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October 2008
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December 2008

November 2008

Many folks make the most of the season of giving to direct some of their gifts to the less fortunate. Such goodwill provides the donor a twofer: the joy of sharing and a potential tax deduction. That's quite fine by Uncle Sam, as long as you follow his contribution rules. And he's not kidding about those guidelines. Ignore or violate them, and you'll lose your tax break. This is the second tax year in which the IRS' requirement that donated clothing or household items be in good or better shape. I know none of you use charitable drop-off boxes as... Read more →

We all know about the financial troubles facing the big three American car makers. Today we get news that many of Chrysler's salaried workers accepted pre-Thanksgiving buyouts. That move could had a bearing on whether, or just how much, the rest of us taxpayers will eventually pick up if we ultimately add payments to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to our ever-growing bailout bill. And while all that corporate tax money drama plays out, we learn that Detroit is ground zero for other tax-related troubles. The Detroit News' Tax Watchdog blog says a couple of the city's former professional athletes... Read more →

One of the biggest shopping days of the year is almost over and once again, I wasn't part of the madness. That's just one of the ways I defy female stereotypes. In addition to hating shopping, I find dressing up a major pain. I haven't worn heels in a decade and on most days nary a drop of makeup touches my face. Then there's my love of almost all sports, choosing watching on TV or attending those events over most other activities any day of the year. And, of course, the clincher is my decidedly tiny maternal instinct. I've often... Read more →

I'm not a shopper. And I hate getting up early. So you won't find me anywhere near a mall, department store or discount outlet tomorrow, at daybreak or later. However, I realize I'm in the minority. And there will be lots of you out there braving the deal-seeking crowds. To help you out, Mint has put together a nifty Black Friday Survival Guide. It has tips on timing your assault on the stores, alternative shopping options and what to do if you're like me and not shopping today Get all the details here. And If you're hitting the stores, be... Read more →

Happy Turkey Day to All! I'm a sucker for holiday traditions. So Thanksgiving is the start of the best part of the year for me. And as soon as we finish off today's leftovers this weekend, we'll put up the Christmas tree. Thanksgiving 2008 is right on track. The hubby has made his traditional pumpkin pie. As soon as I post this, I'll mix up Mam-ma's Dressing, using the recipe that my grandmother gave me the year I moved into my first apartment. Then midafternoon, I'll pop the turkey breast for two into the oven. Since it's just the hubby... Read more →

Even in the toughest of times, some corporate ideals remain firmly entrenched. Like, for example, spending company money to put the firm's name on a sports stadium. Not only is there the built-in advertising, both print and every time an announcer mentions the place, but company bigwigs get a choice suite in which to entertain clients and ignore the feats on the field. (That Miller High Life commercial in "Section La-di-dah" got it so right.) But sometimes things go horribly wrong, for the companies and teams, corporate employees and fans. Remember the Astros used to play in Enron Field. Neither... Read more →

The federal bailout of financial institutions, or Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as it's officially known, reminds me of refrigerator stew. You know the recipe. You take every still-edible leftover, toss them in the biggest pot you've got, add water and then throw in some seasonings. Adjust the heat as necessary and cook until it tastes good or you're just too hungry to wait any longer to eat. When it comes to the bailout stew, Chief U.S. cook Hank Paulson, whose other job is Secretary of the Treasury, keeps adding new ingredients every day. And he turns the stove top... Read more →

Holiday Edition of sales tax holidays

This week is the official start of the year-end holiday season.And that typically includes spending time looking for the perfect gift. The day after Thanksgivings usually is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, earning the name Black Friday because many retailers depend on that one day of sales to help change their business ledger entries from red-ink losses to black-ink accounting of profits. And two jurisdictions are doing their holiday part to help the tradition along. Washington, D.C.: On Monday, The District of Columbia kicked off its annual Christmas shopping sales tax holiday. Between Nov. 24 and... Read more →

The hubby and I got back home last night from a three-day weekend trip to find our economic stimulus payment had arrived. The mail bonus capped off three great days in the the Dallas area where we took a break from work, ate good food, saw a cool King Tut exhibit and cheered the Cowboys to a win! Our IRS money's arrival is one advantage to filing in October instead of April: The rebate check arrived just in time for holiday shopping! But if you filed earlier than the hubby and I and still haven't received either your expected refund... Read more →

One of the best things about being back home in Texas is the food. And it's the myriad peppers that make Tex-Mex and other dishes so darn delicious. Many of the peppers are grown here in the Lone Star State. But we also get our fair share from Mexico farmers and our U.S. neighbor to the west, New Mexico. It seems, however, that there's trouble for pepper growers in the Land of Enchantment. A combination of factors is causing all sorts of trouble for New Mexico's chile farmers and they're now asking the state government for some help. The New... Read more →

