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September 2009

Being a good Texan, I'm partial to roundups. Teague, Texas, Post Office Mural "Cattle Roundup" by Thomas Stell, Jr., 1940; TE Photo, April 2009 So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that my look at some doctors' support for a potential federal soda tax made the latest PF Bloggers' Weekly Roundup. Thanks to Joe Taxpayer for taking the lead on this trail blog drive. Now all y'all readers, giddyup and go on over there for the rest of the Grade A herd of financial offerings! Read more →

How are your parents doing? Not just physically and emotionally, but financially? That's a question more Baby Boomers are asking every year. It's a difficult topic, for both parents and adult children. And in most families, there are no easy answers for anyone. Today's New York Times looks at the situation in Taking Care of Parents Also Means Taking Care of Finances. Photo of aging bench warmers by jonrawlinson Recommendations in the NYT article include taking advantage of government and nonprofit programs and services available to help the aging, as well as hiring a private caregiver. I mentioned several such... Read more →

Chrysler exec owes $1M+ in taxes, loans

While Chrysler was in bailout talks with Uncle Sam, one of its top executives was dealing with his own financial problems. Jim Press, deputy chief executive of Chrysler Group LLC, owes $947,410 in back federal taxes and has defaulted on $609,286 he owes Western Federal Credit Union, according to the documents filed in Oakland County. The Wall Street Journal (via initial reports from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News) says IRS has filed a lien against Press' Birmingham, Mich., home. Another was placed on a townhouse he has n Manhattan's exclusive Lenox Hill neighborhood. Press and his wife... Read more →

Since the bursting housing bubble was the event that sent the U.S. economy into the tank, it's no surprise that we all continue to be fixated on real estate. You or someone you know is looking to sell, buy or, in my case, wondering about the new neighbors who soon will be moving into the neighborhood. I presume they'll be here shortly. There are two huge crates from sitting in the driveway. Housing also is getting renewed attention in the tax world. The IRS is reminding first-time home buyers that time is running out for them to take advantage... Read more →

Ever wonder why Americans tend to be overweight? Part of the reason is that between 1977 and 2002, the number of calories we consumed from sweetened beverages doubled. The red line is sugar-sweetened beverages, with kids' intake on the left and that of grownups (like me) on the right. A larger image is available on page 2 of this report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Such runaway sugar consumption needs to stop, say most physicians (and dentists). And one group of doctors in particular suggests that a good way to get us to put down that next Coke... Read more →

IRS reviewing relationship with ACORN

NOTE: This post has been updated (2:45 p.m. CDT) to reflect recent legislative actions with regard to ACORN. In the wake of videotapes revealing improper activities and advice provided by ACORN employees in Baltimore, New York and Washington, D.C., the IRS is reevaluating its working relationship with the community group. Republican members of Congress also have been pressuring the IRS to sever ties with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and several of his fellow Republicans have sent IRS Commissioner Shulman and President Obama letters expressing their concern about federal involvement with... Read more →

UPDATE, Tuesday, Sept. 22: The Senate Finance Committee is marking up the Chairman's bill (discussed below) today. Some possible major changes during today's hearing are discussed in Senate health bill to get majopr surgery. All the screaming and shouting and Kanye West-type rudeness of health care town hall meetings is over. Now all the screaming and shouting and Joe Wilson-type rudeness moves back to Washington, D.C. To get the health care reform ball rolling again, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today unveiled America's Health Future Act of 2009, his proposal to overhaul the U.S. health care system. At a... Read more →

Broke billionaire turns to public defender

What happens when you run out of other people's money? If you're facing federal fraud charges, you have to resort to a public defender. That's the case for Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, who's charged with bilking investors out of $7 billion. In addition, the IRS says Standford owes $226 million in taxes. Unfortunately for Stanford's former clients and Uncle Sam, Stanford apparently doesn't even have enough money to pay his defense attorney. So that lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, has told the court he wants to withdraw. Stanford's second choice for legal representation, Robert Luskin, a Washington lawyer and former counsel... Read more →

Today is the debut of a new feature here on the ol' blog: Tax Twitter Tuesday. Or, as my tax Twitter pal Robert D Flach, aka @rdftaxpro on the social media site, dubbed it, T3. Actually, Robert, it's going to be T4, as Tax Twitter Tuesday will appear on the third Tuesday of each month. (That wasn't planned; this first appearance just happened to fall that way and I decided it was blogging/Twittering fate.) "So," as RDF asked, "@taxtweet (that's me!) what's the story with T3?" The story is I spend a lot (some days too much) time on Twitter.... Read more →

Just a quick reminder. Today, Sept. 15, is the deadline for your third 2009 estimated tax payment. If you're mailing your 1040-ES voucher, make sure you get to the post office in time for it to be postmarked with today's date. And if you're still trying to figure out just how much to send int, check out: Estimated Taxes Guide from CashMoneyLife, Self-Employment Tax And IRS Estimated Tax Payment from Moolanomy, and Paying Estimated Taxes for a Side Job from William's Tax Planning Blog. I've also discussed this issue many times over the years, most recently back in January in... Read more →

