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June 2009

Happy Flag Day America! The idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the U.S. flag is believed to have first originated in 1885, according to But it was not until Aug. 3, 1949, that President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. So if you have a Star Spangled Banner, be sure to fly it proudly today. And to get you in the mood, check out this rendition of You're A Grand Old Flag. Sales tax breaks for flags: In some states, you can save a bit of money... Read more →

Here's another, and somewhat disturbing, take on the proverbial death and taxes connection. A former mortuary worker convicted of carving up and selling cadavers donated to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) medical school has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.7 million in fines, restitution and unpaid taxes.. Last month, a Los Angeles jury found Ernest Nelson guilty of of one count each of conspiracy to commit grand theft from the UCLA Willed Body Program, grand theft, grand theft by false pretenses and -- here's the tax part -- failure... Read more →

Talk taxes with the IRS

And tax software vendors and tax material publishers and tax preparers. Plus get fun tax swag and, if you're a tax pro yourself, get credit for attending. That's the plan at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums. OK, the IRS isn't in charge of all the promotional items. But based on my personal experiences at a couple of these events, you do get some nice takeaways, both actual and intellectually. "This is a good opportunity to learn the most recent things about what's going on at IRS and in federal taxation," IRS spokesman Anthony Burke told me in a phone conversation... Read more →

As part of the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, respondents were given a list of famous figures with whom they could have a picture made. Overall, Barack Obama was the winner by an almost two-to-one margin, with 42 percent of those surveyed saying they would like to meet the president and have that session captured in a photo. Tiger Woods came in an uncharacteristic second place, with an overall percentage of 22. But as you might expect, just like the election, the survey's numbers moved quite a bit when you consider the breakouts by political affiliation. Dems for Obama: Democrats... Read more →

I bet it's not often that "no interest" is used in connection with adult entertainment. But that's a key phrase in a Texas Court of Appeals ruling last week that upheld a lower court's finding that the state's so-called "pole tax" is unconstitutional. Texas officials today said they are appealing the ruling that the $5-per-customer admission tax on certain sexually-oriented businesses violates the First Amendment. The Associated Press reports that lawyers for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs have asked the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the ruling invalidating the tax. The appellate court ruling that struck... Read more →

Estimated tax time again

As threatened promised last month, I'm here to remind you that if you pay estimated taxes, your second 1040-ES filing for the 2009 tax year is due Monday, June 15. Last year I recreated here on the ol' blog the table of mailing addresses found in the 1040-ES package. To save you from opening the IRS PDF document (those things tend to really slow down my computer), below is the 2009 version. Yes, the IRS is still reshuffling workloads and sending some forms to new locations this year. So if you're mailing your voucher, use the appropriate address below, not... Read more →

I know you love your kiddos, but admit it. You also love when they are in school and you don't have to worry about what they're up to while you're at work. Here in Austin, classes wrapped up a little over a week ago. And some of my neighbors are already going a little crazy coming up with ways to keep their youngsters appropriately occupied. May I suggest day camp. There are a couple of things to recommend this option. First, it's a good choice for younger kids, and their parents, who might not be comfortable with Jimmy or Janie... Read more →

What do your hairdresser (or barber for you manly men who refuse to visit unisex hair salons) and your tax preparer have in common? In most places, absolutely nothing. And that includes a license to operate. Juana, who cuts both my and the hubby's hair, has her State of Texas certification document posted on her station's mirror. Every time I sit in her chair so she can clip a few inches, I can see that the Lone State State has deemed her qualified. But when I pay someone to help me sort through my federal tax return, neither Texas nor... Read more →

I grew up in a small, off the beaten track West Texas town. That meant that just about everything that made it into our local stores got to town via truck. With the creation of the interstate highway system in the '50s, trucking got a boost. But even without that spider web of bigger roadways, in blue in the image below (which you can click here to see in a larger, and clearer, size, and then enlarge even more once the PDF opens), truckers found their ways to the wilds of West Texas and other harder to reach communities. Those... Read more →

When I was a kid, I always got a kick out of the sign that was posted alongside road crews: Your highway tax dollars at work. Yes, I was a weird kid, noting tax-related situations at a young age. No comments, please, from the Peanut Gallery (or hubby) about the use of the word "was." That's not the point, or at least not the main one, of this post. The point today is that you don't see, or at least I haven't seen, those signs in a long time. And there's apparently a good reason for their disappearance. There's no... Read more →

This is your life on taxes

In my post yesterday about state efforts to tax downloaded material, I noted how taxes help shape public policy. Essentially, for better or worse, taxes have permeated every part of our lives. Think I'm exaggerating because I'm a tax geek? Maybe, but not much. And I'm not alone. The Law and Society Association is an international group of diverse scholars who are interested in the place of law in social, political, economic and cultural life. Tax law is an integral part of the group's examinations. At the Association's annual meeting that just wrapped up last week in Denver, participants were... Read more →

Taxes are used for a lot of things other than just adding money to state or federal coffers. Taxes help shape public policy, or vice versa. Take, for example, all the family-friendly federal taxes, such as dependent exemptions, the child tax credit and the child and dependent care tax credit. Taxes also are a nice add-on for law enforcement. Consider the states that tax illegal drugs. Sure, making dealers buy tax stamps does add some money to the state treasury, but when they don't, it's also a handy charge to add to the list of felonies. In case some of... Read more →

The United States Tax Court is one way for taxpayers to dispute an IRS decision. In addition to ruling on amounts that the IRS says are due, the Court also has jurisdiction to, among other things, make certain types of declaratory judgments, order abatement of interest charges and award administrative and litigation costs. While the Tax Court isn't the starting point for most tax disagreements, sometimes it does become the best ultimate avenue for tax issue resolution. Unfortunately, it combines the two things that tend to give most of us our worst nightmares: taxes and the legal system. Both are... Read more →

Hurricane season began yesterday. It will run through Nov. 30. For the next six months, coastal residents will keep at least on eye on the Atlantic and tropics, just in case Mother Nature decides to get nasty this year. We've been pretty lucky for the last few 'cane seasons. Forecasters think that our luck might hold. As mentioned in an earlier item about storm-related state sales tax holidays, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last month that it expects the 2009 hurricane season to be "near normal," with nine to 14 named storms. But, noted Dr. Gerry Bell, lead... Read more →

Welcome to summer! The hottest season starts, at least unofficially, once we're past the Memorial Day weekend. Officially, the summer solstice arrives on June 21. And the ubiquitous brown beetles that herald warmer Texas temps have been here for a while. But taxes, as we all know, have no season. Sure, the first filing deadline is April 15. And the extended date to get in your Form 1040 isn't until mid-October. But effective tax planning is a year-round task. So today's Tax Carnival #54: June Bug Tax Jottings celebrates not only summer's arrival, but also our continuing efforts to cut... Read more →

The first-time homebuyer tax credit is changing yet again, this time to allow some buyers to get their hands on the tax money as a down payment. When it was created last year, it was a $7,500 (or 10 percent of the home's purchase price, whichever was less) tax break that basically operated as an interest-free loan that eligible buyers got when they filed their tax returns. It has to be repaid in subsequent tax filings. Then came the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. When that stimulus package was signed into law on Feb. 17, it included provisions that increased... Read more →