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April 2008

Happy 75th Willie!

Today is the birthday of one of Texas' favorite sons, Willie Nelson. Not only is Willie a fantastic person -- everybody will tell you how nice he is and since we've been here in Austin, the hubby and I have personally seen some of his community works, such as benefit concerts he organized and staged -- he's a great musician. And, of course, there are his well-known tax troubles, which Willie weathered in his own inimitable fashion. Austin radio station KGSR is broadcasting a Willie Nelson 75th Birthday Bash as I type. I just heard Willie sing "Texas in My... Read more →

Podcasting on MyVenturePad

I've done a lot of radio spots and interviews over the years, but last week I recorded my first official podcast. Actually, I didn't have to do anything but talk; Robin Fray Carey, founder and chief operating officer of Social Media Today, interviewed me for the business site MyVenturePad. It was great fun. I got to yammer on about taxes. I enjoyed it, and the hubby was glad that for a while he got a break as someone else listened to me! You can read Robin's very kind introduction of me here, or you can cut right to the audio... Read more →

Cut gas tax? Clinton says yes; Obama, no

With the start of the vacation driving season a month away, Sen. Hillary Clinton has joined her potential presidential foe Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, in calling for a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline excise tax. However, Sen. Barack Obama, who is battling Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, disagrees. Obama says temporarily halting collection of the 18.4 cents per gallon wouldn't provide much relief to drivers and would do nothing to reduce oil consumption and imports. Environmentalists and many independent energy analysts support the Obama stance, but the New York Times reports that Clinton took... Read more →

Small business IRS survey and tax tips

The IRS Small Business/Self-Employed division will conduct its annual telephone survey in May and June. Potential participants will receive a letter from SB/SE Commissioner Kathy Petronchak inviting their participation. If you do decide to take part in the poll, Pacific Market Research (PMR), the contractor used by the IRS, will call you. Responses are confidential, says the IRS, and there will not be any questions about your personal or financial information. The IRS no doubt is hoping that potential survey participants are aware of the agency's recently launched campaign to help small businesses learn about and comply with tax laws.... Read more →

Rebates to U.S. territories approved

American taxpayers outside the official 50 states and Washington, D.C., got good news today. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson approved the stimulus distribution plan and payment amounts for residents of American Samoa, and payments amounts to residents of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 required the Treasury Secretary to approve distribution plans for "non-mirror code" territories (Puerto Rico and American Samoa), and payment amounts to territories with "mirror codes" (Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). For American Samoa and Puerto... Read more →

Retailers explore ways to get your rebate

Rebates start arriving today (revised delivery schedule here), and retailers are making a concerted effort to get you to spend your tax cash. The latest lure: Several retailers will give taxpayers extra spending money if they'll put their full rebate amount on a store gift card. The typical percentage add-on is 10 percent of the rebate amount. Pat Conroy of the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche told USAToday that linking the rebates to gift cards is a smart tactic because shoppers typically spend more than the value of a gift card when they use one. "The trick will be to... Read more →

California tax collectors also interested in Al Franken

Golden State tax officials are on a roll this week when it comes to unpaid back taxes by celebrities. Comedian-turned-politician Al Franken has been making a serious run at the U.S. Senate. He's just about to get the endorsement of the DFL, Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, to challenge Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. Now, however, Franken's road to Washington could contain a major political pothole. On Friday, Republicans said they have discovered a possible irregularity from Franken's entertainment days, specifically some unpaid California taxes. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Franken's campaign manager Andy Barr declined to say whether Franken had... Read more →

Britney's latest trouble: California taxes

In addition to marital, child custody, career, financial and public relations problems, Britney Spears now can add tax troubles to her list of woes. According to the cable television celebrity channel E!, one of Brit's brand-name companies owes the state of California more than $23,000 in taxes. And celebrity, even in star-crazy California, doesn't confer special tax status. If she doesn’t fork over the dough, she’ll end up owing more via interest and fees. A California Franchise Tax Board document obtained by E! News cites Britney Online Inc., one of the troubled pop star's many name-brand companies, as delinquent in... Read more →

Tax issues surrounding Ortiz/Yankees curse jersey

Even non-baseball fans know the story. Gino Castignoli, a Red Sox fan and construction worker from the Bronx, dropped a David Ortiz Red Sox jersey in wet concrete during the building of the new Yankees Stadium. Castignoli's hope was that the hidden apparel would curse the new ballpark and its home team. Well, Castignoli just couldn't keep his mouth shut (dang it!) and when Yankees management heard about the amateur voodoo effort, the #34 jersey was chipped from the concrete. I know this comes as a big surprise, but some folks connected with the Yankees actually have a decent streak.... Read more →

Snipes tax fine follow up

As mentioned in my post (here) on Wesley Snipes' prison sentence for tax evasion, here's the promised follow up on the monetary penalty portion. Reuters reported that the judge did not fine Snipes, but the IRS still could levy penalties and interest charges in addition to the taxes owed. Meanwhile, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, during yesterday's sentencing hearing, the actor's lawyers offered prosecutors checks worth $5 million to pay part of his debt to the government. Prosecutors called the courtroom check presentation a grandstanding move, with prosecutors saying the money was just "a fraction of what he owes." The... Read more →

