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March 2007

Trading tales at the Carnival of Money Stories

The 7th Carnival of Money Stories is open, boasting a wide range of personal financial tales at this week's host, Wisebread. My long-time infatuation with snail mail is included, but several others also caught my eye. There's Clever Dude's admission that sometimes he's not so clever. Maybe we haven't messed up exactly this way, but we've all been there, done that, bought the T-shirt for some other money misstep. Another intriguing tale comes from Priya, who knows 77 ways to live without credit cards. Hhmmm. Me, I gotta keep a couple of cards, but pay them off each month. And... Read more →

Tax Carnival #14: Countdown to Tax Day

The tax deadline is bearing down and lots of bloggers have ideas on how to deal with it. So this, our 14th Carnival of Taxes, is a special Countdown to Tax Day. Below, in no particular order, we offer for your tax information, entertainment and enlightenment one tax blogging item for each day from now through April 17. March 19 Bill gets the Tax Carnival rolling with Taxes and the Three Martini Lunch, posted at Ask Uncle Bill. "It's that time of year," notes Bill. Indeed it is. Indeed it is. March 20 Kirk presents You, me, and the AMT,... Read more →

Hunting foxes in the hen house

Everybody needs some tax help now and then. Even the IRS. The agency has announced that, in certain situations, it plans to seek help from outside sources in writing tax rules. Don't get too excited. Tax officials aren't looking for advice from you and me on issues related to our personal returns. Rather, the help requests will typically be on very specific guidance projects. The pilot project deals with "a recent request for an expansion of the permitted types of modifications to loan obligations held by a real estate mortgage investment conduit." The IRS has, of course, always solicited public... Read more →

OK. There's no direct tax connection here. I just think a beer launching mini-fridge is ingenious and funny. A couch potato's dream. Click here to see the beer launcher in action. Such an appliance could, however, come in handy once you collapse upon finishing your 1040, too tired to make it to the icebox for some much-deserved post-filing refreshment. Interest apparently is growing, but no word yet on just when or where it might be available. My still unanswered question: How much do the beers spew upon opening after being launched? And one final filing thought: With or without a... Read more →

Saving o' the green

Every March 17 we celebrate all things Irish, but St. Patrick's Day also makes for a great financial holiday. Here are a few ways the green of Ireland and the green in our bank accounts intersect. Don't be seduced by the gift of gab. If you're out shopping today, don't fall for slick sales blarney. Smart consumers comparison shop. Begin online. Check out die-hard comparison shopper Jessie's useful linkage. Her fave for the best prices: Woot! Build up your post-work pot of gold. You'll be glad you started tossing in those coins now when you're ready to retire. In tax... Read more →

Sweet 16

Regular readers know that I'm no fan of basketball. So you're asking, "What's up with that headline?" Well, I am a fan of blogging, and Money Blog Site is hosting an NCAA-style Personal Finance Tournament. Don't Mess With Taxes has survived the first two rounds (my post on ratting out tax cheats has been a steady scorer in upsetting a couple of fine competitors), and now I'm in the Sweet 16. You can help keep my financial hoopla dreams alive by taking a few minutes to head over to the Region 4 bracket and vote for DMWT. All you have... Read more →

40 tickets to tax trouble

Want to end up in a federal jail cell? The IRS has just issued a list of 40 tax claims that'll help you get your wish. The official Internal Revenue Service name for these tax, or rather nontax positions, is "frivolous." That's a nice euphemism. I call them, the arguments and their adherents, crazy. Crazy for thinking these wacky schemes would work. Crazy for thinking you won't get your wrist, or worse, slapped if you use them to avoid paying your tax bill. I know that tax protesters for many years pointed to the lack of prosecution of some of... Read more →

Interesting tax tip timing

An interesting message from the IRS showed up in my e-mail box this morning, a tip on taking the home office deduction. The e-mail itself wasn't so unusual. I get tons of cyber communication every day -- newsletters I've signed up for, newsletters I don't remember signing up for, blog alerts, FYIs from friends and colleagues about tax and financial topics. Heck, even the occasional "V!agggra" message still slips through the filtering system. And this particular one from the IRS didn't offer anything shocking or new. It was simply the standard tax-time reminder to home-based workers about what to do... Read more →

E-filing edging up

As a tax enthusiast and Internet aficionado, you probably already know this, but here's some supporting data from a company that tracks Web trends: We like e-filing. recently asked members of its panel how they filed their returns last year and what they plan to do this year. In 2006, 23 percent said they used PC software and e-filed. This filing season, 24 percent plan to take that route, as shown in the company's colorful pie chart below. Another 22 percent plan to use the Web and e-file, again a 1 percent bump over last year's choice of online... Read more →

An alleged tax wolf in sheep's clothing

Harry Willner, an IRS agent since 1974, has been charged with tax fraud. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan allege that Willner was part of a group that evaded taxes by manufacturing false business deductions for a company Willner operated out of his home. The Fair Lawn, N.J., resident was arrested Monday and subsequently released on his own recognizance. The amount of the alleged fraud: $758,000 claimed as a "bad debt" from 1998 through 2001. The resulting tax evasion on his personal return, prosecutors say, was almost $21,000 over four years. The potential time in jail for Willner: 18 years. Details on... Read more →

