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August 2007

White House supports foreclosure tax break

As the focus intensifies on residential foreclosures -- past, pending and impending -- the White House has decided to add its two cents to the discussion. Today the Administration released a fact sheet outlining what is sees as remedies to help homeowners who are in over their heads. Among the options cited is a change in tax law so that canceled residential mortgage debt is not taxable. The White House document specifically mentions two bills -- H.R. 1876 and S. 1394 -- that I blogged about last week. Read more →

Money tips for college freshmen

If schools in your area haven't started again, they probably will open their doors soon after Labor Day. In my neighborhood, the local weekly newspaper is full of photos of parents and children heading off to class. The kids are, for the most part, joyous. The parents, especially of the youngest students, look a bit apprehensive. Meanwhile, Austin's main newspaper, the American-Statesman, is focusing on the influx of 50,000-plus University of Texas students. Well, it's actually focusing on the upcoming Longhorns' football season, but the classroom component of the university also gets a nod. The college kids don't tug at... Read more →

Leona loved that dog

That Leona Helmsley. She's going out with just as much critical attention as she garnered in life as the Queen of Mean. Her death earlier this month was blogged here. Now Helmsley's will has been made public. And we learn that the hotel mogul left $12 million to her dog, a white Maltese named Trouble. Wisely, the bequest is in a trust, to be overseen by Helmsley's brother, so the pup can't spend all that cash at once. And it's not like the dog didn't deserve something. In addition to providing companionship, Trouble also appeared in ads for the Helmsley... Read more →

Tax trouble ahead for youth sports leagues?

Congratulations to the young boys of summer from Warner Robins, Ga., who won this year's Little League World Series championship. Those kids sure knew how to make it exciting, with a walk-off home run. And yes, my congratulatory post would have been on the blog immediately after Sunday's game instead of four days later if the Little Leaguers from Lubbock had been the champs. But they still deserve applause for taking third in the tournament. I love football -- Texas, you know. Babies wrapped in Dallas Cowboys blankets as soon as they are born and all that. -- but I... Read more →

Tax help for fire's aftermath

It seems like the whole world is burning. I typed "wildfire" into Google and was stunned. I fully expected to see something about the tragedy in Greece and the Idaho situation here in the U.S. But I had no idea that a stubborn blaze in Southern California has burned more than 375 square miles since July 4. Or that forests in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are ablaze. And a portion of Crimea might be evacuated because of wildfires. In Montana, the governor has called a special legislative session for next week so that lawmakers can come up with more firefighting money.... Read more →

Tell the IRS what you think of it

The agency probably already knows, but you still can tell it just how much you love or hate it. You can do so directly. Or you can filter your comments through the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (my personal recommendation, since I'm a member of TAP). But don't, however tempting it might be, take part in a "survey opportunity" that shows up in your e-mail box. This is just the latest phishing attempt by an identity thief to get your personal and financial data. The IRS says it has been hearing from folks who've received an e-mail purporting to come from the... Read more →

McMansion mortgage deduction under fire

The mortgage interest deduction is about as untouchable as it gets when it comes to tax policy. One Congressman, however, wants to eliminate the tax break for folks who literally live large. According to real estate columnist Ken Harney, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), will introduce comprehensive climate-change legislation when Congress reconvenes next month. Part of Dingell's proposal, in the lawmaker's own words: "remove the mortgage interest deduction on McMansions -- homes over 3,000 square feet." Them's fighting words in Texas where big is everything. If Dingell's proposal became law, our whole Austin neighborhood would be deductionless. Yes, the hubby... Read more →

Fake $100s used to pay
lap dancer

I know the hubby reads the blog because he just sent me this story after seeing my post on the upcoming $100 bill redesign: A Smryna, Tenn., man has pleaded guilty to making counterfeit $100 bills and using them to buy lap dances at a Nashville strip club Details in this Associated Press story. I'm sure it was the currency amount and not the type of expenditure that caught the hubby's eye as he was browsing weekend headlines. Read more →

Hey, big spenders,
new $100 bill on the way

The only time I see a $100 bill is when my mother visits. No, she's not filthy rich. She just seems to empty out her bank account every time she comes to see the hubby and me. The reason: the woman wants to pay for everything when she's in town. That penchant is in itself enough for a whole other blog item, or dedicated blog itself, on money and family. But I mention it today because when my mother arrives bearing cash, it's usually in large denominations. She says it's because it makes her bundle of bills smaller. I say... Read more →

We'll always have Paris ...
I mean taxes!

