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February 2015

Calling all history and fiscal policy geeks. If you're in New York City, stop by the Public Theater where "Hamilton" is in previews and see if you can get a ticket. It will be hard. It's a hot show right now. That's pretty amazing considering that the title refers to Alexander Hamilton, America's first Treasury Secretary. Most folks know only two things about Hamilton. First, it's Hamilton's historic face on the $10 bill. And second, on July 11, 1804, Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.... Read more →


If you can afford to hire a tax professional to help you file your returns, good for you. A lot of folks, however, are not able to come up with the money for a paid preparer. Free File can be a big help, allowing anyone with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less to use the no-cost online tax preparation and e-filing service. But if you want a more personal tax help touch, you've got options, too. Free tax help from trained volunteers: There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites -- those numerous tax help locations earn this... Read more →


After being in limbo for about a day, TurboTax this afternoon resumed its state e-filing services. TurboTax, the popular tax preparation program produced by Intuit, had suspended e-filing of state returns because of tax fraud concerns across the nation. The hold was in place for around 24 hours. The decision came after several states, including Minnesota, Utah and Alabama, reported an increase in suspicious filings and tax refund fraud attempts using stolen taxpayer information. Minnesota Department of Revenue officials took things up a notch on Thursday, refusing to accept state returns completed via the software. The state had heard from... Read more →


Did you win your Super Bowl bets? Or was you wallet (and heart) crushed by that game-ending, goal line interception? If you're this guy, so sorry. I know how you feel. I am, after all, a Dallas Cowboys fan. If you're these guys, sorry, too. But I'm sure that your joy was not diminished by the side eye directed at your outfits. Pay your gambling taxes: Regardless of which team you root for, if any of your National Football League championship game wagers paid off, congratulations. Now make note that you'll need to report that betting income to the Internal... Read more →


Tax time is doubly annoying for most U.S. taxpayers. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia collect taxes on wage and salary income, requiring folks to fill out an annual state return in addition to their federal Form 1040. Some residents of Tennessee and New Hampshire also have to file a state return if they have enough dividend and interest income. The one tiny silver lining to these income taxes is that they can be claimed as an itemized deduction on the taxpayers' federal returns. Writing off sales taxes, too: What about us Texans who don't have any state income... Read more →


Call it Camp 2.0. Today the House Ways and Means Committee, now under the chairmanship of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), approved seven bills to permanently renew some provisions that traditionally have been part of the larger tax extenders package. This law-by-law approach was favored last Congress by then Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who retired at the end of the 113th Congress. Instead of pushing through one big tax bill of 50-plus tax breaks, Camp preferred separate consideration of each extender. He also wanted to make many of the laws permanent, instead of having them expire every year... Read more →


Three days of the shortest month of the year -- and tax-filing season -- have already passed. I guess it's true what they say: time flies when you're having tax fun. The celebrations began on Feb. 1, at least by the Patriots fans. The IRS also enjoyed the day since all those Super Bowl winning bets are taxable. The NFL championship game is just one special, and tax-related, day in February. There's Groundhog Day on Feb. 2. It's a perfect reminder that you don't want to be caught in a Bill Murray loop and end up doing your taxes over... Read more →


U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was on the hot seat today, spending three full hours being grilled by Ways and Means Committee members about the Administration's fiscal year 2016 budget. As is the case in most Capitol Hill hearings, members were more interested in making their own political statements than in asking questions and getting answers. That's why some of the budget time was spent on the upcoming Supreme Court decision on premium tax credit help for folks who bought health insurance on the federal exchange. But we did get some actual budget talk, too. Tea Party troubles reviewed: One... Read more →


It's a dual Groundhog Day this year. There's the traditional meteorological news, which, by the way, is bad. Punxsutawney Phil says we're looking at more winter. An apparently sleepy Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his weather prediction. The final word: Phil saw his shadow, so we're in for six more weeks of winter. Full story and video at Weather Underground. This year, we also get the federal fiscal replay on official Groundhog Day. This is the one where the president issues his annual budget and the members of the opposing political party declare it dead on arrival. Political process replay:... Read more →


Taxes and sports are inextricably linked. There are the tax breaks for teams (and rich owners) who want to build or upgrade their facilities. There are taxes on the winnings collected by folks who bet on sporting events. Athletes and other team members face jock taxes. There's the tax-exempt status of several major sports leagues, including the NFL. Now taxes have been used to help explain the apparent pattern of rule breaking that some claim is commonplace in the New England Patriots organization. First, a little background. Back in 2007, we had Spy-gate. The Patriots were caught illegally videotaping the... Read more →


Super Bowl XLIX kickoff is just a few hours away, and bettors are going crazy. Yes, despite most major league sports officials acting all self-righteous about sports and betting, athletic games and games of chance have been intertwined for ages. There are, of course, lots of dollars being placed on the actual game between the depending NFL champion Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. But the most fun wagers are the prop bets. These wagers, short for proposition, can be placed on anything, and I mean anything, that is even remotely related to today's big football game. My favorite... Read more →