Everybody has some things they'd like to say to the IRS, but a few groups get the chance to do so officially. There's the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC), the Information Reporting Program Advisory Committee (IRPAC) and the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). All three groups are composed of volunteers and have specific goals. IRSAC provides a forum for IRS officials and the public to discuss tax administration issues. IRPAC's primary purpose is to provide a public forum for discussion among the IRS and the information reporting community to discuss, you guessed it, information reporting issues. This covers, for example,... Read more →

Fewer cars on the road apparently isn't necessarily a good thing. In fact, reduced driving is likely to mean our roads and bridges will deteriorate more quickly. Isn't that a bit counterintuitive? I mean, the fewer cars on the road, the less pounding the asphalt takes, right? And that means it's a smoother ride for those fewer vehicles hitting the highways. But that's not how it works in the real, and tax, worlds. High fuel costs lead to less driving. That means fewer fill-ups. Which means fewer fuel excise tax dollars collected. And that means a smaller balance in the... Read more →

"As Americans attempt to perform cost-benefit analyses of their needs and behaviors, they are whittling pennies from cable bills only to squander dollars on gas driving miles to discount stores, or on coupon-spurred splurges for nonessential items, like Cheez Whiz or organizing supplies. Pinched by shriveled retirement and college accounts, battered by ballooning mortgage costs, rent and co-op maintenance increases, and hedging against the possibility that a job might vanish, some are practicing economies that may not deserve the name." The comments above are from Failing Home Economics, an article in today's New York Times. In it, reporter Penelope Green... Read more →

You don't run across many tax-related doppelgangers, but I definitely think this is one. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and actor John Francis Daley are my candidates for the popular separated-at-birth comparison. Or at the very least, as I noted on Twitter on Wednesday, "waiting for Bones. is it just me or does actor who plays Sweets look like IRS commissioner Doug Shulman's only slightly younger brother?" Take a look. Shulman, there to the right, became the 47th head of Internal Revenue on March 24, 2008. He's in charge a tax administration with a budget of $11 billion, collects around $2.4... Read more →

The man who helped popularize the "starve the beast" philosophy toward government has decided to try to work from within, at least temporarily. Essentially, adherents to this fiscal-political strategy say that by reducing the amount of money coming into the government, that is, by dramatically cutting taxes to effectively create budget deficits, the "beast" of federal government will be forced to shrink via program cuts. Of course, that leads to the battle over just which programs and services to put on this tax starvation diet. Most who support this approach tend to target federal social programs, such as Social Security,... Read more →

Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, has given his colleagues across the aisle something the ponder. Rangel, often characterized by the GOP as overly liberal and anti-business, says he wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. What's up with the political world? First Barack Obama gets elected after being tagged a Socialist by his opponent. Then the Democrats add to their majorities in the House and Senate. Now Charlie Rangel is business' best friend? Yep, it's a strange new world in Washington, D.C. Business tax shift: In an interview with... Read more →

What do you think of when you hear talk of a sailing club? Rich guys on elegantly appointed three-masters? Cocktail parties on the high seas, or at least in the protected harbor? That's what comes to my mind, but then before coming home to Texas we lived in the Palm Beaches area (yes, the convention and visitors bureau uses the plural) and we'd take every opportunity to head to the shoreline and gawk at the enormous yachts and sailing vessels. Before that we were frequent visitors to Annapolis, Md., which had its fair share of very nice watercraft for poking... Read more →

AIG's latest 'in your face' bailout move

Insurance giant AIG, fresh off getting another round of federal taxpayer money, says it plans to pay out $503 million in deferred compensation to some of its top employees. The company says it needs to use the bailout funds to keep valuable workers from exiting the troubled insurance giant, according to the Washington Post. Uh, are they really that valuable if the company found itself needing gazillions of dollars from Uncle Sam? And just who would want to "steal" the folks who help put a company in such straits? Meanwhile, reports the paper, members of Congress are questioning the company's... Read more →

Are you ready for some football tax planning? As soon as the presidential election results were finalized, some Major League Baseball players and agents starting making tax plans. Their concern (blogged here) is that their MLB incomes will be taxed at higher rates soon after Barack Obama is sworn in on Jan. 20. Now the owners of an NFL team are following the Boys of Summer tax lead. Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney has been trying for months to put together a deal to buy out his four brothers' stakes in the team. That effort kicked into high gear when... Read more →

Rocking around Austin, Texas,
Live Music Capital of the World

The continuing record of our musical exploration of Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is now being kept at a separate blog page. Please go there for the most current information on the performances we've most recently enjoyed. Back in 2005, when the hubby and I were deciding where in Texas we would settle, the music of the Lone Star State was a major consideration. Music has always been a big part of our lives, both well before we knew each other and especially since we've been a couple. When we were young and living in Lubbock, we... Read more →