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November 2009

October 2009

California millionaires' tax is legal

Don't you just love tax coincidences? In my post Don't hate me because I'm rich that went up earlier today, I mention state taxes targeting millionaires as part of the current anti-wealth trend. Now I discover (thanks to TaxProf Blog) that rich Californians are going to have to live with their state's 1 percent tax on annual incomes in excess of $1 million. The extra collections are designated to fund state mental health services. The tax, known as Proposition 63, was approved by voters in 2004. Craig and Sally Jensen challenged the tax, notes Courthouse News Service, suing to recover... Read more →

Don't hate me because I'm rich

I wish that headline really did apply to me. Alas, I am not rich. At least my solid middle-class status spares me the wrath of many of my fellow Americans. But being mad at the wealthy, says New York Times reporter Paul Sullivan, might just backfire. For his article All This Anger Against the Rich May Be Unhealthy, Sullivan talks with finance and psychological experts. Their assessment: Envy and hatred toward the rich has always been around, but it used to tempered by "a strong undercurrent of admiration that was holding these people up as a goal.” But in these... Read more →

During an economic conference last week in New York City, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner offered a few tax tidbits. In response to a question about a potential securities transaction tax, Tax Analysts' Lee Sheppard reports that Geithner acknowledged that he "hadn't seen a version of the tax that'd make much sense." That should calm the nerves of those who freaked out earlier this year when talk of a transaction tax was revived. Also referred to as the Tobin Tax after James Tobin, the late American economist and Nobel laureate who first suggested a securities transfer tax in 1972 as a... Read more →

Joe Taxpayer's frugal tips

This past week, Joe Taxpayer turned to Twitter to come up with a collection of money-saving tips. The Frugal Tweeps Edition contains 10 ways for the average Joe and Josephine to save some bucks. As you might have surmised, I contributed to the list via my @taxtweet persona. And of course it was tax related! Check it and the other nine tips out over at Joe's blog. Read more →

It's official. The low inflation rate might help you save a few dollars at the grocery store (although I haven't really seen much difference in my weekly register totals over the last few months), but it's not going to make much differences when it comes to your 2010 taxes. As I mentioned in my post about the possible $250 rebate for seniors, there's been concern that the negative inflation rate could cause some tax figures, especially in connection with retirement contributions, to be cut. That didn't happen. The IRS made it official yesterday (coincidentally, or not, on the day that... Read more →

Richard Hatch is free! Again. Sort of

What a year it's been for tawdry tax evaders. First, "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis cuts a deal for time-served in connection with his tax evasion charges. And today, the first "Survivor" millionaire was released from Barnstable County Jail where he had been finishing up his 51-month sentence for not reporting his TV winnings. Although originally sentenced to a federal facility, Hatch spent the last part of his jail time in the local hoosegow because of an apparent violation of an earlier home confinement arrangement. Now, though, he can at least travel around his home state of Rhode Island... Read more →

Home buyer credit extension looks likely

It's really no big surprise that the first-time home buyer credit will likely extend past its Nov. 30 expiration date. The housing market, while not quite as disastrous as a few months ago, still is stumbling in much of the country. The National Association of Home Builders is putting predictable pressure on Congress to continue the credit as a way to help keep the nominal real estate market recovery on track. And 2010 is an election year. Homeowners, both first- and long-time, are traditionally more inclined to vote than other electorate sectors. So sound tax policy and deficits be damned!... Read more →

Time is up tax procrastinators!

If you got an extension to file your 2008 tax return and haven't done so yet, today is your deadline. Details on this must-do tax task, as well as on other important due-date duties, can be found in Oct. 15 tax deadlines looming. You have until midnight tonight to e-file. Or if you prefer paper, get your material to the post office so that it gets today's postmark. If you are using snail mail, I suggest you send your return certified so that you have a receipt noting the date. And do't forget about your state tax obligations! If you... Read more →

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

Welcome to Blog Action Day 2009, where thousands of bloggers worldwide are focusing on climate change issues. What better way to counter adverse climate change effects (aka global warming) than to turn to our planet's ultimate energy source: the sun. Solar power is the cleanest of all green energies. According to the Department Energy's Web site, the sun generates enough clean energy in one day to provide a year's supply of energy for your home or office. The photovoltaic cells, or solar cells as they also are called, collect energy from the sun's light, transferring the electricity directly into the... Read more →

Around 57 million seniors, veterans and individuals receiving federal disability payments could each get a $250 check from Uncle Sam next year. On Thursday afternoon, President Obama threw his support behind the payout, which would cost an estimated $13 billion. The reason for this latest targeted rebate? Government officials say low inflation will mean no cost-of-living increase next year for Social Security recipients. The proposed $250 payment equals a 2 percent increase for the average retiree who gets the federal benefit. "These payments will provide aid to more than 50 million people in the coming year, relief that will not... Read more →

