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June 2007

Texas tax evaders offered amnesty

Hey, fellow Texans? Need a fresh tax start? Then you're in luck for the next couple of months. On June 15, a tax amnesty began that will waive penalties and interest for Lone Star Staters who underreported their taxes. Since Texas has no personal income tax, this opportunity primarily benefits businesses. Under the program, delinquent taxpayers can get right with the tax man (or, in our case, the tax woman) by paying what they owe during the amnesty period. By doing so, they won't face penalties or interest on the overdue amounts. State taxes administered by the Texas Comptroller, except... Read more →

Don't forget to file your taxes today!

Your June estimated tax payment, that is. Form 1040-ES, payment voucher 2, is due today. If you're still mailing the paper form, a postmark is OK. This blog item from a couple of days ago has more details. I just checked my bank account and Uncle Sam has already taken out our payment, so I'm calling it a day. My cousin Kathy is in town. Regular readers remember her and our grand adventure in the wilds of West Texas last September. Today we're going to do some Austin exploring -- the Texas State History Museum, the Blanton, probably a margarita... Read more →

Summer energy savers ... and expenditures

I hate summer. Actually, I guess the more accurate statement would be I hate hot temperatures, meaning a warm spell in the fall or winter also irritates me. Many of you are asking, why then did I return home to Texas, a state whose pride in excess seems to also extend to thermometers that regularly hit triple digits by July? It's a two-part answer. First, I missed home enough to deal with it. And secondly, our move was made possible by the best modern convenience ever: air conditioning. The best modern convenience, that is, until it goes out. Which is... Read more →

Happy Flag Day 2007

Today is my late brother's birthday. It's also Flag Day. I blogged about that connection on this day last year, so I won't rehash it now. But I couldn't let June 14 go unnoticed, either for Ben Allen or Old Glory. It seems that this year, sales of the Stars and Stripes are up a bit. The increased interest, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press, is due to citizens replacing worn flags, getting ready for the Fourth of July and showing support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sales hit record levels after the terrorist attacks of... Read more →

Hitting the highways

The price of gas nationally continues to hang in the $3 a gallon range. So what are drivers doing? Buying more SUVs for summer vacations. In a report last week on NPR's Morning Edition, the editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine explained the surprising numbers. According to Csaba Csere, today's most popular sport utility vehicles are a different animal. The best-selling SUV models, said the C&D editor, are the Honda CRV, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, all of which are smaller vehicles. Also, most SUV sales now are crossovers, based on car platforms, not trucks, so they get better gas... Read more →

Estimated tax time again

For those of us who must pay estimated taxes, it's that time again. The second payment is due June 15. As with your regular 1040, if you mail it, this filing of your 1040-ES just has to be "timely." That is, it doesn't have to be in the IRS account by Friday, just postmarked by then. Although the payments are referred to as quarterly, this second installment covers income you earned, but that didn't have payroll taxes collected from, in April and May. The estimated tax system obviously was devised by the same folks who came up with payroll taxes.... Read more →

Kids and cash coda

Interesting article on MSN Money about the earnings expectations of today's teenagers. According to columnist Liz Pulliam Weston, most youth are grossly misjudging how much money they'll one day make. Weston cites a "Teens and Money" survey that Charles Schwab released earlier this year. The poll of 1,000 Americans aged 13 to 18 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds found that 73 percent believed they would earn "plenty of money" when they were adults; specifically, the teenage boys expected to make an average $174,000 annually, while their female counterparts expected to earn $114,200. Reality calling today's youth: Fewer than 5... Read more →

The best laid plans

John Grisham, the lawyer-turned-novelist whose books have provided countless readers hours of diversion, not to mention a very comfortable lifestyle for the writer, initially wanted to be a tax lawyer. No joke. In today's New York Times, Grisham's admission to the University of Virginia senior class was part of a collection of recent commencement speeches. Recalling his own undergraduate graduation ceremony 30 years ago, Grisham said back then he was "pretty smug: I was graduating from college, I had been accepted to law school and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to study tax... Read more →

Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending June 8, 2007

There weren't any tax charges connected with Paris "I want my mommy" Hilton's return to L.A. County jail last week, but we start with something that blog and tax aficionados should find pretty cool. Former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was impressed by a blogger's critique of his sentence for tax evasion. So impressed, that Campbell called the blogging law professor and asked him to argue his appeal. Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and author of the blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, agreed. On Friday, June 8, he argued before Atlanta’s 11th... Read more →

To infinity and beyond!

