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November 2010

Accounting blogs for the kids

I'm what's diplomatically described as being "of a certain age," so I feel free to use the term "kids" as I please. In this headline's instance, I'm not talking toddlers, but college kids. That's an audience, specifically students studying accounting, that apparently might find the ol' blog entertaining and informative, according to Jared Eutsler, a CPA (and a lot of other financial accreditations noted by his many suffixes!) and full-time faculty member of the School of Business at Rasmussen College. Don't Mess With Taxes is included in Eutsler's blog post 20 Blogs Accounting Students Will Love. "We've hand-picked 20 authoritative... Read more →

It's looking more likely that the expiring Bush tax cuts will live at least a bit longer and that's starting to have a domino effect. Take Roth IRA conversions. With the elimination of the $100,000 income cap, anyone can now convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. That also means that taxes on the converted retirement plan money, which were deferred, are then due. Folks who convert in 2010, however, get the option to divide up their IRA-related tax bill and spread it equally over two future tax years, specifically 2011 and 2012. When it looked like ordinary income tax... Read more →

Once again we get evidence that the vast Denial River runs through the heart of the United States. This time the indicator is American public opinion about recent deficit reduction proposals. Traditional Egyptian Felucca boats sail on the Nile River. Photo courtesy Tour Egypt. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Americans don't like many of the specific deficit-cutting proposals in the draft report from the chairmen of the presidentially-appointed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The survey found that 57 percent of respondents were uncomfortable with gradually raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 over the... Read more →

Charles Rangel, former Ways and Means chair, found guilty of failure to pay taxes and 10 other ethics violations

The one very tiny bright spot for Democrats bemoaning their loss of control of the House is that they don't have to worry about Rep. Charles Rangel making any crazy attempt to regain his chairmanship of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Of course, any hope Rangel might have had of claiming his past Congressional power faded yesterday when the House Ethics Committee found the 80-year-old Representative from New York City guilty of 11 violations. In announcing its findings, the Committee on Official Standards of Conduct noted that there was "clear and convincing evidence" for the panel's "guilty" verdict. One... Read more →

Every year about this time, the IRS has a nice little -- or in some cases, not so little -- holiday gift for some taxpayers. I'm talking about the folks that the IRS can't locate. Now I totally understand why some people want to stay under the IRS' radar. But in these situations, the IRS has refund checks for 111,893 people, but it doesn't know where to send them. The paper checks were sent back to Uncle Sam by the Postal Service because of mailing address errors. We're talking about $164.6 million in money that belongs to taxpayers, not the... Read more →

More Bush expiring tax cut visuals to enjoy before it's too late!

The lame-duck session of Congress apparently is providing a preview of the coming 112th Congress. Reports out of Washington, D.C., are that the leaders of both parties are deadlocked on what to do about the expiring Bush tax cuts. But there is hope. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) says serious discussions on tax cuts and other pending tax legislation would begin later this week. Uh, Senator, that's in like two days. Just sayin'. I guess the discussions will be prompted by the tax package Baucus reportedly is preparing to introduce any minute now. It's said to include a... Read more →

Year-end tax moves time

Yes, Congress is still screwing around with taxes, but there are some laws now on the books that could provide you with tax savings on your 2010 return if you act fast. I examine 5 tax moves to make now (or at least by Dec. 31) over on And don't forget that you can always get additional timely tax-saving ideas in the left column of the ol' blog under the bright red monthly tax moves heading. Related posts: Mid-year tax moves Year-round tax moves Weekly tax tips Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Click the Tweet... Read more →

AMT patch needed (yet again) to save taxpayers from paying more

What to do about the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, is among the outstanding tax matters that Congress needs to deal with during the lame duck session that began yesterday. Although this costly parallel tax is complicated, the short-term solution isn't. Lawmakers can simply enact a patch to account for inflation and increase the amount of income (per filing status) that's exempt from the AMT. Without the patch, more and more taxpayers -- most of them what we consider middle-class -- could end up owing the greater alternative tax amount. When the last patch expired, 2010 AMT income exemption amounts... Read more →

Repeal of new Form 1099 reporting rule back in Congressional sights

Congress is clocking back in this afternoon, with a long list of tax measures to take care of during its lame duck session. So what will they likely do? Focus first on something that's not imminent, the new Form 1099 business reporting requirement that doesn't take effect until 2012. Now I'm not saying that the 1099 rule that's part of the health care reform law isn't worth worrying about. As regular readers know, I've blogged many times about this provision and its paperwork burden, especially on small businesses. Specifics are in the Related posts listed at this end of this... Read more →

AMC is on a roll. Don Draper and his fellow Mad Men are heading into their fifth season of making the 1960s sexy. Breaking Bad has intensely compelling story lines and mesmerizing performances. And now The Walking Dead is taking a shuffling, creepy walk all the way to the bank. In case you don't have cable, the latest AMC program is a live (OK, filmed) version of what I'm told is a popular comic book series about zombies. Photo by Scott Garfield/TWD Productions, courtesy Click image to enlarge (if you dare!). I'm unfamiliar with the graphic novels by Robert... Read more →

