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June 2012

It's been a crazy Monday. It began with the regular start-of-the-week chaos: Following up what I didn't finish last week, Double checking what I'm supposed to finish this week (a tax story, a couple of book chapters and a Crazy Woman Driver column), Writing a blog post, and Slogging through out-of-control email boxes (yes, plural). But on top of that, today I also had a doctor's appointment and have been working to schedule a physician's visit for my mother (either we're both sickly or hypochondriacs!). So I'm taking the rest of the afternoon off! OK, not off exactly. I'm going... Read more →


California smokers might be puffing a bit nervously today as the Proposition 29 tally continues. Golden State election officials still are counting more than a million mailed ballots that were sent a day or two before the June 5 vote on the proposal to add another $1 per pack excise tax to cigarettes. Results immediately after the vote showed the ballot initiative to increase the tax being defeated by around 63,000 votes. But as the counting has continued, the no-new-tax margin of victory is shrinking. As of late Friday, June 15, the "no" vote lead had shrunk to 16,778 votes,... Read more →


On special family-related days, a lot of attention is given to the traditional unit: mom, dad, kids. But the reality is that the Leave it to Beaver lifestyle is not the norm. The United States, like the rest of the world, is decidedly nontraditional nowadays. And one of the more common family conditions is that a lot of kids live with only one parent. In 2009, an estimated 13.7 million single parents had custody of 22 million children younger than age 21 while the other parent lived somewhere else, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report, based on Internal Revenue... Read more →


Happy Father's Day! Fatherhood generally doesn't get as much appreciation as motherhood. That's understandable. In most societies, moms are more responsible for the daily well being of offspring. Plus, it's a fairly recent development that dads have embraced a more hands-on approach to parenthood. Father and daughter fun by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr That behind-the-parenting-scenes style definitely was the case for my dad. Dealing with my brother and me was mainly my mom's job. But we still knew how important dad was to our lives. All those fond memories make me miss dad a little extra when this June... Read more →


One woman received a multimillion state tax refund. Another woman allegedly didn't pay her federal taxes for years on the millions she earned. Both were subjects of posts last week at my other tax blog. Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill says she went underground for personal and creative reasons. It also, contends the Internal Revenue Service, was a way for Hill to escape paying federal taxes in 2005, 2006 and 2007. During those three years, Hill reportedly earned an estimated $1.8 million in income, mostly from recording and film royalties. But according to charges filed against her, she never reported the... Read more →


Own a business? Hired a vet? Be sure you check out the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. And be sure to do so by Tuesday, June 19. That's right, you've only got a few days left to take tax advantage of your good hiring practices. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC, can be as much as $9,600 per veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 per veteran for tax-exempt organizations. Employers that hired unemployed veterans during late 2011 and early 2012 were given extra time to request the required certification to claim the credit. But that expanded time frame... Read more →


Current tax rates' continuing costs

There's no question that when tax rates are lowered, the U.S. Treasury collects less money. And everyone agrees that when taxes are cut in one place, they need to be raised somewhere, on on someone, else or spending cuts must be made. Coming up with a way to do exactly that is the issue before Congress, the White House, every candidate running for every federal office this year and all of us taxpayers. The counter below gives us an alarmingly graphic idea of how much money the current tax rates, enacted in 2001 under the Bush 43 Administration and extended... Read more →


Today's the tax filing deadline for most servicemen and women stationed abroad, but in addition to paying attention to what they must report to the Internal Revenue Service, they need to be on the lookout for a new tax scam. The scam's methodology isn't new. It's yet another email-based phishing trick. But, says the IRS, this latest scam is specific. The fake message is going to Department of Defense military members, retirees and civilian employees. The email appears to come from Defense Finance and Accounting Services, according to the IRS. It even displays a .mil email address. The email states... Read more →


I know all the careful readers of the ol' blog have already taken note of the left column note that June 15 is a big tax filing day. In addition to being an estimated tax filing deadline, June 15 also is the deadline for U.S. citizens or resident aliens living and working outside the country, as well as military personnel stationed abroad, to file Form 1040. Passport stamps by hjl via Flickr Creative Commons Taxpayers who are out of the country can file online. Those who qualify -- individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $58,000 or less -- might be... Read more →


If your week has been as crazy as mine, then tomorrow's impending tax filing deadline might have sneaked up on you. Don't freak out. You only have to worry about June 15 if you're making estimated tax payments. This extra filing duty, which is this week's Weekly Tax Tip, is required of folks who get income on which there is no withholding, such as self-employment earnings, investment income or even gambling proceeds. In those cases, the filing of Form 1040-ES four times a year is the Internal Revenue Service's answer to the regular pay-as-you-earn system that's generally covered by payroll... Read more →