Yesterday evening the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off from Cape Canaveral and is en route to the international space station. The photo below is one of the main reasons I've been enamored of the U.S. space program since I was a child. View of Earth, over the edge of the shuttle's payload bay, as captured by a video camera aboard Atlantis. Image courtesy of NASA TV. This most recent shot of our planet from space sort of reminds me of that great shot of Earthrise, photographed by Apollo 8 astronauts in December 1968. I had that as a poster in... Read more →

Presidential politics at odds with tax policy

If you're still considering who you will support in the upcoming 2008 presidential election, your decision won't be any easier if you're hoping to base it in part on the contenders' tax policies. Very few of them, Democrat or Republican, are talking taxes. "Candidates' Tax Plans Are a Mystery," observes New York Times columnist Floyd Norris in today's edition. For those who don't subscribe to the paper's TimesSelect service, Norris says any chance for real tax reform has already slipped by us, primarily because most of those seeking to take W's place in the Oval Office refuse to seriously discuss... Read more →

NBA tax subsidy: Fans vs. public policy

Some Arizona lawmakers want to waive the state's sales tax in order to get the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. According to the Sports Law Blog, the plan would exempt the state's 5.6 percent sales tax on tickets to pro basketball's annual showcase game, as well as to associated attractions. The blog cites an article in the Arizona Republic which reports the tax loss could be as much as $400,000, but that some believe the NBA won't select Phoenix without it since the city just held the game in 1995. While this is a one-off tax deal, the philosophy... Read more →

Free File Alliance fights back

Did you use the Free File Alliance this year to send in your 1040? Me neither. In fact, not too many of us took advantage of the public-private consortium that enabled taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less to electronically prepare and e-file their taxes for free. A recent Government Accountability Office examination of the 2007 tax-filing season found that the program continues to lose users. According to the GAO data collected through March 17, there were 5.2 percent fewer Free File users this year compared to that time frame in the prior filing season. That number might... Read more →

Kids and cash

Summer is vacation time for most folks, But it's also the time of year when kids, fresh out of the classroom, get jobs. Whether it's washing cars or mowing lawns or supersizing at the drive-thru, these youngsters will, for the next three months, have more money than they've had all year. That makes this the perfect time for parents to have a talk with their kids about money. For some families, though, that discussion is as uncomfortable as the one about the birds and bees. In fact, says Lori Mackey, creator of financial products for kids and the Prosperity4Kids Website,... Read more →

Tax Carnival #19: The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer taxes

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer. Ah, summer. It might be hazy where you are, and even during these traditional months of relaxation, things tend to get crazy. But you better not be lazy when it comes to taxes or it could cost you next filing season. So with that in mind we present for your early summer consideration our Summer 2007 edition of the 19th Carnival of... Read more →

Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending June 1, 2007

For this week's look at tax cheats, we're going with just two cases because this weekend has turned out to be just as overloaded as Monday through Friday was. But I think you'll find each instance ranks quite high in the "you've got to be kidding" category. First, we have another big accounting firm involved with bogus tax shelters, a la KPMG and Jenkens & Gilchrist. So what, you say? Here's what: Federal prosecutors say one of the illegal shelters devised by Ernst & Young employees used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the basis to cheat the government of... Read more →

Could it be ... Satan?!

On the heels of yet another IRS release detailing political activity no-nos of tax-exempt groups comes a test of those standards (21 in all, detailed in Rev. Rul. 2007-41). Seems that Florida televangelist Bill Keller on May 11 posted on his Web site a message telling his readers, in part: "If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for satan! This message today is not about Mitt Romney. Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. ... I have watched in horror over... Read more →

Saturday matinee: Waitress

Waitress is a nice little movie. A romantic comedy, but not really a chick flick. In fact, there's a bit of black humor throughout. A quick plot synopsis for those who haven't heard about the movie. Jenna, played by Keri Russell of TV's "Felicity" fame, is married to a lout (an archaic word, but it really describes Earl) and has been secretly squirreling away some of her Joe's Pie Diner pay so she'll one day have enough money to leave Earl. Since Jenna's the best pie maker in the region, her tips are probably pretty good. But before she can... Read more →

Carnival reminder

Sorry to be so late in getting the word out, but in case you forgot or missed the standing Carnival of Taxes section in the right column, #19 will be going up on Monday, June 4. If you have a tax item for inclusion, there's still time. I'll take submissions through 11 p.m. Central time tonight. Just click the above button. Thanks! Read more →

EFTPS = $#*%&!

I thought I was so cool back in April, paying our 2006 tax bill electronically. Getting with the cyberprogram. Saving the service charge connected with credit card payments. Then in yesterday's mail was a notice from the IRS telling the hubby and me that we were tax delinquents. Yep, Uncle Sam said we'd best pony up the amount due shown on our 1040, which he got on time, along with some extra dollars in penalties and interest. Of course I reacted as any taxpayer would. I was ticked off! I paid our tax bill on April 16, a whole day... Read more →