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October 2014

I was a relative latecomer to smartphones, but once I got one, I was hooked. I'm not so addicted that I spent days in line to get an iPhone 6 (no 6 Plus for me; I like putting my phone in a pocket, not a purse). But the hubby and I probably will trade in our older versions sometime next year. The blessing of today's mobile technology is that the phones are much more than just devices on which to call your mom every weekend. That's also the wireless curse. We use them a lot for a lot of different... Read more →


The drop-dead filing deadline for 2013 tax returns is just a few days away. So of course the Internal Revenue Service is putting up a "closed" sign. OK, it's more like a "taking a long lunch" sign. But the bottom line is that many of the agency's systems will be offline starting at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time today. They will stay unavailable until approximately 5 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 14. Affected operations include: e-Services Transcript Delivery, Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) Matching, e-file Application, and Modernized e-file (MeF) and the legacy e-file systems, including both the MeF Production and... Read more →


I filed our 2013 federal tax return yesterday, a whole eight days before it was absolutely, positively due. But some of the 3 million or so filers (out of 13 million who filed for an extension back in April) will wait until Oct. 15 to send their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service. Most of them already paid their tax bills, or close to what they owe Uncle Sam, when they submitted Form 4868 to get six more months to finishes their paperwork. So those filers don't have to worry about coming up with more, or at least a lot... Read more →


Delayed tax filing is the new normal. Yeah, that phrase isn't as catchy as "Orange is the New Black." But the tax show that we keep seeing year after year is full of its own dramatics and is likely to have a longer run than any popular television (or online) program. And that means more problems for taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. Like his predecessors, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is imploring Congress to do its job ASAP so that the tax agency can do its job next year in a timely manner. Koskinen is specifically concerned about the tax... Read more →


Are you frantically trying to finish your 1040 by the Oct. 15 extended filing deadline? Yes, it is just a week away, so you need to get to work. But don't be in such a hurry that you miss out on some tax breaks. There are lots of ways to reduce your tax bill, as this week's Weekly Tax Tip highlights. Some of the 10 often overlooked tax breaks are for itemizers only. Others can be claimed by any filer. Philanthropic filers should double-check their contribution records. You don't want to miss out on Schedule A deductions for noncash charitable... Read more →


Who would have bet that the volatile Yasiel Puig would be on the bench today when his Los Angeles Dodgers try to even up the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals? Some folks did. Literally. Popularity of betting, sports and otherwise: While baseball generally isn't thought of as a prime sport for bettors, some folks still put money on the games, especially during the Major League Baseball playoffs. In fact, there's always something for somebody to bet on in every sport. I must admit I get a kick out of the many prop bets that are placed... Read more →


In a few hours, the San Francisco Giants will attempt to make it three Major League Baseball playoff series sweeps in a row. The Baltimore Orioles started it Sunday afternoon, taking the third straight game from the Detroit Tigers in their American League Division Series match-up. Later this week, the Birds will face the Kansas City Royals; that Missouri team swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday night. The Giants hold a 2-0 lead in their National League Division Series battle with the Washington Nationals. The Bay Area fans are hoping they will get to use their brooms.... Read more →


I just discovered that while I was at an out-of-town conference, the hubby went to a sports car race. On his own I must admit that I was a little hurt. Sports are a big part of our more than 30 years together. One of my best birthday presents ever from the hubby was Washington Capitals season tickets. We spent every Sunday during the MLB season at Baltimore Orioles games. Most of our vacations include attendance at some sporting event. That he went to the Circuit of the Americas without me was sort of a surprise and a little bit... Read more →


The hubby and I enjoy fine art. Most of our vacations include trips to museums. We even own a few original pieces by artists other than my grandmother, although I must say her work, like the Texas bluebonnet field below, is among my favorites. Her landscapes and more lighthearted pieces are very valuable to us. But Vera K originals and the handful of other paintings we own by more famous painters won't one day produce any big estate tax issues. Estate tax issues with art values: Wealthier art patrons, however, often find that their collections could produce tax problems for... Read more →


I finally finished up our 2013 tax return this week. Quick reminder to my fellow procrastinators: You've got to get your 1040 to the Internal Revenue Service by Oct. 15. One of the several reasons the hubby and I (OK, me alone, since taking care of our taxes is my job) put off filing each year is that our returns typically involve a lot of forms. Even with tax software, it takes time to fill them out and I'm usually pretty busy during filing season. One of those IRS forms is Schedule A for itemized deductions. Itemizing still works for... Read more →


Welcome to October! Or as I like to call it, TaxtoberFest, a month-long celebration of ways to deal with taxes. OK, maybe it's not as famous as the similarly named OktoberFest. But it could be much more lucrative if you make some smart tax moves to cut your taxes. File by the 15th: The biggie is, of course, the filing extension deadline. I'm serious all you procrastinators -- and I was one, too, until finishing our 2013 return yesterday -- the Internal Revenue Service will not let you go past Oct. 15. So use the first half of this month... Read more →


Remember the last election cycle when most of the campaign and Capitol Hill talk focused on the federal budget deficit? Now, however, with the Nov. 4 balloting day just about a month away, it's pretty much crickets when it comes to the deficit. Part of the reason is that as the fiscal 2014 year is winding down, the U.S. deficit is dropping. Last month the U.S. Treasury reported that the country's debt level fell again, on a fiscal year-over-year basis, to $589.5 billion. August's deficit was $128 billion. That's a 58 percent reduction from the fiscal 2009 deficit peak of... Read more →