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November 2014
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December 2014

This is it. The end of the 2014 tax year. One business day left to make moves that could lower your tax bill. Since December is traditionally the month for giving, I've focused a lot on tax-related charitable donations this month. Far be it from me to break a streak at this late date. The final Weekly Tax Tip of 2014 looks at uncommon charitable gifts, such as miles driven to help your favorite nonprofit, gifting certain appreciated assets and even sending Uncle Sam a few dollars to pay down the federal debt. The many pluses of donating a vehicle:... Read more →

There are just two days left in the 2014 tax year. That's not much time, but folks determined to save on this year's taxes still have time to make a few year-end moves. I was up at o'dark-thirty this morning to discuss some quick year-end tax tactics with KARN radio. If you weren't up at 6:10 a.m. (and why in heaven's name would you be!?) or aren't in the Little Rock, Arkansas, broadcast area, here's what I talked about (and more). Do you itemize? If so, you have more tax-cutting options than those who claim the standard deduction. Here are... Read more →

Dang! I wish I had checked my spam folder before Christmas. I would have had half a million bucks to buy the hubby (and myself) some really nice gifts. So says Jacob "Jack" Lew, the 76th Secretary of the Treasury, in an email message he recently sent me. Jack is so proud of his numeric position, he repeats it three times, as well as notes that the Department of Treasury is the "executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States." Click for a larger image of the fake Jack Lew scam email.... Read more →

I grew up in West Texas, where the wind sweeping down the desert rivals any Oklahoma show tune boast. So it's no surprise to me that wind power is big in the Lone Star State. In fact, it took Texas wind energy producers just 11 months to break last year's record for generation. Electricity-generating giant turbines on the Desert Sky Wind Farm near the West Texas town of Iraan. (Photo by Pismo, own work licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons) The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reports that through November, wind power generated 33.2 million megawatt hours (MWh)... Read more →

Pope Francis has been in the news recently. There was, of course, his annual Christmas mass and Christmas Day address to the tens of thousands gathered in St Peter's Square. As is so often the case with this pontiff, he focused on Dec. 25 on the struggles of those with in dire straits -- abused children, refugees, hostages and others suffering from violence worldwide. Just a few days earlier, in his Christmas greeting to the Curia, he accused the group of cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the church administration of suffering from spiritual Alzheimer's, forgetting what drew them... Read more →

This post was updated March 27, 2017. Original text can be found here. Uncle Sam encourages us to save for retirement by offering a variety of tax breaks. However, in the case of tax-deferred retirement plans, such as traditional IRAs and 401(k) workplace retirement accounts, he eventually wants his share of tax on our nest eggs. Are you comfortable enough in your golden years to share some of your IRA money with your favorite charity? That option now is a permanent part of the Internal Revenue Code. This is accomplished via required minimum distributions, or RMDs. But the tax code... Read more →

It's that time again. Another year, another Christmas Day. The hubby and I and our Christmas cow -- the holidays don't offiically start at our house until the wooden cow gets a bow, and she's digging the red and green curls this year! -- wish you and your family the merriest of days. As usual, we'll be spending this day with my mom. This year, one of her cousins also is joining our annual celebration. After dinner, my mom's sister and her daughter, a cousin I haven't seen in ages so it should be fun catching up, are dropping by.... Read more →

Are you still shopping for the perfect gift? Let me share my motto with you: Say it with cash. Some folks find monetary gifts crass. They are not related to me. As the old saying goes, green looks good on everybody and always fits. Another good thing about financial gifts is, for most of us, there are no tax consequences. As I noted this last week at my other tax blog, the Internal Revenue Code gift giving rules are pretty generous. But there's another type of giving, your financial or other support of a charitable group. The latest Weekly Tax... Read more →

If you celebrate Christmas, you've probably had your tree up for a while. And if you got a real tree, you probably paid a little more for it this year. One thing, though, that didn't add to your holiday tree's price hike was the so-called Christmas tree tax. "Found it!" Picking the perfect Christmas tree at the tree farm photo by born1945 via Flickr. You might remember when this fee -- and that's what it is, not a tax -- first appeared back in 2011. Fee to promote real trees: It's part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that's... Read more →

The stock market has been on a crazy run in 2014. When its wild swings up and down ultimately shake out, many folks will find that their portfolios are going to worth much more. Some folks took their gains earlier in the year. Others are cashing in those positive holdings as part of their year-end tax planning. Either way, they'll face taxes on their investment profits. Granted, the tax rate for long-term capital gains generally is lower than a taxpayer's ordinary income tax rate: 20 percent for higher earners (those in the top tax bracket), 15 percent for most middle-class... Read more →

