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May 2015

You filed your tax return. Now the Internal Revenue Service has questions about your Form 1040. While hearing from the tax collector about your return is always a little unnerving, it doesn't necessarily have to be a big deal. A notice does not mean you are under audit. Neither does it mean that your return was incorrectly filed. And in many cases, any issues the IRS has with your 1040 can be quickly resolved. Here are 10 tips to help you deal efficiently and effectively with an IRS notice or letter. 1. Don't panic. You are not alone. The IRS... Read more →

Duck Dynasty's Louisiana state tax credits could be winged
More bad news: no official A&E show renewal yet & Vegas musical flops

Things are not going so well right now for the bearded bunch of Duck Dynasty. As far as I can tell -- although I must admit I didn't search very long or hard as I don't watch the quasi-reality cable television show -- Duck Dynasty has yet to get an official renewal order from A&E for season eight. Then came word that "Duck Commander Musical," the Las Vegas stage production based on the 2012 book "The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty" by Willie and Korie Robertson, flopped. The hirsute musical began performances on April... Read more →

Texas has been getting a lot of adverse attention of late, thanks to a group of overly-anxious wackadoodle folks, including some of our pandering elected officials, who have gone full Black Helicopter berserk about routine U.S. military training exercises. While the worries about Jade Helm (the military maneuvers, not the young woman) by way too many of my Lone Star State compadres are overblown ridiculous, it seems some other Americans might have reason to look skyward. Some aircraft are indeed agents of governments. And they are conducting spying missions that could be costly to citizens. An aerial view of a... Read more →

Happy Mother's Day, not just to the women with children, but to those who help take care of the kids. I'm not just talking dads here, although fathers are much more involved in their children's lives now than they were a few generations ago. I'm thinking of day care employees. There were 862,043 day care services employees across the country in 2013, the year with the most complete data as compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kasey Tanner, a Fort Jackson Family Child Care provider, shows two toddlers how to play with an educational toy. Photo by Kris Gonzalez, Fort... Read more →

Between Jan. 1 and March 31, the most Americans ever in one calendar quarter renounced their citizenship. The first quarter of 2015 report released by Treasury last week contained the names of 1,335 U.S. expatriates. That's a new quarterly record, handily surpassing the 1,130 who gave up their citizenship in the second quarter of 2013. Are territorial taxes to blame? Federal law -- section 6039G of the Internal Revenue Code, actually -- demands the Treasury Department list each quarter the names of Americans who renounce their citizenship. Treasury is not required by the law, however, to find out or note... Read more →

It's property appraisal time here in Central Texas. That means my social media feeds are filled with property tax complaints. I am right there with my neighbors in being upset with how much the Travis Country appraiser thinks our house is worth. Higher value = higher tax bill: On the one hand, it's nice to see how our humble abode has appreciated since we moved in almost 10 years ago. But on the other hand -- and this is the hand that counts since we're not selling any time soon -- I am definitely not happy with the assessment that... Read more →

It's days like yesterday and today that make me wonder why we all look so forward to spring here in the United States. While the warmth is welcome after winter's persistent chill, spring also too often brings disasters. Tornadoes tore through the middle section of the country yesterday. Some reports say as many as 50 twisters were sighted. This wedge tornado and mesocyclone (storm-scale region of rotation) with inflow cloud was spotted west of Newcastle, Oklahoma, on May 6, 2015, by storm chaser Ben Holcomb, aka @wx8ben on Twitter. Property damage was heavy in Oklahoma, where one person also drowned... Read more →

I count my blessings every single day. It takes a while because the list of things to be thankful for is long. One item on my good life inventory is that the hubby and I, aside from our mortgage, are debt free. Part of the reason for our relative financial freedom is planning and discipline. But I must admit another factor is sheer luck. Both the hubby and I grew up in a time when college costs, at least at public, state-supported schools, weren't out of control. The joys of al fresco learning via On Campus Market/ blog Our parents,... Read more →

Despite the massive crazy that can be Texas -- we do like to do everything, good or bad, big! -- one thing I do love about the Lone Star State is its far-reaching history. Everyone knows that Texas once was an independent country. Texans like to make that clear to anyone who'll listen, and even those who've quit paying attention, all the time. But before that, we Texicans were part of Mexico. So it's no surprise that we latch onto that Mexican heritage on special days, such as Cinco de Mayo. Of course, May 5 is a minor holiday in... Read more →

Happy May 4, the unofficial holiday of Star Wars geeks and punsters worldwide. I admit it. I've already intoned "May the 4th be with you" several times today, but I'm justified. I've always been a sci-fi fan. And I discovered more of them when I went off to college, where I got to be a part of a class at Texas Tech that analyzed the genre through the eyes of professors in ancient world history, classics and modern literature, archaeology and anthropology. It's also where I penned my first science fiction short story and got encouragement from one of the... Read more →

The school year is winding down across most of the United States, but by the time classes resume in the fall, students and their parents could have some added help in paying for college costs. Students at the University of California at Berkeley, courtesy John Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons. On April 26, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved S. 335, a bill that would expand the popular 529 savings plans. The accounts, named after the section of the tax code authorizing them, allow families to save money that grows tax-free. The money can be withdrawn, again with no tax... Read more →

It's a momentous time for sports fans. The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association are well into their annual championship playoffs. The race for the Triple Crown started today, with American American Pharoah (yes, the horse's name is officially misspelled) crossing the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby. And tonight at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will finally step into the same ring to decide boxing's welterweight supremacy. Big betting day: The only people loving today more than sports fans are sports books. While the National Football League's Super Bowl typically is... Read more →

House bill would consider gym dues a medical tax deduction

It's May, the month of flowers fed by April showers, the start of the summer vacation season and National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. I started off this May Day at a yoga sculpt class, which is a combination of yoga poses with hand weights. I admit that I'm still working with just five-pound weights, but hey, it's something. Regular exercise has been part of my routine for a few years now. Mostly it's yoga, but that's harder than non-yogis might think. Plus, I love the mental focus and balance (mental and physical) the practice brings. Some of my other... Read more →