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February 2010

Terry. Congratulations! And with that, we wrap up the drawings for the prepaid cards to access TurboTax Premier online tax preparation software. Thanks to everyone who entered. For those of you who didn't win this time, I'll be holding another software giveaway before tax season winds down. So if you can be patient for a short while, you'll have another shot at getting some free help in filing your 2009 taxes. Full disclosure: Just so everyone knows, I'm not getting anything from the folks at Intuit except five online tax preparation prepaid cards that I passed along this week to... Read more →

On Valentine's Day, I looked at the tax implications of courtships that turn into marriages. Today, in light of Tiger Woods' statement about his indiscretions, I thought I'd reprise some info about tax considerations when a marriage ends. Now I'm not saying I doubt the sincerity of Tiger's apology. But I noticed that Elin was not there. Personally, I'm glad she wasn't. He's the one who made such a mess of everything; he needs to clean it up himself. And I'm not saying I think or hope they will split up. I'm a big fan of marriage, having been in... Read more →

State tax refund delays are now the norm

Remember when everyone was snickering at California for issuing IOUs instead of tax refunds? Quit laughing. More financially-strapped states are holding onto their residents' tax refunds longer. North Carolina's Revenue Secretary Kenneth Lay has announced that his office is delaying refund checks due both individuals and businesses. Holding onto the money is a cash-flow necessity, Lay said, because the state is facing a shortfall due to "anemic" collections, a common problem across the United States. Even paradise is having refund money issues. The Hawaii Department of Taxation, which already has up to 90 days before it has to send out... Read more →

Kelly. Congratulations on winning the Thursday drawing for a TurboTax Premier prepaid card. I'll randomly select our fifth and final winner this evening. If you've entered but not yet won, your name will be included in this last drawing. If you want to enter, just e-mail me at Put "I want TurboTax" in the subject line. And include your mailing address. That's all there is to it. You can read full entry details in More tax software to give away!Good luck! Full disclosure:Just so everyone knows, I'm not getting anything from the folks at Intuit except five online tax... Read more →

Man angry at IRS crashes plane into Austin building

It's one thing to read about people who are angry at the tax code and the people who administer it. It's another to see that anger manifest destructively in your town. By now, I'm sure you've heard about the Austin man who, after years of reported tax problems, decided to take his life and apparently try to take down a local IRS office, too. Joseph Stack flew his Piper Cherokee PA-28 into the office building that houses the Austin tax office. He's dead. Two people were injured, one suffering serious burns. One person who works in the Northwest Austin building,... Read more →

More 'Amazon taxes' advance in states

Attention online shoppers. States are moving forward in their efforts to collect sales taxes on items purchased from remote retailers. This week, the Virginia Senate approved a measure that would require Internet retailers to collect the Old Dominion's 5 percent sales tax. Virginia lawmakers say they are justified in demanding their version of the so-called Amazon tax, named after the popular online retailer, because the Seattle, Wash.-based company has two facilities in Northern Virginia. The bill goes further, however, by also citing presumed nexus, or physical presence, in the state based on a company's agreements with affiliates. In this case,... Read more →

Dororthy. Congratulations on nabbing Wednesday's TurboTax Premier prepaid card. Three down, two to go. If you've entered earlier, you're still in the running. If you haven't, just e-mail me at Put "I want TurboTax" in the subject line. And include your mailing address. That's all there is to it. You can read full entry details in More tax software to give away!Good luck! Full disclosure: Just so everyone knows, I'm not getting anything from the folks at Intuit except five online tax preparation prepaid cards that I'll pass along this week to five fortunate blog readers. Want to tell... Read more →

When I saw the headline in the San Antonio Business Journal, my heart leapt. Girl Scouts help Health Science Center researchers fight obesity Alas, while the young women's latest effort is to be commended -- they're helping involve their community in a Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio project to encourage physical activity among girls -- I was hoping it had something to do with great tasting, lower calorie Thin Mints. Hi. I'm Kay and I'm a Girl Scout cookie addict. Like anyone who's obsessive about anything, I rationalize: My cookie purchases (ooohhh, look at the variety!) are for... Read more →

Are you getting your daily dose of tax tips? One a day could help keep the auditor away. Even better, they could mean savings when you send the IRS your Form 1040. So be sure to check the upper right corner of the ol' blog for a new tip every weekday through April 15. Today's tip, number 30 in our series, is a look at those taxes that could actually pay off. They're the state and local levies you can use to help reduce your federal tax bill. And don't worry if you miss one or two. You can find... Read more →

Melissa. Congratulations on snagging Tuesday's TurboTax Premier prepaid card. Two down, three to go. To have chance at winning a card with which you can prepare and file your taxes, one federal and one state return, for free, all you have to do is enter. And that's as easy as e-mailing me at Put "I want TurboTax" in the subject line. And include your mailing address. That way, if you win I can get the card in the mail without having to do the back-and-forth e-mail exchanges to get the info. If you've already entered, then you'll be included... Read more →

