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January 2010

Well, the NFL season is over for me now that the Cowboys choked lost to the Vikings this afternoon. The good news is that other sports -- and taxes -- now will have my undivided attention. And it's already started. The Times of London reports today that new tax rules in the United Kingdom "threaten to drive away some of the biggest overseas names from showcase events in Britain." HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is aggressively imposing levies on athletes' endorsement earnings. On top of that, the British revenue office is also targeting sponsors' performance-related bonuses. What this means is... Read more →

The IRS began accepting electronically filed returns yesterday, Jan. 15. The big e-file news for the 2010 filing season is what can't be submitted via cyberspace. Anyone claiming a homebuyer credit, either the $8,000 for first-time residence buyers or the $6,500 version for move-up primary property purchasers, will have to send in their 1040 and associated credit Form 5405 by snail mail. That, of course, is going to slow down any refund you might get. Even worse, the IRS is not going to even start processing these paper forms until mid-February. The agency says it needs the extra weeks to... Read more →

Craig's wise words about Haiti's crisis

The late-night television focus recently has been on Conan and Jay. But the best after hours program is CBS' Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Here's a guy with superb comic timing and the proverbial rapier wit. He doesn't suffer fools gladly or actually at all; he's flat out said he won't book folks who have nothing to offer to a conversation. He is, however, more than happy to play the fool himself. He's also a damn good writer. And who can resist a late-night host who's eager and willing to discuss Flaubert and deconstructionism on his program. Most importantly,... Read more →

It now looks like the move to make the now-dead estate tax retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, is itself starting to show failing life signs. The Dow Jones Newswires service reports that Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) is unsure whether there will be legislation to re-impose the federal estate tax retroactive to the first of this year. This is exactly what I suspected would happen (slide 12 of my presentation this week to Austin CPAs). Of course, I thought it would be estate tax opponents leading the charge, not the man who heads the House tax-writing committee and... Read more →

Flight of 'golden geese' taxpayers

As I mentioned in my presentation to a local CPA group yesterday, taxes on higher income earners are getting a lot of attention. A surtax on the wealthy, for example, is part of the House version of health care reform. But taxes and how they are distributed has long been part of our fiscal and political landscape. In the last presidential election, Obama set $250,000 as the threshold for defining where the tax hikes would fall.Whether you consider a quarter of a million dollars wealthy depends on a lot of things, including not just your current paycheck or Visa balance,... Read more →

Why does this sneak up on me every January? It's right over there in the ol' blog's tax calendar to your left. Still, boom! I almost forget about it year after year. I'm talking, of course, about the previous year's final estimated tax payment. Yep, it's 1040-ES time again. Voucher number four needs to be on its way to the IRS by Friday. I just logged on to the IRS' Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, site to have my final 2009 estimated payment shifted over to the Treasury electronically at week's end. If you want to mail your... Read more →

Practical effects of tax law changes

I just got back from a great luncheon meeting of the Austin Chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs. They invited me to speak and since these are folks who are in the tax trenches, I suggested I rant about present an overview of federal tax law changes, the process that created them and the changes' effects on 2009's filings and 2010's tax planning. It was a great group (I never expected anything less from CPAs!) and they asked many interesting follow-up questions. Their insights and additions to the conversation made me wish we had more accountants in Congress! When... Read more →

Right now I know you're focused on your 2009 tax filing, due April 15, which means you're concerned about what tax bracket last year's income fell into. And then there's your 2010 tax planning. For that, you need to pay attention to the 2010 tax rates and income brackets. But for those of you who really, really like to plan ahead or want to have something else to worry about, check out this very interesting table detailing the expected top tax rates for various types of income at this time next year. Yep, that's what could, might, is expected to... Read more →

Whistleblower group urges UBS review

The UBS tax haven saga is slowly playing out, but some folks are upset with what they see as inequitable justice. Last week, another client of the Swiss bank pleaded guilty to a $6.1 million tax fraud. After providing U.S. prosecutors with "substantial help" in their continuing criminal inquiry, 67-year-old Juergen Homann was sentenced on Wednesday to five years probation, a $60,000 fine and 300 hours of community service. Two days later, a former Boeing Co. sales manager who admitted last October to using a UBS account to hide $1.86 million from the IRS was sentenced to a year of... Read more →

Yesterday would have been The King's 75th birthday. I thought of you Elvis, but this Jan. 8 was a crazy day and I just never got around to wishing you all the best. I'm sure if you're alive, you'll understand. Things kind of got out of control for you now and then. And if you're dead, I hope you're not spending eternity worrying about such inconsequential earthly issues. Regardless of whether you believe Elvis is rocking out on another plane of existence or still enjoying fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches (for energy in his battles against an ancient evil... Read more →

Amazon, Google and taxes, oh my!

