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July 2014

Senators are taking a shot at fashion bipartisanship today. After a two-year absence, Seersucker Thursday returned to the upper chamber. The official Senate Seersucker Thursday photo in 2006, courtesy U.S. Senate. This afternoon, Senators in their summer attire will gather again for a formal portrait of the chamber's first Seersucker Thursday in two years. ABC News takes a look at who wore it best this year. Long-standing summer tradition: The sartorial tradition has a long Congressional history, dating back to the early 1900s in hot, muggy, pre-air conditioned Washington, D.C. As spring merged into summer back then, notes the Senate... Read more →

A dozen states welcome August with sales tax holidays. Three more will hold similar events deeper into the month. Massachusetts lawmakers are still pondering exactly when in August their shoppers will get some tax savings. It's the usual sales tax holiday suspects. And although the annual events are often referred to as back-to-school tax holidays, there's a wide variety of items that are exempt for a few days from state and in many cases local sales taxes. Not in N.C.: There is, however, one state missing. For the first time in 12 years, North Carolina won't be holding a sales... Read more →

I know I alluded to kids and day camp not too long ago when our driveway was ground zero for the neighborhood skateboarders' personal X Games. But in clearing out the way too many photos on my phone, I ran across this snapshot of a day camp flyer on the local coffee shop's bulletin board and I couldn't resist. Frisbee camp. Go figure. I guess I shouldn't crack wise. As a middle schooler -- we called it junior high back in my day -- I went off to twirling camp. Baton twirling, not spinning around in a circle, although given... Read more →

The summer started with a Congressional effort to make it easier for travelers to see just how much taxes add to airline ticket costs. Now Congress is wrapping up the season -- at least as far as it's concerned since it takes the month of August off -- by giving in to the airlines. Fares before taxes are added: The House on July 28 rejected a bill that consumers' groups had championed and instead passed a bill that allows airlines to advertise their base ticket prices before taxes and fees are added. H.R. 4156, known as the Airfare Transparency Act... Read more →

The raw numbers are bad enough. Approximately 83,000 Department of Defense (DOD) employees and contractors had unpaid federal tax debt totaling more than $730 million as of June 30, 2012, according to a just-released General Accountability Office report. Southwest view of the Pentagon with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in background. Department of Defense photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force, via Wikimedia. IRS data shows that the tax debt of all individuals and businesses as of Sept. 30, 2013, was about $374 billion. But the news gets worse. In "Security Clearances: Tax Debts Owed by DOD... Read more →

$16 million in tax breaks ensure CBS' Late Show stays in NYC

$16 million. That's how much in tax breaks CBS is eligible for by keeping The Late Show in the Big Apple. The bulk of the money is $11 million in tax credits over five years. Then there's another $5 million in grants from Empire State Development to offset costs of renovating the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway for its soon-to-be-new host Stephen Colbert. Stephen Colbert appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on April 23, following the announcement that the Comedy Central funny man would take over the CBS program after Letterman retires in 2015. Colbert came armed with... Read more →

The Senate is expected to vote next week on a bill to refill the funding tank that fuels the nation's highway and mass-transit projects. The Highway Trust Fund essentially covers all federal highway and bridge projects. U.S. Transportation Department officials have been warning for months that the fund will run dry, possibly as soon as August. Emergency refill courtesy Fernando Rivadavia via POSTCARD from Mexico N°14 If that happens, warns the White House, 700,000 jobs could be lost and 100,000 active infrastructure projects already underway across the country could slow or stop altogether. Fearing the worst, which isn't a bad... Read more →

The debate on the use offshore tax havens has been heating up. On the individual side, the Internal Revenue Service on July 1 got a new tool, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), to track down international accounts the tax man says are used to avoid paying Uncle Sam his due. On the corporate side, the conversation about offshore tax havens went off the charts when the iconic, 114-year-old pharmacy chain Walgreens -- the inventor of the malted milkshake, for heaven's sake! -- announced it was considering moving its headquarters from Deerfield, Illinois, to Switzerland to lower its tax... Read more →

Mississippi gets a lot of grief for being at the bottom of some national lists. But when it comes to the annual spate of sales tax holidays, the Magnolia State takes the lead. Mississippi's annual sales tax holiday is this Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26. It might be first, but it has lots of company. Sixteen states, or possibly 17 if Massachusetts lawmakers make a move before they recess next week, will offer shoppers sales tax savings on selected items this summer. These events are decried by tax policy analysts as terrible ways to run a state's revenue... Read more →

On the heels of the conflicting Obamacare tax subsidy rulings by two federal appeals courts, we today had Affordable Care Act (ACA) part 2: A look into "the integrity of the administration" of the health care program's premium tax credit. At issue is whether the health care law's tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies to help cover the cost of insurance bought through exchanges are issued properly. Specifically, members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, wanted to know are the amounts correct and are they going to eligible individuals? An early review of a key component of the... Read more →

