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February 2007

Tapping the kiddies' piggy banks ... again

Everyone talks about how America's young people are going to have to pay tomorrow for today's budget excesses. Actually, they're already paying. Case in point, the kiddie tax. OK, practically speaking, it's their parents now paying more (ain't that always the way it goes, Mom and Dad?). But the law that was changed last May officially applies to the investment earnings of youngsters, potentially bumping up the taxes collected on accounts held in a child's name. Details here. Now, as the House and Senate struggle to agree on a bill to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to... Read more →


Tax paper chase

One of the drawbacks of being your own boss is you also have to be your own HR person (and hassle with getting your own health care coverage) and your own bookkeeper. Thank goodness I have the hubby as my intern! Part of my ad hoc office accountant job is making sure that my records agree with those of my various clients. This is critical in tax season, since most of what I report to the IRS can be verified by those numerous 1099 forms from assorted companies. I've been working on my own full-time for two years now, and... Read more →


Call for phone refunds going unanswered

Are you just letting the IRS keep some of your money? Apparently that's happening quite a bit this filing season. The IRS says of returns filed so far this tax season, more than a third of them have not claimed the refund for the incorrectly collected telephone tax. You remember this, the 108-year-old excise tax on long-distance phone calls. If you need or want a refresher on it, check out this earlier posting. It seemed like a slam dunk tax give back. Almost everyone had a phone, with long-distance service included, during the eligible tax-back period (March 1, 2003, through... Read more →


Nation of numbers

They're everywhere. Nielsen ratings. Can you believe how many people watch American Idol? Billboard rankings. A mixed message this week for Norah Jones, whose first album in three years opened Wednesday at #1 on the U.S. pop charts, but whose first-week sales were less than half those of her last CD. Dubya's budget. $2.9 trillion for Fiscal 2008, which begins in October. High school football players. Yesterday was National College Signing Day, an unofficial state holiday here in Texas. And, taxes, of course, are all about the numbers. So I was pleased to learn this week that the ol' blog... Read more →


Tax-break relief for tax-induced headaches

Is your head pounding from trying to fill out all those IRS forms? Then get over to your corner drugstore for some aspirin. It might even save you some tax dollars. If you have a flexible spending account at work, you can pay for that bottle -- or bottles, depending upon how complicated your tax situation is -- of pain killers with FSA money. That's the beauty of an FSA. It helps reduce both your tax bill and your out-of-pocket medical expenses. With these company-provided accounts, you put money into them before your withholding taxes are computed. That means a... Read more →


529 facts

If you're not a parent, you probably clicked here expecting my longest post ever. But folks with kids, especially children who are getting closer every day to attending college, immediately added the word "plan" after 529. I'm not a parent, but I do know these college payment plans offer tax advantages for folks trying to come up with ways to pay the ever-increasing costs of higher education. I don’t know if Joel Schoenmeyer is a parent either. But he is a Chicago-area attorney and author of the Death and Taxes blog, where he offers a brief tutorial on 529 plans.... Read more →


Tax Carnival #11: The Super Tax Party

Since many of you had or went to a Super Bowl party, we'll going to keep football fever alive a bit longer with this, the 11th Carnival of Taxes, which I have officially dubbed The Super Tax Party. I won the coin toss and decided y'all are going to receive. So, without further ado, let's get this tax party started! Any good party need good food, so that's how our Super Tax Party offerings are arranged. First we have our appetizers. There's no better kickoff snack than the news from Nina and Allison that we suddenly have more time this... Read more →


Budget browsing

The 2008 Fiscal Budget is now available. You can opt for Budget Lite (with or without a similarly named brew) and read the Treasury Department's press release here. It highlights what the Administration thinks are the best parts of the plan. Of most interest to you and me (well, to me at least) in the press release are the references to improving tax compliance, i.e., catching cheats who are contributing to the tax gap, and short- and long-term fixes to the AMT. Or you can electronically thumb through the whole thing yourself here. It leads off with why the prez... Read more →


Budget battle preview

This morning we get the specifics on how Dubya wants to spend our tax money when his Fiscal 2008 budget arrives on Capitol Hill. Last week, Treasury officials were doling out snippets of what the document includes. Part of it will outline ways to collect some of the now $290 billion tax gap money via new requirements governing the disclosure of financial and business transactions. The thinking is that if Uncle Sam knows more about money being made, he can more easily ask for, and ensure that he gets, his share. The budget also is expected to expand upon a... Read more →


