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April 2009

Owe state taxes? Check out amnesties

Attention delinquent Massachusetts taxpayers. You have just a few more hours to take advantage of your state's tax amnesty period. Since March 1, the Bay State has been giving its residents who haven't paid their state tax bills a chance to come clean and suffer minimal consequences That tax pass ends, however, at close of business today, April 30. This year's Massachusetts tax amnesty applies to individuals with 1) existing personal income tax liabilities, 2) existing personal use tax liabilities, or 3) existing cigarette excise liabilities (pertaining to purchases for individual consumption). Eligible taxpayers need to get a "Tax Amnesty... Read more →

My mother will be so happy. Not that she didn't believe me, her perfect daughter (her words, not mine; really!), when I told her back in February that she and her friends would be getting some extra spending money thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But, like her journalist daughter, my mom likes a little verification on important things like unexpected money from Uncle Sam. SSA on the job: That assurance came yesterday when Mary Glenn-Croft, deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, told a Congressional hearing that the new law's payments to retirees would be delivered in... Read more →

Ways to pay, or pay less of, your tax bill

One of the "what if" tax situations that I blogged about yesterday is what if you're having trouble paying your tax bill. You do have options. Popular ones include installment agreements or even negotiating a lower tax bill with the IRS. Those payment possibilities and more are included in a handy table compiled by Peter C. Pappas, a Florida-based tax attorney and certified public accountant. In addition to the usual remedies, Pappas also offers a quick look at such things as lien subordination and levy releases. And if push comes to shove, there's the always-popular "sue the IRS." Remember, too,... Read more →

Have some tax 'what ifs'? IRS has answers

Today's post is a bit late because, for the first time in months, I took a weekday off. The hubby and I played work hooky and headed to our local movie house to catch a flick, then enjoyed a late lunch. The film was Sin Nombre, a riveting look at what some people will do to have a chance at a better life. Whatever your stance on the immigration issue, see Sin Nombre. The movie isn't a policy polemic for either side of this difficult issue. Rather, It provides a vivid, and sometimes depressing and terrifying, view into why so... Read more →

Lightning is flashing and judging from the volume and how soon the subsequent thunder sounds, it's close. Too close. So I'm about to shut down the PC. No need for it and/or me to get fried! But since Central Texas has been in, variously over the last few hours, a thunderstorm watch, thunderstorm warning, tornado watch and now a flash flood warning, I wanted to take the opportunity to quickly offer a couple of disaster related tips. Insurance issues: Check your homeowner's insurance policy. Make sure it's up to date; that is, your home is property covered. This post from... Read more →

The Greatnexus has arrived

The number of personal finance blogs out there (here?) is astounding. And more seem to show up every day. So how do you keep track of all them? You don't have to. Pinyo is doing it for us at Not content simply to keep penning his Moolanomy Personal Finance blog (along with his many other online endeavors), Pinyo has launched this cool new online aggregator. There is, of course, a Greatnexus personal finance collection, where you'll find, so far, three pages of blogs and Web sites offering thoughts on money management, saving, earning and now, taxes. Yes, I'm very... Read more →

Switzerland is looking for a little quid pro quo when it comes to an international tax problem the country just can't seem to shake. The Wall Street Journal reports that Swiss officials have asked the U.S. government to drop a legal case involving UBS in return for passing a new tax treaty between the two countries,. UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, recently agreed to pay $780 million in penalties and restitution to avoid criminal prosecution in connection with the bank's accounts owned by around 50,000 wealthy Americans. While Uncle Sam definitely wants UBS' money, federal prosecutors are still trying to get... Read more →

Truth be told, it never left. As I noted in this blog item in connection with the NCAA basketball Big Dance earlier this month -- the second busiest gambling event each year in the United States -- the 2006 ban has done little to stifle online gambling. And now, according to a story in today's New York Times, there just may be A New Chance for Online Gambling in the U.S. The story notes, as I did in my blog post earlier this month, that U.S. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is working on legislation that would overturn the Unlawful Internet Gambling... Read more →

I'm a race fan. In fact, when I began writing this, I was watching the NASCAR Nationwide series race from Talladega. Earlier in the day, there was Sprint Cup qualifying from 'Dega. And before that, on DVR because 6 a.m. is just too darn early any day, but especially on a Saturday, the F1 boys fought for the pole in Bahrain. The hubby and I will watch that tape tonight as part of our exciting weekend. So, being a confirmed fast and furious addict, when Forbes magazine said it had found the 10 fastest fuel-efficient cars, I had to take... Read more →

Smokers are under additional fire in Colorado. First, they've been paying more for their smokes since the federal tobacco excise tax was hiked on April 1. Now, some Rocky Mountain State lawmakers want to repeal their state's 50-year-old sales tax exemption on cigarettes. True, Colorado does collect its own excise tax. But since the middle of this century, smokers haven't have to pay the state's sales tax for their packs. That levy currently is 2.9 percent. But that tax break might soon change. Democrats in the Colorado legislature are pushing to eliminate the state's sales tax exemption. Taxing purchases of... Read more →

