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February 2011

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. This year will be the the 32nd Feb. 14th that the hubby and I have spent together, 30 of those as a married couple. So I got to wondering, especially in light of recent surveys that say marriage is no longer the relationship goal of many folks, how many taxpayers share our status. The latest complete numbers available from the IRS are for tax year 2008. That year, more than 56 million returns were submitted by married couples. The precise number, and the By the Numbers figure this week, is: That number is almost 40 percent... Read more →


Making Congressmen do their own taxes

It's a common refrain every tax season. If Representatives and Senators had to fill outhteir own 1040s, the tax code would be much simpler. The unlikely possibility of those who write tax laws actually dealing with them gets another look in Could Your Senator Conquer the 1040? Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a potential Republican presidential candidate, is the latest to call for personal tax accountability from the occupants of Capitol Hill offices. And does Pawlenty do his own taxes? "No way!" Not surprising. Related posts: Rangel resigns Ways and Means post McCain's eight-house property tax problem Obama and McCain... Read more →


Check out your tax preparer

You've decided to hire someone to file your taxes this year. You've looked at your tax pro options and decided which kind of paid preparer fits your needs. Now the next step: Thoroughly vetting the tax professional. Remember, regardless of who fills out your 1040 and sends it on to the IRS, when you sign your tax return, you are legally responsible for everything on it. So it's crucial to hire a tax pro who's not only knowledgeable, but also ethical. Most tax preparers are honest and provide quality service. But as with any consumer transaction, it's up to you,... Read more →


The Treasury Department on Friday delivered a report to Congress that it says "provides a path forward for reforming America's housing finance market." Reforming America's Housing Finance Market, a joint effort by the Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, focuses on the Obama Administration proposal to "wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink the government's current footprint in housing finance on a responsible timeline." But the plan also examines other housing reforms that could help fix what it calls the fundamental flaws in the mortgage market. These include stronger consumer protection, increased transparency for investors, improved... Read more →


No Schedule L for 2010 property taxes

I'm getting some e-mails from folks asking where on the 2010 Schedule L they should enter their property tax payments to increase their standard deduction amount. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is nowhere. It's not an option for your 2010 taxes. The ability to increase the standard deduction amount by adding up to $500 in property taxes paid by single filers or up to $1,000 in real estate taxes paid by married couples filing jointly expired at the end of 2009. There had been some talk of continuing it, but that provision didn't... Read more →


As we get ready for the IRS to start processing all tax returns on Monday, Feb. 14, one more tax software giveaway only seemed fitting. This time I've got three TurboTax Deluxe Online cards that will get you access to exactly what the name says. Now to the important stuff, entering and winning! So how do you become a winner of one of these TurboTax cards? Send an e-mail to wintaxstuff @ gmail.com. Include TurboTax Online in the subject line. You can write me a message if you want. That would be nice, but it's not mandatory for this contest.... Read more →


New sales tax to benefit Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers?

The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their 2011 NFL championship season last Sunday with a thrilling victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the Super Bowl XLV victors are part of a tax battle. Tax Analysts reports that the Packers are interested in a redevelopment project around Lambeau Field to make it more of a tourist destination. To do so, the team reportedly wants to extend the current 0.5 percent Brown County, Wisc., sales tax that was created to pay for renovation of the historic field. The added sales tax was approved by voters in 2000 by a 53 percent to... Read more →


Final TaxACT software winners

Congratulations to Chrystie, Bill, Joe D., Pat and Kara. They get the last five TaxACT Online Ultimate Bundle links in my current tax software giveaway. Thanks to all who entered. If you didn't win this time, you'll get one more chance. Later today I'll post details on the final "win tax software" contest that I'll run here on the ol' blog this filing season. Stay tuned! Read more →


Anyone with a mom knows that they usually get their way. The IRS now has learned that lesson, too. Last fall, the IRS issued rules on what is and isn't deductible as a medical expense. That compilation also set the rules on what expenses can be reimbursed by medical flexible spending account, or FSA, money. Breast pumps and other lactation devices were not on either list. That oversight riled up moms nationwide, especially since the new health care reform law specifically requires workplaces provide accommodations for breast-feeding employees. Then last month, another government official, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, issued... Read more →


Congratulations to Mark, Jessica, Bob, Brad, Chris and Sym. Y'all are the winners of our first batch of TaxACT Online Ultimate Bundle. Your link to acces the tax preparation and e-filign software will be on the way to you shortly. I still have five software links left. If you want one, leave a comment about what drives you crazy about tax filing on the post Tax software giveaway, take two. Complete details about the contest also can be found on that blog item. Good luck! Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Check out the buttons -- Tweet... Read more →