Rebate checks to arrive sooner

Dubya took off his blinders today and actually admitted that "It's obvious our economy is in a slowdown." Then, simultaneously patting himself on the back, he announced that delivery of the economic stimulus rebate checks has been accelerated by a week. The IRS hasn't yet updated its official Web page showing the new rebate delivery schedule, which is still based on the last two digits of a taxpayer's Social Security number. But I've adjusted the ones previously posted here on the ol' blog. First we have the new timetable for folks who included bank account information their 2007 returns so... Read more →

Tennessee's spring tax holiday underway

Many die-hard Tennessee shoppers are already at their local malls this morning, as the Volunteer State's special spring sales tax holiday began today. The sales-tax price cuts on selected items began at 12:01 a.m. today, April 25, and ends Sunday, April 27, at 11:59 p.m. During this time, Tennesseans won't have to pay the an extra 9.25% levy, which is the combination of the 7% state and 2.25% local sales taxes, on certain items. This one-time no-tax weekend is a companion to the state's regular shopping (or should we way, spending) event that is held the first weekend of each... Read more →

Snipes get maximum jail time

Wesley Snipes latest role will be as a federal prisoner. According to news reports from the Florida courtroom, the actor was sentenced to the maximum three-year prison term for his conviction earlier this year on three misdemeanor counts of tax evasion. Snipes' attorneys had argued for no jail time and offered dozens of letters from family members, friends and even fellow actors Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson attesting to Snipes' good character. The judge obviously was not swayed. No word yet on any fine tagged onto the jail time. Updates will follow as that information becomes available. Read more →

Denzel, Harrelson urge leniency for fellow actor Snipes' tax crimes

Actor Wesley Snipes, convicted of three misdemeanor counts of of tax evasion back in February (blogged here), is to be sentenced today. Federal prosecutors have gone on record in seeking the maximum punishment for the actor: up to three years in prison and a fine of $5 million. Snipes attorneys, meanwhile, have submitted a 70-page sentencing memo (courtesy of TaxProf) to the court arguing for clemency, because, in part, the actor, most well-known for his "Blade" vampire films, "is contrite, promises that he will never again break the law, and respectfully asks the Court to consider not just the jury... Read more →

Tax Freedom Day sing-along

Get ready to par-tay! Today is Tax Freedom Day. April 23 is, according to The Tax Foundation, the day in 2008 on which Americans have earned enough money to pay all their federal, state and local taxes for the year. So after today, we can finally start keeping all our paychecks. If only! Unfortunately, Tax Freedom Day is for illustrative purposes only. It doesn't mean that we actually can quit handing over a portion of our pay to Uncle Sam and his state cousins. But the annual announcement of Tax Freedom Day is a catchy way to show our general... Read more →

Earth Day tax celebration

I've done my part for Earth Day. I did as little as possible, thereby consuming as little energy as I could, for the first 12 hours of this annual day of attention to environmental issues. Too bad there's not a tax break for laziness! But there are scads of other energy and environmental tax benefits. Here's a quick roundup, as well a look at the many ways energy, the environment and taxes are connected. Automotive: How fitting that Earth Day this year falls in the week when, for the first time in U.S. driving history, the nationwide average price of... Read more →

End-of-Earth Day movies

I've been working today on, well, work and putting together a blog item for tomorrow about Earth Day and taxes. Yes, there are connections. But a friend and fellow financial journalist/blogger, Dan Ray at, momentarily distracted me from my nobler cause. He knows I'm a movie nut so he tipped me off to a great feature on End-of-the-Earth Day movies over at Yahoo. The site, tongue firmly in cheek, notes, "Earth Day is a time to consider the actions you can take to protect the planet. But you shouldn't forget just what it is you're protecting it from." To... Read more →

Personal Finance Carnival #149

Thanks to The Happy Rock for hosting the latest Carnival of Personal Finance. This week's edition is #149 and true to the history of the Carnival, it contains a wealth of interesting and useful financial bloggings. Here are some that caught my eye: The Personal Financier offers advice on How to Make Saving More Rewarding and Tangible. Squawkfox unintentionally exposes her handbag and shares with us 10 things you should never carry in a purse or wallet. Smart Money Daily kicks off a home-selling series with a look at the pros and cons of FSBOs, aka "For Sale By Owner"... Read more →

Election effects on investments

You might have made up your mind about which presidential candidate you'll vote for this fall, but have you decided yet what to do about your investments in light of the coming election? Every time we pick a president, lots of attention is paid to what the financial markets might do depending on which party moves into the White House. Well, quit worrying. Historical data shows us that the bond between election results and the stock market's performance is, at best, a minor connection. I got to thinking about this issue after receiving an investment newsletter (along with a statement... Read more →

Direct to IRS e-filing fight continues

Most of us are decompressing from the filing season that just wrapped up on April 15, but already there's talk on Capitol Hill about changing the system. Charging that the IRS is imposing an additional tax on filers by outsourcing e-filing operations, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.; pictured at left) introduced legislation on April 15 to eliminate e-filing fees. S. 2861 would amend the Internal Revenue Code to "prohibit the imposition of a separate fee for electronic filing of returns and statements for individuals." Violators would face a $50 penalty for each illegal e-filing fee. Currently, the only official way... Read more →