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September 2008

Ike victims get Texas tax relief, too

Residents of and businesses located in 88 Texas counties that were declared disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Ike are eligible for certain state tax relief as they recover from the storm's devastation. Since Texas has no individual income tax, most of the relief for residents comes via exemptions from state and local sales taxes. Businesses are afforded similar sales tax relief, as well as some other specific tax considerations. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs noted that owners of businesses damaged by Hurricane Ike may postpone paying state taxes, if necessary, while they clean up wind and flood damage. They... Read more →

Energy bills: House passes its version, Senate revamps its proposal

The House did OK an energy bill Tuesday, but the prospect for final passage of the measure is still up in the air. The complications: The Senate has its own energy bill, which could be derailed by a filibuster. However, to help push the energy package through, Senate Finance Committee leaders have added the extension of other, expired non-energy tax breaks and a one-year AMT patch, blogged about here, as well as disaster relief, to the mix. Details in this press release. Congress plans to hang around D.C. for just two more weeks before breaking for the election. A lame-duck... Read more →

Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2008

With energy issues getting a lot of attention, both because of this year's spike in gasoline prices and the presidential campaign, Congress is renewing pre-election efforts to address the issues. The House Ways and Means Committee, still under the guidance of Rep. Charles Rangel, has released its latest version of energy tax legislation. The Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2008 will provide approximately $18 billion of tax incentives for investment in such things as renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation. As per House pay-go rules, these costs will be offset by repealing tax subsidies for the "Big 5" oil companies... Read more →

More Rangel wrangling and W&M ghosts

In an effort to keep his job as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel has vowed to turn his finances over to a forensic accountant for deciphering. The Daily News reports that the New York Democrat has "just discovered inaccuracies on both his federal tax returns and congressional financial disclosure forms potentially going back decades." To straighten the mess out, Rangel plans to hire a forensic accounting expert to "conduct a thorough, independent review of all these statements going back 20 years as well as all of my U.S., state and local tax returns... Read more →

Ike extends estimated tax deadline

As mentioned last week, the IRS routinely offers tax relief to taxpayers affected by natural disasters. That's now the case for folks who are struggling to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. The IRS has granted an extension of seven days to file corporate returns and third-quarter estimated taxes that are due today, Sept, 15. Taxpayers impacted by the storm now have until midnight Sept. 22 to meet their filing obligations without incurring penalties. Given the devastation of the upper Texas Gulf Coast, a further postponement is likely. We'll let you know when we hear. When affected taxpayers are... Read more →

A look at Obama, McCain tax plans,
and Joe Biden's tax returns

Eventually, the presidential campaign will get back to issues (I hope!) instead of personalities. That means that taxes and the candidates' fiscal policy positions will get more attention. Here's a head start from the Tax Policy Center, the joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The Center has updated its analysis of Barack Obama's and John McCain's tax plans. Some quick highlights: Although both candidates have at times stressed fiscal responsibility, their specific non-health tax proposals would reduce tax revenues by an estimated $4.2 trillion (McCain) and $2.9 trillion (Obama) over the next 10 years. The two candidates'... Read more →

1040-ES mailing info for 2008 filings

UPDATE, Jan. 10, 2009: This data is for 2008 Form 2040-ES filings only. You can use the addresses below to send in your final 2008 payment (voucher #4) that is due Jan. 15, 2009. However, do not use them to mail 2009 estimated tax payments, the first of which is due April 15, 2009. Check your 2009 Form 1040-ES packet for current mailing addresses. 1040-ES filers, do you know where to send your estimated tax payment? Mary in Connecticut asked and her inquiry raises a good point about these extra tax filings. Your 1040-ES payments do not go to the... Read more →

0% energy improvement loans

Weather is the lead story right now with Hurricane Ike barreling into the Texas coast, but soon more mundane climatological concerns will be upon us all. Yes, winter is on its way. For those of us in Central Texas, where we've had an inordinate number of days this year where thermometers hit 100 degrees or higher, cooler weather can't get here soon enough. Then we'll all be whining about how cold it is! Special loans for energy improvements: To get ready for winter, or replace an HVAC system that was literally used to death during the summer, our local electric... Read more →

Filing deadlines: 9/15 and 10/15

I've argued before that time is an artificial construct, a vain attempt by humans to control the inevitable. Yeah, right. That's the IRS response to my esoteric theory. Time is very real to the tax collector. Uncle Sam is a clock and calendar watcher, and two dates loom large for taxpayers. Estimated taxes due 9/15: Monday, Sept. 15 is deadline day for estimated tax payment voucher #3. This 1040-ES filing covers income that you earned in June, July and August, but from which no federal income taxes were withheld. This includes investment income you received during this period, either through... Read more →

Tax shelters stay under the gun

Congress is still trying to rake in all the money -- an estimated $100 billion a year -- that it's sure the Treasury is being cheated out of via abusive tax shelters. The initial focus was on American taxpayers who are getting away with improperly sheltering income. You can read my blog item on that July hearing here. Now Capitol Hill wants to make sure that nonresidents don't dodge their U.S. tax responsibilities. "Foreigners who invest in the United States already enjoy a minimal tax burden. For example, non-U.S. persons who deposit money with a U.S. bank or securities firm... Read more →

