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November 2009
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December 2009

Have you finished your your holiday shopping? Neither have I. OK, I haven't even started. But there's still time! And if you're looking for the perfect present for the tax geek you love, then I've got some suggestions for you. For Counsel is always a great place to start, especially if there's a tax attorney on your "nice" list. Hey, it can happen! This year they have a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ad from 1943 that includes a reference to taxes. According the to the item description, Pabst produced a series of patriotic ads for run during World War II,... Read more →

Are you a waiter? If that's your regular job, you already know that today is a tax day. No, you're not paying anything; just reporting income so you can pay taxes on it later. When you make at least $20 in tips the previous month, then today, like every 10th of the month that falls on a weekday, you're supposed to report that total tip amount to your employer. Many folks may be new to the job, though, having signed up for a part-time gig to make some extra cash during the holidays. So I want to make sure they... Read more →

House OKs extending tax breaks

That was easier than I thought it might be. The House actually began and completed consideration today of H.R. 4213, the bill to extend 49 tax provisions set to expire at the end of the year. Representatives approved the measure by a vote of 241 to 181. Winners: These extenders, as I noted in my post Tax break extenders on tap earlier today, include several that are popular with us rank-and-file taxpayers: Deduction of state and local general sales taxes, Additional standard deduction for real property taxes, Deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, Deduction by educators for certain classroom... Read more →

Tax break extenders on tap

Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) apparently wants to get out of D.C. in time to do some holiday shopping in New York. He's introduced a bill to extend 49 tax provisions that expire on Dec. 31, and word is the House will vote on the measure today, Wednesday, Dec. 9. Yep. Four-nine. I printed out the 12-page summary (sorry trees!) and numbered them myself just to be sure. You and I know some these tax measures all too well. They're called extenders because technically they are temporary and must be extended to remain in the tax code. Invariably,... Read more →

Some year-end tax moves to make

It's been a crazy month and December has barely started! That's why I am so glad that Jim at Bargaineering gave me the chance to get a bit ahead by letting me be a guest poster this week on his fine personal finance blog. Check out my 9 Year End Tax Moves to Make by Dec. 31. Once you finish that article, be sure to peruse the rest of the valuable money and tax info at Bargaineering. And by the end of this week, I hope to be in better tax, blogging and holiday shape! Want to tell your friends... Read more →

Sixty-eight years ago today, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The next day, following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "a date which will live in infamy" speech to the nation, the United States formally joined World War II. WWII is often referred to as "the last good war." Wordsmiths and philosophers can debate the phrase, but for most of us it essentially means that WWII was the last military effort in which there was consensus about American involvement. That widespread public support also made more palatable the associated sacrifices by those who weren't on the front... Read more →

Tiger tales, taxes and divorce

I really tried to ignore the Tiger Woods soap opera, but it just keeps getting weirder and sadder. Today we get reports of a fourth woman with whom the world's preeminent golfer allegedly was involved. I don't really care about all the sordid affair details, but the apparent marital problems of Tiger and Elin did get me thinking about possible tax implications. Yeah, I know. I'll never write a salable Lifetime Movie Network screenplay if the first thing that pops to my mind when discussing relationships is taxes. C'est la vie of a tax geek writer. But since you're here,... Read more →

Tax reform panel report delayed

December is upon us and you know what that means. The impending end of the year is when languishing legislation finally begins to move. The House passed an estate tax bill yesterday. The Senate is slouching toward debate of health care. And lawmakers swear they'll get around to renewing expiring tax breaks any time now. But one thing isn't going anywhere: fundamental tax reform. Rewriting, and presumably simplifying, our tax laws is the political Holy Grail. The last big revamp was the 1986 Tax Reform Act, or as it was always called when I worked in Washington, the "Historic" Tax... Read more →

First step toward permanent estate tax

The House this afternoon approved, by a 225-to-220 vote, a measure to keep the current estate tax law in place permanently. That's a 45 percent tax on estates in excess of $3.5 million per individual ($7 million for married couples). Of course, Congress doesn't always operate under the same definitional boundaries as the rest of us. Witness how it describes a "first-time" home buyer. So when someone on Capitol Hill says that something is permanent, that pronouncement is likely to prompt at least a smirk from legislative veterans. Still, today's vote was a step in that direction. But, as I... Read more →

Do you use your vehicle for business? Then you'll want to jot down this number: 50. That's how many pennies each mile of business-related travel is worth on your 2010 taxes. Every fall, the IRS takes a look at inflation, crunches some numbers and issues the coming year's standard mileage rates. In addition to telling us how much we can claim per mile for business travel, the IRS also sets the annual rates for medical and moving miles. For the upcoming 2010 tax year they are: 50 cents per mile for business, 16.5 cents per mile for moving, and 16.5... Read more →

I've been thinking about Charles Dickens today. Not because it's December and he wrote the classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol. And not because it was on this day in 1867 that Dickens gave his first public reading in America, kicking off a four-month reading tour. Rather, the impending attempt by Congress to resolve the estate tax reminds me of Dickens' Bleak House. This week, possibly even today, the House will finally consider how to keep the estate tax from dying. The tax currently has a top rate of 45 percent that's applied to estate values that exceed $3.5 million... Read more →