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June 2013

The Supreme Court on June 26 declared the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, dead. That same day, Attorney General Eric Holder said that President Obama had directed the Justice Department to work with other agencies to expeditiously implement the decision making federal benefits available to same-sex married couples. And expedite they did. On Friday, two days after the DOMA decision and the same day that same-sex marriages resumed in California thanks to the high court's removal of the Proposition 8 roadblock, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that same-sex spouses are eligible for a wide range of federal... Read more →

We never got to see more than a couple of Mitt Romney's tax returns during the last presidential campaign, but we now know the identity of the man who said he would show us more for a price. Michael Mancil Brown was indicted last week by a Nashville, Tenn., federal grand jury for alleged extortion and wire fraud. Brown, 34, of Franklin, Tenn., is facing twelve charges, six counts of each alleged crime. Click page image for PDF version of full indictment. Federal investigators say Brown sent the anonymous ransom note last August to the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP office in Franklin,... Read more →

Lois Lerner refused to talk to the House Oversight Committee during a hearing into charges that conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status received improper added scrutiny. Lerner, who at the time was in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's Tax Exempt and Government Entities division that reviewed the 501(c)(4) applications in question, read a brief prepared statement asserting that she had done nothing wrong. She then asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and was excused from the May 22 hearing by Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). But the Republican committee members have been stewing ever since over what they viewed... Read more →

The eyes of the tax world (OK, maybe just the eyes of tax geeks like me) have been focused on Washington, D.C. That's where the continuing Congressional hearings into the Internal Revenue Service's myriad missteps are playing out, as well as the Supreme Court's just announced Defense of Marriage Act ruling and the possibility hope that the tax-writing committees soon take up comprehensive tax reform. But a lot of tax action has taken place in the state capitals across the country. The Atlas of True Names from shows the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on... Read more →

Can you hear the cheering? It's still going on and it's coming from gay and lesbian couples, their families and friends and same-sex marriage supporters across the country who are thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. This federal law, enacted in 1996, defined for federal purposes a marriage as between one man and one woman. Yeah, right. DOMA was enacted because the ship on expanding marriage had already set sail. Gay and lesbian couples currently can get married in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and the... Read more →

DOMA is dead!

Yes, I know, you've heard this by now, but the Defense of Marriage Act, aka DOMA, is dead. Kaput. Off the books. Finito. Sorry to be slow in announcing it here, but I've been caught up doing some stories on today's Supreme Court ruling, as well as blogging it for Bankrate Taxes Blog. They pay me, you know! I will make some comments on the DOMA ruling here on the ol' blog, but I also had to find my mascara to get ready for a spot at the top of the hour on CNN. UPDATE: My DOMA is dead, part... Read more →

Are you ready for some football? Yes, I know the NBA (thanks, Spurs, for the effort) and NHL (congrats, Blackhawks) seasons just wrapped up and there are still lots of MLB games left to play. But I'm a Texan, which means football is in my DNA even though the Cowboys have sucked for way too long (Jerry, hire a real GM already!). So at my house, we're counting down to Aug. 4. That Sunday night (8 p.m. Eastern/7 Central) marks the start of the 2013 professional football season, the annual NFL Hall of Fame game. Sure it's just preseason and... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service's chief acknowledged on Monday, June 24, that agency employees reviewing groups' applications for tax-exempt status had "be on the lookout," or BOLO, lists for more than just conservative groups. But during a conference call with reporters, IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel declined to elaborate on just what was highlighted in the other BOLOs. The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means, however, had no such qualms. And Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) also wants to know why The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) chose to name only BOLO lists of conservative groups it... Read more →

When I started working, a handful of companies still offered their workers a pension plan. I'm talking a real pension plan, one where the business alone set aside some money that you could collect each month after you retired. Back then, financial planners regularly referred to pensions as one leg of the three-legged retirement planning stool: pension payments, personal savings and Social Security benefits. Those three retirement components account for this week's By the Numbers figure. But retirement planning has gotten much more complicated in recent years. Two wobbly legs: We continue to hear about Social Security's financial troubles. Whether... Read more →

When it comes to Florida and Minnesota, online retail giant Amazon is heading, physically and digitally, in opposite directions. Hello, Florida: Amazon plans to spend around $300 million to build facilities in the Sunshine State. The facilities reportedly will be fulfillment centers, aka warehouses, along the state's I-4 corridor. Florida officials and Amazon are touting the estimated 3,000 full-time jobs with benefits the new operations are expected to bring. The state's online shoppers, however, are bemoaning the eventual end of tax-free purchases from Amazon. Once the company has a physical presence in Florida, it will begin collecting the state's 6... Read more →

