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February 2007

January 2007

Golden Globes = IRS gold

Tonight the statuettes will go to actors, directors, producers and screenwriters. But the biggest payoff will go to the IRS. Federal tax collectors are once again singing "Hooray for Hollywood tax liabilities" as TV and film glitterati gather for tonight's Golden Globes ceremony. It was just about six months ago that Uncle Sam made his first call on Hollywood's booty, successfully extracting an agreement, and accompanying tax cash, from participants in the Oscars' award ceremony who received expensive gifts from advertisers and sponsors. Like any good Tinsel Town agent, the tax collector then parlayed that success into subsequent tax collecting... Read more →


On this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, take some time to check out Stanford University's King Research and Education Institute. There you'll find a wide collection of Dr. King's works, including this page that has text and audio links to some of his more famous speeches. Naturally, the "I have a dream" sermon, and yes, that's what it was, from the 1963 March on Washington is there. Too often we consider this speech as one directed only toward African Americans. Take a few minutes to read the whole thing (it's not that long) or better, listen to Dr. King deliver... Read more →

Awaiting wicked winter weather

Buckets of rain fell yesterday. Local creeks overran their banks. Streets, businesses and homes were flooded, not on a massive scale, thank goodness, but flooded nonetheless. Worse, one person is feared dead, having been swept away in a rapidly rising stream. An onlooker tried to save her, but the water was just too strong and the attempted rescuer had to be rescued. This video is of another suddenly- full Austin waterway, Bull Creek. At another point (not shown here), the creek runs under a low-lying road we use to get to one of our favorite restaurants; that section of roadway... Read more →

Picking a tax pro

NOTE, Jan. 19, 2018: Although this was one of my earlier posts here at the ol' blog, the advice is still as solid today in 2018 as it was 11 years ago. I have, though, fixed a couple of dead links and added some new ones. So just buzz past the old filing stats and deadlines -- here are the due dates for the 2018 tax filing season -- and head to the first highlighted heading, "How complicated are your taxes?" As noted yesterday, the IRS is now accepting e-filed returns, with more e-filing options opening up for eligible taxpayers... Read more →

Mark your calendar: Today, Jan. 16 & Feb. 3

And you thought April 15 (actually the 16th this year since the regular deadline falls on a Sunday) was the only tax day you had to think about. If only. Today, Jan. 12, is a biggie, since the IRS starts accepting e-filed returns. If you've got all your paperwork and are ready to go, hit "enter" now. Here's a story I did for Bankrate on your e-filing options. And here's the IRS official announcement about the process. Then next Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Free File Alliance is open for business. If you make $52,000 or less, you should be able... Read more →

Nissan now hybrid credit eligible

The first Nissan is now on the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit list. The 2007 Altima hybrid will net purchasers a $2,350 credit on their 2007 returns next year. Yes, most of us haven't filed or even started our 2006 taxes and we're already getting info on next year's returns. But the good thing about that is it gives us plenty of time to plan. Speaking of planning, if you want a Toyota hybrid, to get the current tax credit amounts, you must buy one by March 31. Right now the largest credit is $1,575 for a Prius. On April 1,... Read more →

'Staggering' AMT repeal numbers

In the wake of the Taxpayer Advocate's 2006 annual report, analyses and number crunchings are flooding cyberspace. In my earlier posting on the Advocate's recommendation that the alternative minimum tax be scrapped, I cited a 2005 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That think tank has updated its AMT projections in a paper issued this week. It's not a dramatic change, but more a confirmation of just how much money the AMT brings in. The new figures: AMT repeal would cost about $750 billion in lost revenues over the next decade (2007-2016), if the income-tax cuts enacted... Read more →

The Advocate and the AMT

Just in case you haven't gotten around to reading the Taxpayer Advocate's annual report that I mentioned earlier today, and since I promised I'd be back, here's a closer look at this year's top tax trouble: the alternative minimum tax (AMT). National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson calls this parallel tax system the "poster child for tax-law complexity." It's already on the hit list of the new 110th Congress and Olson, who has targeted the AMT in previous reports, gladly provides Capitol Hill with more ammunition. She notes the cost to affected taxpayers (the average AMT taxpayer in 2006 will... Read more →

Taxpayer Advocate's call to action

Get private tax-debt collectors off the streets and out of taxpayers' hair. Repeal the alternative minimum tax provisions. Eliminate or at least simplify income phase-out rules that apply to numerous tax breaks. Improve services and tax laws that affect military personnel. Do the same for spouses facing tax problems because of a partner's or ex's actions. Those are just a few of the recommendations Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has for the IRS and lawmakers in her annual report to Congress. I'm tied up this morning on other projects, but later today I'll look at and comment on these and other... Read more →

Feb. 3: Tax day for the IRS

Some of you might have already filed your 2006 tax returns. Many more are just waiting for Friday, Jan. 12, to get here so you can hit "enter" on your keyboards. That's when the IRS starts accepting e-filings. And a good number of you will send in your forms, snail or e-mail, as soon as you have in hand your last tax puzzle piece, a W-2. It's a good bet that the common motivator for all you eager filers is a tax refund. The sooner you get your return in, the sooner you'll get your tax cash back, right? Maybe.... Read more →

