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February 2010

Remind me not to move to Colorado Springs. Or even visit there. Its anti-tax residents have decided to rough it rather than pay for services most of us take for granted. Streetlights have gone dark. Buses don't run at night or on weekends. Road paving is out. Trash is no longer collected at city parks. And that's just for starters. The Denver Post says that city recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools and some museums will close by the end of March. Landscaping at public places, including mowing and watering, will end soon. Fire and police department jobs will continue... Read more →

Making the WSJ tax blog list

Tax manuals with personality. That's how the Wall Street Journal's Yoree Koh describes tax blogs that, "with their pithy analysis, can be a great to way make sense of regulatory changes and acronyms." To that end, Koh recently selected The Top Five Accounting Blogs. Appearing at number three on the list is, ta-dah!, Don't Mess With Taxes. Here's the blurb from, the newspaper's new finance sector career site: Don't Mess With Taxes: Though tax professionals hardly need tax advice, the colorful news items and perspective dispensed by Kay Bell, a self-proclaimed tax geek and native Texan, makes this site... Read more →

Have you placed a friendly wager on Super Bowl XLIV? You are so not alone. The NFL's championship game marks the biggest betting day of the year. While lots of folks will lose money, some will win nice chunks of change. And it's a safe bet that many of those winners will stiff the IRS. Yes, gambling winnings are taxable income. The IRS specifically says so. And it doesn't say that winnings from illegal bets are exempt. Uncle Sam isn't a cop. He doesn't worry about how you get your money. He is only concerned about getting his cut. Remember... Read more →

Schwarzenegger's tax lien terminated

California is still coping with shaky state finances, but its chief executive is in much better fiscal shape today. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's promise that he'd be back in the good graces of the IRS came true Friday afternoon when the feds cleared the $79,064 lien they had filed in connection with Ahnold's personal tax returns. Schwarzenegger had always maintained that he had paid Uncle Sam and that the apparent overdue taxes -- $39,047.20 from 2004 and $40,016.80 from 2005 -- were the result of "a minor paperwork tracking discrepancy." It seems that the explanation was indeed the true truth, not... Read more →

How to raise $1.9 trillion in taxes

That's the tad hyperbolic headline message from the Business Insider blog as it looks at the prez's budget proposals. As I noted in Obama's fiscal 2011 tax proposals, not all that's included in the latest budget will be enacted. In fact, this annual fiscal exercise undertaken by every president typically produces a very long wish list. Still, Business Insider has put together a good-looking take on some of the proposals, focusing as you might expect on those that affect corporate taxpayers. Related posts: Obama's fiscal 2011 tax proposals A look back at the decade in taxes Congressional tax wrap-up Democrats,... Read more →

When the IRS announced its new initiative to oversee paid tax preparers, it noted that more than 80 percent of American households use a tax professional or tax software to help them prepare and file their taxes. Uncle Sam's numbers are consistent with a new taxpayer survey that found most filers this year plan to get help, either from a paid tax preparer (33 percent) or from a CPA (24 percent). The poll, conducted by by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of H&R Block, also found that another 15 percent will get tax-filing help from a family member or a... Read more →

As you fill out your tax return this filing season, you might find yourself wondering just where is that money you forwarded to Uncle Sam via payroll withholding going? If you end up owing even more once your Form 1040 calculations are complete, the question is even more pressing. Well, USA Today has developed an interactive tax tracking tool. The screen shot below gives you an idea of what the graphic will indicate. Essentially, it lets you enter your salary and see how tax rates and spending priorities have changed over time, from 1940 through 2010. For example, for the... Read more →

Always listen to your mother. With that extra gene for fairness that comes from trying to wrangle kiddos, my mother insisted that my brother and I pay attention to other folks points of view. That didn't make much sense when I was six, but I see the value of it now. So with a nod to my mom, I must point out that in addition to being very nice for the recipients, those ginormous Wall Street end-of-year checks that we've all been yelping about for the last few months do have a plus side. In fact, those big bonuses actually... Read more →