North Dakota voters decided Tuesday that they didn't want to be the only state without any property taxes. Measure 2, the ballot initiative to jettison local collection of property taxes by amending North Dakota's constitution, was resoundingly defeated. More than 76 percent of the electorate voted against the real estate tax elimination. Those who wanted to do away with North Dakota property taxes argued that the more than $800 million a year brought in by the local levies could be replaced by sales and oil taxes. North Dakota is in the midst of an oil boom. If the tax repeal... Read more →


Which health care provisions will survive U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny? That's a question a lot of folks are asking, including those at the Internal Revenue Service. The nine justices are expected to rule any time now on President Obama's legislative centerpiece, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as it often is called. Supreme Court Trauma Center by DonkeyHotey via Flickr CC But what the high court will decide is anyone's guess. The court could uphold the law, overturn it or declare some parts of it unconstitutional. Court watchers say that the way oral arguments went doesn't bode... Read more →


I'm not a basketball fan, but I know the professional game shares something with all other major league sports: Rich team owners want taxpayers to pay not only for overpriced tickets, parking and merchandise, but also for team facilities. That "request" by the former Seattle SuperSonics four years ago led to the National Basketball Association team moving to Oklahoma City. Back in 2008, the NBA franchise now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder was based in the city that also brought us grunge rock, Starbucks and nearby Microsoft. That also was the last Seattle season for the Sonics, which had... Read more →


Receiving one of the various 1099 forms usually means that you also received taxable income. Note the word "usually." A recent Tax Court ruling in the favor of one debtor underscores the importance of knowing credit and tax laws. And that ruling is why 1099 is the latest By the Numbers figure. The specific 1099 involved in the Tax Court case was Form 1099-C, issued when a taxpayer has unpaid debt forgiven by the creditor. This information form is filed because such amounts generally are taxable income. Read on to find out what happened to one man who got a... Read more →


NOTE: While this online assistance program for students and parents seeking financial aid for college still exists, it was taken offline in 2017 due to identity theft security concerns. IRS expects it to be fully operational again in the fall. Details in this post and this one, too. School is out for the summer in most places. But if you're in college or are planning to attend one in the fall, you know that the learning process on how to pay for higher education never ends. Most kids and their parents look into scholarships and other types of financial aid... Read more →


What better way to spend a Saturday than considering budgets? I know you've been thinking about Uncle Sam's bottom line, what with all the Congressional and Presidential campaign ads already hitting the airwaves in many parts of the country. The House was doing some budget analysis last week, too. Representatives voted on Friday to spare their office expense accounts, officially known as the "members' representational allowance," from added cuts in the 2013 Congressional operations budget. To be fair, House members have cut their operational budgets a by a total of 13 percent since the 2010 fiscal year. Still, the lawmakers'... Read more →


You feeling OK? Just checking since health-related issues were topics covered last week at my other tax blog. The week began with all tax eyes on California's attempt to hike the state's excise tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack. It failed. That wasn't a surprise to tax watchers who report that cigarette tax hikes are slowing. Then came the U.S. House vote to repeal a portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The Republican-controlled chamber was successful in passing a bill to end the tax on medical devices scheduled to take effect in 2013. Changes... Read more →


Flexible spending accounts to cover medical costs tend to get a lot of attention at the end of the year. That's when most companies allow employees to make their annual open enrollment changes to workplace benefits. Sign in Austin optometrist office; photo by Kay Bell But this week, these accounts, commonly referred to as FSAs and into which you can put pretax dollars to pays or medical treatments not covered by your insurance, were part of a bill that handily passed the U.S. House. Representatives agreed to two major FSA changes. OTC reimbursements would get easier: Between 2003 and 2010,... Read more →


It looks like cigarette smokers in California will be spared an added $1 per pack excise tax. Officially, the vote on Proposition 29 to more than double the Golden State's cigarette tax is too close to call. The latest tally shows the anti-tax side eking out a 50.9 percent victory. That's a 63,000 vote lead out of around 4 million votes cast. But some ballots reportedly are yet to be counted. And whatever the final result, you can bet on a call for a recount. About face because…: So why did the tax increase go from almost two-thirds voter approval... Read more →


Father's Day 2012: Gifts for him,
tax breaks for you

Don't panic. Father's Day isn't until Sunday, June 17. But since dads are usually a bit harder to shop for than moms, I thought you could use the head start. It seems, however, that we kids are starting to spend more on our fathers, closing the gift-giving gap somewhat with Mother's Day. The National Retail Foundation's 2012 Father's Day spending survey found that the average person will shell out $117.14 on gifts for pop this year. That's a 10 percent increase from last year and getting closer to the planned spending of $152 per person last month on mom's big... Read more →