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August 2014

The ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge has been an astounding success. As of Aug. 29, the nonprofit has received $100.9 million in donations to help it fight Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which also is known as Lou Gehrig's disease. This year's one month of fundraising was 38 times more than the $2.8 million that the ALS Association raised last July 29 to Aug. 29. Youngsters and senior citizens, Hollywood stars and regular folks, politicians and athletes had icy water dumped on them for the cause. My favorite is the glacial shower that hockey enforcer Paul Bissonnette, who's looking to... Read more →

What do college football and professional auto racing have in common this Labor Day holiday weekend? Taxes. But not like you think. JR Motorsports' #7 vehicle sports a new TaxSlayer Bowl paint scheme for tonight's NASCAR Nationwide series race in Atlanta. Cross-sports tax sponsorships: The tax preparation software company has sponsored the college football post-season game since 2011. In sports days before corporate sponsorship -- some of us are old enough to remember those quaint times -- the annual January match-up in Jacksonville, Florida, was known as the Gator Bowl. The partnership with JR Motorsports is great for TaxSlayer. It... Read more →

Well that was fun. Nineteen tax seminars in a little more than two and a half days. I've parceled out a few Nationwide Tax Forum tidbits, both here at the ol' blog and over at Bankrate Taxes Blog, while I've been in Orlando this week. I promise to review my notes and provide some more substantial session posts in the coming days. In the meantime, let me toss out a thought about what filing or not filing Internal Revenue Service tax returns says about a person. During a session on immigration and taxes, the question was raised as to why... Read more →

A friend called me last week, freaking out about a telephone voice mail message she had received. An Internal Revenue Service agent was demanding she pay her tax bill or face dire consequences. She was particularly upset because she had just cleared up some old tax issues with Uncle Sam. What had happened, she frantically wondered, in the few days since her arrangement with the IRS? Nothing. It was a tax scam. The crooked caller's timing was freaky given her recent legitimate interactions with the IRS, but it was still a scam. She confirmed that by calling the IRS herself... Read more →

Hello New Orleans! I mean, hello Orlando! That geographic confusion reminiscent of Spinal Tap happened at day two of the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in, you got it, the House of Mouse land. Yep, all of us, including presenters, are finding ourselves a bit overloaded, occasionally flummoxed and feeling a bit dislocated. Still, we're hanging in there and here. Here's an overview of my Wednesday at the final tax forum of 2014. First thing we do, let's mute all the lawyers: Thank god for tax attorneys. Really. That's not a joke or sarcastic slam. These folks definitely come... Read more →

I'm on a business trip this week in Orlando, attending the Internal Revenue Service's final Nationwide Tax Forum of 2014. The hubby and I have been here many times on pleasure travel. You're right, we have no kids, but we're kids at heart. What can I say; I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride long before Johnny Depp created Capt. Jack Sparrow. We talked about tacking on a few days to this Sunshine State visit to see how Mickey and Harry Potter have held up since we moved from the state in 2005. But after much consideration, the hubby... Read more →

I'm back in Florida this week for the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in Orlando. It's a bit of a homecoming. My very first tax forum was here in 2000 when we lived in Palm Beach Gardens. I try to attend at least one continuing education tax conference, either run by the IRS or by one of the tax professional organizations. I always learn stuff, plus it's fun to be among a large gathering of tax geeks. Things have gone pretty well so far, aside from my smartphone freezing up unexpectedly this morning and me losing my reading glasses... Read more →

This work week, I'm in Florida, a place the hubby and I lived for six years and one of the seven states without a personal income tax on wages. I came here from Texas, another no-income tax state. My current and former neighbors in both jurisdictions are hoping that when Congress finally gets back to work, likely after the November elections, the tax extenders will be near the Capitol Hill to-do list. These, as most folks and definitely all long-time blog readers know, are the more than 50 business and individual tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013.... Read more →

Ways to pay for college get lots of attention. But if your kids are younger, there's also a tax-saving way to pay for the many educational expenses that pop up during grades K-12. With a Coverdell Education Savings Account, or ESA, you can put up to $2,000 a year into a separate account for each kid. The accounts are established by an adult, with the child named as the account's beneficiary. Coverdell ESAs, renamed for the late U.S. Senator Paul Coverdell who championed the savings option, used to be called education IRAs. That original appellation was in large part because... Read more →

Mother Nature's angry reach is wide and too often simultaneous. That's the case this weekend. While residents in the Southeastern United States were keeping an eye on what has become Tropical Storm Cristobal, some 3,000 miles diagonally away Northern Californians are reeling from a major temblor. Click image for video report by KTXT via USA Today The Los Angeles Times reports that the "long, rolling 6.0 earthquake shook a wide swath of the Bay Area awake early Sunday [Aug. 24], prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. The temblor damaged buildings, cut off power to tens of... Read more →