The credit card bills with Christmas charges are starting to show up and, like millions of other shoppers, the hubby and I spent much of our holiday budget at virtual storefronts. Such dot-com spending habits are of great interest to state tax departments. I've blogged before about cities and states going after online operations, as in Chicago's tax lusting after eBay and StubHub transactions. But the favorite tax target of most state revenue offices is Amazon. The Seattle-based seller collects sales tax in just a few states. Last year, however, the quest for more money prompted several revenue-hungry state legislatures... Read more →

Taxes can be scary, sort of like that skeleton hand there to the right. But if you follow that creepy pointing pile of bones, it'll direct you to the Daily Tax Tip, which should help alleviate some of your tax fears. Yep, we're up to tip #4, right over there to your right. Yeah, in that next column. There at top. This is the last day that this announcement post will be up here leading off the ol' blog's postings, but the Daily Tax Tip, via Bankrate's Annual Tax Guide (and yes, I write them), will continue to be a... Read more →

Miles and miles of Texas traveling taxes?

As regular readers know, I've blogged ad nauseum regularly on the fiscal troubles of many of our 50 states. One of the common themes in these struggling state posts is the creative ways tax officials and lawmakers are coming up with to pay the bills. OK, California's IOUs were more sad than ingenious, but you know what I mean. Now it looks like my native state, which had a couple of European banners among the six flags that variously flew over us, is taking a cue from another transatlantic country. I wrote a couple of months ago about The Netherlands'... Read more →

New year, new withholding amounts

No, I'm not talking about adjusting your withholding, although that's always a good idea so that you pay in through payroll taxes just what you'll owe the IRS when you file. I'm talking about what your first paycheck of 2010 is likely to look like. For some, it will be less than they got in their final 2009 check. The reason is more withholding changes because of the Making Work Pay credit. Yep, that provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the stimulus, that was supposed to put more money in our hands will appear to... Read more →

Daily Tax Tips for 2010

Check out the top right column! That's where you'll find the previously promised Daily Tax Tip to help get you through your 2009 Form 1040 filing and implement tax planning strategies that could reduce your 2010 tax bill. These daily doses of tax wisdom are courtesy of Bankrate's annual tax guide. And by the time filing season ends on April 15 for most of us, they'll all be collected on this special Daily Tax Tips page.You also can have all these juicy tax tidbits delivered directly to your e-mail box by subscribing to the Daily Tax Tip. And be sure... Read more →

Remember Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's confirmation hearing troubles when it was revealed that he didn't pay self-employment tax on some of his earnings? That tax screw-up helped him make my decade in taxes list (#5). Remember, too, when Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee that he screwed up while using TurboTax? We all know it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and Geithner did tell the confirmation panel that any mistakes he made were his own. But apparently TurboTax doesn't want any more guilt by association, at least in cases like the Treasury Secretary's. The popular tax program has... Read more →

First things first. This post is a blatant plug for my "real" job as contributing tax editor for So actually, my headline should more appropriately read Tax Guide 2010 is there! But regardless of where it's actually posted from, the annual Tax Guide is always with me. Back in 1999 I helped launch Bankrate's tax component. I've been doing the job ever since, first in-house when the hubby and I were in Florida where the personal finance Web site is based, and for the last five years remotely from my Austin, Texas, home. Every year we put together a... Read more →

Tax preparer testing (& more) on the way

If the IRS has its way, the days are numbered for those temporary card table set-ups in dingy storefronts that proclaim, via slap-dash hand-lettered signs, they can get you the "Biggest Tax Refunds in Town!" The IRS is hoping that its new tax preparer regulations, announced today, will put an end to these often-shady tax "professionals." Now I know some tax-season-only folks are on the up-and-up. They pay attention to the tax laws, follow the rules and make sure their clients do, too. But the annual return filing period also is prime breeding ground for scuzzballs who use and abuse... Read more →

10 worst tax ideas of 2009

Yes, the lists keep a-coming. This time we've got Tax Vox, the blog of the Tax Policy Center, with its worst tax ideas of 2009. Health insurance related levies are on list, along with the debacle that is California's financial (mis)management system and Congress' inability to deal with the estate tax. But Tax Vox also takes issue with a couple of tax laws that have been praised in other quarters: the first-time home buyer credit and the upcoming expanded Roth rollover opportunity. Check out the full list and let me know what you think. What tax measures should be in... Read more →

10 states in big financial trouble

In my decade of taxes post yesterday, I threw in a bonus comment on state fiscal concerns. Today, in her Tax Loopholes blog, Diane Kennedy listed the 10 states she says are the most dangerous to live in right now, at least fiscally-speaking. They are: California Oklahoma Arizona Illinois Hawaii New Jersey New York Nevada Colorado Michigan Check out Diane's post for details on exactly why these states are in such dire financial shape. And what happens when states have money troubles? You got it. They will be more creative in seeking out new tax sources and more aggressive in... Read more →