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September 2012

Despite all his wealth, Mitt Romney has one thing in common with a lot of other Americans who make much, much less money than he does. They all donate to religious groups. In 2011, American contributed more than $298 billion to charitable organizations. This was a four percent increase over the amount donated in 2010, according to Giving USA 2012, the latest annual report on philanthropy by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. Almost a third of those donations, or almost $96 billion, went to religious organizations. Once again, this sector got most of the year's... Read more →

Debt is a terrible burden for many. Sometimes, though, erasure of the debt is not a good thing. That's the case for folks who, according to a story in today's New York Times, have received notification from banks that the lenders have forgiven the amounts the debtors owe. The problem is that in many cases the loans no longer exist. The owed amounts were already disposed of, in some cases through bankruptcy. The bank actions, however, now mean that the Internal Revenue Service will get notice that the former debtor has forgiven debt. Taxable forgiven debt. Forgiven debt generally is... Read more →

You can tell that the 2012 presidential campaign is in full swing. What a candidate does, or doesn't do, on his tax returns and the location of nonpaying taxpayers a candidate cited were the hot issues last week at my other tax blog. Mitt Romney finally finished his 2011 taxes. The Republican presidential nominee was one of millions of Americans who got an extension earlier this year in order to have a few more months to file their returns. But Romney was probably one of the very few taxpayers who needed extra time to decide not to claim all the... Read more →

I grew up in West Texas so I know about living in an arid region. In recent years, that drier lifestyle is something that many more folks across the rest of the Lone Star State have had to learn to live with. Texas, like much of the rest of the United States, has been dealing with drought conditions for years. Late September data from the National Drought Mitigation Center show that 54.77 percent of the country is in moderate drought or worse, the largest percentage so far recorded at that level and a slight increase from the previous week's percentage.... Read more →

It's Friday. As the song goes, we've all been working for the weekend and that means as soon as we clock out today, we're heading off to celebrate with an adult beverage. Most of my friends are wine drinkers. Me, I'm a beer fan. I mean really, when it's hot outside, or your plate of Tex-Mex is hot and spicy, there's no better thing than a cold brew. And have you ever tried taking a long, refreshing chug of wine? Can't do it. Vino just doesn't work like an icy beer. I just checked my refrigerator and was stunned to... Read more →

Federal agencies, unlike private companies, are exempt from paying federal income taxes. But like the private sector, U.S. government agencies still must make employment tax deposits and meet related tax reporting requirements. That's not happening in all cases. In fact, it's not happening to the tune of $14 million in unpaid federal agency taxes. Those millions in tax money that Uncle Sam basically owes himself comes from 70 federal agencies that were responsible for 126 tax accounts that were delinquent at the end of 2011, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). It gets worse. TIGTA, in... Read more →

Right now I'm betting that a lot of Republicans are wishing Mitt Romney would just put a sock in it. While campaigning in Ohio, a state both sides say is crucial to winning the White House, Romney on Wednesday undercut one of the GOP's key arguments, that Obama has spent much of his term raising middle class taxes. Not so, according to Romney. "I admit this, [President Obama] has one thing he did not do in his first four years — he's said he's going to do in the next four years, which is to raise taxes," Romney told a... Read more →

Some people actually were thrilled with the replacement refs blown touchdown call in Monday night's Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks football game. They included not only Seattle's fans, but folks worldwide who won their bets on the game. And, yes, there is some overlap in those two groups. Green Bay was a 3.5 point favorite. Seattle's last-second play gave them a two-point margin of victory. If the replacement officials had correctly ruled the Hail Mary pass was a Packers' interception, Green Bay would have won by five and covered the spread. Now I'm not a regular gambler, at least not on... Read more →

While Congress was marking time last week until it could recess until after the election, it spent its valuable limited time some important pieces of legislation. Not. Aside from a bill to keep the government running through March 27, 2013, the House and Senate bandied about politically themed measures to highlight their partisan positions on jobs, the economy and, of course, taxes. The best, or worst, example of this was the Buffett Rule bill that cleared the House. This Republican version of Obama's proposal that millionaires pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent calls for voluntary contributions to... Read more →

Before Representatives and Senators slipped out of Washington, D.C., for their extended election year recess frenetic campaigning district work period, we got one hint about what not to expect in January. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said that the payroll tax holiday should be allowed to expire at the end of this year. What? A member of the Democratic leadership saying it's time to drop a tax cut that was one of President Obama's most widely recognized legislative victories? You do remember in late December 2011 how he stood down the Republicans who led the fight against the 2... Read more →

