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April 2009

Obama's tax plans, tax returns

In addition to being the tax-filing deadline, April 15 has become the day for political posturing. This year, faux tea parties were de riguer, with participants twisting the original "no taxation without representation" battle cry into a more simple "no taxation, period" cry. To be fair, tea bag demonstrators also had other complaints, such as government spending, federal bailouts and the budget deficit. But taxes were the main theme. And the tax attack on Wednesday also came from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At a White House event touting the tax savings included in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act... Read more →

Still time for some state taxpayers to file

The federal filing deadline is over for most of us. Some state income tax filers, however, have a few more days before those returns are due. I apologize for not reminding folks yesterday to also take care of their state income tax returns. But living here in Texas, where we don't have a personal income tax, it always slips my mind. And even before we got back home to the Lone Star State, the hubby and I spent a few years in Florida, another state without an income tax. So we're out of state filing practice. However, most Americans have... Read more →

If you've put off filing your tax return until today, you might live in San Francisco. Or Houston, New York, Chicago or San Diego. Those were the five U.S. cities with the most residents who last year put off their annual tax chores. Or at least who put off e-filing their returns using TurboTax. For the last eight years, the tax preparation software company has tallied the number of last-minute returns it gets through its online filing option. Last April, the Golden Gate City had the most procrastinators. That's four slots higher than it ranked the previous year. Here's the... Read more →

A tax pep talk from Donald Duck

Tired of messing with your taxes? Maybe this patriotic appeal from Donald Duck will make you feel a bit better about filling out all those forms and writing a check to Uncle Sam. In the video below, Donald helps promote the message that it's not just our duty, but our privilege to help our government by paying our taxes promptly. Of course, when Walt Disney produced this animated short for Uncle Sam, it was 1942 and the government needed more money to fight World War II. So the catch phrase "Paying Your Taxes to Beat the Axis" was born. And... Read more →

Happy April 15! Well, for some folks, it's a happy day. They've filed their returns. Heck, a lot of you probably have already spent or banked your tax refund. But millions of taxpayers wake up every April 15 with some filing decisions to make. Here's a handy to-do list for you folks. File your 1040 If you've done most of your 1040 work already, just get this over with today. If you're still looking for tips and tax breaks, check out these earlier posts: Last-minute filing tips ... again, How I spent my tax season and Tax advice from TV... Read more →

A third item needs to be added Benjamin Franklin's famous truism about life's inevitabilities. In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes and tax scams. Tax scams have become one of America's growth industries, especially now that most of us spend so much time online. And the fear and confusion that accompany taxes make the filing season a perfect time for con artists to ply their scummy trade. Even after the April 15 deadline, cons continue to use taxes a hook for their schemes. So whether you long ago filed your return, plan to do... Read more →

The story isn't quite as exciting as the "how I spent my summer vacation" reports we used to give on the first day of school, but it might be of some use to folks still working on their returns. Much of my time was spent producing a Daily Tax Tip for Bankrate. If you're still looking a tax break or the answer to a filing issue that's got you stumped, you might find it in the collection of 70 tax tips. Tip #71 goes up tomorrow. I'll give y'all a preview: It's on payment options. You also can check out... Read more →

Last-minute filing tips ... again

Earlier this week, I posted an item with an almost identical headline, Some final filing tips and warnings. Today, just when folks are finding they need the information the most, I learn that some of the links in the piece are dead. Not that I'm trying to pass the buck, but many of them went to a Web site for which I write and which has just completed a major design overhaul. In that process, some links are now bad. I've found the new, live links and restored them in the earlier post. But so you don't have to even... Read more →

A couple of days ago, I mentioned my fleeting feeling of wealth each tax season. That rich feeling comes from adding up the various amounts I collected the previous year from an interesting collection of clients. Invariably, there's a job or two I forgot about. I know I should do a better job of tracking my income, especially since it's a part of how the hubby and I pay our bills. Then there are the tax reasons for know how much I make. I'm not just talking about the big, file your 1040 on April 15 reason. Added tax work:... Read more →

Can you believe tax-filing season is almost over? What's that saying? Time flies when you're having fun. OK, so maybe filing taxes isn't everyone's (anyone's) definition of fun … except for a few of us die-hard tax geeks. But I do hope that you've had a few smiles amid the tax info on the ol' blog these last few months. Our regular Tax Carnivals are a big part of our infotainment program. And today's edition is the final one for the 2009 filing season: Tax Carnival #52: Time's almost up! Since this is being posted a bit later than I... Read more →

