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April 2012

Stephen King doesn't pull many punches in his tales of terror. So it's no surprise that he goes right to the jugular in a caustic and profane (consider yourself warned if you keep reading) post on The Daily Beast aimed at his wealthy peers who are tired of hearing that they should pay more taxes. "Cut a check and shut up, they said. If you want to pay more, pay more, they said. Tired of hearing about it, they said. Tough shit for you guys, because I'm not tired of talking about it. I've known rich people, and why not,... Read more →

I'm a big fan of television, especially educational TV. No, not PBS, although I do watch Nova, Mystery and Downton Abbey. This time I'm talking about the April 13 episode of the classic TV game show Jeopardy. That day the Final Jeopardy category was word origins. The answer: An exploited part of a law, originally it meant an opening in a castle wall used to look at or shoot at an enemy. The correction question: What is a loophole? What a perfect way to close the program on the Friday before our federal tax returns were due. Tracking down tax... Read more →

Amazon, after fighting and/or bribing states to keep from collecting sales taxes, in one week has surrendered to two state tax collectors. On April 23, the Seattle-based giant online retailer and Nevada reached an agreement that would have Amazon collecting sales taxes from Silver State purchasers on Jan. 1, 2014, or sooner if federal online sales tax legislation is enacted before then. Four days later, Amazon came to state sales tax collection terms with Texas, which had assessed the online company a $269 million bill. Texas nexus issues: The Texas Comptroller's office said that money represented uncollected taxes Amazon should... Read more →

It's Sunday. That means it's funny papers time. And since this is a tax blog, here's one comic strip view of how tax auditors get their start. OK, the image above is a screen shot of my Pinterest tax board, Taxes. Yes, taxes. The tax cartoon by Wiley Miller is there in the upper left. The cartoonist allows for pinning but not embedding, so you need to go to my taxes Pinterest board or directly to the cartoonist's site for a better look. It's worth the click(s). Read more →

The 2012 April filng deadline has passed, but tax tasks already in place and others that might one day be on the books were topics last week at my other tax blog. Filers who made a filing error get a chance to correct it via an amended return. Just be sure to tell all on a tax do-over. One mistake that is viewed less leniently by the Internal Revenue Service is nonpayment of taxes. In those cases, a proposal by Congress could revoke the passports of some tax debtors. You can check out new posts each Tuesday and Thursday, and... Read more →

Apple on corporate tax hot seat

Just as the 99 Percent movement is springing back to life with protests against companies that finagle very low or no tax rates comes another potential target: Apple. A New York Times special report looks at how the technology giant's careful selection of corporate subsidiary locations has saved it millions in federal and state taxes. People look at Apple products inside the newest Apple Store during opening on the East Balcony in the main lobby of New York City's Grand Central Station December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TRAVEL) Take, for example, Apple's branch... Read more →

A lot of us have tax filing remorse. No, that's not being upset that we filed. It's wondering whether we could have achieved a better tax bill result if we'd tried a different way of filing. It is entirely possible that using a tax pro instead of software would have given you a bigger refund. Or maybe if you'd used a more expensive tax preparer, she would have found ways to get your more tax savings. Or perhaps a franchise filing operation would have been an economical way to get a smaller tax bill than what you came up with... Read more →

When the notice showed up in my email box, my first thought was, "Will miracles never cease?" It was about a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on tax extenders. What was going on? Congress actually thinking about, even taking testimony on, expired tax provisions and it's nowhere near December! There are tax gods! The tax extenders, in case you've forgotten, are the more than 70 temporary tax incentives that are perpetually renewed, usually en masse and at the end of the year or shortly into the next one, when they are made retroactive to prevent a break in the application... Read more →

While the Minnesota Vikings and their fans are engrossed in the 2012 NFL draft, lawmakers in St. Paul have been tinkering with ways to pay for a new stadium for the team. The latest plan includes targeted taxes: A 4-percent income tax surcharge on Vikings players and executives who earn more than $200,000 a year, Sales tax increases on sports memorabilia, liquor and purchases in the new stadium, and A new sales tax on online purchases of NFL merchandise. And yes, those taxes were proposed by a group of Republican state legislators. This Follow-up Friday look at Minnesota's struggle to... Read more →

Protesters target corporations' minimal tax payments at shareholder meetings

The 99 percent contingent, or at least an offshoot of the protest group, is back. This time the anger is directed at major U.S. corporations that the protesters say aren't paying a fair share of taxes. At the beginning of General Electric's annual shareholder meeting in Detroit on Wednesday, three dozen protesters stood up and chanted "pay your fair share." The group was referring to reports that GE's tax strategies have allowed the company to zero out its U.S. tax bill and even receive refunds from Uncle Sam. The group was escorted from the meeting, according to the Detroit News,... Read more →

President Obama this week visited three college campuses, primarily to promote his proposal to keep the interest rate on new subsidized federal student loans at 3.4 percent. That rate has been in effect since 2007. But unless Congress agrees to extend it, the cost of college loans will go back to a 6.8 percent interest rate on July 1. One presidential stop on his Stafford loan rate tour was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's Late Night program, also was at that campus. And Fallon convinced the POTUS, an acronym the television comic... Read more →

Made a tax mistake? Make amends!

