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August 2012

Do you have a 401(k) plan? Good. These tax-favored workplace retirement plans are a handy way to help build a decent cushion so that you can live the kind of post-work life you want. Now answer me this. Do you know how much of your 401(k) retirement money is lost to fees? If you don't, help (if it hasn't already arrived) is on the way. A new Department of Labor rule went into effect this summer requiring 401(k) providers to disclose certain plan fees. And employers must distribute those disclosures to plan participants by Aug. 30. Facing up to fees:... Read more →


Two. That's how many full tax returns Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says we'll eventually get from him when he files his now-on-extension 2011 taxes. Romney's been taking heat for not offering us a larger look at his annual Internal Revenue Service filings. That's likely to continue all the way to Nov. 6. Personally, I think Romney should show us more of his tax returns. But he's not the only candidate to stop at two. That's how many years' worth of federal tax returns the last GOP seeker of the White House made public. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)... Read more →


OK, I was joking (mostly) when I suggested yesterday that you spend your Saturday reviewing Paul Ryan's last two tax returns. But here's a Sunday tax activity that won't take long. You can squeeze it in before you head out to brunch. Check out your potential 2013 tax bill via the SmartAsset.com interactive infographic that compares President Obama's and Mitt Romney's tax plans. Click the image to use the calculator. The financial modeling website SmartAsset built its calculator using the current information available about the Obama and Romney tax plans. But because Romney plans to eliminate certain tax credits and... Read more →


With the approach of autumn, two topics are on most folks' minds, the presidential election and the return of kids to school. Both were addressed in posts last week at my other tax blog. This time last week, we were all searching for the scoop on Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick Paul Ryan. But the one thing that the Republican duo seeking the White House doesn't want us to focus on was Ryan's budget and tax plan. Good luck with that. Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" is already well-known and equally hated and adored depending on your political position on... Read more →


Another part of the 2012 presidential campaign puzzle fell into place when Paul Ryan on Friday afternoon released his 2010 and 2011 tax returns. Yep, only those two years' worth of 1040s for the Republican vice presidential candidate. Now we just wait for Mitt Romney's final 2011 filing. The GOP presidential nominee made public his preliminary tax calculations for last year when he released his official 2010 return. Romney (or rather, Romney's accountants) had to do a down-and-dirty 2011 Form 1040 to see if he had to send the Internal Revenue Service any cash when he filed for an extension.... Read more →


It's always a thrill to be recognized, but I'm especially honored that the ol' blog was named a 2012 Association for Women in Communications Clarion Award winner. I've been a writing my entire life and getting paid to scribble since I was studying journalism at Texas Tech University. It was there that I joined AWC and that membership moved with me from Texas to the Washington, D.C., area to Florida and back home to the Lone Star State. One of the first calls I made upon arriving in Austin seven years ago was to the city's AWC chapter. So getting... Read more →


Summer's winding down and across the country schools will soon reopen. You know what that means. Well, yes, parents will be celebrating. But it also means that the end of the annual back-to-school sales tax holidays is in sight. This year 18 states authorized tax holidays. Mississippi kicked the sales tax holiday season off in late July. The first weekend in August was the busiest sales tax holiday weekend of 2012. A dozen states held their tax holidays on some combination of that Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Massachusetts, Maryland and Georgia followed a week later. And now Texas and Connecticut... Read more →


Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan says that details on how he and Mitt Romney will pay for their tax proposals will be done in the "light of day." But they want to wait for a dawn after the Nov. 6 election. Hmmm, OK. Or rather, not OK. Like 'em or hate 'em, at least the Obama camp is saying which taxes the current prez wants to hike: those on the richest Americans. That's how 44 will pay for keeping taxes paid by the less-wealthy at the current 10-to-28 percent rates. Romney and Ryan have said they, too, want to... Read more →


The only consolation about not winning the big Powerball prize -- it reached $337 million by the time the numbers were drawn last night -- is that I don't have a ginormous federal tax bill. That Internal Revenue Service responsibility falls to the one Powerball grand prize winner from Michigan. If that winner opts for the lump sum payout, which was calculated at $213.3 million when the jackpot was still just $320 million, he or she will end up with around $139 million. Not a bad take for one night's work, but not $337 or even $320 million. The reason... Read more →


Newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan voted in 1999 to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. Its official name is The Banking Act of 1933 (it was enacted on the 16th of June 79 years ago), but I've always heard it referred to by the hyphenated-name of its Democratic sponsors, Sen. Carter Glass of Virginia and Rep. Henry B. Steagall of Alabama. The Glass-Steagall Act didn't make my Bankrate slideshow of eight more-recent pieces of financial legislation named after people who sponsored or inspired them. But the namesake gallery, which is this week's Weekly Tax Tip, does feature another famously-named... Read more →