Bad news bears

Thank goodness this NFL season is over, especially these playoffs. Except for the Saints' lone victory, every other playoff team I rooted for lost. Man, I hope this soggy game ends that crappy streak! Oh, well. Next year. I also must admit that when the Bears starting resembling the Cowboys, i.e., a team trying to survive without a real quarterback, I quit paying much attention, so I missed the TV ads. But from what I did see, I don't think that's necessarily bad. My favorite national ad: Dave and Oprah. I really can see them as a couple. OK, maybe... Read more →


Managing Mick's money

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the enviable ability of celebrities to move to countries that provide better tax treatment of their vast holdings. Not only does relocation save them cash, most of these tax havens are wonderful places where most of us would love to live, at least part time. The Rolling Stones garnered a brief mention in that blog entry. In today's New York Times Business Section lead story, we get lots of details on how three of the four aging rockers (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts) have turned management of their musical millions... Read more →


Bet on it: IRS is big Super Bowl loser

Whether you just dropped a couple of bucks into the office Super Bowl pool, are in Vegas watching the game line (and your bank account) change all day, handed money over to a bookie or are bouncing between this blog and your online gambling account, the big money you make today when Da Bears beat the odds and win is taxable. The problem for the IRS, as detailed in this story, is that many people don't realize that Uncle Sam counts gambling winnings as taxable income. And even if they do, they tend to ignore the law. Obviously, it's a... Read more →


Dealing with a disaster

When our phones started working again after Hurricane Jeanne hit us in 2004, the first call was from my mother. Her advice: Move back to a place where you have to deal with only one type of natural disaster. Her point was well taken. Hurricanes also tend to bring with them flooding from the associated deluges and tornadoes from accompanying thunderstorms. Unfortunately, as central Floridians learned all too tragically early Friday, Feb. 2, tornadoes can arrive on their own. Today, the president declared the region a major disaster area, which makes federal assistance available for affected individuals in Lake, Seminole,... Read more →


Blowing away the tax bad guys

Less than a week ago, I blogged about how to turn in a tax cheat and mentioned a new law enacted to improve the apprehension of scofflaws. What shows up today in my e-mail box? An announcement from the IRS that the agency has just appointed Stephen A. Whitlock as director of the new Whistleblower Office. Part of Whitlock's job will be administering the program that receives information to help uncover tax cheating. And, paraphrasing the Law & Order voice, the separate, yet equally important job of the office will be handing out appropriate rewards to whistleblowers. In making the... Read more →


The scariest scarlet letter

The scariest letter today for women is not A. It's H. H for health, especially heart health. And the American Heart Association wants today to be a red-letter day. Actually, the organization wants it simply to be a red day, as in red attire. Feb. 2 is Wear Red Day. The AHA and the health care community hope that the site of thousands of people across the country decked out in red this Friday will help increase awareness of heart disease and encourage women to live more heart-healthy lifestyles and seek appropriate medical treatment. The scary fact is that heart... Read more →


An artful look at death and taxes

Knowledge of how your taxes are spent is essential to being a responsible citizen. But that doesn't mean the acquisition of that knowledge has to be boring. That's the philosophy of Jess Bachman, creator of "Death and Taxes," the representational graph (below) of the federal discretionary budget. I ran across an earlier version of his visual budget last year (noted here), and was thrilled to learn that Bachman has updated it and that he plans to keep doing so. Bachman is quick to point out the use of the word discretionary. It describes that portion of the budget that is... Read more →


Call for tax carnival content

Just a quick reminder before thoughts of the Super Bowl completely take over your brain: The 11th Carnival of Taxes is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 5. If you've got a tax item, please send it along via our Blog Carnival submission page. Don't know what to submit? Then check out our guidelines post. And please note the deadline: Saturday evening. When it hits 11 p.m. Central time that day, I'm closing submission doors. Late arrivals will be bumped, if still applicable, to the next edition. I appreciate your help here, as I won't have time on Sunday to be checking... Read more →


Good golly, Ms. Molly

Molly Ivins can't say that , can she? Yes, she can. Yes, she did. My favorite of her many memorable comments: "What you need is sustained outrage. There's far too much unthinking respect given to authority." She was true to her word to the end, as evidenced in her last column, published on Jan. 11. Thanks, Molly, for speaking up. Texas, and the world, has lost yet another insightful, incisive, irreverent and irreplaceable woman. The only consolation is knowing that Molly and Ann are now keeping everyone in the hereafter in line and in stitches. Mo' Molly: John Nichols of... Read more →