Tax laws, guns and money

With what's been going with the IRS of late, it may be time for someone to add a tax twist to the late Warren Zevon classic, Lawyers, Guns and Money. Not that I, being a native Texan, want to perpetuate any stereotypes, but let's start with the guns even though that's second in the headline and song title list. A couple of weeks ago, the IRS announced it was seeking bids (or as the agency calls it, a Request For Quotation) for 60 Remington shotguns for its Criminal Investigation Division. The request goes on in detail about the weapons specifications.... Read more →

Congratulations to Dinakar, winner of our first TurboTax Premier prepaid card. Don't despair if you didn't win this drawing. We have four more cards to hand out and it's easy to get in the running. All you have to do is e-mail me at Put "I want TurboTax" in the subject line. And include your mailing address so if you win, I can get the card in the mail without having to do the back-and-forth e-mail exchanges to get the info. One person neglected to let me know where I could send the card so that entry was deleted.... Read more →

Happy Presidents Day! We used to celebrate George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays separately. The Father of Our Country was was born on Feb. 22nd. Honest Abe was born on Feb. 12th. And officially, today is still just George's day. There's never been a federal holiday for Abe. That these two men who led our country during trying times are thought of together each third Monday in February is thanks to the popularity of three-day federal holiday weekends and Americans' penchant for shopping. Retailers in the 1980s took to calling the Washington holiday Presidents Day, slapping up posters of Lincoln... Read more →

Sad you didn't win one of the tax preparation software giveaways I handed out over the last few weeks? Well it's time to get happy! The folks at Intuit have sent me five prepaid cards, each of which will allow you access to the company's TurboTax Premier online 2009 filing software. The system is much like the boxed program, only you don't have to load or download anything to your computer. Just sign on to and do your taxes. Each prepaid card will get you one free federal and state tax return preparation and e-file. Now the important stuff.... Read more →

Love and taxes. Yes, they do go together. First, all you married folks. Congratulations on sticking with those vows. I know you didn't invite Uncle Sam to your wedding, but he was there in spirit. When it comes to taxes, your marital status for a tax year is determined by your relationship status on Dec. 31 of that year. If you were married 364 days but the divorce was final on the last day of the year, then when you file that year's tax return you are single. Conversely, if you didn't get married until Dec. 31, then those 364... Read more →

With Toyota's troubles, General Motors and Ford are hoping to get new customers who now want to give the domestic car makers another shot. And some of those who might have had their hearts set on a Prius are perhaps looking at other hybrid options. If you are a Blue Oval fan, then you might want to go shopping for a fuel-efficient Ford sooner rather than later. Remember that tax credit for hybrids? The one that dwindles as a manufacturer sells more and more of the vehicles? Well, the hybrid tax credit is phasing out on eligible Fords. In fact,... Read more →

That's right. The hijinks and hilarity of an IRS office. Or, as they say in the television biz, an "IRS laffer." OK. I'm a bit dubious. But that's what Ron Howard, who brought us the wonderfully skewed (and under-appreciated) Arrested Development, and Brent Forrester, writer-director of the U.S. version of The Office, have planned in the show for Fox. The workplace comedy set in an Internal Revenue Service district office apparently is an idea that Howard has been toying with for years. Hmmm. Now I'm really curious about his personal tax experiences. The still untitled project -- how about Happy... Read more →

Drum roll please ... Wade! Congratulations to Wade, Shane, Carolyn, Meg, Igor, Travis, Linda, Alex, Janine, Joe, Stephen, Ashok, Alan, Shelley and Susan M. Whew! Deep breath! I want to thank CCH for making its CompleteTax software available to Don't Mess With Taxes readers. I especially want to thank you readers for entering the giveaway. It's been a fun three weeks. So much fun, in fact, that we're going to be giving away more tax software next week. Check back tomorrow -- not too early; it will be Saturday! -- for details on this next contest. Full disclosure: Just so... Read more →

Texas stripper 'pole tax' to get review

The highest court in the Lone Star State has agreed to consider whether the state's $5 charge on strip club patrons violates the First Amendment right of free expression. How nice. The decision to take the case came just in time for Valentine's Day. At issue is whether the so-called "pole tax" unfairly singles out for regulation nude dancing in clubs that serve alcohol. Last summer, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin agreed, by a 2-to-1 vote, with a state district judge's decision to strike down the law. "While nude dancing 'falls only within the outer ambit of the... Read more →

7 new tax laws that could save you money

Welcome to prime tax-filing time. Tax forms (W-2s, 1099s and the like) have arrived and folks are ready to get their 1040s into the IRS so they can get their refunds. If you're among the 40 percent of taxpayers working on your return this month, here are some tax law changes that could help you maximize your refund. Or at least reduce any amount you might owe Uncle Sam. 1. Home is where the tax heart is The big break this filing season is the first-time and move-up homebuyer credits. The tax break underwent three revisions in less than two... Read more →