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February 2013

IRS' Where's My Refund? site swamped by impatient refund tracking taxpayers

When I heard earlier today that the Internal Revenue Service was experiencing an inordinately large number of visitors to its online tax refund tracking tool, I shared the news via Twitter and Facebook. And in my usual smart-alecky way, I just had to quip that, "I'm sure the rush on the IRS' Where's My Refund? page is directly tied to my Bankrate tax tip earlier this week. ;-D" Then along comes Mary. No, not the one popularized by The Association (enjoy the video below). It was Mary O'Keeffe. Mary, who teaches public finance at Union College, loves math and blogs... Read more →


It's Valentine's Day so the thoughts of lovers -- young, old and in-between -- naturally turn to taxes. Oh wait, that's just me and the ever-patient hubby. We did, after all, push our wedding day into 1982 because that tax year meant we could claim the dual earners' above-the-line tax deduction. We (OK, me) did want to get our new life together off to a good tax-saving start. That income adjustment law change was an effort to reduce the marriage tax penalty that many jointly filing couples faced back then. As we've all become very aware, the marriage penalty shows... Read more →


Yet another tax paperwork hurdle has popped up in this year's filing season path. No, it's not one of the dozens of forms that the Internal Revenue Service is still working to update. It's an oldie but goody document that was updated back in December, the Schedule 8812. Schedule 8812 was used in prior tax years to compute and claim the additional tax credit. Here's how it looked for the 2011 tax year. Click image to see full form. New for the 2012 tax year, this document now is also used in some cases by taxpayers claiming the plain old... Read more →


Usain Bolt, the self-proclaimed most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen, won three gold medals at the London Olympics, But after collecting his shiny hardware, the Jamaican sprinter made it clear that he wouldn't compete again in Great Britain until the country changes its tax laws. Currently, the United Kingdom taxes all professional athletes on not only their appearance fees and winnings, but also their global sponsorship and endorsement earnings. But what about the Olympics? They're special, not just from a competitive standpoint, but also when it comes to taxes. Cities that host the international sporting event agree... Read more →


The first question every taxpayer asks is, "How much is my refund?" The second question every taxpayer asks is, "When will I get it?" The official Internal Revenue Service response is generally in less than 21 calendar days after the agency receives it. In many cases, refunds show up sooner, especially if you've e-filed your tax return and have asked that your refund be directly deposited. But if you insist on filing a paper return via snail mail, expect your refund, regardless of whether its sent to you electronically or by the U.S. Postal Service, to arrive at the end... Read more →


Now this is a problem that a lot of would like to have. Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review, announced to readers last week that The IRS Just Sent Me $160,000. Can I Keep It? The short answer is probably not. But the amount is this week's By the Numbers figure. As Ignatius notes in his article, rough calculations indicate that to have received a refund of that magnitude, he'd have to have earned more than $3 million. "I'm an editor, with an editor's salary," wrote Ignatius. "So when I say I'm 'almost certain' that I'm not... Read more →


Stress can damage any relationship. And one of the most stressful times of the year is tax season. That means that tax professional and tax client relationships definitely can become strained. Taxpayers are always anxious to get their returns done because they need their refund money. They're especially ticked this year because the start of filing season was pushed back to Jan. 30, slowing the processing and issuance of the tax cash. Some folks will even have to wait until March as the Internal Revenue Service plays catch-up in the updating of nearly 30 forms and its computer system. All... Read more →


Some things are tax filing season perennials. Among them are ways to cut tax bills and tax scammers. Both of those topics were featured last week at my other tax blog. Let's get the bad guys out of the way first. Among those in this category are folks who promise, for a fee, to reduce the big tax bill you can't pay and then don't follow through. That's what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged happened to clients of American Tax Relief (ATR) clients. Two years ago the feds filed charges against the Beverly Hills, Calif., company alleging that it... Read more →


Energy efficient home improvement tax break is back ... until Dec. 31

This weekend's massive snow storm has left record levels of the fluffy white stuff from the Upper Midwest to New England. In the northeastern part of the country, the Weather Channel reports that five states -- Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York -- have had locations that recorded 30 inches or more of snow from the storm that's been named Nemo. Time lapse of Feb. 8, 2013, snow storm courtesy geofffox.com If you are among the thousands of folks who are socked in because of the snow, you might have learned something about your house. Like it's cold.... Read more →


First, for you wisea... uh, acres (yeah, wiseacres; let's use that term) popping off about the headline, no I'm not about to list 2,012 tax breaks. These tips (coming up after a few more prefatory words) total 10 and are for tax year 2012, that return you're working on right now. Second, once again life, work and taxes have conspired to make sure that I don't get around to posting the Daily Tax Tip as quickly each day as I had hoped. OK, busted. Some days I don't get to posting the day's tip at all. But I eventually get... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service has a Valentine present for folks claiming an education tax credit. The agency has announced that on Thursday, Feb. 14, it will start processing 2012 returns that contain Form 8863, Education Credits. This form is used to claim two higher education credits, the American Opportunity tax credit and the Lifetime Learning tax credit. The American Opportunity credit, you might recall, was set to expire at the end of 2012. But it was given new life as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, aka ATRA or the fiscal cliff bill. This education credit, which... Read more →


