hybrid vehicle program goes. Maybe that's one reason the company has decided to produce yet another Hummer model, a new truck version expected in showrooms in 2009. Hmmm. Making a gas guzzler when some oil industry analysts are predicting the fossil fuel will eventually hit $100 a barrel. Seems like we went down this highway, or at least the frontage road, not too long ago. OK, that triple-digit prediction is a ways off, but in the nearer term, you can be... Read more →


Yes, Virigina, there is a political Santa Claus

And he brought y'all a great present today when George Allen dropped any delusions of a recount win and conceded his Senate seat to James Webb. Allen decided (or was convinced by campaign consultants) that he had the proverbial snowball's chance on a summer day of overcoming the almost 7,500-vote deficit. A protracted but ultimately futile battle would only make him look at best, stupid and at worst, vengeful. If Allen wants any shot whatsoever at a political future, in Virginia or elsewhere, bowing out was the right, and only, move. And all of us, not just residents of the... Read more →


Quit cheating yourself out of tax savings

The results are in. No, not the midterm election; we're still waiting and will continue to do so for official word on a handful of races. I'm talking about our "we want it back" tax deduction poll. This query got the most response of any previous Don’t Mess With Taxes survey. We've run 10 others in the past year, and only the question of how you file (computer vs. paper vs. accountant) sparked as much interest. As you can see from the results there in the left column, an overwhelming 72 percent of respondents want the sales tax deduction back.... Read more →


Random thoughts on voting

I just voted. Or, since it was electronic with no paper backup, as my new favorite sticker says, I think I voted. The hubby and I led a midafternoon parade to our polling place. As we pulled into the church parking lot -- yes, here as in Florida, we do our civic duty at a local church auditorium; I always get a kick out of that, given the church/state battle that rages on the political front -- four more cars were right behind us. OK, it was a very mini parade, but in the three previous times we've voted since... Read more →


Personal Finance Carnival #73

The 73rd Carnival of Personal Finance is now available, hosted this week by City Girl's Financial Blog. City Girl's done a fine job of assembling money musings, ranging from how to avoid overdraft fees to some different ways to donate to charity to my Halloween ramblings on food taxes. If you buy an alcoholic beverage to accompany your munchables, the state tax collector is going to dun your drink, too. That's probably why the Carnival contribution from Personal Finance Advice caught my eye: it's a beer calculator. I always wondered exactly what my taste for Dos XX was costing me.... Read more →


Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.... Read more →


Tax Carnival #6: Decision 1040

E Day is almost here. E for election and E for electronic voting. I know I've been focusing on Nov. 7 recently (here and here, just in case you missed them), but voting is more than a right or a privilege. It's a duty. It's your country, your state, your county, your city. Make sure at least a few people and policies reflect what you want for your home. Plus, I'm a firm believer in the concept that if you don't at least try to make a difference in the system, then you shouldn't complain about it. As you have... Read more →


Rock on, Roy

I'm not a big fan of what passes today for country music, especially the commercially glossy productions that regularly come out of Nashville. Part of my disconnect is musical, part is the process. Sure, many Texas musicians have had success in Tennessee. But just as many have been overlooked or ill-served by the ruling country music machine. The distinctive and far-superior Texas sound that I love so is definitely down home, but not country according to many music label definitions. And that difference poses a major problem for some fellow Lone Star Staters when they deal with corporate reps in... Read more →


This is why you need an emergency fund

In anticipation of the coming filing season, I signed up for a tax class (more on this in a future post). The first meeting was this morning. Last night I carefully plotted out the route to the class, including post-class plans to run several errands up that direction. Things started out fine. Even though the class began at 9 a.m. on a Saturday (what in the heck was I thinking?!), I got up early enough to eat breakfast and still have plenty of time to go through a Starbucks drive-through on the way. Ah, the best laid plans. In the... Read more →


Hitting the highway
with Uncle Sam's help

The only good thing about higher gasoline prices is that the IRS uses them to determine its annual inflation adjustments to the standard mileage rates we use to calculate our deductible driving. Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, you can deduct 48.5 cents per mile for business travel and 20 cents per mile for medical or moving miles. The new business rate is 4 cents higher than this year's rate of 44.5 cents per mile. The medical and moving rate is 2 cents more than the 18 cents allowed for such driving in 2006. The standard mileage rates are based on an... Read more →


Practice voting

Want some practice voting electronically before your ballot really counts next Tuesday? Then participate in our expired tax deduction poll here on Don't Mess With Taxes' home page (upper left corner). We want to know which now dead, but soon to be resurrected (we hope!) deduction will help cut your coming tax bill the most. I can't presume to predict my overall readership's voting propensities, but I suspect those from here in Texas, where everyone complains about sales taxes, are likely to want that itemized write-off back. But blog readers and poll voters in my quasi-back yard of Austin, home... Read more →


Do you know where your Congressman is?

Probably on your television screen. With less than a week to go before election day, every programming break contains a plea from some politician who wants desperately to represent us in Washington. Oh, a few state and local candidates are getting screen time, too. But mostly, it's folks trying to convince us that they can do the job in D.C. Yeah, right. Especially when it's the incumbent begging for votes. Not to jump on the "throw the bums out" bandwagon -- heck, there's probably not enough room for any more riders at this point -- but members of this 109th... Read more →