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May 2014

A professional golfer, billionaire investor and Las Vegas gambler walk into ... trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Though the set-up is familiar, it's no joke. It's the latest in Uncle Sam's continuing effort to stem insider trading, the buying or selling of securities based on information not available to the public. This case, however, goes beyond the usual Wall Street figures. It involves some very high-profile and publicly recognizable people in, according to the Wall Street Journal, a "major insider-trading probe involving finance, gambling and sports." The targets of the SEC and Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, first... Read more →

It's summer, when most of us take vacations. Most of those trips are by car. That's why you tend to see gasoline prices go up in the summer. The only consolation in paying more at the pump is that the associated taxes and fees are supposed to help with road-related matters, such as repair and maintenance. Supposed to, but apparently not doing so in many cases and places. And folks in two states, Michigan and Massachusetts, are decidedly unhappy with their states' gas taxes. Michiganders mad about roads, taxes: Michigan drivers, as noted in this week's Weekly Tax Tip, are... Read more →

The Ways and Means Committee is continuing its piecemeal approach to the 55 expired tax breaks known as the extenders. House Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich., (left) and Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., talk things over before the full tax-writing panel meets. Photo courtesy Ways and Means Committee. Today (May 29) the House tax-writing panel approved a half dozen tax bills, including a couple that will make taxpayers who count on charitable donation deductions happy. Five of the proposals deal with charitable donations. The sixth is a popular business deduction. IRA RMD charitable rollover: Let's start with a... Read more →

This post was updated March 14, 2018. Driverless cars, like the Google prototype from a few years ago pictured below, are still far from reality. But it's something to think about, especially if you use your vehicle for business. Photo courtesy Google It has no steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal to mess with. You use your smartphone or tablet app to summon the vehicle, set your route, get in and go. Then just sit back and enjoy as the Google machine takes you to your destination. If it's to a business meeting, you can use the time you otherwise... Read more →

Federal employees in every type of job, from Uncle Sam's money movers in Treasury to members of the military to postal workers to Capitol Hill employees, owe back taxes. The total tally? A combined $3.3 billion in delinquent taxes, which is the latest By the Numbers figure. Much attention is naturally paid to the folks in Treasury who owe, since much of that department's workers are part of the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service. Plus, the IRS has already come under fire this year for paying $1 million in bonuses to employees who were behind on their taxes. Conscientious Treasury taxpayers:... Read more →

Today, despite the festive outings across the United States, is the most somber of national holidays. Photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc What we now call Memorial Day began with a ceremony on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York, where residents of that community honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Exactly two years later, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, established the day as a special time for the nation to decorate the graves of Civil War dead with flowers. The annual rite spread and... Read more →

The best day in auto racing is two-thirds over, with the checkers having waved for the Formula 1 race along Monte Carlo's streets and at the Indianapolis 500. We race faces now await the green flag for NASCAR's longest race of the season, 600 miles that will end under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway. One of the reasons I like watching races is that I get glimpses of incredible pieces of engineering. That's especially true of the F1 vehicles. I seen some of these magnificent autos, both the racetrack and regular road versions, on trips the hubby and I... Read more →

Sad that Kimye's wedding is over? Me neither. But I am surprised that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West didn't milk their nuptials for even more attention. Yes, given all the pop culture magazines that line my grocery's checkout stands and the tabloid style television shows that fill too many hours, that would have been very possible. Now all we've got is the countdown of whether these vows last longer than Kim's last tying of the knot. At least celebrity romance addicts won't be left wanting for long. They now can focus on the upcoming "I do's" between George Clooney and... Read more →

Weather changes from an expected El Niño system this year should slow down development of hurricanes this year, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that is no excuse for not preparing for possible storms. NOAA's 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook is for eight to 13 named storms, meaning they contain sustained winds of 39 mph or higher. Graphic courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Meteorologists at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center expect three to six to become hurricanes. To reach that designation, the storms must have winds of 74 mph or higher. And one or two of those... Read more →

Are you heading out this coming Memorial Day weekend? I hope you have a great break from your job or whatever you're trying to escape. One thing you won't be able to avoid, however, is taxes. If you're flying, you already know about the tax ding on your travel budget. Cost Breakdown of an Airline Ticket from Airlines for America (A4A) The biggest cost is for fuel (just scroll down the slide above), with 21 percent of your ticket price paying to fill up the jet. Tax adds to ticket prices: Federal taxes, however, are a close second at 20... Read more →

