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May 2014

Are we just a bit too paranoid in the wake of the Edward Snowden National Security Agency revelations? Maybe. Maybe not. Take taxes. (Please! Rimshot.) Social media tax cheating clues: As almost 132 million of us were sending in our federal tax returns on April 15, reports resurfaced about the Internal Revenue Service using online activity trackers to sift through the mass amounts of data available on the Internet. This Web-based information, according to Marketplace, supplements what the tax collector already knows about us, including our Social Security numbers, health records, banking statements and property. "It appears from its public... Read more →


Are child-related tax breaks appropriate, fair?

It's another Mother's Day and for the last few years, my mom and I have lived close enough so that we've been able to spend it together. I'm about to head over to her place for the day. My mother has taught me many things, including that being a mom is a tough job. That's one of the reasons I opted out. She definitely raised a smart daughter! Not that mom complained. She desperately wanted kids and my brother and I were always very aware of the depth of her love. Child-related costs: But it takes more than parental devotion... Read more →


Finally! Starting today, all U.S. taxpayers can enjoy their money without worrying about the tax collector. Friday, May 9, was Tax Freedom Day for residents of Connecticut and New Jersey. Those folks, according to the Tax Foundation's annual Tax Freedom Day calculations, the last ones to celebrate having earned enough money in 2014 to pay their total federal and state tax bills for this year. Nationally, Tax Freedom Day arrived this year on April 21. Those 111 days into 2014 were three days later than the prior year's Tax Day. A key reason for the slippage, says the Tax Foundation,... Read more →


Have you ever owed the Internal Revenue Service money that you just couldn't pay? What about other overdue bills? If you're behind on private sector payments, chances are you'll eventually hear from a debt collector. Now the Senate Finance Committee, via a provision in its tax extenders bill approved on April 3, wants to once again sic private bill collectors on delinquent taxpayers. Near the end of S. 2260, the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act -- that's the catchy, acronym-friendly name Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) gave his extenders bill -- is Sec. 304.... Read more →


IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters' motorcade onto White House grounds

Have you ever driven somewhere and as soon as you turned off your car's engine wondered how you got there? That might have been what was going through Mathew Goldstein's mind Tuesday afternoon. The Internal Revenue Service information technology specialist was driving his gray Honda Civic along 17th Street N.W. around 4:30 p.m. on May 6 and inadvertently followed the motorcade carrying President Obama's daughters Malia and Sasha into the presidential compound's secure perimeter, according to the Washington Post. Goldstein was charged with unlawful entry, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of... Read more →


Lois Lerner, the former head of the Internal Revenue Service's exempt organizations division, is officially in contempt of Congress. What happens now? Essentially the same thing that's been going on for almost a year. Politics. Two IRS votes: The 231 to 187 House vote on Lerner's contempt charge came just after 7 p.m. on May 7. The contempt citation now goes to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, where the next step would be referral to a grand jury for further review. If legal action follows and Lerner is convicted, she could face up to 12 months in... Read more →


You can pick on Cleveland and its sports teams all you want, but you've got to hand it to Browns, Cavaliers and Indians fans. They are willing to pay more sin taxes so that their NFL, NBA and MLB teams can play in top-notch facilities. Additional levies on alcohol and cigarettes were approved by Cuyahoga County voters on Tuesday, May 6. The taxes are projected to raise as much as $350 million, which will be used to pay for building, renovating, improving or repairing the city's professional teams' facilities. Tax dollars for the rich: Currently, the Cleveland Browns play their... Read more →


Two housing related surveys were released today. I didn't need to read them to know what they said. I had already received the news via my annual property tax appraisal notice. Based on the information from the Travis Country Central Appraisal District, I knew that homes were selling, again, and at higher prices in my neighborhood. I'm not alone at seeing an increase in my real estate's value and corresponding tax bill. The Travis Appraisal District says Austin is the only city in the nation with a double digit job growth rate for the past five years. That means new... Read more →


We saw this coming. Congress is getting in on the whacking of Donald Sterling. The owner (for now) of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team has been catching heat, justifiably, all around after audio tapes revealed Sterling's recent racist remarks. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life from any association with the team or the league. Silver also asked the NBA's other owners to formally force Sterling to sell the team, which could cost him millions in capital gains taxes. And Sterling was fined $2.5 million. Deducting league fines: It's the fine that caught the eye of some... Read more →


U.S. VP Joe Biden, HBO 'Veep' Selina Meyer hang out

Yeah, I watched the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. I admit it. As well as being a tax geek I'm an unashamed political wonk. You can't spend almost 20 years in Washington, D.C., and not have some of it stick with you even after you leave. And yeah, President Obama was pretty witty, although he still too often tends to be amused at his own jokes. As has come to be expected at the event, the president poked some self-deprecating fun at himself, mostly connected with the botched federal health care exchange opening. Obama also got off some decent... Read more →


Tonight could be the end of the 2014 season for the Los Angeles Clippers. They face the Golden State Warriors in game seven of their series to determine which team will go to the next round of the NBA playoffs. UPDATE: The Clippers beat the Warriors 126 to 121. Time also is running out for Clippers' owner Donald Sterling. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last week banned Sterling from the sport for life following his racially charged comments. Silver also asked the league's other team owners to remove Sterling from their ownership ranks. Sterling is expected to fight to keep the... Read more →


The names are pretty self-explanatory. The Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses Bill. The No Bonuses for Tax-Delinquent IRS Employees Act of 2014. And the pull-no-punches, No Bonuses for Tax Cheats Act. Those are just a few of the bills introduced this week by members of Congress from both parties who are unhappy with the answers they got from Treasury and Internal Revenue Service officials about $1 million in pay awards to just more than 1,000 tax agency employees who had trouble paying their own taxes. Overall, more than 2,800 employees with conduct problems received added compensation, according to a report issued... Read more →


May is here. Finally. After a long and brutal winter, May's flowers and warmth are very, very welcome. So are the many May Tax Moves that we can make in the next few weeks. Let's start with the obvious. If you didn't file your 2013 tax return or request an extension to file by April 15, file that 1040 ASAP. If you need help, it's also a great time to hire a tax professional. If you did get six extra months to file last year's taxes, this is a good time to take care of that task or at least... Read more →


Sorry Florida online shoppers. Effective today, May 1, Amazon is now collecting sales tax on your purchases. t's not just CDs or books that will cost Sunshine State shoppers a few dollars more. Everything that's now delivered to a Florida address will have the applicable state and local sales taxes tacked on to the invoice. Photo by MikeBlogs via Flickr Creative Commons The reason for the tax collection? State law requires the Florida Department of Revenue to collect sales taxes from companies if they have a physical presence in the state. Amazon is well on its way to meeting that... Read more →