I love movies. I try to see a new one every week. But sometimes, only a classic film will do. My all-time favorite movie is Casablanca. Best. Movie. Ever. Yeah it's hokey and with the great love lost then found theme, it treads dangerously close to standard, predictable melodrama. But thanks to the vacillating screenwriters (or so goes the story) who wisely opted for the only logical ending -- great love sacrificed for the greater good -- and Bogie's eternal coolness, the film not only turned out perfectly, but holds up pretty well 65 years later. So, since I'm also... Read more →

Foreclosure's costly tax implications

I just wrote a story on foreclosures and taxes for Bankrate (you can read it here, picked up by the Seattle Times). It's an issue that's getting a lot of coverage of late, and deservedly so. In doing the story, I talked to a lot of folks, lenders and tax experts, read IRS publications, struggled through worksheet calculations and even dug out our own current mortgage documents to double check what our loan committed us to. It soon became clear how so many folks find themselves in trouble, like some of my neighbors. Even under the best circumstances, buying a... Read more →

Montanans to get property tax refunds

Montana homeowners can now get back $400 of the property taxes they paid last year. The refund was approved during a special legislative session earlier this year. And today, Montana's Department of Revenue will mail around 270,000 application forms to residential property owners. If you don't get a form, don't panic. You still might be eligible and will be able to download an application starting Monday, Aug. 27. That is also the day revenue officials will begin processing the refund requests. And although the initial notice is going out by snail mail, the state is encouraging Montanans to electronically ask... Read more →

L&O D.A.'s tax stance worries some conservatives

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the Citizens for Tax Justice analysis of the tax positions of the various candidates for president. The tax thoughts of Fred Dalton Thompson, known by a large segment of the country as fictional New York District Attorney Arthur Branch on the original Law & Order program, were not among them. The reason: Thompson is not yet an official candidate. But he will be. Count on it. In the meantime, folks are trying to get a sense of where he stands on the issues, including taxes. Some folks, aka conservatives who thought they could... Read more →

Always low taxes. Always.

That could be the new advertising campaign for Wal*Mart this coming tax season. The Associated Press reports that tax-filing giant H&R Block has signed a kiosk license agreement with the world's largest retailer to provide tax preparation services in certain Wal*Mart locations. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Wednesday, H&R Block said the deal with the discount store leader expires on May 30, 2009. Either party, however, may terminate the agreement between April 16 and May 1 of each year. If not terminated, the agreement will automatically renew for one year after the initial term ends.... Read more →

Congrats to Texas Techsan
Will Bigham

Back in June, I learned that fellow Texas Tech grad Will Bigham was a contestant on the Fox show On the Lot (and blogged about it here). On Tuesday night, Will won. In addition to getting to getting a wider audience for his short films (available for online viewing), Will got a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks Pictures. Sure, that probably wouldn't even cover craft services on a Hollywood megafilm. But that cool million will definitely put Will, who before his big break was a film editor, into a whole new tax bracket. The top tax bracket. I sure... Read more →

IRS calling for more phone tax filers

Uncle Sam is still trying to give away money. Specifically, the IRS has put out a call to taxpayers who haven't yet claimed the telephone excise tax refund. It's a one-time, money back offer that could get taxpayers, depending on their filing status, from $30 to $60. Most phone customers, including most cell-phone users, qualify for the refund. So far this year, the only filing season the tax refund will be available, 92.1 million taxpayers have requested the phone tax cash. That, according to the IRS, represents 71.6 percent of all individual tax return filers and accounts for a total... Read more →

Two-wheeled tax break

I live in bike-mad Austin. You can thank or blame local resident Lance Armstrong for the fixation. So the 1999 ABC News report (video below) that taxalicious found on a Toronto bicycle messenger's tax victory caught my eye. The biker's tax argument: His food was fuel for his bike and as such, he should be able to deduct the cost of said fuel. TaxProf did a little more digging (many thanks!) and found, among other related items, two follow-up videos (here and here) on Wayne Scott's 18-year battle with Revenue Canada, the Great White North's equivalent to the IRS, to... Read more →

'Only the little people pay taxes'

Leona Helmsley, the woman who gave us one of the most memorable tax quotes ever, died today. The hotel magnate who will forever be known as the "Queen of Mean" was 87. She passed away at her summer home in Greenwich, Conn. The full quote : "We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." It was overhead by a maid and subsequently recounted in testimony during Helmsley's 1989 trial for tax evasion, for which she was convicted and eventually served 18 months in prison. Helmsley denied saying it, but she was never able to disassociate herself from the... Read more →

Muncie man pays tax bill in coins, dollar bills

One of the biggest drawbacks of owning a home is paying the property taxes. Sure you get to deduct them on your federal 1040 (if you itemize). But you have to come up with them in the first place. States and counties, which are the usual tax assessing and collecting jurisdictions, are continually grappling with this issue. Here in Texas, we're still working through changes to our system that took years to be enacted. And as home values appreciated over the last few years, property taxes have become an even hotter tax topic. One Muncie, Ind., man is so mad... Read more →