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April 2008

Obama and McCain release tax returns

The final two presidential candidates have made their 2007 tax returns public. With the release of John McCain's 2007 Form 1040 and additional schedules, as well as Barack and Michelle Obama's filing for last tax year, the baring of candidate tax souls is, for the most part, complete. We still have to wait for the actual return from Hillary and Bill; they got an extension. But you can see the basic numbers for the Clintons, as well as the returns of Dubya and Laura Bush and Dick and Lynne Cheney in my previous post on Presidential (and wannabe) tax returns.... Read more →

The out-of-control tax code

There's a standing joke on Capitol Hill that the official subtitle of every tax bill is "The Accountants Full Employment Act." The reason: Every tax legislative effort seems to add complexity, even those legitimately aimed at simplifying our tax tasks. And that results in added pages to the Internal Revenue Code. That code growth was mentioned on Tuesday (and blogged about here) by the supporters of the HR 5719, the Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Bill of 2008. I'm not sure where the 10,000 figure cited by the House Democratic leadership came from, but it looks to be about right, judging... Read more →

Taxpayer Bill of Rights approved ... again

Congress' annual political show of support for taxpayers continued yesterday. Every April 15, lawmakers look to highlight the concerns of John and Jane Public. It's not that I necessarily doubt their sincerity; I'm sure that some in Washington really do want to improve the system and process for us all when it comes to paying for our government's operations. But I just wish rather than using the tax-filing deadline as a publicity tool, legislators would work on tax issues year round and come up with some changes that actually get implemented. Take yesterday's latest version of a taxpayer bill of... Read more →

It's over! For most of us, anyway

Here in the Central Time Zone, as well as for fliers east of us, Tax Day has come and gone. But if you're like me and asked for an extension (see my reason for postponing here), our new deadline is Oct. 15. To help us keep track, I've replaced the April 15 countdown clock with one monitoring the October deadline over there in the right column. Just so you know, we now have 182 days to fill out our 1040s. Of course, we don't have to while away all of those extra days. As soon as we get our forms... Read more →

Happy Tax Deadline Day!

The tax countdown clock (there in the right-hand column) is going through its final clicks. How about you? What are you up to today? I'm spending this April 15: Pulling my hair out and furiously crunching numbers! Enjoying the day because I already filed. Filing for an extension. Spending the refund I already received. Missing the tax deadline with reckless abandon! If you're still working on your 1040, let me refer you to a couple of pieces I put together this tax season, both here on the ol' blog and for other publications: Common tax-filing mistakes Overlooked tax breaks Payment... Read more →

Retirement plan deadlines redux

Since I'm a sole proprietor, I have a SEP-IRA. Yeah, I know Keogh and solo 401(k) plans might offer more advantages, but when I opened it, the SEP-IRA was the way to go, based on both the timing considerations (near the filing deadline) and my contribution amount (pretty small, both from my income standpoint and how much of those paltry earnings I could afford to put into it). But the main thing about self-employment retirement plans is that they all can help whittle down a tax bill. That's true this year, since my writing jobs paid off a better than... Read more →

IRA filing deadline reminder

If you plan to make a 2007 contribution to your IRA, whether traditional or Roth, make sure the money is in the account by Tuesday. Because the IRS accepts an April 15 postmark as evidence of timely filing, the question comes up every year as to whether the same rule applies to retirement account contributions. The answer is "no." Your IRA contribution can be deposited into -- key word, deposited; not just en route to -- your IRA as late as the April 15 filing deadline and count toward the previous tax year. Meeting this deadline is especially important If... Read more →

Presidential (and wannabe) tax returns

The U.S. tax filing deadline makes no exceptions, even (or perhaps, especially) for those who use the tax code as a campaign issue. So far this filing season, the folks already occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the U.S. Naval Observatory grounds are the only ones that we know for sure have gotten their returns into the IRS. On Friday, the president and vice president released their 2007 tax filing information. Below are the very basics of the Bush and Cheney returns, along with data from the Democratic presidential candidates. Presidential & Candidate Individual Tax Returns Taxpayer AGI Tax owed %... Read more →

$1.2 billion available in unclaimed refunds

Did you file a return back in 2004? If not, you might want to put aside your 2007 taxes for a bit and get to work on the older 1040. You could end up with some added tax cash. Once again, reports the IRS, millions of taxpayers are in danger forever losing refunds simply because they didn't file a return to get the money back. In some cases, individuals had taxes withheld from their paychecks or made tax payments on self-employment earnings, but they had too little income to require filing a tax return that year. But filing is the... Read more →

The shared tax troubles of rich athletes and telecommuters

OK, I know it's hard to muster much sympathy for rich athletes. But I also know I'd like to have some of the money "troubles" they have. However, over at, columnist John Maginnes says I should be careful about what I wish for, especially at tax time. "Have you ever wondered if rich people hate taxes, too? I got to be almost rich for a year or two and hated them even more," writes Maginnes. The main problem is the jock tax, which I've blogged about before (here). Here's Maginnes' take on it: In short, a player has to... Read more →