If you're an insomniac like me, you've seen the commercials purporting to help you pay an IRS debt for substantially less than you owe. The operative phrase is "pennies on the dollar." A company says that it has the magic bullet to shoot down your horrendous tax debt. If only it were so easy. Yes, the company probably has helped the folks whose accounts are spotlighted in the ads. But it's also likely that a lot more folks ended up paying the IRS their full debt or very close to it. What these companies are doing is submitting an Offer... Read more →

The economy is starting to recover, but jobs are doing more than lagging. They are disappearing completely. And that poses some major problems for our tax system. It looks like we're facing a jobless recovery, where the economy grows but job losses persist. That's what happened at the end of the last recession in 2001. Payrolls then continued to decline for nearly two more years. This time, though, many experts are saying that the lost jobs won't be back. That disturbing employment (or more accurately, unemployment) situation was discussed on Sunday morning news programs, as well as in recent print... Read more →

The IRS is continuing to move into social media. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the agency's YouTube video page. Last week at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Dallas, the IRS was continually touting its Twitter presence, @InternalRevenue. Will the IRS get personal and chatty as is the Web 2.0 way? Nah. But that's understandable. While the agency and its employees would definitely like folks to think more positively about them (who doesn't?), that's not the IRS and IRS employee goal. They've got to focus on getting out correct and timely information to the public. Twitter and... Read more →

Shawshank's tax redemption

I love it when taxes play a key part in my favorite movies. Take The Shawshank Redemption. I was watching it this afternoon for the 8,739th time. OK, I exaggerate a bit, but I've seen it a lot and with cable TV, "a lot" really does mean a lot. Despite all the viewings, I always get a kick when Andy Dufresne's tax advice to a guard helps set in motion his ultimate plan. In case you haven't seen the flick as many times as I have, the scene comes about 40 minutes in when Andy, played by Tim Robbins, tells... Read more →

ACORN workers offer tax tips to 'hooker'

A prostitute by any other name is a "performing artist." Or so says a now-fired ACORN worker. An independent, conservative filmmaker and a colleague, posing as a Congressional-wannabe friend to a prostitute (this scenario alone creates a whole other set of questions...), visited the Baltimore office of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which was created to help inner city communities and their residents. But I suspect that such creative renaming of the world's oldest profession, along with some suspect tax advice, is not exactly how most community groups try to help their clientele. Bad, by all definitions,... Read more →

It's been an exciting week for America's schools. First there was the President's address to students and the attendant folderol. Now government money men are getting in on the education act. On Thursday, the Treasury Department released its analysis of 529 plans that it prepared for the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families. Named for the section of the tax code which created them, 529 plans offer tax-favored ways to pay for college. According to the Treasury report, plan tax benefits can increase the effectiveness of saving by between 6 percent and 39 percent depending on the... Read more →

I admit it. I'm a sucker for lists. And easy news hooks. So the first thing that came to my mind on 09-09-09 was the nine states that don't tax wage income. Everyone probably already knows that my native state, Texas, along with Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming don't have any income tax at all. But two others also don't tax wage income. They are New Hampshire and Tennessee. However, the Granite and Volunteer States do collect taxes on the dividends and interest their residents earn. State tax luck runs out: Folks who live in a state... Read more →

A week from today, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, another estimated tax payment is due. If you mail your third 2009 tax year 1040-ES voucher, it has to be postmarked by 9/15. On Monday, a couple of contributors to the 57th Tax Carnival talked about estimated tax issues: CashMoneyLife's Estimated Taxes Guide and Moolanomy's Self-Employment Tax And IRS Estimated Tax Payment. I've also discussed this issue many times over the years, most recently back in January in Figuring your estimated tax amount. E-pay is the way: I always mean to mention electronically paying your estimated tax amount earlier so folks who... Read more →

Madoff makes off like property tax bandit

The Madoff in question this time, though, is Ruth. In June, Palm Beach County sent Ruth Madoff and her con man husband Bernie a tax refund check of $13,800. The money was for property taxes the couple overpaid on their South Florida mansion. Apparently, the waterfront estate had been overvalued. The county arrived at that decision and issued the refund after an attorney for Ruth Madoff challenged the county's 2008 value assessment. Now, with Bernie serving 150 years in federal prison for perpetrating a billion dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out the life savings of many of his marks presumed... Read more →

Labor Day is a holiday to recognize those who toil. Traditionally, these folks get some time off from the grindstone to relax. But there is no respite for Tax Carnivalistas. So on this Labor Day 2009, Tax Carnival #57 spotlights the work of tax and personal finance bloggers. Let's get right to it so we can clock out on time. We start with Big Larry, who has the perfect topic for Labor Day: Are You Benefiting from the Making Work Pay Tax Credit? Find out at Out of Debt - Christian Finances and Debt Help. One way to cut down... Read more →