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July 2014

I spent part of today shopping with my mom. It wasn't her preferred shopping trip; that would be searching for shoes. And while my mother looks nothing like Imelda Marcos, she sure does share the former Filipino First Lady's love of footwear. My mom, for example, doesn't have a pair of black shoes. She has a pair of black shoes for every outfit that needs black shoes. Today, however, was a run of the mill grocery shopping trip. Mom's a very diligent grocery shopper, looking to save as much as possible at the local H-E-B. As the old saying goes,... Read more →

It was another bad week for the Internal Revenue Service. First, it was revealed that one of the tax agency's workers faced disciplinary action for improper political activities while on the job. Then judges in two lawsuits against the IRS have demanded that the agency provide official explanations of missing emails that might be tied to the continuing nonprofit tax status problems. First the politicking worker. Out-of-line Obama phone chant: It's not the political involvement that Republican members of Congress have been searching for, but one Internal Revenue Service employee did use his official position to push for the president's... Read more →

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, many tax watchers speculated that Florida's lack of a personal income tax played as big a role as a potential NBA championship. This time, the thinking went, taxes also might keep him in the Sunshine State. The Daily Signal, with help from the Heritage Foundation, ran the numbers on the teams believed in contention for James' services and the approximate income tax he might pay if he opted to play for one of them. Click infographic for a larger view. A tax bill, however, apparently doesn't bother... Read more →

With the United States out of World Cup competition, American sports fans' collective attention has turned to another round ball. Or more specifically, to roundball star LeBron James. After a tough NBA championship series in which King James suffered not only heat exhaustion, but loss of the professional basketball title to the San Antonio Spurs, he's shopping his services around the league. One of the more intriguing possibilities is a return by James to Cleveland, the hometown he jilted for Miami four years and two titles ago. Are the Cleveland Cavaliers a real player in the latest LeBron sweepstakes? Apparently... Read more →

July's a big month for the Internal Revenue Service. On July 1, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln and Congress created the position of commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacted an income tax to pay Civil War expenses. George S. Boutwell, a diplomat, congressman and former Treasury Secretary from Massachusetts, was the first person to occupy the hot seat, serving from July 17, 1862 to March 4, 1863. And on July 9, 1953, the agency was renamed. Per Treasury Order 150-06, the Bureau of Internal Revenue became known as the Internal Revenue Service. Happy 61st nameversary, IRS. Read more →

Are you seeing the same thing this summer in your neighborhood that I am in mine? I'm talking about "for sale" signs. Even better, most of them have "sold" (or "gone") placards attached to them. The Mortgage Bankers Association's mortgage applications survey for the week ending July 4 found that the number of home loan applications was up almost 2 percent from the previous week. Couple that with the most recent existing-home sales survey done by the National Association of Realtors, which found gains in all regions of the country in May compared to a month earlier, and it's good... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service likes to get its money. It also really likes to receive it electronically. The IRS is so committed to electronic transactions that has mandated more and more of them, especially for business taxpayers. One reason for required e-filing and electronic tax payments, says the IRS, it that the system helps reduce taxpayers' burdens. Not so, says one small business in Colorado. Allgreens LLC of Denver says the federal tax collector's insistence on electronic transactions is costing it millions of dollars in penalties that it can't avoid. And it's asking the U.S. Tax Court to change that.... Read more →

Did you have a great three-day Fourth of July weekend? Fantastic! Now it's time to focus on taxes. Really. Don't act so surprised. Yes, it is summer. But you did click over here to the ol' tax blog. Photo courtesy of Camp Laurel, Maine And I know you know that taxes continue well beyond the traditional filing season. So don't let more days slip by without making some midyear tax moves that could help keep you on the Internal Revenue Service's good side an help reduce your upcoming 2014 tax bill. Here are five easy tax tasks to take care... Read more →

Ryan Wichman, a meteorologist at WTOL in Toledo, Ohio, couldn't help himself. "I had to share this image from an Iowa tornado last night," he Tweeted earlier today. As a weather geek myself, I totally agree. Brad Goddard's photo is spectacular. And scary. And it proves that while we humans like to designate seasons for things, such as spring thunderstorms and summer hurricanes, the weather does what it wants, when it wants. So we're getting tornados and hurricanes in July, and not just spin-off twisters from tropical systems. Midwestern storm spotters reported 11 tornadoes touched down in the Hawkeye State... Read more →

While federal lawmakers, the media and we taxpayers continue to complain about how much of our money Uncle Sam takes, states are quietly pocketing more and more of our cash. State governments collected a record $846.2 billion in taxes in fiscal year 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's a 6.1 percent hike from fiscal year 2012 and the third consecutive year that states have raked in more of our tax dollars. That $846.2 billion is also this week's By the Numbers figure. Main revenue source: I know what folks in California, New York, my old stomping grounds of... Read more →

U.S. residents' tax focus this past week was the Internal Revenue Service's latest crackdown on offshore accounts. The dreaded Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, took effect July 1, giving the IRS another tool to track down international accounts that U.S. citizens use to avoid paying Uncle Sam his due. But one person's tax hell is another person's tax haven. Do you know what tax haven country is home to this ancient castle? That's right. The good old U. S. of A. is considered a fine tax haven for Oz residents looking to pay a little less to the... Read more →

Today is the one day that residents of drought-stricken Texas don't want rain. We want our July 4th fireworks! Of course, we ostentatious celebration loving Texans still realize that one errant spark can ignite a whole swath of dehydrated vegetation. That fiery possibility is probably why we don't object to paying the Lone Star State's tax on fireworks. Limited sales, added tax: Texas fireworks retailers have been collecting a 2 percent fireworks tax in addition to the state and local sales taxes since 2001. Specifically, the tax applies to "small fireworks in the U.S. Department of Transportation's 1.4G category that... Read more →

Hurricane Arthur definitely is not patriotic. The first storm of the 2014 Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season is expected to hit the Wilmington, North Carolina, area tonight at category 2 strength. Click images for Hurricane Arthur updates from The Weather Channel. After making landfall in the Tar Heel State this evening, forecasters say Arthur should move northeastward along the east coast, leaving among its wreckage the Independence Day festivities of thousands. The one saving grace is that folks had enough time to prepare, both their homes and their Fourth of July plans, for the first hurricane to strike the United... Read more →

I love July 4th, but I hate when it and other holidays cut into my exercise routine. Independence Day falling on Friday means my yoga class is canceled. Yoga can be challenging, but I'm a big fan. It's a great way to break up the work day and relieve stress, especially at tax time. I pay a monthly fee to the fitness club where I take classes. That allows me to use the equipment, as well as attend all the yoga, Pilates and water aerobics that I can find the energy for and fit into my schedule. That monthly charge... Read more →

July 1 not only marks the middle of the year. It's the start of a new fiscal year for most state governments and that means new laws typically take effect. Here are some of the new tax statutes now on state books. Indiana has changed how it calculates tax on gasoline. Instead of the previous fixed 19-cent-per-gallon sales tax, the tax rate will be modified month-to-month. Specifically, the Hoosier State's gas usage tax rate now will be 7 percent of the average price of gas the previous month. That means, says the Indiana Department of Revenue, that the state's July... Read more →