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October 2012

September 2012

Just in case you were otherwise occupied yesterday and missed it, below is the videotape of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney writing off 47 percent of the electorate. Those Americans, Romney told a group of potential donors, won't vote for him because they're getting a sweet, nontaxpaying deal under President Obama. "My job is not to worry about those people," Mitt Romney said of the 47 percent of Americans who, according to a tax think tank study, did not pay federal income taxes in 2011. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." After... Read more →


Are you worried about Uncle Sam's involvement in your health care? That concern, which was probably the first argument against health care reform, still worries some folks. And the extent of Internal Revenue Service participation in implementing some provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, has some folks on guard. Not to worry, says the IRS. Yes, the tax agency will get confirmation from insurers about the health care coverage that individuals have. But that's it, swears the IRS. Photo by 123light via iStock "It is important to note that the information that... Read more →


A quick nag reminder about today's estimated tax payment deadline. Your third 1040-ES of 2012 is due by midnight if you pay electronically. In this case you don't have to actually send in the Internal Revenue Service voucher, just the amount you owe via your credit or debit card or bank account transfer. Click for a larger view. Or if you're mailing your payment via paper check or money order, you have until your post office closes. Estimated tax payments, just like your annual 1040 filing, are considered filed on time as long as the envelope is postmarked by the... Read more →


A little over a year ago, the House and Senate failed to reach a deal on how to cut the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. In the wake of that epic Congressional fail, bipartisan majorities in both chambers voted for sequestration, a financial threat that was supposed to force lawmakers to eventually act. That threat also appears to have failed. Sequestration, or automatic across-the-board cuts applied equally to defense and nondefense programs, is set to kick in on Jan. 2, 2013. How bad will the budget cuts be? Pretty bad, because, as the 394-page Office of Management... Read more →


The taxes taken out -- or not -- of your pay was the topic touched on last week at my other tax blog. Let's start with Social Security and Medicare taxes, often shown as FICA on pay stubs, that usually are collected on severance pay. If you've ever received a payout package after being laid off, you know how important every penny of that final check is. A recent federal court ruling could help you get a bigger last paycheck if you're ever in that position. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a Michigan retailer and some... Read more →


I'm at a BlogathonATX today, a conference for bloggers here in my current home town of Austin. Last week, I was at a personal finance bloggers conference, FinCon12, in Denver. One thing both of these get-togethers has underscored is that blogging is a business. That's a hard lesson for many bloggers. It's also something that other more traditional business owners sometimes overlook, especially in the owners' initial enthusiam to get their ideas and products out to the public. The bottom line, literally, is that you need to run any business like a business; that is, to make money. Jim Yih,... Read more →


Hurricane Isaac wasn't the biggest, baddest storm to strike the United States, but he still did a heck of a lot of damage. Louisiana officials say it will cost $7.4 million to repair storm damage to state parks. Isaac help send jobless numbers higher and industrial production down as businesses in his path took big hits. Even college football games and the accompanying tourism money from traveling fans was lost as several gridiron contests were rescheduled because of Isaac's rain and winds. And let's not forget the Tampa area, which sustained some economic losses when the Republican National Convention was... Read more →


It's official. The House's already minimal 2012 work period has gotten even shorter. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) today issued this notice to his colleagues: Members are advised that as a result of House -- and anticipated Senate -- passage of H.J.Res. 117, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2013, votes are no longer expected during the week of October 1. This is a change from the original House Calendar. Representatives will be back next week after a two-day break for Rosh Hashanah, but after wrapping up business on Sept. 21, members won't be expected on Capitol Hill again until Nov.... Read more →


Here's a question for my fellow estimated tax payers: Have you sent in your third 1040-ES voucher yet? If not, don't panic. You've got a couple of extra days. Sept. 15 is on Saturday, so your estimated tax payment isn't due until Monday, Sept. 17. I've spent my share of weekends over the years taking care of tax tasks. Not so this year. As you can see by my redacted receipt below from the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), I've scheduled our payment. Click for a larger view. If, however, you've yet to file your 1040-ES, you might have... Read more →


Amazon will begin collecting sales taxes on California purchases Saturday, Sept. 15. In advance of the deadline, online customers and tax offices are stocking up. But they're shopping for different things. Online shoppers are looking to pick up products before the 7.25 percent state sales tax (plus up to 2 percent more depending on the buyer's location) is added to Golden State cyber purchases. State tax officials, meanwhile, are looking to hire nearly 100 new state auditors, lawyers and other specialists to ensure everyone complies with the new online tax. The state Board of Equalization expects to spend $10 million... Read more →


