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October 2013

Want to know where Texas Gov. Rick Perry is probably heading soon? Check out the Tax Foundation's 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index. For the last decade, the Washington, D.C.-based tax research organization has evaluated how the states' tax systems help or hurt business competitiveness. The most recent analysis, says the Tax Foundation, finds Wyoming, a repeat winner, is the best place to operate a business. The top 10 list is rounded out, from two to 10, by South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Florida, Washington, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah and Indiana. Most of the states on this year's best for business... Read more →


The federal government is mostly shut down, including lots of Internal Revenue Service functions, but if you put off filing your tax return until Tuesday, Oct. 15, you still have to meet that deadline. But that's not the only tax move that some folks must make by Oct. 15. Here are four tax deadlines -- making 4 this week's By the Numbers honoree -- that arrive this coming Tuesday. 1. Filing extension OK, we've already mentioned this one and since around 10 million folks filed for an extension and many of them are going down to the wire, let's start... Read more →


Tell Congress what you think as brazenly as you wish

There's a lot of talk about the Beltway Bubble, the phenomenon where the nation's capital exists in an atmosphere insulated from the real lives the rest of us lead. One Representative, however, recently tried to burst it. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) saw the latest surveys revealing that public approval of Congress has plummeted to its lowest level ever and he wanted to make sure his House colleagues knew about the lack of esteem in which they are held. Grayson attempted to use a special House rule that allows members to address harms to the "dignity" of the House. Yes, I... Read more →


What do we like more than Congress. Apparently, just about everything. But there is a silver lining to our disgust with Representatives and Senators. It might finally force federal lawmakers to rethink their so-called governing strategies. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders have put together a proposal to extend for six weeks the debt ceiling, which is the maximum amount the United States can borrow to pay already incurred bills. They've met with President Obama, who reportedly said he would make a deal, but only if it also went beyond the debt ceiling and cleared the way... Read more →


Here's something definitely not worth toasting. Craft beer brewers are now taking a hit in the federal government shutdown. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is no longer issuing permits to new breweries. TTB also approves new beer recipes and labels, which are on hold until Congress can agree on how to fund all federal agencies. This is a major problem for the craft beer industry, which relies on customers who are used to a regularly flowing supply of new and seasonal beers. Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, says the federal work stoppage could essentially... Read more →


The drop-dead due date for procrastinating tax filers is less than a week away. You have noticed the countdown clock over there in the right column, right? Yes, that's right, the Internal Revenue Service is working with a skeleton crew, but it expects folks who got until Oct. 15 to finish filling out their tax returns to do just that by next Tuesday. If you are an uber-procrastinator, you're pooh-poohing this post. You'll get to your 1040 on Monday, you say, or maybe Tuesday morning. Good luck with that. If you push off your tax filing too long, you'll be... Read more →


Americans continue to struggle with our federal government's shutdown, but another albeit smaller closure is rocking some of our neighbors to the north. Around 100 Vancouver, British Columbia, employees at Pixar Canada's Gastown animation studio are looking for work. They lost their jobs Tuesday, Oct. 8, when the company announced it was packing up the three-year-old operation to concentrate operations in Emeryville, Calif. Pixar's Canadian operation had worked on cartoon shorts including Air Mater, Small Fry and Partysaurus Rex (pictured a left, courtesy Pixar Post) since opening in 2010. "A decision was made to refocus operations and resources under the... Read more →


A lot of attention has been paid, rightfully, to the federal workers who are on furlough or working for free until Capitol Hill agrees on a fiscal 2014 budget. Among those sitting out the political stalemate are around 86,000 Internal Revenue Service rank and file workers. But as the shutdown approached, there also were some changes -- or not -- at the IRS' executive level. Werfel remains, for a while: First, the top guy's status. Daniel Werfel stepped in as Acting IRS Commissioner (his title was tweaked for administrative reasons in June) after word broke, and Congressional hearings began, on... Read more →


Oktoberfest is a 16-to–18-day festival held in Munich each year, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It originally was a celebration of the Oct. 17, 1810, marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend festivities held on the field in front of the city gates. Today, more than 6 million people from around the world attend Munich's Oktoberfest every year. TaxtoberFest is a one day event celebrating tax news and blog posts. It has been celebrated here on the ol' blog on the first Monday of... Read more →