Taking care of tax business

You roll into work. Drop your briefcase and/or purse at your desk. Head to the coffee room and fill up your mug. Chat with a few coworkers. Then back to your desk to work on your taxes. Huh? That's what more than a third of the people who responded to a recent survey said they do. St. Bernard Software heard from 525 workers on how their tax and work tasks coincide. Twenty percent said they plan to file their returns electronically using their office PC. Ah yes, one of the few cube farm perks: High-speed Internet connection. Just ask any... Read more →

Sorting through the snail mail spam

I lived alone for many years before the hubby showed up. I also worked the 3 p.m. to midnight shift for much of that time. That meant I didn't have a "normal" social life, not that that's necessarily bad. But it can be a bit lonely. So during those years, I came to look forward to the mailman's visit. The mail, be it letters from family or friends or bills or flat out junk mail, was my contact with others. Yeah, a bit sad, I admit. And now that I think about it, it probably explains why I still subscribe... Read more →

State tax e-filing options

Feeling rushed because you lost an hour while you slept? Worried that the time shift will slow down your tax-filing efforts? If you have to file a state return in addition to a federal 1040, here's a time saver: Most states accept electronically filed returns. You have a couple of options here. You'll probably be able to combine your state and federal filings, thanks to the federal/state e-file program. According to the IRS, the electronic filing software places your federal and state return data in separate "packets" that are transmitted to the IRS in one taxpayer "envelope." (Don't you just... Read more →

The cost of DST, in $$$ and ZZZs

OK. Help me out here. Daylight Saving Time is supposed to conserve energy by giving us more hours of sunshine at the end of the day. But if you have to get up in the dead of night, which is what it will feel like with the clocks pushed forward, don't you have to then use that electricity you saved at the other end of the day? And I know that our air conditioner is going to be running more during the longer hot summer days here in central Texas, regardless of what time our clocks say the sun comes... Read more →

Investigating a new tax-themed TV show

So what if Will Farrell's IRS guy in Stranger Than Fiction was a bit of a box-office disappointment. Maybe since taxes are so personal, as entertainment fodder they're better suited to the small screen. Andy Richter hopes so. His new show, Andy Barker P.I. is coming to your TV next week. Barker's a CPA. He goes where the numbers take him. In this new NBC series, that's to a strip mall where he's trying to get his new accounting business off the ground. Unfortunately, there aren't many beans to count. So when, shades of Sam Spade, a mysterious woman shows... Read more →

Free file for phone refunds

Do you know someone who doesn't have to file a tax return? Yes, it does happen. These folks usually are lower income. Sometimes they are older and their income, perhaps primarily Social Security benefits, is not taxed. Whatever the reason for escaping 1040 duty, these individuals still might be eligible for the telephone tax refund. They can get the standard refund amount, which ranges from $30 to $60 depending on the number of exemptions they claim, by simply sending in Form 1040EZ-T. This half-page document requires only the individual's name (or names for joint filers), Social Security number (or numbers... Read more →

Greenbelt means good birding

Greenbelt: An undeveloped swath of land designed to keep a bit of the country in otherwise urban, or quickly becoming urban, settings. Greenbelt: Our home in Maryland for almost two decades, one of three "green towns" built as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Greenbelt: As in The Greenbelt, the blog from The Ridger. This week, she's the host of I and the Bird #44. I'll let her tell you about the collection: "Below, grouped (albeit roughly) into these four categories you will find posts of all sorts, having in common a love of birds and the desire to... Read more →

Markey goes after Internet tax malarkey

We've all done it. Typed in the wrong URL. Or taken the lazy way and just hit enter after typing in what we thought was the site name to have our browser automatically add the extension. The only problem with that shortcut method is that the automatic extension is dot-com. And that might not be what you're looking for. Case in point: Not so long ago, anyone wanting to see what the President of the United States was up to and who typed dot-com instead of dot-gov after White House got an entirely different, and decidedly adult, Web page. Whoa... Read more →

Refund time running out

What's up with you Californians? I know you've got the beaches in the south and wine country up north to keep you occupied, but can't you find some time to file your tax returns? I'm talking specifically about your 2003 tax returns. Seems that about 200,000 of you Golden Staters didn't get around to turning in that paperwork three years ago. And by ignoring your tax tasks back then, you left more than $236 million in Uncle Sam's hands. But those left coast residents aren't alone. They're just part of (albeit the largest part of) 1.75 million taxpayers who missed... Read more →

PCs are paying off

Apparently after you finish reading the ol' blog, many of you head right to your tax software program and file your returns. The latest weekly roundup of numbers from the IRS shows that taxpayers are submitting returns electronically from home computers at a record pace. That group is up almost 7 percent from the same period last year, specifically the weeks ending Feb. 24/23, 2006/07. These do-it-myselfers account for 30 percent of the season's e-filed returns so far. Overall, electronic filing this tax season has increased by nearly 4 percent over last year's numbers, 78 percent in 2007 vs. 76... Read more →