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August 2014

If school hasn't started in your area yet, it soon will. For many families, classes resume at college. And with higher education costs going up every year, students and their parents who help foot most of or the entire school bill are always on the lookout for any available assistance. Students enjoying being back at the College of DuPage Glen Ellyn, Illinois, campus. Photo courtesy College of DuPage Newsroom via Flickr. Uncle Sam is among those who can help. As this week's Weekly Tax Tip details, there are several education-related tax breaks to help with almost every school situation. They... Read more →

Today I'm spending the day with my mother. It's a rare weekday visit, which allows us to take care of some things that must be done during regular business hours, not on weekends. My mother turned 80 this year. You wouldn't know it. For the most part, she's still very vital and active. In fact, her social life is much more vibrant than one the hubby and I have! She can't, however, drive. So part of each visit is devoted to errands that are hard for her to accomplish using the limited public transit options where she lives. I'm thankful... Read more →

Cleveland sports fans were jazzed this weekend as Johnny "Football" Manziel had a quite promising debut in the Browns-Lions preseason NFL game. But it's some NBA players who have turned at least two Ohio municipal tax collectors into hoops cheerleaders. The high profile -- and high-priced -- additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers is expected to be tax windfalls for the cities of Cleveland and Independence. Fans and the treasurers of those Ohio towns are still waiting for the NBA to approve the deal that will send Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves to Ohio, where... Read more →

Forty years ago yesterday, Aug. 9, President Richard M. Nixon resigned his office. I remember that event. I also remember the movie based on the Washington Post reporting that helped end the term of the nation's 37th president. One of the actors involved in the award-winning All the President's Men was back in the news recently, but it had nothing to do with Watergate and the subsequent historic Oval Office departure. Robert Redford, second from left, with another Republican president under more pleasant circumstances, the awarding of the Kennedy Center honors in December 2005. Joining Redford at the White House... Read more →

Within hours of each other on July 22, two federal appeals panels issued opposing rulings on who is eligible for federal tax subsidies to help pay for Affordable Care Act mandated insurance bought through an insurance exchange. The D.C. panel said in 2-1 Halbig v. Burwell decision that the Internal Revenue Service could not offer individuals a tax subsidy on their health care coverage under Obamacare, as the health care law is popularly known, if they bought their coverage on a federal health exchange instead of a state-run program. Shortly after that ruling, the Fourth Circuit appeals panel in Richmond,... Read more →

Shoppers are on alert in Texas and Maryland this weekend. Back-to-school sales tax holidays are on tap in these two states. Here are the tax-free shopping details for my current and former states of residence. TEXAS Friday Aug. 8 through Sunday, Aug. 10 The Lone Star State kicks off this final flurry of back-to-school shopping today. Between now and stores' close of business on Sunday, Texans can pick up most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 sales tax free. Texas' state sales tax rate is 6.25 percent, but cities, counties, special purpose districts and transit authorities also... Read more →

Back in February 2013, the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement under with a Beverly Hills, California, company accused of running a nationwide tax relief scam that bilked consumers out of $60 million. Now 18,571 people who paid American Tax Relief (ATR) to reduce their tax debts are getting some of their money back. The FTC today announced that it is mailing refund checks totaling more than $16 million to the aggrieved former ATR clients. Money lost for years: It's taken a while for the folks who fell for the offer to help whittle down what they owed the Internal... Read more →

Walgreens, the Deerfield, Illinois-based drugstore chain that's been around for more than a century, is buying the remaining 55 percent of the British pharmacy Alliance Boots. Walgreens had purchased 45 percent of the European pharmacy/retailer in 2012. But unlike many other U.S. companies who've been scooping up overseas operations, Walgreens will not make Great Britain it's official headquarters. The company announced today that Walgreens Boots Alliance, the company that will exist when cash-and-stock deal is finalized sometime next year, will be based in the Chicago area. No corporate inversion planned: Many business, finance and tax watchers had expected Walgreens to... Read more →

Not surprisingly, voters have rejected a proposed tax hike. The loser this time is the ballot question in today's Missouri primary that would have increased the state's 4.225 percent sales tax to pay for transportation projects. Click image for more Aug. 5 Missouri primary election results. Election results reported by the St. Louis Fox affiliate show that voters handily rejected the three-quarters of one percent increase. The tax would have expired in 10 years. Now Missouri lawmakers must map out another route to pay for road work. You also might find these items of interest: When did your state adopt... Read more →

As we head toward the late summer peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, three storm systems are churning on opposite coasts of the United States. Brushing the East Coast: Hurricane Bertha weakened to a tropical storm earlier today and is not expected to cause serious damage to the Eastern Seaboard. Hurricane Bertha is that mass of clouds off the South and North Carolina coasts in this National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center enhanced radar image. Click image to see an animated loop. East coast beaches and the adjacent homes are safe as the Atlantic season's second hurricane of the year... Read more →

Before members of Congress left D.C. for their annual August vacation district work periods, they did pass a short-term funding measure for the Highway Trust Fund. That fund provides states with around a quarter of the money they need for road and other transit projects within their borders. But given the continual fight over taxes in Washington, D.C. -- and that's a concern when it comes to highway money since the trust funds relies on what some say is a too-low 18.4 cents per gallon gasoline excise tax -- more states are shifting into a higher transportation tax gear. An... Read more →

Welcome to August. Summer is winding down, but that doesn't mean you get to slow down. In some locations school will start this month. Or you might have 30 or so days before you have to start packing lunches and making sure the kids get to the bus stop on time. Maybe you're planning one final summer trip. Or you're staying home, just chilling out. However you plan to spend these Dog Days of summer, you also should make some time for some August Tax Moves that could help cut your tax bill. Tax-free shopping: The month started with tax... Read more →

As a former cigarette smoker, electronic cigarettes fascinate me. I smoked not because I was addicted. I quit cold turkey more than three decades ago as a birthday present to my then new husband (and cat, who also hated my nicotine habit) without any adverse withdrawal symptoms. I simply liked the taste of my favorite brand of cigarettes. And to this day, I still occasionally think about lighting up. So the possibility of satisfying that craving with e-cigs is intriguing. Traditional vs. vaping: Many electronic cigarettes reportedly look and feel similar to their traditional tobacco predecessors, delivering nicotine through inhaled... Read more →

And they're gone. After delaying their annual August recess for a day to complete some politically motivated votes, Representatives and Senators finally cleared out of Washington, D.C., Friday night. They had to, and not just because the country couldn't take much more posturing. It's the law. No kidding. Just following rules: Part 6 of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 deals with Congressional time off. Sec. 132 specificaly states that the House and Senate shall end their sessions "not later than July 31 of each year" or in odd numbered years "from that Friday in August which occurs at least... Read more →

Your highway tax dollars are back at work, at least through May 2015. The Senate approved a stopgap $11 billion transportation bill last night after that chamber decided not to fight with the House on the eve of Congress' annual summer break. The measure refills the Highway Trust Fund. That will keep around 6,000 state road and transit projects on track through next spring. Fight over fund's amount, timing: Transportation officials have been warning that the trust fund would be bankrupt any day now, so action before the recess was crucial. Just how much money for how long was at... Read more →