Summer officially arrived on Friday. But the longest day of the year is far from the hottest. If 2013 is anything like last year, we'll all be cursing the heat during July So now is the time to think about tuning up your air conditioning system. These pups probably would be cooler inside under the A/C instead of atop the condenser. As a general rule, your cooling system works better when you keep the outside air conditioning unit clear of everything, including pets! If you need a new residential cooling system, look into the possibility that you can help cover... Read more →

The embattled Internal Revenue Service has enjoyed a bit of a reprieve from Congressional hearings, but the grilling resumes next week. On Wednesday, June 26, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants to talk about the tax agency's contract with Strong Castle Inc. of Washington, D.C. In 2012, when the company was known as Signet Computers, Inc., it was awarded an $80 million computer contract with the IRS. Two other companies, however, filed protests with the Government Accountability Office, questioning Signet/Strong's certification as a HUBZone, that is, a small business located in a highly underutilized business zone. Then in... Read more →

While the entertainment industry and Sopranos fans mourned the unexpected death of actor James Gandolfini, some state legislatures were killing off movie and television production tax breaks. Connecticut and Wisconsin legislatures have proposed ending their states' film tax credits. The Hunger Games, post-production, courtesy Connecticut film credit cuts: In developing Connecticut's state's two-year $44 billion budget, lawmakers decided that the Nutmeg State could no longer subsidize movie productions. The film tax credit moratorium is expected to save the state $6 million. "My gut tells me (the film tax credit) was break-even at best," State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-Greenwich)... Read more →

It's a miracle! The House and Senate have agreed on a piece of legislation. OK, it's not a major measure. But you've got to start somewhere, especially with this Congress. The bill that became the first one to pass both chambers in the 113th Congress, which convened on Jan. 3, is H.R. 475. It adds a 75-cent excise tax on each dose of quadrivalent (four-strain) flu vaccine. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) introduced the bill on Feb. 4. He and his House colleagues passed the bill by voice vote on Tuesday, June 18. The next day the Senate followed suit, also... Read more →

UPDATE, March 7, 2018: No, it's not hot yet, even here in Texas. But parents across the country already are making summer camp plans for their kids since some of the programs fill up quickly. And the child and dependent care tax credit, which survived the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted on Jan. 1, 2018, can help cover some of those costs as long as the camp is of the day-only variety. This oldie-but-goody (and reviewed and refreshed) tax tip has the scoop. If the hot weather hasn't already tipped you off, all the kids roaming the streets make... Read more →

Rep. Elijah Cummings finally got tired of waiting for his House Oversight and Government Reform colleague Rep. Darrell Issa to produce evidence that Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status were held up for political reasons. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee that Issa chairs (both men are pictured, with Cummings at left), said he had seen no such proof. In fact, Cummings said that everything he had seen and heard made no mention of White House involvement in the process. And today -- after I earlier bemoaned no Internal Revenue Service news from Capitol Hill (not that I'm... Read more →

Fair Tax advocates want to 'End the IRS'

We went a week without any public hearings on Internal Revenue Service missteps. Did you miss the brouhaha? But we at least have a new television ad attacking the tax agency. The Washington Post Politics blog says the commercial, which calls for the abolishment of the IRS, is airing nationwide and is aimed at Members of Congress. The TV spot is from Americans for Fair Taxation, a group headed by wealthy Houstonian Leo Linbeck III. Linbeck has been characterized by some as an electoral anarchist because of the campaigns supported by his super PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability (CFPA). The... Read more →

Tax avoidance, which by some estimates costs nations worldwide around $3 trillion a year, will be a major topic at the meeting of leaders of the G8 nations -- United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia -- which began today at the Lough Erne Resort in Northern Ireland. With taxes taking a top spot on the two-day international agenda, the eight world leaders get the honor of being this week's By the Numbers pick. G8 host United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron has made no secret that "fighting the scourge of tax evasion" is one of his... Read more →

Dad. Pop. Papa. Daddy. Father. Whatever you call your dad, enjoy not only Father's Day, but every day with him. My dad, whom we lost many years ago way too early, was of the era where fathers didn't play as obvious a role in their children's lives. But my late brother and I knew that both our folks played critical, and loving, roles in our lives. Father and son fishing. Photo courtesy Sue's Point of View via photopin cc The debate continues today over a dad's involvement in the day to day upbringing of his kids. I do what works... Read more →

June 15 is a big tax day. It's normally the due date for the year's second estimated tax payment. It's also the filing deadline for taxpayers abroad, be they private citizens or members of the U.S. military. But when June 15 falls on a weekend, like today, then the deadline is pushed to the next business day. That means these tax tasks must be taken care of no later than Monday, June 17. I blogged last week about estimated taxes, so today's post focuses on the tax responsibilities of taxpayers living outside U.S. borders. Two more months to file: The... Read more →