Next week I'll be at the final Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum of the year. Guess where it is? Orlando, Florida. Guess what might hit Florida? A tropical storm system. Yep, those are the potential paths (courtesy of South Florida Water Management District) of what right now is known in the weather world as Invest 96L, or Storm 96 for short. If 96 gets its act together, it could become the third named storm of the 2014 Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico hurricane season. I'm hoping that there won't be a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Cristobal. Cristobal's coming: However, the latest... Read more →

Being unemployed not by your own choice is no fun. At least unemployment benefits help many folks make it through the rough patch. But if the payments were wrong, then a whole set of other problems arise. That's the case in Massachusetts. The state suspects that 63,000 people from as far back as 1985 improperly got jobless benefits and it wants the money back. Since July, state officials have been notifying folks via automated phone calls that it thinks they were erroneously paid. The Massachusetts robocall message sounds like telemarketer spam or a possible scam: "You are required to pay... Read more →

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial, facing charges of taking $177,000 in gifts and loans from Star Scientific in exchange for promoting the firm's dietary supplements. But the former first couple of the Old Dominion has more than just legal and political troubles. Their 38-year marriage is kaput. That was obvious with the defense's first inkling of how it would approach the case: The couple was so estranged that they couldn't have conspired to do anything. As the trial has progressed, with each spouse fielding a separate defense team, the missus is coming off... Read more →

Companies turn to tax inversions to take advantage of lower rates elsewhere. Exactly where and how much lower? You can find out via the Tax Foundation's new interactive map of worldwide corporate income tax rates. Click on the image above to go to the Tax Foundation's interactive corporate tax map. Tax comparisons typically tend to focus on how the United States stacks up against other countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Tax Foundation expanded the data, including the top corporate tax rates for 163 countries. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit also looked at the average... Read more →

The biggest complaint about the U.S. tax system is that it gives Uncle Sam too much of our money. There are lots of contenders for the next biggest tax complaint. One, however, is getting special attention right now. It's the dissatisfaction with the Internal Revenue Code's worldwide reach. The ability of Uncle Sam to tax money earned all over the world has come under scrutiny thanks to the recent rash, Walgreens notwithstanding, of corporate tax inversions. An inversion is an administrative process by which a U.S. company buys a foreign subsidiary and then on paper makes that overseas business the... Read more →

Colorado collected around $12 million in taxes from the sale of recreational marijuana in the first six months of the year. That amount is substantially less than what the pro-pot contingent advertised when the measure went before voters. The Colorado Legislative Council's September 2013 fiscal impact statement estimated that the legal sale of recreational marijuana would bring in around $70 million in the first year. To meet that tax projection, sales are really going to have to pick up. Perhaps the state should consider promoting pot tours. Toking tourists: A study conducted by the Marijuana Policy Group for the Colorado... Read more →

Thirty-seven years ago the musical world was in shocked mourning. Just a day earlier, Aug. 16, 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley had died. Many people can still tell you where they were on that Tuesday afternoon more than three decades ago when they got the news that the King was dead. I can't. I was probably in a class at Texas Tech University. But I wasn't then and am not now a big Elvis fan (despite what I've discovered is a surprising number of Elvis-related blog posts), so it doesn't stick in my memory. Still, I recognize his place in the... Read more →

August is half over. You know what that means. The final late-summer sales tax holidays are here. It once again took Massachusetts lawmakers a while to hammer out that state's tax holiday, but they finally agreed that Bay State shoppers can hunt for tax-free deals this weekend, Saturday, Aug. 16, and Sunday, Aug. 17. On these two days, Massachusetts consumers can purchase just about anything without worrying about tax as long as the items don't cost more than $2,500 apiece. There still are a few things that are taxable this weekend in Massachusetts regardless of cost: all motor vehicles, motorboats,... Read more →

Most of the folks who participated in Pew Research Center's 2014 Future of the Internet canvass said they expect robotics and artificial intelligence, or AI, will permeate much of our daily lives by 2025. If that prediction is accurate -- and I think it's a bit too soon, personally; I mean, really, we're still waiting for flying cars! -- what does that mean for us and our jobs? "Computers had typically been thought of as best suited for jobs that involve routine, repetitive tasks that can easily be reduced to lines of code," writes Drew DeSilver in Pew's FactTank column.... Read more →

The NBA is done with Donald Sterling. The California tax collector, however, might still have an interest in some of Sterling's NBA-related expenses. A California court this week approved former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's $2 billion bid for the Los Angeles Clippers. A last ditch effort by Sterling, who was forced to sell the team, to retain the team failed. Los Angeles Clippers players discuss game strategy. The team's former owner will have to work out a new tax strategy if some state and federal lawmakers get their way. But as the Sterling/Clippers drama was winding down, a state tax... Read more →