No, that's not just me celebrating the completion of my 2008 return three days early. It's the Tax Foundation's annual calculation of when individuals have earned enough to cover their federal, state and local tax obligations. According to the D.C.-based nonpartisan tax research group, this is the earliest Tax Freedom Day in 42 years. More recent comparisons show this year's red-letter day is eight days earlier than in 2008 and a full two weeks earlier than in 2007. So how is Tax Freedom Day calculated? An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation's total income.... Read more →

Whenever I do our tax return, I feel rich. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn't last. My "we're rich!" feeling quickly turns to "where did all our money go?" Then I remember the property tax payments, along with a little bit we socked away, despite the market's downturn, in investments. We took a couple of short, but very fun, vacations last year that ate up some of it. And, of course, the cost of just making it through each day 365 times a year took quite a bit, especially in the grocery buying department. Now we have to settle up our 2008... Read more →

Some final tax-filing tips and warnings

This last weekend before the tax filing deadline doesn't have to be your return's Lost Weekend.. OK, maybe that 1945 Ray Milland classic film isn't the best metaphor. Then again, after dealing with taxes as the deadline bears down, you might want a drink or two. But I digress The fact is there is still time to get your 1040 done and into the IRS by Wednesday. Just knuckle down and do it. That's my plan as soon as I get this posted. I've got everything sorted. My biggest challenge is going through all my self-employment expenses. I try to... Read more →

Tax advice from TV talking heads

And one of those tax-yammering heads was mine. Live, the cable TV network's noon online program, focused today on taxes. Four of us -- Fox's resident accountant Tracy Burns, H&R Block's Amy McAnarney, Chuck Jaffe from Marketwatch, and moi. I was approached to talk about a story I did for Bankrate on housing tax laws. I did get to that, but the hosts Connell McShane and Jenna Lee also were captivated by my blog item on sin taxes. A good portion of the 12 minutes I spent on air was spent on the potential for overhaul of the tax... Read more →

Nevada's facing a $3 billion budget shortfall. One Silver State business sector supports a new tax on its members. So why did Nevada lawmakers ax the tax proposal? Because many of them think that taxing prostitution, which is legal in parts of Nevada, would add more legitimacy to a practice they find personally distasteful. A Nevada state Senate committee voted 4-3 yesterday to kill the proposed $5-per-bordello-patron tax. State Senator Bob Coffin introduced the bill, arguing that the tax would raise an estimated $2 million a year. But that financial prospect apparently wasn't enough to sway opponents at the state... Read more →

The IRS says about 10 million taxpayers will ask for an extension to file their returns. One group doesn't have to ask. The IRS is automatically giving them another month. But I bet they wish they weren't getting such favored treatment. They are victims of the recent severe flooding in Minnesota and North Dakota. These taxpayers have an extra 30 days, until May 15, to file their 2008 federal tax returns and pay any taxes due. The extension also applies to relief workers who don't live in the disaster areas but are there helping out with recovery efforts. But those... Read more →

Don't get too excited. Note that word "some" in the headline. But every little tax break helps at least a few folks. And I suspect that the IRS hopes this move will get more people to electronically file and pay their taxes. To that end, the agency has decided that credit or debit card convenience fees that we have to pony up just to pay our IRS bills electronically are deductible. If we itemize. And if the allowable fees help push our Schedule A miscellaneous deductions over the 2 percent threshold. But, hey, as I said, every little bit helps.... Read more →

The momentous G-20 meeting has come and gone. Much was made in the run-up to the meeting about the need to end European bank secrecy so that governments, including the U.S. one, can more effectively collect taxes. So what happened? First, no U.S. state was put on the tax haven blacklist, as suggested by Luxembourg's leader. That means the financial and tax-friendly laws of Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada will continue as is. As for other actions, The Independent, a daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, put out "A Citizen's Guide" to the G-20 meeting. The paper's Q&A format looks at... Read more →

Forget 2008 returns; check '05 taxes, too

We're just a week away from the tax return deadline, but for some, it could be a double due date. Earlier this year, the IRS announced that it had $1.3 billion in unclaimed refunds from the 2005 tax year. Uncle Sam is happy to send that money to its rightful owners as long as they send in a return for that year. Here's the important part -- not that $1.3 billion isn't important -- but to get any 2005 refund to which you might be entitled, you've got to get that old Form 1040 to the IRS by this April... Read more →

Just a quick reminder for all you folks still in the running for your office pool's college basketball championship jackpot: Gambling winnings are taxable income. Yes, even office pools. And yes, even illegal office pools. Illegal office pools? Yep. In Washington state at any rate Washington officials say that those ubiquitous betting pools based on NCAA bracket sheets are technically illegal. But don't expect Evergreen State lawmen to bust into your office and confiscate the pool money. The state's Gambling Commission has bigger fish to fry. Similarly, the IRS isn't going to come after every office worker -- or telecommuter... Read more →