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May 2009

I am happy to report that after almost two weeks of fighting what one doctor called "just a cold" but what I knew was worse, I am feeling better. You may remember my whine complaint that my doctor dismissed my ailment. A quick update. That wasn't my regular doctor; it was another one in the practice who could see me sooner since my usual physician was booked up. On Friday, however, I demanded to be worked into my regular M.D.'s schedule. After a few days of antibiotics and cough syrup, I'm on the road to recovery. I appreciate, on a... Read more →

Remember back in the spring when some European nations that had been branded offshore tax havens turned around and pointed their fingers at some American states they considered just as guilty of helping folks shelter money from the IRS? Well now some domestic fingers also are being directed at one of those states: Delaware. In the New York Times' article "Critics Call Delaware a Tax Haven," Lynnley Browning reports that states squeezed by hard times "are pushing to collect taxes that corporations are avoiding through Delaware shell companies. ... About 20 states have adopted laws that would effectively keep companies... Read more →

That's what ABC television thinks we want and/or need. It's the premise of its program UN-BROKE: What You Need to Know About Money, airing today, Friday, May 29 at 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central. The network says the show will provide viewers the basics on finance via an "unconventional look at the fundamentals of everyday finance." Unconventional means that celebrities will be doing the schooling. Presumably they are rich and famous. Otherwise, why would you want to hear from them? I know for sure that some of the Un-Broke folks are doing just fine financially: Will Smith, Samuel L.... Read more →

Louisiana and Virginia residents, this coming weekend is your last chance to buy hurricane season supplies and avoid paying state and local sales taxes on the products. The Old Dominion's seven-day tax-free event began on the Memorial Day weekend, but it's winding down this coming weekend. To help shoppers know what's eligible during the Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, the Virginia Department of Taxation produced a video featuring Phil Mousepower. Mousepower is a hand puppet originally created as the tax department's mascot to promote online filing. He's branched out since then, as in the tax holiday video. While Mousepower might... Read more →

Sports and charitable causes have long been linked. Most professional athletes have charitable foundations. They tend to be associated with causes in which the athletes have a personal interest and/or which benefit children. From a business perspective, affiliation with a popular cause can add a "real person" view of a well-paid professional athlete. And, of course, careful structuring of a charitable foundation can provide the millionaire athlete with some nice tax breaks. For more than a decade, the Dallas Cowboys NFL team has supported the various programs of the Salvation Army. NASCAR's Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie created the... Read more →

A lot of attention is being paid, and rightly so, to the tax provisions in Obama's first budget. My blogging colleague William Perez examines in his Tax Planning Blog those proposals, which he notes hold the possibility, If all are enacted, of generating an additional $61.7 billion in tax revenue for the federal government. That's a lot of money, a lot of our money, so we definitely need to pay attention. But a president's budget is just a starting point. We've got some time, and a lot of Capitol Hill haggling, before any, much less all, of Obama's tax wish... Read more →

Memorial Day originated just after the Civil War as Decoration Day. It was created as a way to remember those who had fallen in those divisive battles. Today it is a federal holiday held on the fourth Monday in May. And when the name was changed, the day's commemoration was expanded. It now is a time to recognize the sacrifices of all U.S. military members. To those who have given their all for all of us, thank you on this Memorial Day and every day. Photo by Adam Skoczylas, (Flickr/Creative Commons) Military tax treatment: Our tax code also recognizes... Read more →

From IRS clutches to top of the IRL

Congratulations to Helio Castroneves, winner of today's Indianapolis 500. That headline is borrowed from a comment by one of ABC's race announcers. It's a perfect assessment of how Castroneves' life and career has turned around in just a month. I know the cheers from the crowd were for the driver. Helio, who also won new nonrace fans with his winning steps on Dancing With the Stars, is one of the Indy Racing League's most popular competitors. But I suspect a lot of folks urging Helio home during the final laps also were yelling in joy that he had already captured... Read more →

Richard Hatch, who garnered attention on the first Survivor reality show for his pudgy physique and penchant for showing all of it off, went to federal prison in connection with the $1 million he won in 2000 on the CBS program. Now he's out of the slammer. It's been a long legal journey involving the taxes Hatch didn't pay on his winnings. He had contended throughout the legal process that the network had agreed to pay his IRS bill. That theory didn't fly and in 2006 he began serving his 51-month sentence in federal prison. Last fall, the U.S. Supreme... Read more →

Castroneves captures tax victory

IndyCar champ Helio Castroneves won the pole for today's Indianapolis 500, but regardless of the outcome of the race, he's already claimed a significant victory. On Friday, federal prosecutors dropped the remaining tax evasion conspiracy charge against the Brazilian driver and his sister. Now Castroneves can concentrate completely on his track tasks. The other IndyCar series competitors better be worried. In his first race of the season, just hours after a federal jury in Miami acquitted him (and his sister) of the other tax-evasion charges, Castroneves finished seventh in Long Beach, Calif. The next race in Kansas, he came in... Read more →

