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May 2010

Please take at least a few minutes from your holiday today to remember why you have the day off. It's Memorial Day, a day that was established just after the Civil War as a way to remember those who had fallen in those divisive battles. It was originally called Decoration Day, but over the years the name and focus of the commemoration changed. Memorial Day that we now celebrate is a federal holiday held on the fourth Monday in May and most events have expanded to recognize the sacrifices of all U.S. servicemen and women. Please, though, hold a special... Read more →

Millions of folks are heading to the lake or park or a neighbor's or relative's backyard for today's Memorial Day celebrations. And most of them are lugging a cooler. We already pay an alcohol excise tax on the beers in those containers. Now lawmakers across the country are looking at new or extra taxes on sugar-containing beverages to replenish sagging state treasuries. Yes, drinking Cokes and other sweetened potables is now a sin, at least as far as some tax writers are concerned. You know sin taxes. They are the extra charges on, as former Texas deputy comptroller Billy Hamilton... Read more →

PGA Tour golfer John Daly in tax trouble

I hope John Daly, the flamboyant professional golfer, gets a nice piece of the $6.2 million purse at this weekend's Crowne Plaza Invitational at the Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth. He needs it to pay the more than $1 million in federal taxes he allegedly owes Uncle Sam. According to the Detroit News Tax Watchdog blog, the IRS has filed a $1,050,733 lien against Daly with the Shelby County, Tenn., Register of Deeds. The official paperwork indicates that Daly owes income taxes from 2007 and 2008. The address on the lien is his home in Memphis, Tenn., which is... Read more →

House passes tax extenders

More than a week after House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committee chairs reached an agreement on a legislation to extend expired tax breaks, the deal is halfway done. Following some tweaks this week, the full House voted 215 to 204 this afternoon to send the The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213) to the Senate. There was just one problem. The Senate had already shut down for its Memorial Day vacation district work session. The Senate promises to jump right on the bill when it gets back to Washington, D.C., on June 7. Who's holding... Read more →

The summer vacation season traditionally begins today with the arrival of the three-day Memorial Day holiday. While times are still tough for many foks, here's hoping you can take a little time off this year. One unexpected place to look for vacation help is the IRS. Tax laws can help you combine business and pleasure travel. Using Uncle Sam as a quasi travel agent isn't always the easiest way to plan for a quick vacation. You do, after all, have to follow the tax rules. But when a few days off can be paired with legitimate work-related travel, you can... Read more →

When it was pointed out earlier this year that, according to 2008 IRS data, a record 52 million filers (or 47 percent of the 143 million who filed a tax return for that year) had no tax liability, much anti-tax hand wringing and Capitol Hill haranguing began. The unfairness of it all! The tax system must be changed! Find those not carrying their tax weight and make them pay up!We don't have names, but the Tax Foundation knows generally where they live. Southern states have the highest percentages of nonpayers. As the map indicates, nine of the 10 states with... Read more →

Gas prices going up, while VW and Audi vehicle credits heading lower

Summer is almost here. We know because as temperatures are climbing, so is the price of gasoline. With the kids getting out of school, most families will find a way to take a vacation. And most will drive to their recreation destinations. So the old supply and demand kicks in at the pump. Some oil industry analysts predict that gasoline will hit $3 a gallon this summer. But there are ways to cope with higher fuel costs. CBS editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg offers five ways to make your fill-up go further. I made many of the same suggestions a couple... Read more →

Shoppers in Virginia, Texas and Louisiana will be able to save a few bucks thanks to those states' Memorial Day sales tax holidays. The events in Virginia and Louisiana offer tax-free deals hurricane preparedness items. Texas' sales tax savings are tied to energy efficient home appliances. Holiday dates: Virginia kicks things off early and gives shoppers the most time to save. The Old Dominion's tax-free holiday began today, May 25, and runs for seven days, through Monday, May 31. Texas is offering three days of tax-free shopping, starting Saturday, May 29, and ending on Memorial Day Monday, May 31. Louisiana's... Read more →

Same song, 837th verse: Congressional action on extenders tax legislation stalled. Today's expected House vote on renewing some popular individual and business tax breaks -- and implementing new taxes to pay for the extended tax cuts -- is on hold. The latest snag in the passage of H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 is its proposal to change taxation of carried interest payments. Carried interest income would be treated as 50 percent ordinary income and 50 percent capital gains through 2012; in 2013, it would be taxed as 75 percent ordinary income and 25... Read more →

Homebuyer credit sales, related audits up, but other IRS audits likely to be lower

Here's a piece of news that was totally expected. The April 30 expiration of the first-time homebuyer credit prompted more people to buy houses last month. And in connection with those purchases, we get another statistical bump that's also unsurprising. The IRS is auditing more tax returns that contain those homebuyer tax credit claims. Good news for Realtors: First, the good news for the economy, or at least the housing sector of it. The National Association of Realtors announced today that existing-home sales rose again in April. In addition to the tax credit lure, NAR cited improving consumer confidence and... Read more →