Maybe it was the rain. Mitt Romney has gone to two NASCAR races this year. Both times the events were delayed, one until the next day, by heavy showers. Sports fans are superstitious and perhaps followers of America's favorite auto racing series equated the politician's attendance with the disruptions. Or maybe NASCAR fans are no longer confined to traditional Southern red states. Whatever the reason, the latest Zogby Poll found NASCAR fans favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 49 percent to 42 percent, respectively. That's outside the poll's 3.4 percent margin of error. Almost 10 percent were undecided. Click... Read more →

The tax world consensus is that if Mitt Romney doesn't win the White House, he'll amend his 2011 return to recoup the tax savings he surrendered in order to make his effective tax rate reach 14.1 percent. Some calculators say that the Republican presidential candidate's tax rate would have been closer to 9 percent if he'd taken all the deductions for which he qualified. When asked if Romney might file an amended return and claim the $1.77 million in charitable donations that he and the missus didn't include on their Schedule A, thereby getting a nice refund check of around... Read more →

Low taxes. No taxes. Those were the hot issues last week at my other tax blog. Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that income taxes should be lowered. But they disagree on just who should have lower taxes. A Congressional Research Service study says it doesn't matter. "There is not conclusive evidence … to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth," according to the report. Tax rates don't matter to some Americans, 47 percent to be precise. They don't have to pay federal income taxes. Talking about nonpayers... Read more →

At a recent personal finance bloggers conference in Denver, a few of my colleagues and I took time off from talking dollars and cents to see some local sights. As part of our ice cream and art walking tour (and yes, I admit that the ice cream was as big a draw as the art!) we were treated to some of the Mile High City's public art. That's "National Velvet" to the left, a sculpture by Denver artist (not pro tennis player) John McEnroe, installed in 2008 at the eastern foot of the city's Highlands Walking Bridge. It cost $53,000... Read more →

In July when Mitt Romney was catching heat for paying a 2010 personal income tax rate of only 13.8 percent, he defended his filing tactics by saying that if he paid more taxes than were required, he wouldn't be qualified to be president. Uh, Mitt. You might want to rethink that statement. Romney today released his 2011 tax return. A note accompanying the 379-page filing pointed out that the Republican presidential candidate intentionally overpaid last year's taxes. Mitt and Ann are sending the U.S. Treasury more money than they had to because they decided not to claim some charitable deductions.... Read more →

One of my favorite websites is I particularly like its Word of the Day feature. I enjoy it so much, I'm borrowing the approach to look at a political-economic-tax word that's probably going to be at the top of this year's election glossary: Redistribution. Here's the by the book (or, in this case Internet) definition: Since Barack Obama's appearance on the national political scene, this term has become a partisan weapon. Republicans use it to slam the president and Democrats who want to raise taxes on wealthier taxpayers and use -- yes, redistribute -- the funds for programs designed... Read more →

Last night at an event in Miami, Mitt Romney embraced his status as the "grandfather of Obamacare." I bet the Republican presidential nominee wished he had gotten a preview of today's Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) report on the tax costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care reform law. The CBO and JCT now estimate that nearly six million people will face penalties (or a tax as the Supreme Court ruled) for not getting health insurance as required by the law's individual mandate that kicks in in... Read more →

Or you a maker or a taker? While that question isn't particularly elegant either, it's how Republicans wish Mitt Romney had phrased his secretly taped comments at a Florida fundraiser. Most American are working hard, contributing to their families' support and success. If asked the maker or taker question, they would have said there is no way they are anything like the 47 percent of nontaxpayers whom Romney dismissed as eager dependents on the federal government. But the truth is that we are all takers in some way, dependent in some fashion on Uncle Sam, especially when it comes to... Read more →

Every parent with a kid in or about to enroll in college knows that the cost of higher education keeps going, well, higher. That's why so many take advantage of help from Uncle Sam. Yep, the Internal Revenue Code is chock full of education tax breaks, which are collected in today's Weekly Tax Tip. You've got your 529 plans and Coverdell savings accounts and a couple of tax credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning) and some deductions (for tuition and fees and student loan interest) that you don't have to itemize to claim. Of course there are eligibility requirements and... Read more →

Mitt Romney's self-described "inelegant" characterization of nontaxpayers as Obama supporters who see themselves as victims, entitled to government help, has re-energized the call for public review of exactly how much, or little, the Republican presidential candidate has paid Uncle Sam over the last decade. Romney has released just one complete tax return (for the 2010 tax year) and a preliminary filing for 2011. When he completes his 2011 Form 1040 -- Romney, like millions of Americans, got an extension until Oct. 15 to file -- he says he'll make the finalized version public, too. Similarly, Romney's vice presidential choice, Rep.... Read more →