Tax on college kids proposed

Sorry for giving every student and their parents a heart attack. The tax I'm talking about is specific to kids enrolled at some Rhode Island schools. Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline wants the state to allow cities to assess private colleges $150 per student. Under the mayor's proposal, colleges would have to decide whether to pay the fee or pass it on to students. This version is a revision of Cicilline's original suggestion. His first draft called for Rhode Island cities to directly levy a $150-per-semester tax on full-time students at private colleges. The Providence Journal notes that the reason... Read more →

Life in Austin can sometimes be annoying for a Texas Tech grad, what with so much of the city's attention directed toward another Lone Star State university that happens to call the city home. So you can understand my excitement when I opened today's paper to see, on the front page of the business section, an article about Texas Tech's fine financial planning curriculum, popularly known as Red to Black (handy, isn't it, that our school colors are scarlet and black?), and this year's top graduate of the program. Of course, the newspaper of which I speak isn't the local... Read more →

We got lucky this week in Central Texas. Temperatures have been seasonal, meaning we've had nights in the upper 50s and days in the low 80s. Our suburban neighborhood always seems a bit cooler than the city's official thermometer readings, so the hubby and I were able for three days this week to turn off the air conditioning and make do, quite comfortably, with ceiling fans. One night I even had to pull out a light blanket to counter the cool air that filled the house through our open windows. But that’s definitely changing. Soon we'll be in the heart,... Read more →

This is why I hate ballot referenda

California's vote on budget issues yesterday is another reason why I hate ballot initiatives. It's very easy to say "no" and then step aside. Viewing the election from Down Under, the Sydney Morning Herald nailed the implications of the vote: By rejecting five budget measures, Californians also brought into stark relief the fact that they, too, share blame for the political dysfunction that has brought California to the brink of insolvency. Voters in the special election refused either to extend new tax increases or to cap state spending. They also declined to unlock funds that they had voted in better... Read more →

Small business stimulus tax breaks

Since we're in the midst of national Small Business Week (it runs through May 23), the IRS is taking the opportunity to point out some of the business tax breaks in the new stimulus law. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted Feb. 17, created, extended or expanded various business tax deductions and credits. They include extension of the bonus depreciation, the increased Section 179 deduction, the expanded net operating loss carryback, the exclusion of gain on the sale of some small-business stock, estimated tax requirement changes and a COBRA credit. Some of these tax breaks are available... Read more →

I am mad at my doctor. I went to see him today and he wouldn't prescribe me any medicine! Now I'm not a hypochondriac. I usually just tough out ailments. But I was sure I had a sinus infection. My left ear and neck hurt. I've been alternately sneezing and coughing. There's the persistent headache. And I have a few other ickier symptoms, but I'll spare you a description of those. Anyway, after two days of this, I went to my doctor. He says it's just a cold. It doesn't feel like just a cold, but…. At least he promised... Read more →

Or so say the Senate's tax-writing committee leaders. Max Baucus of Montana, the Democratic chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and the ranking minority member, Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, have put together a preliminary plan to pay for President Obama's health care reform. Naturally, taxes are part of the proposal. Specifically sin taxes. You know what I, and they, are talking about. All those nasty habits that tend to make us unhealthy. Alcohol, soda and other sugary drinks would be taxed to finance health care reform, according to some staffers privy to revenue-raising discussions. Senators are calling these "lifestyle"... Read more →

ES time means EFTPS enrollment time

It's less than a month until the second estimated tax payment deadline. If you want to make that payment electronically via the IRS' Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, then you need to sign up now. I've been using EFTPS for the last few years to make, when necessary, regular annual 1040 tax-due payments. But it's really come in handy for my 1040ES estimated tax obligations. Once you're set up, you can schedule all four estimated payments -- if, like mine, they are all the same amount -- in just one session. Then you're done with them for the... Read more →

While the hubby and I were checking out the sports books in Las Vegas last week, on the East Coast another state legalized betting on athletic events. Shortly after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed his state's new sports betting bill into law, Delaware's three casinos began making plans to have the gambling option operational by the start of the NFL season. The National Football League (NFL), however, is working on ways to stop the First State from becoming the first state east of the Mississippi to accept sports bets. League spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL is "not ruling anything... Read more →

I'm back home from vacation, but taxes in a traditional getaway spot continue to fascinate. I blogged yesterday about the Hawaii legislature's override of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of tax increase legislation, most notably for higher-income residents. The legislation also included a cigarette tax hike. And the veto override law apparently has produced a 4½ month tax holiday on tobacco products other than cigarettes. In fact, say tax experts, the new cigarette taxes could in fact be unintentionally nullified. Tobacco tax holiday: Hawaii's pipe and cigar smokers, as well as those who get their nicotine fix via snuff and... Read more →