Well, with apologies to Dirty Harry, do you? Tonight's jackpot for Powerball, which is played in 42 States, Washington, D.C., and the U.S .Virgin Islands, is $320 million, the fourth largest potential bonanza ever. Click image to go to an interactive version of the Powerball map. The cash value if you win and want it in a lump sum is $213.3 million. Heck, it could grow even more as lottery fever heats up before tonight's drawing. Yes, those are my tickets pictured below, although I can't say I'm feeling particularly lucky. Still I felt compelled to pick up a few... Read more →


Forget about Paul Ryan and his budget and tax calculations for a minute. He's still just a vice presidential candidate. Mitt Romney, the man who picked the Wisconsin Representative to join him on the 2012 Republican ticket, assures us that he's still at the top of the ticket. And that means what he says goes when it comes to how our taxes would look under a new GOP administration. And just how does Romney's tax plan stack up against the current Oval Office occupant's proposals for our taxes in 2013 and beyond? I look at the highlights of the Obama... Read more →


Delegates to the Republican National Convention who are duffers will want to check out the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Golf Resort. The Tampa-area vacation haven has temporarily renamed that course's holes after the past 18 Republican presidents, reports PGA.com's Golf Buzz blogger John Holmes. Golfing convention goers from South Carolina and Florida who are staying at Innisbrook later this month will start at the Abraham Lincoln tee box and wrap up their rounds by holing out on the George W. Bush. The Tampa Bay Business Journal had some fun in describing the presidential attributes of the renamed holes, notes... Read more →


California usually is a bellwether when it comes to legislation, but this time it's playing follow the federal tax law change leader. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) kicked off the Olympics no-tax trend by introducing a bill that would exempt the value of Olympic medals and the accompanying prize money of $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze from federal taxation. A companion piece has been introduced in the U.S. House. Now some Golden State legislators say the same exclusion from income should apply at their state's level. Republican Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, a member of a bipartisan... Read more →


Paul Ryan is now under the most intense scrutiny he's ever faced. Journalists, bloggers, campaign staff and just plain old people -- that last one's a colloquial reference, not a descriptive one, although senior citizens obviously are interested in Ryan because of his Social Security and Medicare proposals -- are poring over everything they can find on the Republican vice presidential candidate. But there's one thing all these sleuths aren't likely to find: a lot of Ryan's tax returns. While it's become expected that presidential candidates and their running mates make public their tax filings, sometimes the White House wannabes,... Read more →


The London 2012 Olympic Games are winding down. That means we spectators now go back to our regular television and Internet viewing habits. But what about the athletes? Many of the competitors will resume training for the 2014 events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But for some, the trip to Great Britain represented their final efforts to win podium finishes. Michael Phelps, the most decorated U.S. Olympian ever, wants to work on his golf game. Here's hoping he avoids water hazards. Missy Franklin, another swimming gold medalist, says she's still leaning toward entering college next year instead of cashing in... Read more →


By now I'm sure you're overloaded with Paul Ryan data. Get used to it. More is coming, all the way up to Nov. 6. Following Mitt Romney's announcement of his running mate, I looked at the Romney vs. Ryan tax plans and I don't want to add too much more to the speeding Ryan express (sorry film and baseball fans; I couldn't resist!) of information. But in surfing the Web, I ran across some Ryan and VP-related pieces that are definitely worth sharing. Whys and wherefores of VP picks: Let's get the wonkiness out of the way first. A few... Read more →


Saving tax money and keeping your money out of identity thieves' hands were the hot topics covered in posts last week at my other tax blog. Massachusetts shoppers had to wait yet again for their lawmakers to approve the Bay State's sales tax holiday, but finally it did happen. Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12, were designated as tax-free days for most items priced at $2,500 or less. Meanwhile, some folks have been getting an email alerting them that their Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, transmission was rejected. The only problem that the EFTPS email is a... Read more →


It's been a political love fest today as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced that Rep. Paul Ryan is his running mate. Quick pairing clarification: Calm down jubilant conservatives. Ryan will be the vice president, VP, veep, not the Oval Office occupant, if the Romney-Ryan ticket wins the coming election. Today's "next president" misspeak by Romney was no more significant than the similar gaffe committed by Barack Obama when he revealed Joe Biden as the next president vice president back in 2008. Romney's verbal misstep aside, spirits are high among the Grand Old Party. Ryan is young, articulate, has shown... Read more →


One Congressman has an idea about what should happen in the wake of confirmation that the Internal Revenue Service purposely overlooked fake tax identity number applications. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman should resign. Rep. Sam Johnson told the tax agency head that in a letter that the Texas Ways and Means Committee member sent after it was revealed some IRS supervisors urged employees to ignore possibly fake tax ID applications. Click image for a larger view. The "ITIN" mentioned in the snippet of Johnson's letter pictured above stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. These numbers are used instead of Social Security... Read more →