Hail to one of the Birds' Best

Way to go, Cal! From this day forward, the best shortstop ever will be known as Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. That replaces the title he carried almost from day one of his major league career: Future Hall of Famer. The hubby and I were lucky enough to have lived in Maryland when Cal joined the Orioles. We saw him play his first major league game in the now gone Memorial Stadium. We saw him move a few steps across the infield to shortstop. We saw the clutch hits and home runs. We saw him settle into a new... Read more →

The tax wisdom of Solomon

Dick Solomon, that is. As the lovably pompous patriarch of the extraterrestrial family trying to live as normally as possible on our 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick thinks he has U.S. taxes under complete control. He is, after all, a self-proclaimed superior being. Really, how hard can tax filing be since we simple carbon-based life forms deal with it every year? "This is what humans do," Dick declares. "It's like their national pastime." I don't know if I'd go that far, but I suspect a lot of us can definitely relate to this first tax-filing experience of Dick, Harry,... Read more →

Do you speak Starbucksese?

The hubby just walked into my office after running some errands. One of his stops was an unexpected, on my part anyway, visit to our local Starbucks. He's not a coffee fiend, and neither am I really. But I do love Frappuccinos and since I've been chained to my PC all day, he decided I could use one. (Just one of the many reasons I've kept him around for 25 years!) However, he found the whole experience a tad bit confusing. "How come grande isn't the biggest?" he asked, handing me one of the coffee company's giant, or venti, versions... Read more →

25 and counting

Here's a reality-based figure from our personal economy: $146.99. That's what the hubby and I spent, plus tax but pre-tip, last week on a nice dinner out. All you frugal folks about to chastise, stop right there. It was a very special event: our 25th wedding anniversary. If you can't overspend then, just when can you? It was the second most expensive restaurant meal we've ever had, excluding vacations (we do tend to splurge on holiday). The previous high was just over $200 dropped at a swanky resort restaurant in Palm Beach (L'Escalier at The Breakers) for our 20th. Our... Read more →

Real world economics

Not to get too wonky, but this headline caught my eye: "A Call for More Reality-Based Economics." I had to laugh. A sad laugh, for sure, to think that when you're talking economics you have to specify that reality should be considered. Yes, I know economics is as much an art as a science. And I understand that theories must be put forth and hypothetical situations considered and evaluated. But the pragmatist in me says when money is involved, leave the Ivory Tower every once in a while and come on down to earth and its realities where most of... Read more →

Mamma Mia! That's a big tax bill!

Swedish tax officials say ABBA star Bjorn Ulvaeus owes $2.1 million for decades-old undeclared royalties from the supergroup's hits. Authorities suspect royalty payments to Ulvaeus were made to companies operating in foreign tax havens. The Associated Press reports that this is the second time the Swedish Tax Authority has gone after the 61-year-old singer for allegedly unpaid taxes. Last year, the statlig skatt samlaren (I think that's "tax collector" in Swedish, but I'm at the mercy of an online translator, so ... ) claimed Ulvaeus owed almost $13 million in back taxes, fees and interest on unpaid taxes related to... Read more →

Frenzied Friday

Wow! How did it get to be 4:40??? I just have been having so much tax fun I haven't had time to think. If you want to see exactly what I've been doing all day today and for several weeks before now, check out's Tax Guide 2007. Long-time readers know I spent 5½ years covering taxes for the online personal finance Web site. Now, from the comfort of my home here in Austin, I get to keep it up. What could be better than writing about taxes and getting paid for it? Writing about them some days while never... Read more →

Rollie fingered as tax deadbeat

Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers allegedly owes Wisconsin more than $1.4 million in taxes. According to today's tally at Wisconsin's Top 100 delinquent taxpayers, Roland Fingers ranks 8th, with unpaid taxes of $1,448,097. The list also shows a Las Vegas address for Rollie, who earned most of his baseball renown as a relief pitcher for the Oakland A's. Of course, he's probably known almost as much for his handlebar mustache as his pitching prowess. Fingers' agent John Boggs told the Associated Press that the due tax comes from the pitcher's two terms (1981-82 and 1984-85) as a closer for... Read more →

Dems are in, tax cuts are ... still in

The 110th Congress, the first session to be run by Democrats in a dozen years, officially takes office today. Expect much of the same when it comes to taxes. Don't get me wrong. I believe (hope) this Congress will be more equitable in its tax policy. While Dubya's tax cuts have helped some middle- income filers, many at the lowest end of the earnings spectrum have suffered as tax cuts were made possible by program cuts that affected them the most. As for those corresponding tax breaks, most of them since 2001 have primarily benefited the wealthiest Americans. That said,... Read more →

Taxes: universal and universally complained about

Tax season here in the United States is just beginning. For the next 3½ months (or longer for ultra-procrastinators), we'll fret and figure, calculate and curse. Even when we manage to get back some money from Uncle Sam, the process for most of us is, at best, infuriating. Well, we're not alone. From the It's a Small World file (sorry, I know everyone is hearing that dang Disney ride song now) comes some tax news from India. Over on that side of the globe, the filing season wrapped up on Nov. 30. But fellow tax blogger/journalist Lubna Kably (regular readers... Read more →