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June 2012

At sundown 79 years ago, moviegoers were treated to a really big screen presentation. On June 6, 1933, Richard Hollingshead, Jr. opened what he called a park-in theater in Camden, N.J. It was the first of what came to be known as drive-in movie theaters. Click the "ticket" above to see the animated Google drive-in doodle. Thank you Mr. Hollingshead. I spent many a West Texas summer night enjoying movies at the Yellow Jacket Drive-in. Movies have changed a lot since that first drive-in and even since I watched films al fresco back in the '60s and '70s under starry... Read more →

It's been one of those crazy days (weeks, actually, and it's just Tuesday!) where I think about having a cigarette. I quit smoking 30 years ago as a gift to my never-inhaled-a-cancer-stick hubby, but I still think about lighting one up now and then. A lot of folks in California right now are probably chain smoking or whatever other habit they turn to when they're nervous. The Golden State is voting as I type on a proposal to almost double California's cigarette excise tax. There are lots of arguments for and against such a tax hike. They were debated recently... Read more →

Waitress gets $434,000 more from IRS than she expected

Ginny Hopkins had been waiting and waiting and waiting for her federal tax refund check. After all, $754 was a nice chunk of change and she had some projects that money would pay for. But when the Internal Revenue Service check finally showed up, Ginny got a big surprise. The check was for $434,712. Hopkins, who's worked at Johnny's Downtown in Cleveland for almost 20 years, told the local NBC affiliate WKYC that "I have many best friends now." Despite fleeting thoughts of using the money for a dream trip to Hawaii or maybe Rio de Janeiro's famous Carnival, Hopkins... Read more →

I love June. Kids are happy that school is out and their parents aren't yet tired of having them home all the time. Lots of folks are getting married. It's not so hot yet, even here in Texas, to make us start whining about the weather. And there's still a bit of moisture from the spring rains in the ground, helping plants stay looking good. Plus, June is a great rhyming word! There's moon, whose distance from earth is often used as an exasperated description of the size of a person's tax bill. There's boon, defined as something to be... Read more →

On June 4, 1912, Massachusetts enacted the first minimum wage law in the United States. The Bay State's wage law was created in response to sweatshops where women and children worked long hours for little compensation. A handful of states soon implemented their own minimum wage laws, but there was no federal minimum income statute until 1933. That year, as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a minimum payment of 25 cents per hour for employees was established. Two years later, the Supreme Court, as it had done in connection to various state minimum wage laws, declared the federal... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't need campaigning politicians or government statistics to know that many folks still are having a tough time financially. The tax agency has its own firsthand experiences. When people have fewer dollars to spare, the IRS often slips to the bottom of the to-pay list. So that it can get at least some of those outstanding tax payments, the IRS has a program that lets taxpayers settle their tax bills for less than the full amounts they owe. Known as Offer in Compromise, or OIC, the IRS typically accepts such deals as long as the proposed... Read more →

How tough is it financially for states? Some tax collectors are going to what many say are extremes to bulk up their treasuries. Take New Jersey. The state wanted to tax the value of unused gift cards. And you thought that issuers charging monthly fees on the pieces of plastic was bad. The law was passed a couple of years ago, but retailers sued -- and some, including American Express, pulled out of New Jersey -- so the law was put on hold. And now it looks like the state's troubled gift card tax could be on the way out.... Read more →

Thursday, May 31, was World No Tobacco Day. Yeah, it slipped right past me, too. And while it looks like few folks here in the United States marked the 25th anniversary of the global no-smoking day, some lawmakers and lobbyists were at work -- and odds -- over cigarette taxes in several states. The battle that's getting most of the attention is in California. Golden State lawmakers and health advocates are pushing a new cigarette tax of $1 per pack. If enacted, it would make the state's total excise tax on a pack of smokes $1.87, as well as raise... Read more →

Same-sex couples generally must do twice the work at tax-filing time than traditional husband and wife taxpayers. That's because the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defines "marriage" as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." So gay and lesbian married couples must file separate federal returns even though their states allow for a single joint filing. There's also usually a fiscal cost. Not only do the same-sex couples have to pay tax professionals more for the extra work they do. Some of the couples also face higher taxes by not being... Read more →

Welcome to summer! OK. So the hottest season of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere doesn't officially begin until 7:09 p.m. Eastern Time on June 20. But since we're already getting 100+ temperatures here in Texas, I'm declaring it de facto summer today. And although the living is supposed to be easy in summertime, we still need to pay attention to some tax tasks this time of year. Let's start with the obvious. Today is the first official day of the Atlantic hurricane season. Mother Nature got an early start, spawning two named storms -- Alberto and Beryl --... Read more →