N.J. Gov. Christie takes on weighty issues with Letterman, former White House doc

More of America is closer to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's physique than having a body like that dude in the Calvin Klein Super Bowl ad. Our own battles with the bulge help us understand exactly why the rotund Republican lawmaker lashed out at the former White House doctor who said she feared Christie's excess weight could eventually lead to myriad health problems and possibly premature death. And it's also why most of us laughed with, not at Christie, when he downed a doughnut on David Letterman's late-night TV show and then declared himself "the healthiest fat guy you've ever... Read more →


'Devil's' tax form prompts man to quit job

A Tennessee man seems bedeviled by the number 666. For the third time in two years on the job as a maintenance worker at Contech Casting in Clarkesville, Tenn., Walter Slonopas has seen this disturbing numerical trio show up on work-related material. This latest appearance was on his W-2 form. No, it wasn't an earnings amount on the annual income statement. It was stamped on the outside of the document. The company that handles Contech's payroll said the number simply indicated the order in which the tax forms were mailed to employees. But that didn't ease Slonopas' mind about the... Read more →


The current U.S. Postal Service is getting a lot of attention today for its announced decision to end most Saturday mail delivery. The reduction in service is designed to cut costs. But an attempt by real estate developer Donald Trump to save some money on a former Post Office facility project has been shut down, too. The Donald, or Trump the Rump as he's known in our house, is planning a new, five-star luxury hotel in the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue. Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., via Wikimedia Commons The historic Washington, D.C., structure is... Read more →


Have you recovered from Sunday night's Super Bowl XLVII? I'm still enjoying the Baltimore Ravens' win. As regular readers of the ol' blog know, the hubby and I spent many years in Greenbelt, Md., and we took lots of great trips up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Charm City. We also were among the Maryland voters who approved state funds for the Ravens' stadium. M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, via Wikimedia Yeah, yeah, I know. The public paying for a rich owner's toys is generally a poor investment. But it was football. For Baltimore. And we loved "Diner"... Read more →


While you've been working on your individual income tax returns, lawmakers in a couple of states have been working on deals that will put more sales tax money into their treasuries. No, Connecticut and Indiana aren't raising sales tax rates (yet). They are refining plans to start collecting sales tax on Amazon online purchases. This November, Amazon will begin collecting Connecticut's 6.35 percent sales tax on items sold to state residents. As part of the deal, Amazon will invest $50 million over the next two years. Part of that investment is new fulfillment center in Connecticut, which should help Amazon... Read more →


It kind of was overshadowed by yesterday's Super Bowl, but Sunday, Feb. 3, was a big day in the tax world. It marked the 100th birthday of the modern tax code. Actually, it was the day 100 years ago that the 16th Amendment, the one that authorized the federal income tax as we know it, was approved by Delaware. The anniversary also gets By the Numbers honors this week. That vote on Feb. 3, 1913, by Ocean State lawmakers gave the amendment the requisite 36 state approvals, making it constitutionally legal. It's no secret that many folks, including some in... Read more →


Did you, like the Baltimore Ravens, come up a winner yesterday thanks to some bets you made on the National Football League's big game? Super Bowl XLVII medallion photo by Au Kirk via Twitter Uncle Sam thanks you. Gambling winnings, whether thousands of dollars on a sports championship or a few bucks from a lottery scratch-off ticket, are taxable income. Some of the taxable winnings come via the hundreds of prop, short for proposition, bets that are connected with major sporting events. Among the goofiest prop bets on the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco Forty-niners game were whether the coin... Read more →


Most of us will be watching the Super Bowl today from the comfort of our homes. Or at a friend's house. But some folks will head out to a sports bar for the NFL championship game. If you're one of them, remember to tip your server. Restaurant check with 18 percent gratuity by xlva via Flicker Some people are opposed to tipping. But most food service workers make very low base wages and depend on tips to make ends meet. In fact, tips are the excuse reason restaurants usually give for paying waiters so little. Personally, I think the low... Read more →


E-filing fraud fears and a new way to trim property taxes were examined last week at my other tax blog. True, tax-time identity theft is a growing problem. But the security breach that allows criminals to get their hands on the information they need to steal your life generally doesn't come from an electronic tax filing system. The problem is that crooks get your personal info other ways and then file a fake return using your name to get a fraudulent refund. You then learn about it only when you file your 1040 and are told by the Internal Revenue... Read more →