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November 2010

Switzerland rejects new tax on rich; IRS ends legal challenge against Swiss bank

Congress is getting ready to debate whether the United States' wealthier residents must pay higher taxes. But in Switzerland, that issue has been decided. The rich don't have to pay more taxes. On Sunday, 59 percent of Switzerland's voters rejected a proposed 22 percent tax on residents with annual income of more than 250,000 francs, or just a little over $249,000 in U.S. dollars at today's currency exchange rate. Opponents argued the minimum national tax would have interfered with the tax independence of Swiss cantons, the nation's equivalents of states. Now, and for the foreseeable future, the cantons set their... Read more →

Oklahoma tax man wants use tax money

Oklahoma tax officials decided sooner definitely is better than later when it comes to reminding residents of their state use tax responsibilities. While shoppers took to the Internet on Cyber Monday to look for holiday deals, the Oklahoma Tax Commission was letting taxpayers know: Consumer Use Tax is due when you have made a purchase from out of state and you were not charged Oklahoma Sales tax on the purchase. Out of state vendors are not required by law to collect Oklahoma tax if they have no physical presence in Oklahoma, but tax on the sale is still due. Universal... Read more →

Today thousands of us will do our holiday shopping from our computers, clicking on websites and ordering items. But in many cases, the states where online shoppers live are bemoaning the loss of revenue. That's the case in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates the state loses around $150 million each year in sales taxes it can't collect on catalog and Internet purchases from out-of-state vendors by Wisconsin consumers. Nationwide, reports the Green Bay Press-Gazette, all states collectively lose an estimated $16 billion to $18 billion a year in unpaid sales taxes. Almost $9 billion of those losses are... Read more →

Of course you loved seeing all the relatives over the Thanksgiving holiday. But there's only so much family time a person can take, right? So after the eating and shopping, maybe you slipped out to catch a movie. There certainly was something at multiplexes for everyone this holiday. We have Tangled for the kiddos, Burlesque for musical fans (and Cher groupies), the chick flick Love and Other Drugs, Faster for action film aficionados and The King's Speech for British history buffs (and Colin Firth fans). The annual year-end releases are not new. Movie makers know that holidays are a good... Read more →

Welcome to Small Business Saturday. As you might have suspected, this event is the creation of a company that wants you to use its product. American Express came up with the idea. The goal, according to the charge card company, is to highlight the importance of small businesses at a time -- between yesterday's Black Friday and the upcoming Cyber Monday -- when so many people are shopping at malls, big box retailers and online. So despite its blatant commercial creation, I encourage you to visit a locally-owned store in your community today and any other days you can. And... Read more →

Black Friday and S.C. sales tax bargains

I know. I know. I'm way behind the curve on this Black Friday -- so-called because many retailers depend on this one day to turn the red ink on their ledgers indicating losses into profitable black ink notations -- shopping thing. I meant to get this post up earlier, but the turkey's tryptophan really kicked in last night (or maybe it was that second piece of pumpkin pie…) and I'm getting a later start than most folks on this major consumer day. Unlike me, price-conscious people looking for the best bargains were up at O'dark-thirty to get into their favorite... Read more →

Taxes, deer and turkey: Virginia's historic Thanksgiving tradition

You didn't really think I'd let Thanksgiving go by without some mention of taxes, did you? To make sure U.S. tax geeks are thankful this holiday, I'm pleased to report that an historic Thanksgiving tax continues to be paid each November in Virginia. The Washington Post notes: In a ceremony that traces its roots to a 333-year-old treaty between Native Americans and the British crown, chiefs of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Indian tribes gave Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) two deer and a turkey in lieu of taxes. The animals were shot Tuesday on the tribes' reservations in King William... Read more →

Are you ready for some Thanksgiving football? That's the tradition in many American homes. It's no different in ours. Regardless of where we are living, or happen to be visiting, Thanksgiving Day means Dallas Cowboys football. Despite the woeful season the 'Boys and we fans are enduring now, I'm still thankful for the tradition. Hey, to each his and her own Turkey Day rites, right? This year, I'm thankful that as part of our Thanksgiving we got an early NFL glimpse in person. The hubby and I were at last Sunday's game where we watched Kitna and crew finally rack... Read more →

IRS decision key to January tax hikes

The IRS is waiting, just like the rest of us, for Congress to act on the expiring tax rates. As I mentioned in my post last week, the IRS can't just take Congress' word that it will do its job. The agency operates under the tax laws as they now exist. That means the Bush tax cuts will expire and withholding tables for 2011 will reflect that. And that means smaller paychecks as next year's withholding calculations account for higher taxes for us all. There is, however, a slim hope that the withholding dilemma will work out for workers. The... Read more →

South Carolina's gun sales tax holiday kicks off on Black Friday, Nov. 26

Attention South Carolina shoppers. If you're looking for firearms, then get ready to head to your local weapons dealer this Friday and Saturday. Nov. 26 and Nov. 27 are the Palmetto State's third annual Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday. Sure, you'll have to deal with Black Friday crowds looking for all sorts of bargains on other items. And the tax holiday doesn't start as early as some of those other more traditional sales. It begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26, and continues through midnight, Saturday, Nov. 27. Tax holiday savings: But what those two full days do offer exclusively... Read more →