Just over a week ago, most folks were frantically trying to get some paperwork to the IRS. Some of you, though, decided to heck with it. That's not really a good idea when it comes to taxes. Although as I noted in this Associated Press story, you might have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to the April 15 midnight deadline, that leeway isn't available the longer you go without filing. No, you can't ask for an extension now. The IRS will automatically deny any such request filed after midnight on April 15. But don't freak out. William... Read more →

Happy Earth Day! To encourage us to be more environmentally friendly not just on April 22, but on every other day of the year, Uncle Sam offers several tax breaks. Home As noted in my earlier post on Missouri's energy-efficient appliances sales tax holiday, you can claim a tax credit on the federal level for certain home improvements. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AKA the Obama stimulus) which became law on Feb. 17 offers taxpayers a credit of up to $1,500 for some energy-efficient home improvements. Under the federal credit, which can be claimed on 2009 returns filed next... Read more →

Having trouble understanding exactly how all those banks and brokerages and various financial entities that crashed last fall are connected? Check out this diagram: Yeah, that's clear as mud. To me, the shape of the diagram looks sort of like a brain. And after staring at it, I'm reminded of that anti-drug television ad illustrating your brain after taking banned substances. That probably says more about my gray matter than the diagram. I know it definitely explains why I don't work in high finance. According to NPR's Planet Money, which alerted me and other @planetmoney Twitter followers to this funky... Read more →

Another political music, and tax, battle

Chuck DeVore, a California state assemblyman representing Orange County, is trying to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. As part of the effort, his campaign created a YouTube video entitled "All She Wants to Do Is Tax" to highlight DeVore's complaints about Boxer's policy positions. As Eagles' fans have already surmised, Devore's staff set their political message to a hit song by one of the band's original members, "All She Wants to Do is Dance." And as campaign watchers who've seen songwriters take umbrage at the use of their compositions by candidates (for example, Heart's "Barracuda" played by McCain-Palin '08) have... Read more →

In the wake of the April tax return deadline and associated tax and deficit tea party protests, I thought you might find it interesting to see just where our tax dollars go. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP, took a look at 2008 expenditures and reports that during the last fiscal year, Uncle Sam spent $3 trillion, amounting to 21 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, or GDP. "While 2008 expenditures — as a share of GDP — slightly exceeded those of recent years, they roughly equaled the average for the last three decades," say CBPP... Read more →

Yesterday was Record Store Day. Yes, I know it's technically over, but I didn't get around to going through my e-mails and Twitter and catching the heads-up from @SheilaS until today. The event was created to celebrate the unique culture of independently owned record stores and the art of music. Although I missed the actual Record Store Day, the hubby and I did our part a week earlier (more on our musical retail excursion later). And the timing, not only of the event but also of my finally finding out about it, is fortuitous. As part of my communications catch-up... Read more →

A reader dropped me a note with her concerns about the new first-time homebuyer credit: I heard that under the $8,000 tax amendment for new home owners, upon sale of the property the government would own half the property (guaranteed 50% equity share). Will the government own 50% of my grandson's home upon its sale? Thank you. -- Dolores Dolores, you and your grandson can relax. Uncle Sam does not want half equity in his house or the tens of thousands of others where the buyers qualify for this new tax break. Credit clarifications: Before we go further, though, I... Read more →

Helio Castroneves, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Dancing With the Stars champ, will be back on the race track this weekend. A Miami federal jury acquitted him of six tax evasion charges this afternoon. Castroneves' sister, Katiucia, was cleared of the same charges. The siblings' lawyer, Alan Miller, also left the courthouse a free man. Jurors did, however, deadlock on the conspiracy charge against the brother and sister. There's a chance that federal prosecutors could push for another trial on that charge. But don't bet on it. Helio, Katiucia and Miller had been accused of using Panamanian and Dutch... Read more →

Helping folks save a few bucks while saving the planet is a goal of Missouri tax officials. The Show Me State kicks off 2009's sales tax holiday season Sunday, April 19, waiving tax collections on purchases of certain energy-efficient appliances. The holiday wraps up April 25. It's no coincidence that Earth Day, April 22, falls smack dab in the middle of Missouri's Show Me Green tax holiday. Retailers are hoping that the annual celebration of all things environmental, coupled with the exemption of sales taxes, will boost sales of energy-efficient appliances. Savings beyond the state levy: Buyers of the qualified... Read more →

Bruce Bartlett, Forbes columnist and former Treasury Department economist, has a bone to pick with all those tax tea party attendees (mentioned in this earlier post). Bartlett thinks this week's tax protests were "largely a partisan exercise designed to improve the fortunes of the Republican Party, not an expression of genuine concern about taxes or our nation's fiscal future." The reason for Bartlett's skepticism about protest motives? He's got a couple. First, he says, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a deficit of more than $1 trillion well before the Democratic majority took office. More to the tax point, Bartlett... Read more →