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March 2009

This March 17th certainly is lucky for me because just five days ago I posted 13 often-overlooked deductions. That means adding just four more will give me -- and you! -- 17 not-to-miss tax breaks! The first 13 are: Property tax standard deduction Many medical costs Atypical charitable donations Reinvested dividends Moving expenses Job hunting Home office costs Military reserve travel Child care costs State income taxes Retirement savings Jury pay Refinancing points And now, St. Patrick's Day saving of the tax green continues: 14. Combine business and pleasure travel If you're self-employed and travel for business, consider tacking a... Read more →


Attention AIG: Enough is enough

That's the message from President Obama, who has instructed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to "pursue every legal avenue" to block $165 million in bonuses that the bailed out insurer plans to pay executives who were in part responsible for the company's near collapse. The attempt by the Administration to rein in AIG comes after the avalanche of outrage from lawmakers and the general public (waving hand wildly!) over the company's latest brazen example of fiscal excess. Public anger was further fueled by AIG's revelations of the names of dozens of big banks it has paid off with the bailout money.... Read more →


If you find my headline offensive, I apologize. But it accurately reflects just how offensive I find the latest actions of AIG. The insurance giant is totally shameless. Since we, the taxpayers, bailed out AIG last year -- without, I must add, being specifically asked whether we wanted to do so -- our stake in the company has risen to $170 billion. And what has the firm done with our generosity? Used our money and abused our trust. Now we learn that AIG is giving $450 million in bonuses to employees. Even more infuriating, these aren't just any employees. They... Read more →


It looks like Switzerland is joining the rest of the world when it comes to tax evasion. Switzerland, unlike the United States and many other countries, differentiates between tax fraud and tax evasion. While fraud is illegal, evasion isn't a crime. That's produced some problems of late.Those secretive Swiss have seen the financial services giant UBS come under global criticism for its secret accounts opened by individuals solely for the alleged purpose of evading their own countries' taxes. On the U.S. front, the Swiss company is facing lawsuits from both U.S. tax investigators wanting open books and American clients arguing... Read more →


Happy Friday the 13th all you brave souls throwing superstitions to the wind! Since it's also about a month until our tax returns are due, I thought it a good time to take advantage of the date and turn its bad luck reputation on its head by offering a look at 13 ways to change your tax luck. You might be able to do just that if you can make use of these 13 often ignored tax breaks. 1. Property tax standard deduction This is new for the 2008 tax year, so technically it's not had the chance to be... Read more →


I know it's not exactly news that President Obama signed the $410 billion omnibus budget measure into law yesterday. But I did want to mention it, in part because I wanted to use this cool drawing by Free Pig Art. As I noted in my earlier post about the budget bill's now unnecessary provision to end private tax debt collection, the IRS got a bit more money in this package. IRS allocations: The Treasury Department gets $12.7 billion for fiscal 2009, with $11.5 billion of that going to its bread-and-butter agency, the IRS. That's a $428 million increase over the... Read more →


It is every taxpayer's nightmare. Your refund never arrives. When that happens to a paper check, you can file Form 3911 the old-fashioned mailed-in way and the IRS will reissue your missing money. But when the transaction is totally electronic, you're essentially out of luck. Just ask Harry Rios of Des Moines, Iowa. His $2,969 tax refund check apparently was sent to someone else's bank account. (Hat tip to The Consumerist.) Rios told the Des Moines Register that a tax preparer with H & R Block copied his bank account number incorrectly on his tax forms. Now Rios is trapped... Read more →


Folks are fixated on Barack Obama's hair. Is the stress of being in charge of the United States, especially in this horrid economy, turning the young president's hair gray? Probably not. The link between gray hair and psychological stress is little more than folk wisdom, unsupported by numerous scientific studies, according to a story in today's New York Times. The real reason Obama is seeing more salt peppering his locks is, says the article, the same reason the hubby and I are counting a few more gray hairs each day: We're all getting older. Your family's gene pool also plays... Read more →


I've admitted it many times: I am not that technically inclined. That's why I use Typepad. It has a support system that's been pretty darn helpful as I've learned about blogging on the fly over the years. Well today, the support staff helped me discover where in the heck my TrackBacks had gone. I always enjoy checking this nifty linking system that lets me see which of my fellow bloggers find what I have to say somewhat useful. But about a month ago, I noticed that my TrackBack feature wasn't showing any new ones. Naturally, I was dismayed at this... Read more →


It's not unusual to simultaneously think of taxes and an alcoholic beverage. No, no, no, no, no! I am NOT advocating you fill out your 1040 while under the influence. But I heartily support the sentiment that personal finance blogger Mrs. Micah espoused on Twitter: "chips and salsa is a perfect reward for taxes or beer." My Texas tax geek heart was filled to the brim with joy at the thought of folks celebrating the completion of their annual filing chores by enjoying a Tex-Mex snack and a cold one. But there's another connection between booze and taxes -- the... Read more →


