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August 2007

July 2007

IRS among feds investigating GOP Senator

Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, is under investigation by the FBI, IRS and Interior Department in connection with a political corruption case. Federal lawmen on Monday raided the 83-year-old Alaskan's personal home in the ski resort area of Girdwood. Of apparent interest to officials who served the search warrant are Steven's ties to an Alaska energy services company, Veco. That company's chief executive has pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme involving state lawmakers. The Washington Post has published a time line of the Steven's investigation. Last year, Stevens gained recognition beyond Alaska's borders when he succeeded... Read more →

Attention tax-free shoppers

Classrooms across the country will reopen their doors in a few weeks. That noise you hear is not cheering parents. OK, it is. But that other noise is 15 states (14 officially; Massachusetts is still working on its holiday, but it is expected to be finalized this week.) and the District of Columbia dusting off their sales tax-free holiday materials. Almost all of these shopping tax sops are advertised as ways for parents to save on back-to-school supplies they must buy for the kiddies. The first one of the season starts Thursday, Aug. 2, in Georgia, followed by most others... Read more →

Carnival of Personal Finance #111

This week's Carnival of Personal Finance has an international flavor, or I should say flavour, with Plonkee Monkey hosting from England. Since it's Glastonbury Festival time across the pond, Plonkee arranged this 111th edition to honour the "undisputed king of British music festivals." I’m pleased to report that my $1.63 property tax bill horror story post is a part of the Festival's TiPi Village. For the rest of the entertainment, monetary as well as musical, give the Carnival a visit. Read more →

Tax TAP-ping in Chicago

This post comes to you from the Chicago Hilton on lovely South Michigan Avenue. I arrived a couple of hours ago to help fly the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) flag at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum going on here this week. I attended a Tax Forum several years ago in Orlando and found it very useful. Hundreds of tax practioners go to these annual events held across the country to get the latest scoop on tax law, compliance and tax-related products. In additon to seminars, attendees can browse the exhibit area's booths where representatives from the IRS, business, finance and... Read more →

Housing slump solved!

Word is that it could be 2009 before the housing market rebounds. That assessment by Countrywide Financial's CEO Angelo Mozilo might or might not pan out. But the National Association of Realtors thinks it knows why sales of existing homes continue to fall right now. It's the media's fault. "Home buyers have been getting mixed signals about the housing market, which is causing some of them to hesitate," said NAR Senior Economist Lawrence Yun. At least he also acknowledged that rising mortgage rates and tougher lending standards aren't helping his industry either. But if the danged press would just quit... Read more →

U.S. tax revolution a la the French?

I know I've been a bit Francocentric of late, what with the French tax collector's brain issues and the less-thought approach by the country's new president. And, of course, there was the Tour de France mention earlier today. But s'il vous plaît excusez-moi for one more French-tinged tax post. In "The Hedge Fund Class and the French Revolution" in today's New York Times, Ben Stein questions why we are sitting still for tax laws that "allow for favorable tax treatment for hedge funds if you have good enough lawyers," as well as "for private-equity managers to receive capital-gains treatment for... Read more →

Sports break

Congratulations, Cal! Baltimore's favorite son, Cal Ripken, Jr., entered his well-deserved place in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame today, along with former San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn. Both men were great ball players and, by all accounts, are great people, giving as much back now to their communities as they gave to the game when they played. Gwynn is coach of the baseball team at his alma mater, San Diego State University. And Cal has Ripken Baseball, providing opportunities and training the Orioles' Way (hard work and commitment to fundamentals, all with a classy attitude) to amateurs and... Read more →

Dough D'ohs!

Since Homer is now saving Springfield and the rest of the world on America's movie screens, it seems a perfect time to look to the Simpson pater familias for some financial advice. Don't worry. We know Homer. In keeping with his lamentable but lovable tendency to screw things up, our list is actually a collection of bad money moves. Or, as we like to call them, dough d'ohs you don't want to do. So here d'ohs, uh, goes: Living beyond your means: Too many folks spend everything they make and then some. That obviously means you'll end up in debt,... Read more →

Enhanced IRA tax break for some home buyers

One of the nice tax breaks for folks looking to buy their first home is the ability to use IRA money for the purchase without paying a penalty for early withdrawal. Usually, when you take an early retirement account distribution (that is, withdraw money before you turn 59½), you have to pay a 10 percent penalty along with the tax due on the withdrawn funds. But if you use the cash to help buy your first home, although you still have to pay the taxes on the withdrawal, you don't face the penalty. It's not an ideal way to come... Read more →

Summer drive and tax credit time winding down

There's just over a month left of summer and summer vacation driving. And gasoline prices are holding, across most of the United States, around $3 a gallon. I just love this map. Right click on your county -- Yeah, I know; they're kind of small. I needed my reading glasses to find Travis County -- and you'll find the day's average price there. Anyway, if you just got back from a long road trip and are facing the incoming gasoline charge card bills, you might be thinking about trading your vehicle for a more fuel efficient one. Some of... Read more →