"You don't need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who are running the marketplace. I think that it's a pretty clear intent of the law." ~ Josh Earnest, White House press secretary Some federal judges would -- and did -- disagree with the White House spokesman's assessment today of the health care subsidy issue. They issued rulings this morning (Tuesday, July 22) on the matter. One court said the federal... Read more →

And the bit-by-bit approval of expired tax extenders continues in the House. Representatives last week approved five charitable giving tax provisions, three of which expired at the end of 2013. The expired tax laws, part of 55 provisions known collectively as extenders because Congress usually has renewed them every year or so, are supported by most lawmakers. But renewal of the legislation also is typically hampered as Representatives and Senators try to make political points or, in election years like 2014, avoid political controversy. Also complicating the extenders consideration in the 113th Congress are the different approaches taken by the... Read more →

KISS' Gene Simmons' tax tongue wagging is off base

KISS sure knows something about putting on a good rock and roll show, but apparently the band's bassist Gene Simmons doesn't know quite enough about taxes. In a July 4 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Simmons wagged his famous tongue about, among other things, the joys of being wealthy. The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of KISS, Simmons told the newspaper that even in the band's early days back in the '70s he was doing alright financially. "I'm duly diligent. I do a better job of balancing my budget than the U.S. government... Read more →

The hubby and I prefer take-and-bake pizzas to the done-and-delivered variety. While that means one of us has to go pick up our pies, it also means we don't have to worry at all about taxes on delivery charges. Those extra tax amounts are the basis for two lawsuits, one in Florida and another in Illinois, against Papa John's pizza. The Illinois legal action, Zachary Tucker et al. v. Papa John's International Inc., was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Illinois. It contends that the pizza chain's charging of sales tax on their delivery fee violates Illinois... Read more →

Patrons of Club Risqué, Cheerleaders and Delilah's or any other adults-only clubs in Philadelphia won't have to pay added taxes for semi-private dances performed at the entertainment spots. That's the word from Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler, who ruled last week that the City of Brotherly Love could not extend a 5 percent amusement tax to the dances. With dances reportedly costing between $20 and $30, patrons would owe another $1 to $1.50 per dance. Ceisler's ruling upheld an earlier decision by the city's Tax Review Board. Last October, the tax panel said that Philadelphia's amusement tax law... Read more →

It's tough being a small business owner. It's especially tough when no financial institution will handle your accounts or provide you with loans. That's the situation with which dealers in legal marijuana nationwide have been coping. But things may be about to change. On July 16, the U.S. House passed a bipartisan amendment by a 231-to-192 vote that prevents the Treasury Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission from spending any funds to penalize financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. Marijuana retailer courtesy Marijuana sales are legal in 33 states and... Read more →

The current filing season isn't officially over until the Oct. 15 extension deadline, but a legal battle over paid tax preparers who will file returns in 2015 is already heating up. As is fitting for anything related to tax, things are complicated and messy. On one side are many independent tax professionals who resent what they see as a heavy-handed patriarchy by the IRS, as well as a respected professional association that already mandates standards for its members. On the other side are the Internal Revenue Service and the National Taxpayer Advocate, whose job is to keep the IRS in... Read more →

Every summer our neighborhood newsletter looks like a mini Craig's List. All the kids are looking to make some money. A day every father dreams of courtesy woodleywonderworks via Flickr CC We have teens and preteens wanting to walk dogs, water plants, do more extensive yard work, tutor (class work and sports skills), scoop pets' poop (this kid will get a real job quickly!), fix computer glitches (so will this youngster) and house, dog and/or baby sit. Hooray for such industrious youth. The Internal Revenue Service is cheering my young neighbors, too. If kids are lucky enough to land a... Read more →

The debate among hardcore sports fans and the occasional and newbies that teams always want to attract is whether what we watch on the field (or arena or track) is a competition or entertainment. Realistically, it's a combination of both. But team owners, league officials and the media outlets that broadcast the events often see them as spectacles more than sports. They are correct on days like today. Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game is tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bobbleheads are ubiquitous at sporting events. But in conjunction with this year's Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service has been encouraging, and in some cases forcing, taxpayers to use electronic options for years. But one area that's slipped through the electronic cracks is amended tax filings. And the IRS' continued old-fashioned handling of 1040X forms could cost Uncle Sam billions of dollars. Taxpayers can amend their previous filings, generally within three years of the original due date, to correct errors or claim overlooked tax breaks. 1040X filings typically are done to collect larger IRS refunds. In fiscal year 2012, the IRS received more than four million amended tax returns. A review by the Treasury... Read more →