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May 2009

Hawaii becomes a tax paradise lost

Hawaii is paradise for many travelers. In fact, access to the Aloha State was a key point made repeatedly by the guy who tried this week, while we were visiting Las Vegas, to sell the hubby and me a timeshare property. While I definitely hope one day to visit Hawaii, recent tax-law chances will make it a bit more costly to do so. And anyone considering moving to the island paradise might want to think twice, at least in the near future, especially if they make a pretty good living. This week, state lawmakers overrode the governor's veto and increased... Read more →


Yes, we're still exploring Las Vegas. Wednesday, we headed out earlier than usual to visit some Texas friends who now live in Henderson, just a few miles south of The Strip. The trip out of town meant I didn't have time to blog yesterday before we hit the road. But it did give me the chance to take my very own photo of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign. After catching up with our friends (it was great seeing you again, Pat and Sylvia!), the hubby and I got right back to checking out some more Sin City highlights.... Read more →


Hello from Sin City! Yes, the hubby and I are taking a brief vacation. As good Americans, we're doing our part to help stimulate the economy by spending in lovely Lost Wages, I mean Las Vegas, Nevada. To be honest, we're not big gamblers. We really came here to see some shows. No, not Wayne or Cher or Barry. We dropped by the Blue Man Group last night; it was fantastic! Later this week we'll take in a couple of Cirque du Soleil performances (Mystere and O), as well as see the irreverent magic of Penn and Teller. But you... Read more →


The only thing worse than having to collect unemployment is having to pay taxes on it. That's right, Uncle Sam considers this last-resort money as taxable income. This tax fact is a surprise to many laid-off workers. And the ranks of folks facing the dual shock of losing a job and then owing the IRS money on unemployment benefits keeps growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last Friday that in April another 563,000 were without work, pushing the total jobless to 13.7 million. That translates to a national unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, a 26-year high. However, there is... Read more →


Swine flu and telecommuter taxes

How are all y'all feeling? I hope you've managed to fight off H1N1, otherwise known as swine flu. The panic seems to have subsided, but there still is a substantial number of sufferers out there and, unfortunately, flu-related deaths are still being reported. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed more than 4,500 cases in 29 countries. In North America, Mexico has reported at least 1,626 cases. Our neighbors to the South got the early flu attention, but the United States actually has more sufferers -- at least 2,532. And across our other... Read more →


What to do with your tax refund

As April was winding down, the number of e-filers was going up. More than 90 million tax returns were filed electronically through April 24, according to the IRS. As has been the trend over the last few years, more individuals in 2009 opted to electronically file their returns on their own. In fact, that segment of filers hit a record this year. For the first time, says the tax agency, more than 30 million individual income tax returns were filed from home computers. That's a 19 percent jump over last year. As the math indicates, that means around 60 million... Read more →


And tax amnesty for all

Well, maybe not all, but in addition to the state tax amnesties I blogged about a couple of weeks ago (Owe state taxes? Check out amnesties), a major city is reducing applicable penalties for its delinquent taxpayers who pay up by July 31. Los Angeles tax officials say if you pay all the tax you owe, along with interest and any non-penalty fees, they will waive up to 40 percent in penalties. You're eligible for this summertime tax offer is you've not reported or paid, or reported or paid some but not all, your due taxes in five areas: Business... Read more →


The only good thing about investment losses is that you can use them to offset your gains. But with the way the stock market has been in recent months, many folks are asking, "Gains? What is this thing you call gains?" But even when you have very little, or no, capital gains, your losses still can be of tax use. Currently, the law allows you to use up to $3,000 of your excess losses to help reduce your regular taxable income amount. With the market turmoil -- OK, nosedive -- of the last couple of years, some investors have lost... Read more →


Taxes and the worldwide quality of life

Obama's proposal to crack down on U.S. tax evaders who turn to offshore accounts is getting a lot of attention, much of it, as expected, negative. But we here in the United States aren't the only ones who are unhappy with our tax burdens and seek relief elsewhere. All the highly exorbitantly paid Formula 1 drivers live in European tax haven countries, such as Monaco or Switzerland. The lure of Alpine chalets and low taxes also has enticed British and French singers to move there, at least briefly. On the business side, the Rolling Stones and U2 definitely took tax... Read more →


Hola tax carnivalistas! And welcome to our 53rd Tax Carnival: Cinco Tax Celebración. Today's fortuitous meeting of taxes and Cinco de Mayo offers the perfect chance to party. And party is what you think of when you think of taxes, right? OK, even I realize that might be a bit of a stretch. But, hey, after a few Margaritas, even the Internal Revenue Code is a fun read! We've got a full tax house, with lots of different perspectives on lots of different tax topics, so let's get this tax fiesta started. Madeleine Begun Kane presents Dear IRS, posted at... Read more →


International tax battles continue

While the IRS is in the midst of a "voluntary compliance" initiative to entice folks with offshore accounts to report them, President Obama has decided to take the stick rather carrot approach. The prez today announced proposals aimed at the tax benefits enjoyed by companies and wealthy individuals who harbor cash in offshore accounts. The details will be released later this week when the White House presents its formal budget. Early reports say the plans could help raise $210 billion in revenue over 10 years. Hammering those who appear to be sheltering income from U.S. taxation in foreign accounts and... Read more →


Making Work Pay problems revisited

Timing is everything, especially with taxes ... and tax information. On March 5, I blogged about the potential tax problems some folks might face in connection with the Making Work Pay credit. You know this tax break. It's the centerpiece of the Obama stimulus, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that became law on Feb. 17. The deal is that workers get a $400 credit, which offsets the 6.2 percent employee portion of the Social Security withholding taken out of paychecks. But rather than make us wait until we file our 2009 returns next year, the money... Read more →


Our suburban neighborhood held our annual garage sale event this weekend. Rather than have 100 yard sales scattered across 100 Saturdays and Sundays, everyone puts out their junk on the same day. The hubby and I actually find it pretty annoying. We don't participate, either as sellers or buyers, although I have been tempted to wander down the block and see what items my neighbors are trying to unload. But the big issue for us is that we get up much later than our neighbors, on both weekends and week days. We're used to our commuting neighbors' cars cranking up... Read more →


Ford bests Toyota & other auto/tax news

Well, here's an unexpected bright spot for U.S. automakers: Ford outsold Toyota for the first time in at least a year. Of course, the rest of the story isn't really that that positive. The American automaker didn't best its Japanese counterpart. Rather, Ford didn't have as big a drop-off in sales as Toyota. But, hey, any straw for an industry that's grasping. Toyota saw a 42 percent decline in April, while Ford's U.S. sales fell "just" 32 percent. Meanwhile, the country's top-selling car maker, General Motors Corp., reported a 33 percent drop. Bankruptcy bargains: Meanwhile, Chrysler is now dealing with... Read more →


What's wrong with tax evasion?

That's not a question most of us ponder every day, but a Rutgers law professor recently tackled the topic. (Hat tip: TaxProf) At a University of Houston symposium last month on tax crimes, Stuart P. Green examined why some folks find themselves thinking about, and committing, tax evasion. Or in tax prof speak, why the norms against tax evasion are so unstable. Green offered 10 reasons. Those that caught my eye in the abstract at the Social Science Research Network are: Tax evasion is difficult to distinguish from tax avoidance. The level of enforcement is low. Enforcement practices are arbitrary... Read more →