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June 2015

The Vatican takes scripture seriously, especially Mark 12:17. "Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marveled at him." It's not quite amazement, but it is definitely interesting to see the Holy See signing on to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Panoramic photo of St. Peter's Square, the basilica and obelisk, from Piazza Pio XII in Vatican City courtesy I, Dfmalan via Wikimedia CC. FATCA, FBAR facts: Known in tax-speak at FATCA, this federal law generally requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any... Read more →

Taxpayers usually file amended returns to correct mistakes they made on their original tax paperwork. A New York City product liability attorney, however, sent the Empire State tax department fraudulent amended tax returns and now is looking at prison time. Jeff Galloway, formerly a partner at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, partner pleaded guilty on June 4 to one felony count of criminal tax fraud. No returns, followed by false amended forms: The New York County District Attorney's office says that between 2005 and 2010, Galloway failed to file state personal income tax returns and pay taxes owed on around $1... Read more →

Louisiana is among the states still struggling to come up with a budget. That's always a difficult process, but it's gotten stickier in recent years. As state money troubles have grown, lawmakers have found themselves bombarded not just by constituents and in-state lobbying groups, but also pressured by folks well outside their state boundary lines. Such external political pressure has reached a new level in the Pelican State, where the state budget battle has expanded into a fight with the preeminent Washington, D.C., anti-tax organization. Tax trouble closing a budget gap: Louisiana has a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Bobby Jindal,... Read more →

I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life in the desert terrain of West Texas. That's probably why our first family vacation to the Texas coast to see the ocean, as we called the Gulf of Mexico, is still such a vivid memory all these many years later. Ocean sunset along Pacific Grove, California, by Paul Jimerson via NAAA|Flickr The hubby and I were lucky enough to live for while in South Florida. Our home was a 15 minute (as long as we didn't hit any open Intracoastal Waterway bridges) drive to the beach. My workplace... Read more →

H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation

H&R Block sees about 13 million people a year in its retail offices across the country. But there is a physical limit for everything. So H&R Block is, once again, looking into virtual reality as a way to reach more taxpayers. H&R Block revealed its foray into virtual tax offices to CNBC's Jane Wells, who reported that a couple of weeks ago in a room in Los Angeles, "three women put on Oculus virtual reality headsets (and so did this reporter) in order to experience what the new office might look like." John, the virtual tax pro: The testers found... Read more →

Technology is great, until it isn't. Thousands of British husbands and wives discovered that recently, as computer problems prevented them from claiming a marriage tax break. A spouse or civil partner can transfer up to £1,060 ($1,619 U.S.) of his or her personal tax-free allowance to a spouse or partner who doesn't pay income tax. The tax shift was estimated to save more than four million U.K. couples and 15,000 civil partners up to £212 ($324 U.S.) a year. Thousands of eligible couples, however, were unable to take advantage of the tax break, which was to be administered via a... Read more →

Burning Man began as a bonfire on San Francisco's Baker Beach in 1986 where a handful of folks celebrated the summer solstice. It's now a week-long festival that drew almost 66,000 revelers last year to Black Rock City, the temporary Nevada desert town that springs up in late summer to support the event. Burning Man photo by Aaron Morgan via Flickr As the participation has increased, so has the price to be a part of Burning Man. For this year's event, which runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 7, top tier pre-sale tickets issued back in January cost $800 each.... Read more →

Weather claims, estimated taxes and more June tax tasks

Texas is finally drying out. For millions of Texans, the extraordinarily wet May was welcome. Rivers are running again and many Lone Star State lakes are finally full(er) after years of drought. After the Trinity River came out of its banks, the herd in the video above was safely moved to higher, drier land thanks in part to an impromptu cattle drive through the small town of Dayton, Texas. But in other cases, there was no escape from raging water. Several areas in Texas, Oklahoma and other Plains States suffered the deadly side of Mother Nature. Tax help for disaster... Read more →

The good news for taxpayers is that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes our desire for more do-it-ourselves options and has been offering us more Web-based tax tools. The bad news for taxpayers is that the expansion of online services makes it more likely the IRS will be hit by hackers and other tax fraud criminals. That's the warning from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifying June 2 on agency security before the Senate Finance Committee; click image to watch, in a new screen, the hearing video. A... Read more →

I'm not much of a churchgoer, but if the new First Church of Cannabis opens a sanctuary in Austin, I might just drop by services now and again. The Indianapolis-based marijuana-smoking church has received approval of its incorporation papers from the state of Indiana and, from the more important tax perspective, from the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) religious organization. For the new religious order, that designation means no taxes. For donors, that also means tax deductions if they itemize. Religious freedom law opens church doors: And the new ministry is looking for donors to help it raise... Read more →

Amazon has hit the halfway mark. Today, June 1, the online retailer begins collecting sales tax on products it delivers to shoppers in Ohio. The Buckeye State is the 25th state in which Amazon collects sales taxes. Photo by MikeBlogs via Flickr Creative Commons Officials estimate that Amazon's tax collection will help boost Ohio's sales tax revenue to between $150 million and $300 million annually. Before today, Ohio has had to rely on the state's online consumers to pay the tax. The new online sales tax collection system was announced late last week, after a year of Amazon and Ohio... Read more →