Times are good for New York's Madison Square Garden. Sure, the Knicks didn't make the NBA playoffs. But the iconic midtown Manhattan venue also is home to the NHL's Rangers and they are on a roll. By taking the first two Eastern Conference games on the Montreal Canadiens' home ice, the Rangers can claim the title with back-to-back wins Thursday, May 22, and Sunday, May 25, in their home arena. Then it's next stop, the Stanley Cup finals. Rangers' fans think that's likely. They are snapping up playoff tickets at record prices. SeatGeek reports that earlier this week Rangers' ducats... Read more →

Congressional gridlock generally is a problem, not just for folks on Capitol Hill, but also for all of us who are impacted by legislative inaction. Take the tax extenders. By delaying action on this collection of 50-plus tax breaks, all of us who depend on any of these expired provisions are in limbo as to what tax-planning moves to make. But there is a very thin silver lining in the delay. It means there's more time to fight a bad provision in the bill, the requirement that the Internal Revenue Service once again use private debt collectors, or PDCs, to... Read more →

A year ago today, one of the most destructive tornadoes in the United States' history struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. The twister was measured as an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, with peak winds estimated at 210 mph. The funnel was more than a mile wide at one point, stayed on the ground for 39 minutes and ripped through 17 miles of the Sooner State. Twenty-four people lost their lives. Almost 400 were injured. The community, which also sustained major and deadly damage from twisters in 1999 and 2003, is still rebuilding. My brother was in the... Read more →

Today, May 19, 2014, is the 40th anniversary of the Rubik's Cube. For all you youngsters who don't have any idea of life before digital media, it was an actual cube puzzle. It was such a phenomenon that Google created a doodle for the big day. Click image for interactive cube. Deciphering tax laws is all too often as frustrating as lining up Rubik's colored squares. But as this just-passed filing season was winding down (for most folks), another iconic game captured the interest, and skills, of some future tax professionals. On April 25, more than 60 Kentucky college accounting... Read more →

My personal measurement of wealth usually depends on how close (or far) it is to payday. Not that the hubby and I live hand to mouth. We're doing pretty well, both in meeting day-to-day expenses and in saving for unexpected costs and our retirement. We basically consider ourselves securely part of the U.S. middle class. Or we did until recent stories informed us that the middle class no longer exists in America. Instead, we've become a more economically polarized country. And the great middle class goal, popularly known and the American Dream, is rapidly vanishing. It's been derailed, writes Nicholas... Read more →

It makes sense that a guy who plays for the Broncos would have a winning touch when it comes to horse racing. Denver wide receiver Wes Welker walked away with $57,193.90 from a bet he made on the Kentucky Derby. Wes Welker was having fun at the May 3 Kentucky Derby, handing out some of his bet winnings to other Churchill Downs attendees. Photo courtesy @ESPNNFL via @Jeff_Novak. Welker was so thrilled with his big payout that he handed out $100 to other race attendees until stopped by a track police officer. There's one problem, though. The folks at Churchill... Read more →

If you live in Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming or my home state of Texas, you are not happy right now with the U.S. Senate. These states don't impose a personal income tax on their residents. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, only collect tax on dividends and interest earned by folks who live and file taxes within their borders. Since 2004, millions of federal tax filers in these no-income-tax jurisdictions have had the ability to deduct the state and local sales taxes that they paid. Even in states with income taxes, big spenders have found the sales... Read more →

Sportswriters and broadcasters, not to mention all the Cowboys haters out there, were soooo disappointed when the Dallas NFL team took a draft day pass on Johnny Manziel. I, however, as a life-long Cowboys fan was stunned and incredibly relieved that ringmaster extraordinaire Jerry Jones decided not to add another clown -- no offense Johnny Football -- to the giant circus that is Jerry World. Manziel was a bit stunned, too. But he definitely was not pleased. As a native Texan whose college career was at Texas A&M University, Manziel made no secret of his wish to play for one... Read more →

The tax version of Groundhog Day is playing out again on Capitol Hill, this time in the Senate theater. But don't settle down on the couch with your popcorn just yet. The feature legislative presentation is still a ways off. Although Senators agreed yesterday (May 13) to consider the package of 52 (out of 55 or so) tax business and individual tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, final passage is not a sure thing. And even if it clears the Senate this week, the House isn't likely to consider the bulk of the tax breaks until late... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service's effort to regulate paid tax preparers is over. At least in its current format. The IRS let the deadline to continue the court fight over its plan to establish competency standards for paid tax preparers and measure them via regular testing pass without filing a Supreme Court appeal. The IRS reasons for tax pro regulation: The proposal to test certain tax professionals -- basically folks who do other's taxes for pay but aren't attorneys, Enrolled Agents or CPAs -- began back in 2009 under IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. "When people pay good money, they should not... Read more →