House hunting? Check out tax credit

I know I've blogged about the first-time homebuyer credit a gazillion times. My most recent post on the tax break was The home buyer credit's three E's. But I cover it yet again, this time for, in Homebuyer tax credit extended, expanded. Quick aside: That article is Daily Tax Tip #22 of this filing season. You'll find a new tip in the upper right corner of the ol' blog's home page each week day. Or check out the running list of all tips so far. Personally, I wish Washington had let this tax break expire last November. All it's... Read more →

I think the Oscars' decision to nominate 10 movies for best film is stupid. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is just pandering rather than seeking to honor the best in movie making. The suits in the entertainment industry were worried that ratings for the annual awards show have been declining for the last few years. They thought if they included more movies, it would ensure that some popular ones, not just artsy works, would be nominated and that would get more viewers. They pointed to the years when Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings:... Read more →

The 16th Amendment, which authorizes the collection of an income tax, was ratified on this day in 1913. Happy 97th! And yes, as I noted a few days ago in The ever-growing tax code, the income tax is legal. Let it go, tax protesters. Let. It. Go. So here's a blog toast to the Internal Revenue Code, the continual tweaking of which by Congress has made tax-related professions about the safest jobs in the United States! Thanks to International Tax Blog (via Tax Update Blog) for the birthday reminder. Related posts: The ever-growing tax code The out-of-control tax code Tax... Read more →

On my way home

I love the ocean. To a kid who grew up in the desert terrain of West Texas, that's what the Gulf of Mexico was, the ocean. So I was thrilled when I was asked to come to Corpus Christi for a speaking gig. And I had a good time here the last couple of days, meeting South Texas CPAs and telling the local chapter of the Texas Society of CPAs about the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. But the weather totally sucked! Rainy, cold (for this part of the country; that disclaimer is for my Midwestern and Northeastern friends!) and windy. So... Read more →

Letterman's Top Ten Budget Surprises

No, not Dave's personal budget. Not even the money allocated for his Late Show program. We're talking the fiscal 2011 U.S. budget that Obama released this week. I looked at some of the tax provisions in the prez's financial wish list for the country. But leave it to Letterman to find some things in the 192-page document that I missed. So in case you didn't catch Dave's reading of revelations on Monday night, here are his Top Ten Surprises In The $3.8 Trillion Federal Budget: 10. 3.5 trillion dollars given to committee fighting overspending 9. President now has to pay... Read more →

You've been working for a month now. You've gotten a paycheck or two (or more). Now it's time to evaluate how much of your money is going to the IRS each payday. If you are an employee, most of your tax payments are made throughout the year via payroll withholding. A lot of people overpay, which means they get a big refund when they file their tax returns. While it might be nice to get a big check from the IRS every spring, your goal should be to pay Uncle Sam as close to your actual final tax bill as... Read more →

Obama's fiscal 2011 tax proposals

The president released his fiscal year 2011 budget Monday. As expected, the main focus has been on the enormity of the numbers. If Obama gets everything he put in the 192-page document, it will cost us $3.8 trillion. Don't worry. He won't get all his budget wishes. But it's still fun to look at some of the key tax provisions. Who knows, a couple might make it into law. Let's start with Obama's signature tax break, the Making Work Pay credit. The prez wants to extend that through 2011, as well as give retirees another $250 each in 2010. Last... Read more →

Schedule M errors cropping up

This happens every time there's a new form. Taxpayers and tax preparers make an innocent mistake and the tax return gets sent to the IRS' Error Resolution System, or ERS. ERS is a computer program used to correct errors and inconsistencies detected by the IRS computer system during processing of tax return information. It's automatic when there are such things as omissions of data the IRS needs to substantiate an item on a return. In the most simple application, the program is looking to make sure that taxpayer info is entered where it should be on a form, either by... Read more →