10 sort of hidden taxes

Forbes online magazine has an interesting story on what it's calling hidden taxes. The article's premise is that these are government levies that aren't readily recognizable by the average consumer. A nifty slide show of 10 hidden taxes also is part of the package. Although the article takes more swipes at Uncle Sam than local tax collectors, they come at us from all jurisdictions, state -- and county and municipal -- as well as federal. And while the magazine insists these are hidden taxes, given the growing attention to taxes in recent years -- I and my fellow tax bloggers... Read more →

Tax battle brewing at Kansas-Missouri border

When Missouri when Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill earlier this month that included an income tax break for Missourians who receive Social Security, many Show-Me State residents were showing big smiles in support of the law. But it's definitely a different facial expression across the river in Kansas. Folks in the Sunflower State have discovered that their neighbor's new law contains a provision that increases the tax bills of Kansans who work in Missouri by eliminating a deduction for real estate taxes paid outside the state. According to an article in the Kansas City Star on the interstate tax... Read more →

$1.63 tax bill horror story

Back when our property tax and homeowners' insurance payments were part of our monthly mortgage payment, every year near the due dates I would call the county tax office and insurance company to make sure our mortgage holder had indeed sent the money. The hubby always thought I was a bit obsessive, but I just needed to know. Plus, if the tax bill was paid soon after the statement was sent instead of at the end of the payment period, we got a bit of a discount. Even now that we make these payments ourselves instead of escrowing the money... Read more →

No brain? No problem for tax official

Many have questioned the mental capabilities (among other things) of tax collectors. Now a French revenue officer proves that you don't actually need a brain, or at least not a big one, to work in a tax office. Spiegel Online reports that a French civil servant is living a completely normal life, including doing his job as a tax officer, despite having a huge cavity filled with fluid in his head. According to the German publication, "Neurologists at the University of Marseille described the incredible case in the latest edition of the medical journal Lancet published Friday. They describe how... Read more →

Lower taxes for less thought

The new French leadership suggests the country quit thinking so much and instead work more. To reward less thoughtful activities, the government is proposing lower taxes, especially on the wealthy. That approach, according to an article in today's New York Times, is not going over so well with many in "the country that produced the Enlightenment, Descartes’s one-liner, 'I think, therefore I am,' and the solemn pontifications of Jean-Paul Sartre and other celebrity philosophers." But such protests aren't swaying President Nicolas Sarkozy (whose driving force, says the paper, is doing rather than musing) or his administration. Last week French Finance... Read more →

11 cents of Internet

I did a double take upon opening our latest cable bill. No, despite the satellite providers' ad campaigns, it wasn't because of the amount was so high. It was because the bill was a bit less. A whole 11 cents smaller. Our monthly cable bill is really for more than the TV reception. Like a lot of people, we get a package deal that includes our Internet connection. And since we signed up, the monthly bill has been the same amount. The only variation has been when the hubby and I splurge and get a video on demand movie, like... Read more →

Someone at the IRS likes us!

No, I'm not already celebrating 5 o'clock somewhere. And no, they don't like us just for our tax payments. The IRS has an official position dedicated to looking out for taxpayers and helping us solve problems we encounter with the agency. It's the Taxpayer Advocate Office. The job is essentially what the name says: The Taxpayer Advocate is the person who takes the taxpayers' side in revenue collection matters. The efforts range from one-on-one help in resolving tax issues with the IRS to keeping an eye on tax laws and their implementation that are especially troublesome to the wider taxpaying... Read more →

An automotive tax tale
of two cities

Remember those huge speeding tickets that the state of Virginia started issuing to its drivers on July 1? If not, you can read about them in this previous blog post. Well, as expected, the plan hasn't gone over too well and lawmakers in Virginia are hearing -- a lot -- about it. The New York Times reports today that down in Richmond, the first of our two car-connected cities, Virginia lawmakers have been inundated by calls and e-mails from angry constituents. An upset electorate is not unusual. But with all 140 members of the Old Dominion's legislature up for re-election... Read more →

House to IRS: Do your job!

The House Ways and Means Committee has thrown the latest punch in the continuing battle over IRS use of private tax debt collectors. It's a solid hit, but far from a knock-out blow. Ways and Means, the Congressional panel responsible for originating federal tax legislation, has approved HR. 3056, The Tax Collection Responsibility Act of 2007. In keeping with its name, Representatives, at least a majority on the tax-writing panel, are demanding that the IRS resume full responsibility for bringing in federal tax money. The bill cuts right to the chase. From the Committee's description of the measure: "The proposal... Read more →

Topping the corporate tax rolls

I'm tied up much of today on some special (paying) projects, so as much as I'd like to ramble on here on the ol' blog, I'm going to rely on a couple of my fellow tax-loving colleagues, at least for right now, for the latest tax news and notes. Kelly, aka TaxGirl, has done some digging to come up with a comparison of America's top 10 corporations and how that list (compiled by Fortune magazine and published on stacks up against the most-taxed U.S. companies. And Paul Caron, aka TaxProf, has taken Kelly's groundwork to the graphical level, presenting... Read more →