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December 2014

The tax reform 2014 train has another passenger, this one boarding at the U.S. Senate's tax-writing station. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has released an in-depth analysis by the Senate Finance Committee Republican staff entitled "Comprehensive Tax Reform for 2015 and Beyond." Also this week, outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) introduced H.R. 1, the Tax Reform Act of 2014, in the House. The Senate report outlines the issues policymakers must consider in any effort to reform the tax code, according to Hatch. The document also aims to "further educate and inform" the upcoming debate. There's a good chance... Read more →

Almost two full years after the 113th Congress clocked in, its first bill has been filed just as the legislative body is about to end. "Wait," you say. "I know it's been a do-nothing Congress, but I do remember a few bills passing the House and Senate since January 2013." OK, technically it's not the first bill of this current Congress. But it is the bill awarded the official first numerical moniker: H.R. 1. When this group of lawmakers (using that work loosely) convened back in January 2013, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reserved the bill designation for legislation to... Read more →

Back in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis began, homeowners were literally walking away from their residences. Predatory lenders lured unqualified buyers with subprime mortgages that backfired horrendously for financial institutions and homeowners alike. Those who managed to stay in their homes were deep underwater on the mortgage loan amount. It seemed for the last five or so years that the American homeownership dream, while not dead, was on life support. The patient, however, appears to be making a recovery. Housing markets are picking up in some parts of the country. A recent survey by housing... Read more →

Sen. Tom Coburn, the Republican who's served Oklahomans in Congress' upper chamber since 2005 and for six years in the House before that, is retiring as soon as this lame duck session wraps. Many see Coburn as an obstructionist, especially when it comes to considering budget bills, and are happy to see him go. Others, however, think he's done a fine job crusading against irresponsible government spending. In fact, Coburn will be remembered for the issuance of his so-called Wastebooks, reports on ways his Capitol Hill colleagues waste U.S. taxpayer money. As his parting gift to U.S. taxpayers and his... Read more →

For the last few years, my mother has lived just up the road from me. So not only do I get to see her more often, I've also become well-acquainted with the issues that are important as we age Among the tax-related concerns of older folks is meeting the withdrawal requirements of traditional IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and similar workplace plans. Most folks who are 70½ or older -- we'll get back to those in this age group who aren't affected shortly -- must take payments from their individual retirement arrangements and similar saving vehicles... Read more →

The 2015 filing season is less than two months away (we hope!), but the Internal Revenue Service still is holding on to taxpayer cash from previous years. A lot of cash. A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report released just before Thanksgiving reveals that Uncle Sam's tax collector is holding millions of dollars in individual accounts and billions in business accounts essentially in limbo. These so-called frozen credit accounts -- $46.4 million in connection with individual taxpayers and $1.6 billion connected to business accounts -- mean that some of the taxpayers are still waiting for refunds, says TIGTA.... Read more →

The hubby and I performed our annual holiday ritual today. We bought some toys for Austin area kids who might otherwise find no presents under their Christmas trees on Dec. 25. Our December contributions are to the Blue Santa program, which partners with several local businesses to raise money and collect the toy donations. We always drop ours off at our neighborhood Chuy's restaurant. That way we get to eat Tex-Mex as a reward for our good deed. Presents price tag: We noticed that the goodies jammed in our shopping cart were a bit more expensive than last year's batch.... Read more →

After running into a probable veto wall, the House on Wednesday evening, Dec. 3, decided to just deal with the 2014 tax year. By a 378-to-46 margin, Representatives approved (as I noted over at Bankrate Taxes Blog) around 55 tax provisions retroactively for the 2014 tax year. But 2015 and beyond …. Well that's a totally different question. House members said they felt they had no other option after the White House threatened to veto a wider ranging plan to make some expired tax breaks permanent parts of the Internal Revenue Code. Keeping the popular individual and business tax breaks... Read more →

NYC's high cigarette tax blamed for Eric Garner's death

The New York City police restraint that led to the death of Eric Garner got the tax world's attention immediately after the tragedy. Officers confronted Garner because he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Now a potential 2016 presidential candidate is citing the tax connection. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says Garner's death is symbolic of the larger problem of politicians levying taxes on things like cigarettes. Paul, who's reportedly eyeing a run for the White House in two years, spoke about the incident Wednesday night on MSNBC's Hardball program. Earlier in the day, a grand jury declined to indict any officers... Read more →

December brings a special kind of crazy. There's shopping, travel, more shopping, tax moves to make, family and friend get-togethers, extra cooking, even more shopping and illness. Yeah, folks tend to get sick over the holidays. Maybe it's because of that guy coughing in the aisle behind you on your flight home. Maybe it's one of your loved ones with whom you're sharing way too close holiday quarters. Maybe it's playing in the snow a bit too long. Maybe it's that you wear yourself out and down with all the shopping, travel, more shopping, tax moves, family and friend get-togethers,... Read more →

In an effort to get out of town before Christmas and mollify taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service and the White House, Congress reportedly is looking at splitting tax extender consideration. The latest proposal under discussion is approving most of the expired tax breaks, essentially the Senate's EXPIRE Act, retroactively for the 2014 tax year. Outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has introduced H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, to do just that. H.R. 5771, according to the bill's summary, would extend through the end of this year "a number of tax relief provisions that expired... Read more →

Ho! Ho! Ho! Holy Moly! It's December already! The song is wrong, or at least incomplete. It may well be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the busiest. I don't know about you, but busy and wonderful isn't always (or usually) a good convergence. Unfortunately, there's very little we can do about it this year, especially since Thanksgiving fell late in November. Things right now are even more crunched, what with more shopping, holiday parties, and getting ready to visit relatives or host them at your home, all the while trying to shoehorn in some work.... Read more →