Tax serenade for small business filers

If you're still putting off your tax filing, maybe you just need a little musical encouragement. Say, perhaps, the latest stylings of the Singing CPA. On his third CD release, New York CPA Steven Zelin provides listeners with financially themed parodies of popular tunes. My favorites from this collection include Tax Busters, Dear IRS and, being a big Mary Poppins fan as a child, A Charitable Contribution (Makes the Tax Bill Go Down). Don't let this and Zelin's other CDs fool you. He still takes his day job seriously. According to the blurb on CD Baby, he has been featured... Read more →

Avoiding common tax-filing mistakes

Today is a tax-season milestone. There's just one week left until your 1040 is due. Yep, you've put off filing for 14 weeks. While you've been enjoying all this time tax-free, a major problem with delaying filing until the last minute is that when you do finally get around to filling out the paperwork, you might be in such a hurry that you make a costly mistake. To help you avoid that, here are 10 common tax errors to be on the lookout for: Entering the wrong account in connection with direct deposit of your refund. Claiming the wrong hybrid... Read more →

Businesses seek Congressional help
to ease state tax burdens

Some the biggest companies in the United States say they're getting a raw tax deal. But this time, it's not the IRS they are complaining about. It's state tax departments. According to the In the Loop: On K Street column in today's Washington Post, American Express, Microsoft, General Electric, J.P. Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson and Disney are pressing Congress to limit states' ability to tax companies like themselves. These corporate giants, along with much smaller companies, are members of the Coalition to Protect Interstate Commerce. According to the Post, the organization "is blitzing lawmakers with letters and personal visits... Read more →

IRS could have prevented subprime mess

That headline is no swipe at the IRS. It's just a statement of fact. And an indictment of lenders who didn't take advantage of existing IRS data to verify that loan applicants were indeed good candidates for all those now defaulted upon mortgages. In "A Road Not Taken by Lenders" in today's New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson points out: So while borrowers may have misrepresented their incomes, either on their own or at the urging of their mortgage brokers, lenders had the tools to identify these fibs before making the loans. All they had to do was ask the I.R.S.... Read more →

Crazy Woman Driver takes a Sunday drive

UPDATE August 2011: This post will no longer be updated. Links to my racing columns, Crazy Woman Driver and Views From The Grandstands, are now on a separate blog page. Please check there for the my racing rants and raves. I'm begging your indulgence today to take a brief detour off the usual tax and financial matters highway. As long-time readers know, I'm a NASCAR fan, having blogged previously about some of Jeff Gordon's racing milestones (here and here). This weekend, NASCAR pulled into my home state, taking the track at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. That's a little... Read more →

Don't overlook these tax breaks

With just over a week to finish up our 2007 Form 1040s, all of us late-season filers are starting to get serious. Many are in good shape, despite the late date. They have all the data and documentation they need; it's just a matter of entering the info and sending it to the IRS. Others are a little less organized, but still plan to make the April 15 deadline. Regardless of which group you belong to, make sure you don't get in a hurry and miss out on a tax break or two. Here are 10 tax-saving moves that often... Read more →

H&R Block gets more social

While social media sites are dominated by individual users, an increasing number of businesses are adopting the applications. One of the companies making significant inroads as a way to reach and engage customers is H&R Block. Yep, the tax preparation giant, whose franchise shops are best known for filling out millions of 1040s nationwide and, in recent years, dealing with the backlash against refund anticipation loans, now has incorporated blogging, YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook and Second Life as ways to reach taxpayers. Heck, the company even Twitters. Spearheading the convergence of social media and taxes for Block is Paula W. Drum,... Read more →

Rebate spenders appear reticent

Last week, I wrote about the most tax procrastinating cities in the United States. Texas and California are prime do-then-later states, an approach that's generally not a wise one to take. Putting off filing means you likely will be a bit harried if you do try to finish your forms by April 15. And, as we've all found out at one time or another, haste does indeed often make waste. If you delay too long, you might even end up prolonging your tax headaches by getting an extension to file. Sure, that gives you more time to fill out the... Read more →

Money Hacks Carnival #6 is now up

Money Hacks Carnival #6, Famous Hackers Edition, is now available. Thanks to Bible Money Matters for hosting this edition. A few of my faves: Prime Time Money's look at state AG websites and toolkits to combat ID theft. 10 Tips On How To Negotiate posted at Wealth Building Lessons. The Digerati Life's 5 Different Ways To Build An Emergency Fund. 10 reasons to stick with the stock market posted at The Orange Paper. You'll find lots more in the 6th Money Hacks Carnival, including my piece on rebates and combat pay, so head on over and give 'em a read. Read more →

Nonitemizer property tax break proposed

The housing relief bill that the Senate is expected to vote on later today contains an interesting tidbit: property tax deduction for homeowners who don't itemize. The Foreclosure Prevention Bill of 2008 (S. 2636) would allow a $500 deduction for single taxpayers and a $1,000 deduction for joint filers. According to those who crafted the provision, that would enable more than 28 million nonitemizers who pay property taxes to get some tax break on those payments. The bill also would provide a $7,000 tax credit to new homeowners who purchase homes already in foreclosure or on which foreclosure has been... Read more →