"I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets." That's the prediction by Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of what will happen if Congress doesn't raise America's debt ceiling by Oct. 17 and lets the country default on what it owes. Yoho already is no stranger to outrageous statements. You might remember when he called the 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services racist. But the Tea Party darling's assessment of what might happen if the United States breaches the impending debt ceiling is being called the scariest, dumbest and stupidest thing said so far during this latest... Read more →


My clothes felt a bit snug as I got dressed this morning and I couldn't figure out why. Then I realized it's all the cake I've been enjoying in connection with recent special tax commemorations. This latest belated celebration is for the federal gas excise tax. Gas is expensive at the Canoncito station, but you might find -- Breaking Bad spoiler alert -- a nice watch atop that pay phone. On Oct. 1, 1993, the gas tax went from 14.1 cents per gallon to 18.4 cents per gallon. Sorry I missed the big day, but Congressional fighting over Obamacare and... Read more →


Remember back in the spring when the Internal Revenue Service admitted that losing operating funds because of sequestration will hamper the agency's audit efforts? It's happening again. About a month after sequestration kicked in on March 1, then Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller told a House appropriations subcommittee that budget cuts will mean, among other things, fewer audits. Last week when the IRS had to determine which jobs were essential, it decided that return examination, which is what the agency calls audits, wasn't. Tax audits, as I noted last week at my other tax blog, are among the IRS activities... Read more →


Nearly 800,000 federal employees are off their jobs. Those who are still working won't get actual money when their paydays arrive. They are working on a promise (also made to furloughed workers by a House vote Saturday afternoon) that they'll get what they are owed when Congress finally agrees on a budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year. Some agencies are offering their working-for-free employees a form letter explaining the financial situation that workers can show or send to creditors in lieu of the money they don't have. That might convince the electric or phone companies not to cut off... Read more →


The wannabe meteorologist in me finally gets a chance to issue a warning in this unusually mild Atlantic Hurricane season. Tropical Storm Karen is heading to the U.S. Gulf Coast! National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center radar image of Tropical Storm Karen (10-4-2013) OK, she's not a big or particularly powerful storm. But Karen is expected to be a rainmaker; we in drought-stricken Texas understand this is water that falls from the sky and can sometimes fill up creeks and ponds and spill over into streets and homes. And as we all know, weather conditions can change quickly. So be prepared.... Read more →


Are you still working on your extended 2012 tax return that's due Oct. 15? Good. Remember, just because much of the federal government, including the Internal Revenue Service, is shut down, tax laws are still in effect. That means the IRS expects all taxpayers who haven't yet finished their tax filing taxes this year to do so by the upcoming extension due date. But don't get in too big of a hurry. You might miss some often overlooked tax breaks. Some of these tax breaks are for itemizers only. Others can be claimed by any filer. Some are credits that... Read more →


Are you already as fed up as I am with the federal government shutdown and continuing bickering and politicking by Congress and the White House? Then let's get in a better mood with a party! Happy 100th birthday, U.S. federal income tax! Wait, say careful readers, didn't we just toss confetti and cut cake back in February to commemorate 100 years of the tax code as we know it? Yes. But Feb. 3, 1913, was the day that Delaware lawmakers approved the 16th Amendment, giving it the necessary 36 state approvals to become constitutionally legal. It was eight months later,... Read more →


'Essential' Representatives, Senators get paid during shutdown

Right now, most Americans -- and especially those furloughed federal workers sitting at home a second straight day -- don't consider Representatives and Senators essential. That's the designation made by federal agencies about their various jobs to determine who comes to work during a government shutdown. Employees in essential jobs are at their desks, with at least the hope of eventually getting paid when the government comes back online. Holders of nonessential positions are furloughed. And despite what some members of Congress have said, being furloughed is not the same as a paid vacation day for federal workers. It means... Read more →


Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, is more than half over. The stalemate between Congressional Republicans and Democrats over a stopgap spending bill is far from over. The biggest stumbling block is the continuing stubbornness insistence of House conservatives to tie Uncle Sam's operational costs to the president's signature health care law. The resistors, most of them recently elected thanks to Tea Party support, want Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is popularly known, either defunded or at least delayed for a year. That ship, folks, has sailed. The health care reform law's insurance coverage exchanges opened... Read more →