Hurricane tax reminders

Just another quick note about natural disasters and your taxes. The IRS maintains this page, Tax Relief in Disaster Situations, adding updated information throughout the year as all types of catastrophes, not just hurricanes, hit. But don't forget about your state taxes, too. That's not an issue here in Texas for individual filers, but in most other states, revenue collectors also might make tax exceptions for their residents in times of horribly exceptional weather. Satellite image of Hurricane Ike en route to Texas. Courtesy of National Hurricane Center. In Mississippi, for example, the State Tax Commission has just announced that... Read more →

Rangel admits tax error,
vows to pay taxes, keep chairmanship

Rep.Charles Rangel, head of the House tax-writing committee, admitted today that he owes about $5,000 in federal taxes. The unpaid amount came from the New York Democrat's failure to report income from a beach property on his tax returns, blogged about here. When state taxes also are factored in, Rangel's tax bill will be around $10,000, according to one of the Congressman's attorneys. Rangel also asked the House Ethics Committee to look into his tax oversight, but said he sees no reason to give up his seat as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. "I sincerely regret and... Read more →

Freddie, Fannie, taxes and you

Even if your mortgage isn't directly connected to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- or you're not a homeowner at all -- you've probably been wondering and worrying about just what the latest rescue bail-out federal intervention will mean to you. talked with some financial experts who give federal officials good marks for "devising a plan that gives first priority to taxpayers and minimizes their potential cost." Thomas Stanton, attorney, author of two books on Fannie and Freddie and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, told that when it comes to who gets paid first and who gets... Read more →

Tax extenders, AMT patch
welcome Congress back

Congress clocks back in this afternoon, but it's unclear when they'll finally get around to extending several popular tax breaks that expired on Dec. 31, 2007. If they don't act soon, we'll have repeat of the confusion that surrounded 2006 returns. Those paper forms didn't include the state sales tax deduction or the above-the-line deductions for tuition and fees and educator classroom supplies. The reason? Congress took so long to reauthorize the tax breaks. The IRS had to come up with work-arounds, detailed in this blog item, for paper filers. Folks who use tax preparation software had it a bit... Read more →

Happy Grandparents Day!

Today is National Grandparents Day, but I'm sure you already knew that and have done something nice for your grandma and grandpa. I grew up in the same town as my mother's parents, so I got to spend a lot of time with Mam-ma and Granddad. But, being a silly kid, I didn't take full advantage of that proximity. The world changed dramatically during my grandparents' lives, literally from horse and buggy to space travel, not to mention cultural and social advancements. I could kick myself for wasting all that time, seeing my grandparents almost every day, and not getting... Read more →

Sunday race break: F1 is fun!

Hey fellow U.S. racing fans, F1 is fun! I make the case for watching these magnificent machines maneuver road courses literally around the world in my latest Crazy Woman Driver column. Don't get me wrong. I haven't abandoned NASCAR. It's still my first racing love. But I do have room in my heart for a little F1 romance. And it's a relationship worth nurturing even though we Americans have to deal with time differences, TV access issues and new terminology (over steer and under steer vs. loose and tight). Here are a couple of reasons to watch F1: The drivers:... Read more →

What's a little white lie among politicians?

"A political convention is a license if not to lie then at least to tell the truth creatively." That's the assessment of New York Times reporters Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker, who have put together a reality check feature that looks at some of the claims made during the just concluded Democratic and Republican conventions. They start with this statement: "I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them." Click here to find out who said it and how it's not quite right. The cool feature looks at the rhetoric and the reality... Read more →

What are you giving up to save money?

With necessities such as food and gas taking bigger bites out of your budget, are you forgoing some little luxuries that previously you never worried about? There is, of course, the cliche half-caf soy latte, but you could be buying store brands (aka private label) cereals or simply not going out, either for a meal or a movie. Marketplace, the American Public Media program that airs on NPR stations nationwide, found one Minneapolis business owner who is betting (hoping) consumers won't let the sinking economy beat their love of chocolate. You can listen to the story, or read the transcript.... Read more →

Property problems for Charles Rangel

Real estate tax troubles cross all political party lines. This time it's the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the panel which is charged with originating all tax legislation. Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) apparently didn't report $75,000 in rental income from a villa he has owned in the Dominican Republic since 1988. The oversight was on both his federal and state tax returns, according to a story in today's New York Times. The tax nonpayment issues obviously are the big issue. But the news could not have come at a worse political time for Rangel's party. Just a... Read more →

Democrats, Republicans and taxes

The conventions are winding down and then the real fun begins. Word is that in accepting his party's nomination tonight, some folks are encouraging John McCain to talk about taxes. That should get the prime-time ratings right up there with Barack Obama's spotlight night last week! Honestly, though, taxes are an issue the next president and Congress must deal with. In the first term of our 44th president, many of Dubya's tax cuts are scheduled to sunset. It's going to be fun watching that "perfect tax storm" deadline of Dec. 31, 2010, approach, especially since Congress so often waits until... Read more →