While most of us are focusing on our annual personal income tax filing tasks, Uncle Sam and Washington State officials are offering some other taxpayers deals with regard to other taxes. Let's start on the state level. Washington doesn't levy a personal income tax (Evergreen State voters last November shot down an attempt to impose the tax), but it does collect taxes from businesses. Or tries to. Some business owners haven't been as conscientious as state lawmakers would like. So now the Washington Department of Revenue is making them an offer it hopes they can't refuse via the state's first-ever... Read more →


You know what's coming up, right? No, not Valentine's Day. OK, Cupid's holiday is almost upon us. But Feb. 14 this year also is special for taxpayers who've been waiting for the IRS to process their returns. To mark the convergence of the most romantic day of the year and your taxes (yeah, it was weird typing that, but …), I've got something for you almost as good as a box of chocolates or roses: free tax preparation software. For the next three days, I'll be giving away access codes to online tax preparation for federal and state returns. We... Read more →


You didn't file your return in January because you knew you weren't getting a refund or you just didn't care. There was way too much going on in your life as 2011 got underway. Now, however, you've decided to look at all that tax material stacked up on your desk. And a quick glance made you realize that this year you want professional tax filing help. If you are in the market for a tax pro, you better get on the stick. Since more of us are using tax preparers, most of them fill up their calendars quickly. You also... Read more →


Everyone's hoping that the housing market will at least begin to recover in 2011. And it looks like that might just happen. Sales of existing homes in December 2010 grew at their fastest pace since May 2010. Where home prices are still dropping, Housing Predictor says its data show the values are deflating at a slower rate for the second year in a row. And now there are indications that as many as 17 states, primarily in the Midwest and Northern-most parts of the country, will see home prices rise in 2011, demonstrating, says Housing Predictor, that housing markets are... Read more →


Super Bowl XLV started out like it would be a Green Bay Packers rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it actually turned out to be an exciting game. As a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan I don't have a lot of love for either team that made to this year's big game. Both have handed the 'Boys some bitter losses over the years. But since sporting events are more fun when you have a rooting interest, I cheered for the Packers for several reasons. First, there were the quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers has handled his ascension to a team leadership role gracefully,... Read more →


Are you ready for some football? Or I guess the more appropriate question today should be have you placed your Super Bowl bets yet? The Super Bowl is the most gambled-on sporting event in the United States. Super Bowl XLV features the closest betting line -- it's been holding in the 2.5 to 3 point range -- in 29 years, according to VegasInsider.com. U.S. sports fans can only place bets on the big NFL game and other athletic events legally in Nevada. That geographic limitation is why millions of gamblers for the last couple of weeks have been making illegal... Read more →


Property tax add-on to standard deduction is gone

One of the best homeowner tax breaks is the ability to deduct your annual real estate taxes. For many homeowners, property taxes are second only to interest paid. That's especially true during the early years of a mortgage when most of your monthly payments go toward the finance charge. Later on in the loan's life, the amount of interest you pay decreases. Property taxes, however, always seem to go up, either because the value of your home increased (yes, that used to happen and it will again once we work through this housing cycle) or your local government bumped up... Read more →


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's search for ways to close his state's $1.3 billion budget gap has driven him to propose making driver's licenses and vehicle registrations contingent on motorists' tax compliance. Photo by Gabriel Boone/iStock The governor would let the state refuse to issue or renew licenses and registrations to those who have unpaid, undisputed tax obligations. By making drivers pay up, the administration estimates it could collect an additional $40 million over the next two years. O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec told the Baltimore Sun that the proposal isn't a new tax, but a way to collect existing taxes. "The... Read more →


Placed your Super Bowl bets yet? There's still plenty of time. If you're in Las Vegas or some other Nevada locale -- the Silver State is the only one in which sports betting is legal -- sports book operators will be taking your money throughout the weekend. Most of us probably will just put a few bucks into an office pool. And no one is immune. Heck, even the culture vultures get in on the action. But my favorite thing about Super Bowl betting is all the variety of prop bets. These are the wagers on the myriad instances, or... Read more →


1099 expanded reporting halfway gone

They did it! They really did it! Democratic and Republican Senators actually worked through the 1099 repeal issue yesterday afternoon, agreeing to scrap the expanded reporting version and go back to the way the system operated pre-health care reform. The repeal of the provision was tacked onto the $34.5 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Competing versions were debated and votes actually taken. The 1099 amendment that was approved, offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), calls on the Office of Management and Budget to cut unnecessary unobligated spending, but exempts Social Security Administration administrative expenses from the budget ax. The... Read more →