Having a baby, so I'm told, is a major challenge. The mothering concerns of one woman were intensified when, because of a double mastectomy, she was forced to turn to infant formula to feed her child. In the hopes the tax code could help somewhat, she sought to deduct the formula cost, which could be substantial. I'm not a mom, but I used to work for Nestlé and saw how much money that division made. (The photo to the right of the company's 1901 Scribner's magazine ad is from my personal collection.) Alas, the IRS said no. The formula is... Read more →

Health care reform saga continues

After all the drama and political posturing, the health care reform bill approved yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee looks very much like it did when the process started months ago. Most of what I blogged about previously in Senate health care, take two is in the bill that now goes to the full Senate. That includes: Taxing High-Cost Insurance Policies Expensive insurance policies, dubbed Cadillac plans, wouid face a nondeductible excise tax of 40 percent that would be levied on insurance companies and plan administrators beginning in 2013. What is considered high-dollar? Any health coverage above the threshold of... Read more →

Yeah, you read that headline right. It's deadlines, plural. And yeah, I meant to post this reminder a bit sooner. But, hey! All y'all procrastinators know that you wouldn't have paid attention even a week ago! So quit trying to make me feel guilty! But enough with the finger pointing. Tax time's a-wasting, so here goes with three tasks to complete by Oct. 15. 1. Final filing time: The first tax deadline coming up this Thursday is the one to get your Form 1040 (or other version that fits your filing needs) en route, electronically -- the Free File program... Read more →

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Apparently, that line is just the beginning of a whole Columbus discovers the New World song. Who knew? But it's a nice little Google discovery for today, the U.S. federal holiday honoring Christopher Columbus. Three-day weekends haven't meant as much to me since I left D.C., birthplace of time off for federal employees. And now the Wall Street Journal tells us that Columbus Day is in danger of sailing off the calendar. That would be too bad. Any event for which you can throw parade is fun. Yeah, I know; tax dollars spent... Read more →

Joe Taxpayer's weekly roundup

What better way to wrap up a weekend than with a handy collection of financial tips, courtesy Joe Taxpayer. As always, Joe's pulled together a nice group of financial bloggings, but you've got to check it out if only for his first item. Let's just say it's a link to a provocative suggestion for placement of a credit card perk by a disgruntled user of plastic. Although it's hard to compete with such a interest-grabbing lead, I'm also pleased to report that my item on the tax implications of the prez's Nobel Prize also sneaked into the roundup. Thanks, Joe! Read more →

The stock market has been creeping upwards, which is great news for folks like me, who are hoping one day to kick back and do exactly what we want, not what we have to do in order to pay bills. But there's still a lot of retirement planning work to be done by all of us, regardless of where we are on the road to our hoped-for golden years. When you combine the recent market crash with the fact that many folks used whatever retirement funds they had, both IRAs and company 401(k)s, to live on when they encountered day-to-day... Read more →

Update, March 29, 2018: When you move for a job, the costs of getting you and your family to your new work location are deductible … as long as you're claiming them on your 2017 tax return. Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018 and is in place through 2025, Uncle Sam will underwrite some relocation costs only for members of the military. But if you moved last year and want to claim the expenses, which you don't have to itemize, read on for tips on deducting those costs. When the... Read more →

Every time a prominent American gets a Nobel Prize, tax geeks scurry to examine the tax implications of the monetary reward. The exercise is particularly interesting this year since we have a sitting president winning the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to the symbolic plaudits, it carries an estimated $1.4 million cash award. That could produce a nice chunk of change for the IRS. Or not. "My guess is that, since his 2009 tax return will surely be made public and given the content of his remarks this morning, the President will give a great deal of the prize money... Read more →

The House yesterday unanimously approved extending the first-time home buyer tax credit for some members of the military. H.R. 3590, or the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 (blogged about in Housing tax topics roundup) would extend the $8,000 tax break through Nov. 30, 2010, for service personnel stationed overseas during the 2009 tax year. The credit's repayment provision -- the requirement that the buyer live in the home for at least three years -- also would be waived for servicemen and women who have to sell because of deployment orders. The 416-0 House vote now puts pressure... Read more →

Finance health plan would cut deficit

You heard right. The Congressional Budget Office says that even with an $829 billion price tag, the Senate Finance Committee health plan would reduce the federal budget deficit by $81 billion over 10 years. In a 27-page analysis released this afternoon, the nonpartisan budget group said the proposal, developed by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would expand coverage to 29 million more Americans by 2019 by dramatically expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor and by subsidizing private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans. The overall reform costs would be more than offset by reducing spending on Medicare and other... Read more →