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November 2009
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December 2009

Offshore tax amnesties are international

Continuing tax forgiveness when it comes to offshore accounts isn't limited to the United States. Encouraged by a tax amnesty that brought in about €80 billion (about $114 billion U.S.) between October and mid-December, Italian finance officials extended the program. Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said the amnesty, designed to to collect more assets currently deposited out of the country, will now run to April 2010. And the earlier Italians bring their money back into the country, the better terms they'll receive. The extension calls for a fee of 7 percent on repatriated assets, but investors who move their money from... Read more →

As today winds down, we're all looking at ways to make sure we pay Uncle Sam the least possible amount when we file our returns next year. If you're still searching for tax savings, check out some last-minute tips and to-dos from yesterday's roundup. But when it comes to the tax money you finally do have to pony up, do you know exactly what it pays for? According to some polls, many of us don't. So to help us get a better tax spending grasp, a couple of MIT grads created the Tax Breakdown Project. The Web site takes Office... Read more →

Act now or miss out on these end-of-year tax and money moves!

Where in the heck did 2009 go! This month especially has evaporated; I have proof in all the tasks I planned to have completed by now that are left undone. If December had progressed on a normal instead of accelerated pace, I swear my projects plate would be clean by now! But I, and you too, still have almost two full days. And that means there is some, albeit precious little, time to make some tax and money moves in 2009. If you're in the same boat I am -- and I suspect we have enough company to charter the... Read more →

Girls Gone Wild founder sues IRS

So sorry to sully your year-end celebrations, but just like his late-night cable TV ads, Girls Gone Wild racy video franchise founder Joe Francis refuses to go away. This fall, Francis pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of filing false tax returns. The plea deal also mandated that Francis pay back taxes and interest totaling $249,705, as well as a $10,000 fine. But he avoided additional jail time when a judge sentenced him to the the time he had served while waiting for resolution of the case. And that, we all hoped at the time, was the end of our... Read more →

One of my favorite Lyle Lovett songs is "What Do You Do," in which the Texan pays tribute to the timeless Billy Hill tune "The Glory of Love." In Lyle's modern classic, the inimitable Francine Reed, lamenting her lover's lack of material manifestations of his affection, sings one of the best lines of all time: "If you make all that money man, Make damn sure it shows." Such braggadocio, however, is exactly what has gotten some Bulgarian soccer players, or footballers as they're called there, in tax trouble. "The garrulous wives of Bulgarian footballers, who are more than happy to... Read more →

Another top 12 holiday tax countdown

Last week, I wrapped up The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas, but my dozen is far from alone. For years, Dan Meyer of Tick Marks has been evaluating tax, personal finance and accounting blogs and presenting readers with his list of 12 he finds worthy of note. I was honored to make Dan's list in 2006. And in the holiday spirit of sharing, and in order to get out as much good word about money blogging as possible, Dan doesn't double up from from year to year. This year, his fifth edition of the Twelve Blogs of Christmas includes seven... Read more →

The complete costs of house flipping

Since our house has been under repair, I've been visiting housing sites for other possible changes we might want to make. Hey, if you're already in disarray because of renovations, why not get everything out of the way all at once? During my surfing, I ran across the BuildDirect Building Materials Blog, which had this interesting graphic detailing some possible costs of flipping a house. Remember, too, that you'll have to pay taxes on any profit you make on the sale. And if you're lucky enough to turn over the property after owning it for a year or less, that... Read more →

Today is Boxing Day, a holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Greenland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and, according to Canwest News Service on, countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population. In South Africa today is a public holiday known as the Day of Goodwill. Dec. 26 also is St. Stephen's Day. He is celebrated for giving money to the poor, so one theory is that Boxing Day originated in his honor because it traditionally was the day that churches opened their boxes of alms and gave them out to the poor. Another... Read more →

In today's financial and tax news ...

Today's New York Times has several interesting tax and financial articles. At Tiny Rates, Saving Money Costs Investors tells us that "Millions of Americans are paying a high price for a safe place to put their money: extremely low interest rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposit." The very tiny silver lining to the minuscule savings rates is that we won't have much interest income to report on Schedule B when we file our 2009 returns. Recession? Teenagers Get It, and Are Cutting Back says that "After a year of observing their parents pinch pennies and fret about the... Read more →

Not only does the hubby read the ol' blog, he acts on its suggestions! Sometimes. One of my Christmas gifts yesterday was Tax Stories, the book edited by TaxProf Paul Caron. I had mentioned it in my Holiday gifts for tax geeks post earlier this month with a parenthetical note to my sweet spouse. Thanks, dear! In addition to editing the publication, Caron wrote the introduction, Tax Archaeology, in which he concludes that the problematic results in the book's 10 Supreme Court federal income tax cases underscore that "perhaps the fault lies…in our income tax itself." "Instead of chastising the... Read more →

