Previous month:
July 2009
Next month:
September 2009

August 2009

Yeah, I know that the real number is probably not 66, but a six-digit figure. But 66 is how many tax raising options the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) came up with in its August report to the House and Senate budget committees. In this latest analysis, the CBO first looks at spending options that could be tweaked. This section (Chapter 2) is organized by the governmental functions, such as national defense, international affairs, agriculture and general science, space, and technology. Chapter 3 is where the real fun begins. It's an examination of revenue raisers. In English that means taxes and/or... Read more →

IRS to get 'most-wanted' Swiss accounts

This is a nice juxtaposition, don't you think? We go from wealthy folks wanting to pay higher tax rates to wealthy folks doing whatever they can to avoid any tax rates. However, some of those who tried to escape U.S. taxes by opening accounts in Switzerland are out of luck. In an agreement formally announced today, the IRS says it "will receive substantially all" of the questionable Swiss accounts that it's interested in seeing. Basically, the Swiss government has agreed to make its main bank, UBS, defy the country's financial secrecy laws and name some names of U.S. account holders... Read more →

I Will Pay Higher Taxes to Invest in My Country We, the undersigned, call on Congress and President Obama to immediately reverse the Bush-era tax cuts for those of us with taxable incomes over $235,000. The increased revenue, an estimated $43 billion, should go toward making long overdue investments in education, health, transportation, infrastructure, and green energy systems. Yes, the above petition paragraph does conjure a tax twist on the old Vaudeville joke: Take more of our tax money, please. But the rich Americans who support the effort by Wealth for the Common Good to increase their taxes say they... Read more →

Private tax debt collectors are back in the news. But this time it's because of local government, not IRS, involvement. "Homeowners on Shaky Footing Could Lose it All Over Taxes," announces the New York Times today on the front page of its national edition. Cash-strapped counties and cities, reports the Times, are selling delinquent tax bills to private firms. It sounds like a good deal. The local governments get a quick infusion of cash and don't have to be bothered with (or paying for) collection efforts. Investors in the tax collection efforts get a risky, but potentially high return, way... Read more →

Buying a house is a big deal and it typically takes a while to complete. So if you're purchasing your first home and plan to take advantage of the new $8,000 federal tax credit, you better make sure things are on track. This tax credit, which was improved as part of the stimulus bill that became law on Feb. 17, requires that you complete your first-time home purchase by Nov. 30. NOTE: If you bought your first home earlier this year, don't worry; the tax break applies to eligible purchasers who signed the mountain of closing paperwork any time between... Read more →

What with my estate tax post last week, I know you're probably thinking, "What's this morbid kick Kay is on of late?" But this isn't about what you might think. Death & Taxes is what Jess Bachman calls his annual budgetary art exercise. Billed as "the federal government in six square feet," Bachman's poster provides a graphical breakdown of the United States' federal budget. In 2x3 feet, Bachman displays national priorities as sought in the president's fiscal budget. Bachman boils down the raw data to give us taxpayers, who ultimately foot the bills for the areas represented in the poster,... Read more →

Birmingham, Ala., tax is back

Alabama's Jefferson County, home of Birmingham, can get back to business. The occupational tax upon which the county had depended even though it had been repealed for years has been replaced by another tax. As blogged about earlier, Jefferson County kept collecting the tax in the hopes that lawmakers would reauthorize it. They finally did in a just-completed special session. Before that happened, however, the county had to cut back on services and lay off employees. Now most of the furloughed workers will back on the job. But the county's tax issue isn't over. Although the invalidated occupational tax has... Read more →

Attention Connecticut shoppers. Starting tomorrow, you have seven days to save some sales taxes. Connecticut already has a standing tax exemption on purchases of most clothing and footwear costing less than $50. But during the Nutmeg State's annual Sales Tax Holiday Week, running from Aug. 16 through Aug. 22 this year, the state's 6 percent levy won't be collected on individual pieces of apparel costing up to $300 each. Even better, during the holiday there is no limit on the number of items that qualify for the exemption in a given shopping trip or throughout the week. To make sure... Read more →

If school hasn't started in your neck of the woods and you're looking to squeeze in a last-minute vacation, Uncle Sam might be able to help. Specifically, the tax code could be a good travel companion. Robert D Flach, better known on the Internet as The Wandering Tax Pro, chose his nom de blog because between his regular tax work, he likes to hit the road. And, being a tax pro, he likes to let the feds help him pay for his journeys. Now such tax help in covering travel costs is not without its rules. To be able to... Read more →

Death and taxes will continue

No big surprise here. The House is expected to propose a one-year extension of the federal estate tax rather than let the scheduled 2010 full repeal take effect, according to the Wall Street Journal. Federal estate taxes were first collected in 1916. I'm sure complaints about the tax started that year. Thanks to 2001 tax legislation, the tax is being phased out. The table below shows the current exemption schedule and the tax rate applied to property over that amount. If no Congressional action is taken by Dec. 31, the federal estate tax will disappear next year, but it will... Read more →