Not only did we Americans invent Thanksgiving, we have in our excessive way made it a truly gigantic holiday. At its core, the fourth Thursday in November hearkens back to our country's beginnings. The first celebration was in 1621 to commemorate the Plymouth Colony's good harvest following a harsh winter. Local Wampanoag tribe members were invited and the tradition of sharing a meal and thanks was born. The holiday was made official in 1789 by President George Washington. By 1956, Thanksgiving was observed in every U.S. state. Overeat up! Thanksgiving has become probably the single most fattening day in our... Read more →

The Tax Policy Center has revised its original expiring tax cuts calculator, just in time for the lame duck Congressional session to debate the issue. TPC Tax Calculator 2.0 allows you to compare tax bills under three possible scenarios: full extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, complete expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and Obama's tax plan. This iteration also incorporates three major changes: You can simulate either 2010 or 2011 taxes and compare tax changes against tax law for either year. You can turn the alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch on or off to continue the temporarily... Read more →

Tax ornithology

I love it when my favorite pastimes, birding and talking taxes, coincide. That's what happened in Deficit Hawks, Tax Chickens. OK, so it's not a strict convergence of the two, but close enough, as University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Nancy Folbre examines today's deficit hawks who are too chicken to raise taxes. Related posts: Deficit cutting proposals are not popular Debt panel suggests major tax changes Potential Republican budget cuts Suggesed first Republican budget cut: Congressional salaries Rethinking mortgage tax breaks Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Click the Tweet This or Digg This buttons below... Read more →

Have you ever seriously considered giving up your United States citizenship to avoid paying the IRS? Apparently more Americans are doing just that. The Financial Times of London reports that three times as many Americans renounced their citizenship in 2009 as did in 2008. The trend, says the newspaper, was particularly noticeable in the United Kingdom, where there's a waiting list at the U.S. embassy in London of folks looking to renounce their citizenship. Bankrate's Wealth blogger Judy Martel looks at this extreme effort to escape U.S. taxation in Here's one way to avoid taxes. And she quotes yours truly... Read more →

The world is abuzz over the upcoming wedding of England's Prince William and Kate Middleton. But while most romantics are simply focusing on pedestrian issues such as when and where the big event will occur -- we might find out today whether vows will be exchanged in April or July and if the ceremony will be at Westminster Abbey! -- tax geeks are pondering the implications of William's grand engagement ring gesture. The young prince gave his betrothed the sapphire and diamond ring that his father, Prince Charles, gave to his mother, Princess Diana, upon their engagement in 1981. William... Read more →

10 states with highest income tax rates

Are you wealthy and worried about paying more federal taxes next year (and beyond) if Congress lets the Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled? Although there are indications the current tax rates for all of us will be continued, at least for a while, I understand your concern. It's always a bit scary when you're depending on Congress, or at least one that acts in a timely manner. But take heart, rich taxpayers. Depending on where you live, you also might be getting some good news about your state tax obligations. Forbes notes that Republicans' sweeping gains in state capitols... Read more →

Wesley Snipes finally heads to jail
for tax evasion conviction

The Wesley Snipes tax evasion saga is over. The film star, best known for playing the lead in the Blade vampire hunter trilogy, has surrendered to federal authorities to begin serving his three-year term after being convicting in 2008 of failing to file three years worth of tax returns. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge William Terrell Hodges rejected a motion by Snipes' attorneys to review (again) the actor's sentence on the three misdemeanor charges and order a new trial. In deciding it was time for Snipes to start doing his time, Hodges ruled: The Defendant Snipes had a fair... Read more →

Or so says a new law approved by California voters on Nov. 2. Proposition 26 reclassifies most Golden State regulatory fees on industry as taxes. But the action is more than just a name change. By being deemed a tax, a measure now will need a two-thirds vote via public referendums or by government bodies before they can be enacted. When the charges were fees, only a simple majority was necessary to enact or change the charges. Apparently, the practical effects of the fee-to-tax change weren't that important to most voters. The ballot initiative was passed by a 53 percent... Read more →

If your first 2011 paycheck is smaller, thank, er, blame Congress

Congress' lame duck session began this week, but it quickly became obvious that it will operate as all other sessions. Things won't get done until the very last minute, if at all. Democratic leaders will hold some votes on the expiring Bush tax cuts, possibly as early as today. But those will largely be symbolic, since there's no agreement on what to do about the coming tax changes. A meeting between Obama and Republicans to try to hash out some common ground has been postponed until Nov. 30. And both House and Senate leaders have already announced that the real... Read more →

Marijuana in California: Illegal, taxable

The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, California's Proposition 19 ballot measure that would have legalized marijuana, was rejected by the state's voters earlier this month. But that statewide defeat did not stop several Golden State cities from looking for ways to make government money out of medical marijuana transactions. Ten California cities had initiatives on their local Nov. 2 ballots to enact or increase taxes on medical marijuana sales. Voters in all 10 jurisdictions said "yes" to the proposals. Sacramento voters approved a 4 percent tax on medical pot. Amy Williams, a spokeswoman for the city, said... Read more →