Congress has finally cleared out of D.C. for the year. If we believe the oft-quoted saying, "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session," the departure of Representatives and Senators now means we can all breathe a bit easier. Actually, as this first session of the 111th Congress wound down, we not only had to deal with new laws, but also some legislation that was left undone. And that means we'll have to worry about what Congress will do with these measures when it returns next year. House acted, Senate acted up: Overall, the... Read more →

One of the things I love about Austin is the "wild" Christmas trees that "bloom" each December. There's a large grove along one of the major thoroughfares in Northwest Austin. Over the years, their seeds have spread. This year, several of the wild and wildly festooned trees showed up in our neighborhood. Below is a shot I took of one small group. It's a little blurry (I took it with my cell phone camera), but the good cheer of the season is still quite clear. Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas! Read more →

The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas 2009

In 2009, we inaugurated a new feature, The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas. In case you missed them when they ran, from Dec. 13 through Christmas Eve, we've collected them here. Sell assets Improve your home Spend your FSA Be charitable Do a mock return Watch out for AMT issues Defer income Make house payments early Bunch your expenses Get ready to retire Buy a car Hire a pro Some of the tips have an obvious year-end appeal and one, #11, is 2009 specific. But in most other instances, the tax advice is good any time of the year. Read more →

I had planned to post a wrap-up of Congressional tax action, or rather inaction, this afternoon, but just after 1 p.m. our power went out, victim of near-50 mph northwesterly gusts that pushed through Central Texas. So I'll present you with that holiday gift tomorrow on Christmas Day. I know it'll be hard to wait, but now you have some blogging goodies to look forward to on Dec. 25. Now that it's finally warming back up in our house, I'm going to put the wet towels that were in the washer when the electricity failed in the dryer, cook some... Read more →

Ta-da! We're reached the end of our tax carol! I've enjoyed all the voices that have joined this little choir and I hope you've found some good advice for this and future tax seasons. We wrap up The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas with a final suggestion: hire a tax professional. OK, don't go hire one today. You probably can't anyway, as most are likely taking a break before the 2010 filing season chaos begins. But at least evaluate your tax situation and determine whether you're going to need some help. That mock tax return you did (per tip #5... Read more →

The song is long, but we're nearing the finale. Today's verse in The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas looks at the tax benefits connected to a new car purchase. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying go buy a car. I hate ads, stories, salespeople, etc. who imply, or flat out say, that you can save money by spending money. You save money by saving it. So if you don't need a new car, this 11th Tax Tip of Christmas is not for you. But if your vehicle is on its last legs, then you might want to look into... Read more →

Sorry for missing Tax Twitter Tuesday last week. I was up in D.C. slapping lawmakers around ... if only! I was finishing up my term as a member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. But since were close to Capitol Hill, some of my fellow TAPpers headed over to the Senate one evening to watch part of the health care debate. Are we a lively group, or what!? So T3 is a week late, but not short of interesting tax tidbits from the Twitterverse. Since we've already been waiting almost seven full days, let's get to it! @SusanEJacobsen Drink, Drive, Crash,... Read more →

On the 10th day of The 12 Tax Tips of Christmas, my true love gave to me early retirement. Well, to be honest, the hubby and I are still fighting over who gets to quit working first. But here's some tax advice that could help us, and you, give up the 9-to-5 sooner rather than later. Saving in this economy is hard, but the tax code provides a lot of incentives to put away some cash for your golden years. If your company offers a 401(k) plan, contribute to it, as least up to the company match percentage. And even... Read more →

Time is running short, but if a tax geek is on your shopping list, here are a few last-minute gift possibilities. First, though, I want to elaborate on a suggestion from my earlier post on tax-related gifts. I noted that since most of us invoke God's name at tax time, a St. Matthew statue would be a good idea as he's the patron saint of accountants. Several readers let me know that St. Matthew has additional duties. In addition to accountants, he looks over bankers, bookkeepers, customs officers, financial officers, guards, money managers, security forces, security guards, stock broker and... Read more →

Let's all sing the praises of tax-cutting techniques. We look at one in today's 12 Tax Tips of Christmas, bunching your expenses to maximize deductions. There are lots of expenses that the IRS will allow you to use as deductions against your income. However, in many cases they have a major drawback: They must total a certain percentage of your income before they can be claimed. Take medical expenses, for example. To include these as an itemized deduction on your Schedule A, you must ring up enough to exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Even with today's... Read more →