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December 2007

November 2007

Revisiting benefits open season

Since I didn't put one of my own posts in today's Carnival of Taxes: Return to Tax Standard Time, consider this my contribution to edition #24. Gerri Willis, personal finance columnist for, today talks about four ways to wisely navigate your company's benefit enrollment season. They are: Take advantage of flexible spending. Know your options. Review your insurance. Coordinate your coverage. To read what Willis says about each, click here. Me, too! I also would like to recommend my post of Oct. 24, Making the most of open season. In it I talk about flexible spending accounts (FSAs), too.... Read more →

Thinking about a friend

A friend -- to protect her privacy I'll refer to her as J -- is recovering from a severe spinal injury. I've known J for years, but only long-distance; in my previous life as an editor, she was one of my writers. We've never met in person, but used to talk on a weekly basis and got to know each other well enough to exchange some personal stories now and then. We stayed in touch after our professional connection ended. I mention this because it's difficult enough to know how to relate to a person to whom you're very close... Read more →

Praying, or not,
for financial help

Oh lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches. I must make amends. If you've already got a German luxury car, then you're probably not going to be joining Janis Joplin in seeking divine help for material possessions or anything else. That's one of the findings of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. The survey found a strong correlation between a country's religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer countries. Except in the United States. Other notable deviations from... Read more →

Wildfire tax phishing

Tragedies bring out the worst in some folks. There's the looting after natural disasters. And there's the slightly more subtle attempts to loot the bank accounts of those who want to help folks who've been through a terrible experience. So it's no surprise that a new e-mail scam has popped up in connection with the recent Southern California wildfires. The IRS says the phishing attempt poses as a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to the fire victims. As if often the case, the latest scam mixes in a touch of truth. The bogus donation... Read more →

Sand dollars

The U.S. was spared the worst of Hurricane Noel, but the system did inflict a lot of damage on East Coast beaches. First those in South Florida got whacked for days as Noel sat over Cuba and then the Bahamas. Now that he's finally moved, some of the high surf he'll produce could cause problems for North and South Carolina and New England shorelines. And that means problems for beachfront property owners. A story in today's New York Times examines beaches and erosion solutions, all of which are shrinking. According to the article: "Over the last decade or more, federal... Read more →

'Trust us on AMT,' Congress says

Around 23 million taxpayers are hoping that Congress will indeed get some sort of alternative minimum tax relief passed in time to prevent them from facing a bigger bill on their 2007 returns. And the IRS is just hoping that it's done quickly enough to get the paperwork updated. Uncle Sam still has nightmares about last year's late (Dec. 20) enactment of multiple tax provisions. That threw the filing process into chaos, especially for the millions of taxpayers who filed the old fashioned way, because the paper forms had gone to press many weeks before the tax laws were OK'ed.... Read more →

Iowa pumpkin tax squashed

I'm still on a sugar high from munching on last night's excess candy -- honest, we don't overbuy on purpose! It just seems to happen! -- so I'm continuing with the Halloween theme for a bit longer. Plus, this is just too silly of a tax not to talk about. First, the bad news. This Halloween, the Iowa Department of Revenue decided that pumpkins were getting an unfair tax break. Now the good news. The pumpkin tax is on hold. Cooking up a silly tax: According to an article by John A. Swain in Tax Analysts magazine, the Iowa Department... Read more →