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March 2015

Comprehensive, complete tax code rewrite? Not a good idea. It simply puts off the possible when it comes to improving our tax system. That's the word from Bruce Bartlett, who served in two Republican administrations, Ronald Reagan's and George H.W. Bush's, each of which had historic tax connections. "Doing major tax reform, tearing the tax system out by it roots and starting from scratch has an enormous amount of attraction, but in many cases it prevents us from doing stuff that is doable now, which is to fix glaring problems in the tax code," Bartlett said in his opening remarks... Read more →

About this time every tax season, I start wanting to take a vacation. Maybe this year I should take a busman's holiday to Greece. The financially struggling Mediterranean nation is seeking tourists to spy on the country's tax cheats. Image courtesy Matt Barrett's Athens Survival Guide The Greek economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2014. In January, tax revenues fell almost one billion euros below target. Many Greeks had postponed payments in hopes that the newly elected government would scrap many unpopular taxes. No such luck. Greek authorities instead are looking at creative new ways to get the taxes... Read more →

While millions of us are still struggling with our annual tax filing, members of Congress are toying with the idea of making this annual task easier. Tuesday, March 10, the Senate Finance Committee will hold yet another hearing on the tax code. Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) already has released his thoughts about tax reform. Tomorrow, he wants to hear about the merits of tax simplification. I'm willing to bet that those of us still working on our 1040s have lots of good things to say about a simplified Internal Revenue Code. We'll find out tomorrow what four expert witnesses... Read more →

Next week should be fun. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that unless Congress increases the federal debt ceiling, the country will hit its borrowing limit on Monday, March 16. That deadline day is this week's By the Numbers figure. Lew, in a letter to Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, points out, just in case any lawmakers are unclear, that increasing the debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. "It simply allows the government to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved, thereby protecting the full faith and credit of the United States," writes Lew. Time... Read more →

Life. It just keeps keeping on (if we're lucky!). For most of us, our day-to-day activities fall into a predictable routine. Sometimes, though, the daily route detours. That's what happened yesterday, as the hubby had an unexpected day off. So I took time off, too, to enjoy the down time with him ... not, as he jokingly -- I'm pretty sure he was joking! -- said, to make sure he didn't have too much fun! Click image to watch a video of Ferris Bueller's sage advice about enjoying a day off. And that meant that I didn't get around to... Read more →

Who do people dislike more than politicians? Internal Revenue Service employees. So what the heck is former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson thinking in making a run for the White House? Everson, addressing "Fellow Citizens of the United States" in his website's "Letter to America," says that "Americans deserve constructive solutions to the challenges facing our country." OK, I think we get the focus on the good ol' U.S. of A., although I must admit that "fellow citizens" salutation did have a bit of an alien spaceship feel to me. Maybe I've just read/watched too much science fiction over the years.... Read more →

Tax filing can be confusing and frustrating for most of us. Even criminals. Take the crook who stole Seth Rouse's personal information and filed fake federal and state tax returns in the legitimate Chicago taxpayer's name. The felonious filer, however, made a big mistake. He didn't change the address to which the fraudulent refund was to be sent. Click the bad refund check image to see the Chicago CBS affiliate's story on the tax identity theft screw-up. So instead of going to the fraudster, the $5,571 check showed up at Rouse's home. The federal refund arrived just a day after... Read more →

I'm a native Texan who returned home almost 10 years ago and is still re-acclimating to the wackiness that is the Lone Star State. So far be it from me to pick on one of the other 49 or the District of Columbia. But I just have to ask today, what the heck is up Alabama? No, I'm not talking about the escalating battle over marriage equality. You are the Heart of Dixie, with a longstanding dedication to state's rights. Then there's the intense Southern fundamentalist religiosity. So the fight over the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry... Read more →

It's not unusual that the big news this filing season is the growing concern about tax identity theft as a way to get fraudulent refunds. But it is a bit surprising that the crime has spread so quickly and widely to state tax departments. That's why many tax officials across the United States are employing creative ways to stop tax ID thieves. Take, for example, Ohio. The Buckeye State is requiring some filers to take an online quiz to prove that they are legitimate taxpayers who are due the refund shown on returns the tax agency has received. The Ohio... Read more →

Conventional political wisdom is that no candidate can win by supporting new or higher taxes. In fact, office seekers tend to disavow any hint of enacting new taxes or hiking existing levies regardless of how the money will be used. Jeb Bush, however, apparently plans to take the unconventional route if he eventually decides to run for president. The former Florida governor and son and brother of two previous Oval Office inhabitants will not sign any no-tax pledge, according to a spokeswoman. The announcement came this past weekend after Bush's shaky showing at the ultra-right Conservative Political Action Conference, or... Read more →

Are you a tax lion, aggressively hunting down tax breaks? Or are you a tax lamb, cowering before the complicated Internal Revenue Code? Whatever your March tax persona, this last full month of the tax-filing season offers plenty of time and ways to cut your 2014 tax bill. It's also a good month to make some moves to lower your coming 2015 tax debt. Business focus: Business filers need to take care, as the start and middle of the month are critical deadlines. Farmers and fishermen who didn't make their final estimated tax payment on Jan. 15 must file and... Read more →