Now this is more like what I expected. I was shocked when a Gallup poll showed that the public perception of how Congress did its job in 2014 went up by 1 percentage point from the previous year. Really? Representatives and Senators found that many more relatives to talk them up? But this latest Gallup poll is a bit more believable. Congress comes in dead last when it comes to professions known for honesty and ethical behavior. Only 7 percent of people Gallup polled in early December rated members of Congress as being honest of having high or very high... Read more →

It's the time of year when most folks are on their best behavior. After all, Santa Claus is coming to town and he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! That includes, as every mother's child knows (pardon my mixing of Christmas carols), not using foul language. Some folks, however, can't resist talking a blue streak when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service. It's not just the random cursing we hear each filing season as folks struggle to fill out their annual tax forms. Salty language pops up whenever the IRS asks the... Read more →

Yes, it's the holiday season. Christmas is less than a week away, and you've got a house to clean, meals to plan and cook and gifts to buy. But you also need to think about some year-end tax moves. You probably checked out the 10 tax tasks to take care of by Dec. 31 that appeared a few weeks ago as a Weekly Tax Tip. Thanks. Now here's my gift to you, an 11th tax move. Hire a tax professional. True, this isn't one you necessarily need to do by year's end. But you do need to think about hiring... Read more →

Well, well, well. I'm going to pull my crystal ball (yes, that's it pictured there) out of storage and dust it off. It seems like I've got a bit of my predictive mojo back. That hasn't been the case very much in recent years, at least not where the U.S. Congress is involved. Remember the estate tax? Nobody, including me, thought those fools lawmakers would let it expire at the end of 2009. But they did. And they took us over the fiscal cliff, albeit only for a couple of days. Still, logical people, who are most folks who don't... Read more →

Even if the IRS can get the 2015 filing season started on time, which despite my optimism* is still questionable given the late passage of the 2014-only tax extenders, next year's full filing season is likely to be a rocky one for both Internal Revenue Service employees and taxpayers. *Good News (sort of) Update: The IRS expects next year's tax season to start on time, but still be a mess for other reason. The main reason for potential problems? Not enough workers at the IRS. The IRS employees who are there are it. The agency is freezing new hires. And... Read more →

Happy Holidays tax world! Last night, Dec. 16, the Senators decided they'd had enough and finally rubber-stamped the House version of tax extenders. The bill now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. But did the Senate act in time? Oh sure, Congress got the job done retroactively for the 2014 tax year so for the next two weeks folks can make some tax moves they've been postponing while the tax breaks were in limbo. But did the Senate approval come soon enough for tax filing season 2015 to start on time? We're still waiting on official... Read more →

Maybe it's just me, but I haven't heard much this year about the so-called war on Christmas. In case you've missed the battle because you're too busy every December, here's a quick refresher. This is the assertion that there's a consolidated, aggressive effort by governments, media, advertising, retailers and various other secular movements to strip Dec. 25 of its religious meaning. Basically, say pro-Merry Christmas/anti-Happy Holidays combatants, people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. Or maybe I haven't heard so much this year about the annual (traditional?) fight because, according to a recent survey, the war on Christmas... Read more →

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid plans this week to handle some presidential nominations (thanks showboating Texas senator Ted Cruz), then take up the tax extenders that the House sent over on Dec. 3. The good news, depending on your perspective when it comes to the temporary tax concept, is that the Senate is expected to approve the House measure as is. So as soon as the Upper Chamber is done, the bill can go straight to the president for signature. When the ink is dry, then the Internal Revenue Service -- and taxpayers, tax pros and tax planners -- can... Read more →

Congress obviously didn't read the 2014 Taxpayer Attitude Survey before passing the $1.1 trillion fiscal year spending bill this weekend. The latest annual look by the Taxpayer Oversight Board at what we think of our tax system found that the majority of taxpayers support more funding for Internal Revenue Service services and enforcement. Sixty-one percent say the IRS should receive extra funding to assist more taxpayers, up two points from 2013. Another 56 percent say the IRS should receive extra funding to enforce tax laws, up one point from 2013. The House on Dec. 11 and Senate late Dec. 13... Read more →

Have you filled up your car lately? If so, you were probably like me. Very pleasantly surprised. Gas prices have been falling. Just last week when I snapped the price board at a nearby station, a gallon of regular was $2.45. That's 15 cents less than AAA's national average price of $2.60 on Dec. 12. And fuel industry experts expect the prices to drop even more. With pump prices the lowest they've been in four years, many say that now is the perfect time to raise the federal gasoline tax. That tax has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993.... Read more →