Summer vacation time is over. School's back in session. Moms and dads are back at work. But one group of Americans is about to take most of the rest of the year off. Yes, I'm talking about Congress. Check out the official House calendar. Our Representatives returned to Capitol Hill this week after their regular August/Labor Day/party conventions recess, I mean district work session. Lawmakers will break again Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 17 and 18, for Rosh Hashanah. Click on image for a larger view. Then they'll head back to campaign, I mean to their districts to hear concerns of... Read more →


The hubby and I have always shared our finances. We've both worked. Sometimes his paycheck has been bigger. A few times, mine has. Either way, we put all our earnings into one joint checking account and go from there. I've always joked that we share everything because we were married in Texas, a community property state. Kids sharing a shake by andrechinn via Flickr Even when we moved away for a while, I told the hubby we still were operating under the what's yours is mine philosophy. Now we're back home in our native Lone Star State and I've got... Read more →


I'm still recovering from a recent business trip, but I spent most of the morning making arrangements for more out-of-town travel. Amid all the hassle of searching for convenient and cheap airfare, not to mention sorting through hotel options, my only consolation is that I'm not headed to Chicago. Chill, Chicagoans. I've been to many conferences in your city and I love it. But according to the 2012 survey of travel-related taxes by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation, Chicago is the costliest destination for visitors. Every year, GBTA analyzes taxes on hotel stays, car rentals and restaurant meals... Read more →


Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS banker credited with helping break open Uncle Sam's investigation into secret untaxed Swiss accounts, is about to be $104 million richer. The Internal Revenue Service has recommended that Birkenfeld, who served around two and a half years in federal prison for a fraud conspiracy conviction related to the case, get that amount of money as a reward. It's the largest whistleblower amount ever awarded by the IRS. Birkenfeld's insider info helped the IRS collect more than $5 billion in unpaid taxes from foreign banks and nearly 15,000 individuals who used their services to avoid paying... Read more →


What one word would you use to describe the 2012 candidates for president and vice president? Remember that your mother (or mine!) might be reading, so keep it clean, please. That's the challenge the Pew Research Center gave individuals just before the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. The single word (in most cases) descriptions produced some interesting perceptions of Democratic incumbents Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. That word limit also is this week's (a day late; I was traveling on Sunday) By the Numbers figure. In each survey, Pew asked around 1,000... Read more →


The case of the elusive Mitt Romney tax returns gets curiouser and curiouser. Ever since the Republican presidential nominee announced we would only get to see his 2010 and, once the forms are filed by the Oct. 15 extension deadline, 2011 returns, there has been widespread speculation as to what Romney's earlier 1040s might contain. Last week, an anonymous group claimed to have hacked the computer system of Romney's accountants and obtained the GOP candidate's older returns. The alleged hackers said they'll expose the returns or keep the documents under wraps depending on who is the first to pay a... Read more →


The short post-Labor Day holiday week was still plenty long enough for looks last week at my other tax blog at the tax implications of employee business expenses and live organ donations. Employees who spend some of their own money for work related tasks might be able to claim the costs as an itemized deduction. But they must make sure they follow the Internal Revenue Service rules on such Schedule A entries for unreimbursed employee business expenses. At the state tax level, many offer tax incentives for people who make live organ donations. Unfortunately for those who need the life-saving... Read more →


Lindsay Lohan wasn't among the celebrities who attended the Democratic convention last week, but she did the next best thing. Taking advantage of Obama's participation in social media, Lohan dropped the prez a Twitter request in response to a statement in his acceptance speech regarding tax cuts. Lohan has since deleted her online plea for tax relief for Forbes-list millionaires, but not before it was captured in screen shots. It's unclear exactly what Lohan wants -- 140 or less characters does have its drawbacks in dealing with complex topics such as taxes -- but the quotation marks around the word... Read more →


If you watched the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, you heard several speakers, including the two vice presidential candidates and the President himself mention Simpson-Bowles. And you might have a vague recollection of what these guys were talking about. Here's a quick refresher. In February 2010, Obama created an independent commission to study the country's debt crisis and come up with ways to solve the problem. The special 18-member committee, which included members of Congress from both parties, was headed by co-chairs Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming, and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine... Read more →


I am in the Mile High City for the next few days (that sound you hear is the hubby celebrating temporary bachelorhood) to attend the second annual Financial Bloggers Conference, aka FinCon12, this year in beautiful downtown Denver. Financial bloggers, professionals, companies, columnists, authors -- just about anyone with something to say about money -- have gathered at the Grand Hyatt for three-plus days of greeting long-time friends, making new ones, sharing our financial war stories and learning from each other. I'll wedge in a blog post or two while I'm here, but if you want to know exactly what... Read more →