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July 2012

Bain, the big bad villain for both Batman and Mitt Romney

OK, after this I promise to give comic book topics a rest. But I couldn't resist Jon Stewart's observation that Bain is not only the name of Mitt Romney's old venture capital firm, but also the most frightening and current Batman villain. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook I suspect the Caped Crusader will take down his Bane (yep, it's a homophone of the corporate entity's moniker) nemesis when The Dark Knight Rises hits movie theaters on Friday. As for Bain Capital, we'll probably have to... Read more →


Ka-pow! Bam! Amend! Taxes pretty much pummeled H&R Block's superhero economics infographic last week. I noticed that the Dark Knight's alter ego Bruce Wayne improperly deducted all his charitable contributions. Janet Novack, Forbes' Washington, D.C., bureau chief, picked up on the error, as did TaxProf Paul Caron. The ensuing attention finally prompted a change to the comparison of Batman's and Spider-Man's (aka Peter Parker's) money. On Monday, H&R Block amended the infographic: [UPDATE 7/16/12] We got swept away in the fun & fantasy and initially miscalculated Bruce Wayne’s estimated tax bill — we’ve adjusted it accordingly on the graphic below.... Read more →


I am in San Diego for the next four days to attend one of the annual IRS Nationwide Tax Forums. I didn't realize until last week that this IRS event follows another big gathering here in Southern California. Maybe you've heard of it: Comic-Con. As I admitted last week in discussing the Dark Knight's possible tax filing mistake -- Holy tax troubles, Batman! An excess charitable deduction! -- I'm a bit of a superhero geek. And I'm definitely a horror and sci-fi devotee. Just ask the long-suffering hubby who doesn't really care that much for these genres, but who lets... Read more →


Heisenberg's final act begins tonight. No, not the Nobel Prize winning physicist (and hello to all the science nerds who also are tax geeks!), but the alter ego of Walter White, the fictional methamphetamine kingpin in AMC's Breaking Bad series. This pork pie hat wearing Heisenberg has done a lot a bad, bad things, including murder, in the four television seasons that he's been cooking high-grade meth for Albuquerque's small screen addicts. But at least the former high school chemistry teacher hasn't violated the state's drug tax law. New Mexico no longer requires its resident drug dealers to buy tax... Read more →


Want your portfolio to perform better? Put a Democrat in the Oval Office

Despite occasional campaign ad detours, the economy still is the key presidential election issue. President Obama says the way to keep the economy moving and help it pick up its sluggish pace is to keep the four lower income tax rates in place, but raise the two top income tax rates. His opponent Mitt Romney and his Republican colleagues insist that the tax increases would make things worse. There's a good argument that the presidential and Congressional elections themselves are valuable economic stimulus programs. Spending on all campaigns this year is expected to exceed the nearly $5.3 billion spent to... Read more →


This post was updated Friday, April 13, 2018. I admit it. I'm a bit superstitious. I throw spilled salt over my shoulder, knock on wood and avoid walking under ladders, although that last one is because I'm also incredibly klutzy. I do not, however, suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia or triskaidekaphobia. The first word is the fear of Friday the 13th, the second term is the fear of things or events associated with the number 13. Extra points to anyone who can pronounce either word! Black cat, Groucho Marx quote poster courtesy Just Cats. Joking aside, lots of people do dread 13,... Read more →


If the weather isn't too hot where you are, take a walk today in honor of Henry David Thoreau. He was born on July 12, 1817. Thoreau is known by most as the author of "Walden," also often referred to as "On Walden Pond." The book was the product of Thoreau's stay in a cabin at Walden Pond, now part of Massachusetts' Walden Pond Reservation, from July 1845 to September 1847. Because of Thoreau's legacy, Walden Pond has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement. But Thoreau was more than just a... Read more →


In addition to being a tax geek, I'm also a partial superhero geek. I say partial because I'm partial to only one comic book superstar: Batman. So I was thrilled to see the infographic below that looked at the finances of Batman's alter ego Bruce Wayne as well as that of Spider-Man's Peter Parker. Superhero Economics: Bruce Wayne vs. Peter Parker via H&R Block Click image or "Superhero" link above for larger view. And I was doubly thrilled to see that taxes were part of the visual comparison of the two men's money. I was, that is, until I saw... Read more →


Pending home sales picked up a bit in May, according to the National Association of Realtors. The number of homes under contract matched the highest level in the past two years, and was much better than the May 2011 figures. If those deals actually close and the sellers are able to turn a profit, much if not all they make on their residential sales will be tax free. Old vs. new home sale tax rules: Once upon a time, home sellers younger than 55 had to roll any profit they made on a house into a new, higher price piece... Read more →


This afternoon the House will vote for the 31st time to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). UPDATE: They did it. The vote was 244 to 185. Senate Republicans are looking at ways to do the same "in the near future" in that chamber. These continuing anti-health care efforts are both symbolic and political. There's no chance that the medical coverage law, known as Obamacare, will be stricken from the books as long as its namesake has a veto pen. But both Republicans and Democrats view the health care law and the tax component that was crucial... Read more →