As soon as people got through chewing up and spitting out the debt reduction panel's suggested changes to Social Security, they turned to its next controversial recommendation: reducing tax breaks for homeowners. Blogs and traditional news media are abuzz about proposals by the chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to tweak mortgage-related tax benefits. Most headlines scream some version of "death imminent for the mortgage interest deduction." That is indeed one option in the draft report (actually a 50-page PowerPoint presentation) released last week by commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff in the Clinton... Read more →

Baseball fans live and die by the numbers. That's why Bill James, the man who created the comprehensive statistical discipline Sabermetrics, is a god those who obsessively follow the game. Apparently, Lisa Simpson is one of such fan. And James is a fan of Lisa and her animated family. In last week's episode of the Fox Television program, James poked fun at himself, the game and its fans. Here's how NESN Newswire writer Michael Hurley describes the scene: As four nerds sat around a table at Moe's, the nerdiest of them all, Professor Frink, told Lisa that "baseball is a... Read more →

By now I'm sure you've heard about the Nova Scotia couple who hit the lottery and then gave away most of their $10.9 million (Canadian) winnings to charities. Allen and Violet Large are generous, but they're no fools. They kept nearly a million for themselves. The septuagenarians say they'll use the money for emergencies and to buy more lottery tickets. Good for them! And doubly good for them that Canadian tax law allows them to give away so much of their windfall. "Fortunately for this commendably generous Canadian couple, they do not live in the United States, which would apply... Read more →

Today is a special day, so momentous that if defies the usual American tendency to diminish holidays in order to accommodate mundane aspects of our lives, such as three-day weekends or retail sales. Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I, then known as the Great War. Armistice Day commemorations began the following year. In 1938, Nov. 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States. Following World War... Read more →

The preliminary report released today by the President's debt reduction panel already has accomplished a major feat. It's united much of Washington, D.C., against some of its key proposals. I'm talking, of course, about recommendations by the chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that Social Security and Medicare be cut. The debate over what typically is an inviolable government benefits program (remember Dubya's failed attempt to privatize Social Security?) is going to rage for a bit. So while folks are duking that out, how about you and I, tax geeks that we are, look at what... Read more →

Crocodile Dundee's tax case goes to court

Paul Hogan, better known here in the United States as the movie character Crocodile Dundee, is having his day in court on his alleged debt to the Australian tax collector. Hogan's financial adviser, Tony Stewart (no, not the NASCAR driver) was the first to take the stand at a hearing to determine whether the actor an his manager, John Cornell, will face tax evasion charges. Hogan, Cornell and Stewart have been under investigation by the Australian Tax Office since 2005. Oz tax officials allege that the trio used offshore accounts to avoid paying as much as $37 million in taxes... Read more →

Colbert: Tax cuts and 'nothingness'

In preparation for next week's return of Congress and the knock-down-drag-out debate over what to do about the expiring Bush tax cuts, check out Stephen Colbert's assessment. The host of Comedy Central's Colbert Nation sums up the tax cuts and the fight over whether to raise the taxes of those making more than $250,000 in his daily feature The Word. And that word is "nothingness." The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c The Word - Nothingness Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive If we tax the rich, says Colbert, we are really... Read more →

Are you as excited as I am that Congress will be back at work next Monday, Nov. 15? Mark your calendars! Program C-SPAN as one of your TV remote's favorite channels! Really, Representatives and Senators swear they're going to work during this lame duck session. That, unlike all the other months, they'll actually get some bills to the White House for signature. However, gridlock is as just as likely. But, hey, I'm trying to be optimistic because that's just who I am (today, at least). And that roar of laughter you hear across the blogosphere is from the hubby. Anyway,... Read more →

Tax credits can help energy-conscious homeowners winterize their residences

We had a relatively easy summer here in Central Texas, coping with only a week or so (instead of months) of 100-plus temperatures. And weather forecasters promise that winter 2010 won't be too harsh either. But regardless of how moderate or severe your climate is, it never hurts to make sure the old homestead can weather any conditions. Not only will you be more comfortable inside your home, energy upgrades will help lower your heating and cooling costs. Trust me. As someone who's have to replace a couple of central air units over the last few years, they are worth... Read more →

A month before the midterm election, the House had passed 400-plus pieces of legislation more than the Senate. The disparity between the Capitol Hill bodies in passing bills already had led to pre-election ill-will among members. Back in October, many House members said they were infuriated by the slow pace of doing business in the Senate, where bills can be held up by filibuster and other rules. Well, Representatives, get ready to stay angry. Possibly for two more years. With the Republican takeover of the lower body of Congress, House and Senate operational agendas will diverge not only in legislative... Read more →