Nobody's perfect, especially when it comes to taxes. The Internal Revenue Service keeps track of the top mistakes made each filing season, both by individual filers filling out their taxes on their own and by paid preparers. Yes, even tax pros trip up now and then. And although tax software has been a blessing for many filers, it's no guarantee of a perfect return. The adage garbage-in, garbage-out is the perfect motto for tax time. So it's no surprise that the IRS still sees a lot of mistakes on our returns. Among the most common wrong entries this year are:... Read more →

Did the change in the rules that made it harder to buy over-the-counter medicine with money from tax-advantaged medical accounts give you a major headache? Congress might be considering a remedy. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will hear this afternoon from folks about the real-life effects of the restrictions on Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs). Covered, then not covered: People enrolled in these accounts cheered in 2003 when the Internal Revenue Service changed the rules and allowed money from the tax-saving medical accounts to be used to pay for... Read more →

The final tax season grades aren't in yet, but a preliminary evaluation of the Internal Revenue Service's 2012 operations gives the agency a so-so review. The IRS had to deal more returns this year -- through early April filings were up 2 percent over last year -- but it also encountered more problems early this year in processing the returns, noted The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, in a March 30 report. TIGTA's examination of the filing season through March 3 revealed that: Early season e-filers experienced delays. The IRS blamed problems with its computer program filters,... Read more →

You made it through tax filing season. Congratulations! Now take all the things you complained about while working on your tax return and use them to help improve the Internal Revenue Service. No joke. The IRS wants to hear. Well, a part of the IRS does, specifically the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. There are a couple of ways you can contribute to making the tax filing and paying process better. Join TAP: If you want to be hands-on, volunteer to be part of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, or TAP as it's commonly called. TAP provides a forum where taxpayers from all... Read more →

This Earth Day 2012, the hubby and I hiked a portion of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve near our home. It was a wonderful outing. The morning was cool, wildflowers and butterflies were out in force (as the hubby's cell phone snapshots show) and we got a great view of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. Sorry, the bird wasn't nearly as accommodating as the butterflies when it came to picture taking. Many of our neighbors are dismissive of this lovely little bird. What they really don't like is that it gives the U.S., city of Austin and Travis County governments so much... Read more →

With Tax Day's arrival last Tuesday, the posts were front loaded last week at my other tax blog. The eve of tax-filing day saw the annual listing of tax-related giveaways in tax day freebies 2012. This is a tradition as time-honored as filing itself and this year brought a wide range of goods and services that were free on April 17 or the adjacent days. On the big day itself, taxpayers got 3 tax day tips. One is valid every tax year: Don't put yourself in the position of scrambling to file your taxes or an extension at the very... Read more →

Tax Freedom Day arrived on Tax Day this year. April 17 was, according to Tax Foundation computations, the first day of 2012 that Americans as a whole had earned enough income to pay this year's tax burdens. Song written and performed by GoRemy. In its annual Tax Day calculation, the Washington-based tax research nonprofit considers every dollar that is officially considered income and every payment to all levels of government. Americans worked 107 days (Jan. 1 to April 17) to earn enough money to pay 2012's combined 29.2 percent federal, state, and local tax bills. The latest ever Tax Freedom... Read more →

My home state's governor officially exited the 2012 Republican presidential campaign months ago, but it's obvious he's still thinking about a larger political stage. Rick Perry has posted the Texas Budget Compact on both the official governor's website, as well as on his campaign page. The five-point policy wish list calls for, in part, no new taxes or tax increases in the Lone Star State. Speaking at a transportation company warehouse in Houston earlier this week, Perry said his budget guidelines would "lead to a stronger Texas" and that "each and every member of the Legislature or anyone aspiring to... Read more →

Why is the U.S. tax system so complex?

Before we procrastinators struggled with finishing our 2011 returns this week, Chris Hayes hosted a panel on his MSNBC program to try to answer why our tax system is so complex. Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that there was lots of outrage (for example, the unfairness of the tax system via things such as homeowner tax breaks and the alternative minimum tax) and suggestions (like, say, just let the tax breaks scheduled to expire do so and watch the deficit self-correct), but there was no one... Read more →