UBS and the IRS finally struck a deal. But they're not telling us exactly what it is. The Swiss banking giant, that country's officials and U.S. tax investigators had been at odds over whether UBS would be forced to turn over client data on as many as 52,000 undeclared accounts that the IRS believes were opened to shelter money from taxes. The top man at the IRS promises we'll learn more soon. "We are pleased to have initialed an agreement with the Swiss government which protects the United States government's interests. We will release more details when the Swiss government... Read more →

IRS impostors burglarize house

People posing as IRS agents for nefarious reasons is not news. Such a tactic is a common identity theft phishing technique. But a couple of criminals in North Carolina recently took the tax agent act to a new level. Two men allegedly claimed to be IRS agents, stole property from a home and when questioned by neighbors, encouraged them to take what they wanted, too. The supposed agents told the neighbors it was OK to take the items because the IRS was seizing the property, according to the Statesville Record & Landmark. The paper reported that while the house had... Read more →

Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction. One of the great things about using this amount, which is based on your filing status, is that you don't have to hassle with extra paperwork. That's about to change. Thanks to new laws that allow add-ons to the standard deduction amount, millions of taxpayers now will have to substantiate their deductible supplements. Starting with 2009 returns, the IRS is requiring these standard deduction claimants to fill out a new piece of paperwork, Schedule L, and send it along with Form 1040 or 1040A. As the schedule notes (or "cautions") in the line just... Read more →

By now, you know from my earlier posts that South Carolina will hold its second annual Second Amendment tax holiday later this year. But if you can't wait until the end of November to buy your firearms sans sales tax from Palmetto State gun dealers, consider a Labor Day weekend trip to Louisiana. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has signed into law a measure that calls for his state to hold its own three-day Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday each year starting on the first Friday in September. This year, that means the tax-free firearms holiday will fall on Sept. 4-6.... Read more →

USAA enhances iPhone banking

I thought my bank was on the technology cutting edge when earlier this year it did away with ATM envelopes and let me deposit my checks by simply sliding the documents into the machine. USAA has made that deposit upgrade so passé. The New York Times reports today that the banking component of USAA, better known for its insurance services for members of the military and their families, is about to allow its customers to deposit checks via iPhone. With USAA's enhanced iPhone app, expected to be available this week, customers can photograph both sides of a check with the... Read more →

Unemployment figures released last week were still bad, but not as bad. Part of the reason may be that some folks have found work in new places. A recent survey by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that slightly more than 18 percent of job seekers who got work in the second quarter of 2009 moved in order to take their new positions. That compares with 14.3 percent in the first quarter of the year. During the same time period last year, the number of job-related relocations was 11.4 percent. I totally agree with Seeking Alpha that this... Read more →

Discussion of drug taxes provokes a variety of reactions. "Crazy" is the usual comment about state efforts to wring some tax dollars out of drug dealers. "Useless" is another frequently uttered word in connection with controlled substances and taxes. But in Tennessee, the state's highest court has pronounced the final word: "Unconstitutional." In late July, the Tennessee Supreme Court deemed the state's so-called "crack tax" invalid because it exceeds the state's constitutionally defined taxing authority. The Unauthorized Substances Tax was enacted by Volunteer State lawmakers five years ago. It required individuals holding marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs to buy... Read more →

Just a quick note to folks who are planning a shopping trip this weekend. Check out the table in my Thursday post 10 tax holidays on tap today to see if you can pick up a few items sales-tax-free. States offering a way to save a few tax dollars for the next couple of days include Alabama, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. A little later this month, tax holidays will be held in Texas, Connecticut and Vermont. And still more such events are planned for the fall. Again, details and links can... Read more →

Getting a rebate for a gas guzzler might be good for the vehicle's owner, but it's turning out to be terrible for some charities. The rebate program, officially titled Car Allowance Rebate System or CARS, kicked off on July 24 and was originally scheduled to run through Nov. 1 or whenever the funds were exhausted, whichever came first. However, the unexpected popularity of the rebates, which could be as much as $4,500 that can used to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle, meant that the money was exhausted well before the cutoff date. Last night, CARS got an infusion of new... Read more →

And so in the end, it was Uncle Sam, not a global cataclysm, that destroyed the dinosaurs. Or at least that's the fate of the dinosaurs that are part of creationist Kent Hovind's dinosaur-meets-the-Almighty theme park. Last week, the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., ordered that Hovind-owned properties, including the Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park, be seized to pay debts related to the conviction of Hovind and his wife, Jo, for tax fraud. The Hovinds were the owners of Creation Science Evangelism (CSE), a nondenominational religious organization espousing creation science over evolution. After various business iterations, in 2003, the... Read more →