Every year as I work on our tax return, the hubby offers words of encouragement. Well, it's not exactly encouragement; more like an insistent plea. And it's really just one word, repeated several times: Deduct! I long ago gave up my automatic response of explaining why credits are better that deductions. He knows by now that deductions only reduces your potential tax bill incrementally, based on your tax bracket vs. the dollar-for-dollar cut of your IRS bill that comes from credits. Sorry. Just had to sneak that in. But there's just something about the deduction process that is so appealing.... Read more →


Another book review and a list, too

Another tax blogger, Jim Maule who authors MauledAgain, has done me the honor of reading and reviewing my book, The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes. I certainly appreciate the assessment of my book by Maule, who is a professor at Villanova University School of Law. And I got a particular kick out of two of Prof. Maule's observations: "The truth is that this book is not a tax protester tome, as the title might suggest." and "It's a small book, and because it doesn't focus on taxes other than income taxes or jurisdictions other than the United States, one must... Read more →


I was certainly hopeful when California finally hammered out a budget last month. But apparently there's a big chasm between enactment of a budget and its practical implementation. For Californians awaiting their state tax refunds, that means the checks are still not in the mail. "Even though the budget is enacted, the state must now determine if there is sufficient cash to pay outstanding debts, including tax refunds," says the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) Web site. "Until then, refunds will continue to be delayed." Uh oh. IOU: Even worse, officials say if the state’s cash flow problems do not... Read more →


The controversial private tax debt collection program ends today. But its demise didn't come from Capitol Hill lawmakers, many of whom have, since the program's inception, opposed the outsourcing of some unpaid tax bills to private debt collection agencies. Not that they weren't still trying. The most recent effort was via the comprehensive federal funding bill now awaiting approval and which includes a provision to end the program. Rather the decision came from the IRS. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman announced yesterday afternoon that he would not renew collection agency contracts. The collection work had been conducted by CBE Group Inc.... Read more →


Not too long ago I talked about the possibility that you might need to coordinate your state withholding in light of the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka Obama's first stimulus package. Well, the effects of the new Making Work Pay credit continue to give us a lot to ponder in this area, even before it starts be doled out in April via reduced paycheck payroll taxes. In addition to the state withholding issues, folks who aren't eligible for the full $400 paycheck payout will face some tax considerations. Below is a quick look at such taxpayers. Dependents... Read more →


$1.3 billion due 2005 nonfilers

That 2005 in the headline is not the number of taxpayers missing out on refunds. It's the tax year that they didn't file. And three tax seasons ago -- remember that in 2006 most of us were sending in our 2005 tax forms -- more than a million folks didn't bother to fill out a 1040. Their loss. Literally. The IRS says that these nonfilers are due a portion of $1.3 billion that's just been sitting in a Treasury account awaiting its rightful owners. But unless those folks send in their old returns soon, Uncle Sam will get to hang... Read more →


Yet another Cabinet tax evader

OK. This isn't funny any more. Heck, it's not even surprising any more. Ron Kirk, former Dallas mayor and nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama Administration, has -- are you sitting down? -- an unpaid tax issue. I'm about as "Shocked, shocked I say!" as Inspector Renault when he discovered gambling was going on at Rick's Cafe Americain in Casablanca. Kirk, following in the footsteps of too many previous Obama Cabinet appointees, apparently failed to pay almost $10,000 in taxes during the past three years because of a series of mistakes. According to the Senate Finance Committee,... Read more →


On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico and became a republic. Even though we're now one of 50 U.S. states, this is the date Texans still celebrate. It's a holiday for state workers. In fact, if it weren't for the issuance of the commemorative quarter a few years ago, I suspect many of us Texans wouldn't know exactly when we became the 28th state, although I'm sure that move was part of the state history classes all Texas school children must take. FYI, it was Dec. 29, 1845. Tweed Scott, a fellow author and Texan by choice... Read more →


The Ballad of Bernie Madoff

I love that this Ballad of Bernie Madoff video uses as its template one of the TV commercials about checking your credit reports. Speaking of credit reports, it's a great idea to check your information each year. Even if you don't fall for a scam or a Ponzi scheme like Madoff perpetrated, someone still might get their unscrupulous hands on your personal data. It happened to me and trust me, identity theft is not fun to straighten out. However, instead of the site mentioned in the TV commercial used as the basis for the Madoff tune, I recommend you use... Read more →


NASCAR's 2009 season is underway and like many of the sport's drivers, I'm now doing double duty. A year ago this month, I started writing a racing column for a monthly trucking magazine, Owner Operator. Just before this anniversary arrived, my editor at the digest in which Crazy Woman Driver debuted called to tell me he was moving to another magazine within the Randall-Reilly publishing company. In conjunction with that move, he had convinced the editor of the company's flagship trucking mag, Truckers News, to start running my column in that larger-format, glossy monthly. While I was glad for his... Read more →