IRS Hitman reality (really?) show

I know I should check my e-mail more often, if for nothing else great "what the ..." chuckles like this press release touting a beat-the-IRS "Reality Drama" it says is a cross between "Intervention" and "Extreme Home Make Over." The hook this time is a "real life Ex- IRS agent, who one day realized he could no longer be apart of an organization that destroyed people's lives; that it was time to become the IRS (+) Hitman for the American People." Since it is a prospective TV show, let's go to the video: Awright! A family band of brothers (can... Read more →

Hedging tax cheater tips

I regularly hear from readers who want to rat out someone they're convinced is cheating on their taxes. I also get lots of messages from folks who say they told the IRS about a tax-cheating so-and-so but nothing's happened yet. Not only is that good-for-nothing still going merrily about his non-tax-paying business, the IRS hasn't sent along any reward to the informant who provided the tip. It's never been that easy to get a payout for turning in tax cheats. But things were supposed to get better three years ago when, as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care... Read more →

Tax extenders vote on Tuesday?

In my excitement that Congressional tax writers had finally reached a compromise on how to pay for the lapsed tax breaks known as extenders, I failed to properly emphasize that it is just an agreement. Before any of us who might benefit from the renewed tax breaks in The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, it must be passed by both the full House and Senate and then signed by the prez. Things are looking up in that regard, but Congress continually stands out as the perfect example against predicting outcomes. In fact, there was hope that the House... Read more →

Today pretty much sucked for those of us with stock holdings. We watched the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge 376 points Thursday, with losses starting as soon as the market opened. That 3.6 percent drop, along with the S&P 500 Index fall of about 43 points (also an almost 4 percent decrease) left both major indexes at 10 percent or more below their closing highs just last month. This first official correction of the bull market that began its upward climb back on March 9, 2009. The main reason for today's declines, say investment experts, is growing fear that the... Read more →

Agreement reached on tax extenders

It looks like Congress might actually complete some long-delayed tax legislation. The House and Senate had been aiming for renewal of the package of popular tax breaks that expired Dec. 31, 2009, by the Memorial Day weekend. Then they hit some bumps in the road. But today Ways and Means Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) swear the tax extenders deal is done. (More on final timing here.) The latest version is The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Levin and Baucus issued a summary of the bill. Key individual tax breaks that will... Read more →

Did the Obamas over pay their taxes?

Barack and Michelle Obama's first tax return as the First Family was too generous to the IRS. That's the assessment of Dorothy A. Brown, law professor at Emory Law in Atlanta. Brown notes in an article for Tax Analysts: The first couple earned more than $5 million and paid 32 percent in federal income taxes. When compared with their peers, they paid too much. According to the most recent IRS statistics, most households with adjusted gross incomes of at least $5 million paid only 23 percent in federal income taxes. Were the Obamas trying to single-handedly reduce the deficit by... Read more →

Arizona voters OK sales tax hike

The Grand Canyon State continues to raise eyebrows, this time with its traditionally tax-averse electorate choosing to raise taxes. On July 1, Arizona shoppers will pay a 6.6 percent sales tax on most purchases. The 1-cent increase will last for three years, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's support of the tax increase had been seen by many as political suicide. Twenty challengers have signed up to face her in the August GOP primary, but with approval of the sales tax increase that's like to change. Brewer can now argue that she did what the majority of Arizona voters, or at least... Read more →

Arizona's Republican governor has really been under the political microscope this year. But while most folks outside the Grand Canyon State's borders have focused on its new immigration law, Arizonans today are honing in on Jan Brewer's advocacy of a new $1 billion sales tax. Brewer's sales tax support has knocked political observers for a loop. "She's where nobody has ever been in my 20-plus years in political life in Arizona," lobbyist Stan Barnes told the Los Angeles Times. "A Republican leading the charge for a tax." Brewer doesn't have final say on the sales tax, though. That's being left... Read more →

My mother lived for decades in western Oklahoma, a region that always seems to be a target in tornado season. More distressing was that she lived in a mobile home. So I was thrilled when she recently moved into an apartment in the metro Oklahoma City area. And what happened last week? OKC was ground zero for a series of deadly twisters. Mum's fine. So is her new home. But my brief sense of maternal well-being has been shattered by the realization that there is no place completely safe from some sort of disaster. Constant disaster calendar: The official spring... Read more →

How's the party going? Wait, aren't you celebrating? You should be. Today is Tax Freedom Day. Whoa! Déjà vu. Didn't I just write that previous paragraph on April 9, Tax Freedom Day 2010? Good memory! That was the year's first national Tax Freedom Day. Today we get another piece of cake. May 17 is the day we've all worked long enough and paid in enough taxes to cover all government spending this year, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit. Today is the second latest deficit-inclusive Tax Freedom Day since World War II, says The Tax Foundation, which each year... Read more →