There's still a lot of buzz about the Obama tax rate proposal, a lot more than there really should be for something that isn't going to happen, if at all, until mid-November at the earliest. Why the delay on Capitol Hill? Because the prez wants to keep the 10 percent through 28 percent tax rates and bump the top two rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent, and the Republicans want to keep all the Bush-era tax rates as is. Neither side has gotten along very well and things have only gotten worse this election year. Still, all of us... Read more →


Jobs, taxes and political campaigns

Jobs and taxes are naturally linked. We pay, after all, an income tax. The connection was underscored today when Obama reiterated his commitment to raising the tax rates on higher earners; that would be individuals making $200,000 a year and families earning $250,000 annually. For everyone else making less than that, the current lower tax rates would remain. And it's no surprise that the prez's tax announcement came on the heels of flat jobs numbers. June unemployment was 8.2 percent, the same as May. In June, only 80,000 new jobs were added. It's realistic, not cynical, to note that any... Read more →


Stop me if you've heard this before. Obama is calling for tax rate hikes on America's higher earners. Oh wait. Please don't stop me. That would wipe out two-thirds of the ol' blog because Washington has been arguing over tax rates for, well, forever. In about half an hour, Obama will make his case yet again to keep the current individual income tax rates in place for most taxpayers. But the prez wants to hike the top two rates for the country's highest earners. This is not new nor is it necessarily news. Obama wants the current 10 percent, 15... Read more →


Tropical Storm Debby popped up in the Gulf of Mexico in late June and then proceeded to slog across Florida, bringing heavy rains interspersed with tornadoes. St. Petersburg, Fla., tornado spawned by Tropical Storm Debby by Oriana Sofia By the time Debby was done, she had destroyed homes and businesses, crashed electrical systems, washed away roads and flooded neighborhoods. At least three people died in the storm. Last week, in an email notice to tax professionals, the Internal Revenue Service announced that some Floridians who suffered through Debby may qualify for tax relief. President Obama has declared 11 Florida counties... Read more →


The July Fourth holiday was sandwiched last week at my other tax blog by some tax fireworks. Mother Nature produces her own pyrotechnics via severe weather. Alabama found that out firsthand last spring when it was hit by deadly tornadoes. So this year, Alabama officials decided to hold a Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. And divorces are famous for the flames thrown by soon-to-be ex spouses. When it comes to celebrity breakups, it often is even more fiery. That's why all eyes are on TomKat, aka Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. From a tax geek standpoint -- yeah, that's... Read more →


Two pet supply stores opened this week in my area of northwest Austin. It seems like a bit of overkill, but you've got to presume the owners of the new animal-related businesses did their market research. I suspect that my neighborhood supplied much of the data supporting multiple pet care storefronts. It seems like every other house has at least one dog. We are not alone. Sixty-two percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to the latest American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey. That's 72.9 million homes. As for the number of pets, APPA says there... Read more →


The deadly Tuscaloosa tornado of 2011 has tax ramifications beyond the usual disaster tax relief for its victims. In the wake of that twister and at the recommendation of the governor's special Tornado Recovery Action Council, Alabama legislators created the state's first sales tax holiday for severe weather supplies. The Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday began at 12:01 a.m. today, Friday, July 6, and runs until midnight Sunday, July 8. The official announcement of the inaugural tax-free event came as Tropical Storm Debby was churning in the Gulf of Mexico just southeast of Alabama's coast. "Tropical Storm Debby is... Read more →


Whoa! Slow up there 2012. How did you get halfway over? I know July kind of sneaked in last weekend. Then the July Fourth holiday popped up in the middle of the week, screwing up vacation plans and basically making today, a Thursday, feel like the week's second Monday. But regardless of how we got here, the fact is that the first six months of the year (plus a few days) are gone. Before the same thing happens to the rest of July through December, take a few minutes to note some tax moves that could help you cut what... Read more →


We Americans are obsessed with taxes. For years we've watched an anti-tax pledge shape our legislative processes, at the federal and more local levels. And just last week our tax fixation was in the spotlight with the Supreme Court ruling that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is constitutional because it is tied to Congress' authority to create and collect taxes. This national tax preoccupation shouldn't be a big surprise. Taxes, or rather our opposition to those levied by the British crown, led 236 years ago to the birth of America. We all know about... Read more →


As soon as the Supreme Court's health care ruling, and by Supreme Court I mean Chief Justice John Roberts' swing vote and majority opinion, was issued, thousands of us started scouring not only legal documents, but also dictionaries. We're all looking for some clarity on taxes vs. penalty charges. A tax generally is defined as a government levy to raise money to run said government and the public goods and services it provides. A penalty typically is a punishment imposed for violating a law. Then we have penalty tax, which InvestorWords.com says is a local or federal punitive tax applied... Read more →