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October 2015

Michael Myers, the masked slasher who terrorizes towns and teens on Halloween, obviously loves Oct. 31. Michael Myers of "Halloween" film infamy is thrilled that Oct. 31 is finally here. Click image to see his happy dance. Since the original "Halloween" movie debuted at the end of October 1978 (I was in one of those packed theaters in Lubbock, Texas), 10 sequels have followed, most of them involving franchise creator John Carpenter. It cost Carpenter and crew around $300,000 almost four decades ago to bring the terror of Michael Myers to the big screen. The trademark mask the character wears... Read more →

The Republican governor of Massachusetts has signed a petition that, if successful, would let his state's voters decide if they want to tax millionaires more. Gov. Charlie Baker told WGBH public radio earlier this month that although he personally hasn't yet decided whether he supports a surtax on high-income taxpayers, he does believe that voters should get a say on the idea. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in the WGBH studios on Oct. 15. Photo by Meredith Nierman/WGBH News. Click image to listen to the interview. Such direct democracy efforts are becoming even more popular. As I note in my story... Read more →

Halloween horrors arrived a day early here in Central Texas. I was awakened around 5:30 a.m. by my phone's weather alert app screaming out warnings about possible floods, lightning and even a tornado. As soon as insane intrepid photojournalists were able to send their video feeds, we were seeing things like this creek starting to come over a bridge in Wimberley, a community south of Austin that was hit hard by flooding this past Memorial Day weekend. Cypress Creek in Wimberley, Texas, rising on Halloween Eve 2015. About an hour later, the water had overtaken the bridge, along with some... Read more →

It's official. Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) is the 62nd Speaker of the House. He won with 236 votes. New House Speaker Paul D. Ryan takes the gavel from Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Click image to watch C-SPAN's coverage. Ryan's closest competitor for the post was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who served as Speaker when the Democrats controlled the House. She got 184 votes. Others getting votes were the Tea Party's Freedom Caucus favorite Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) with nine tallies. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell each got one vote. Yep,... Read more →

This is truly an October surprise. The persistent partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill has been broken, at least when it comes to the country's key financial needs. The House and President Obama announced yesterday, Oct. 27, that they had agreed on the country's overall budgets for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and extend the debt ceiling deadline to March 15, 2017. Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), announced the two-year budget deal he and the Obama Administration hammered out. Click image to view the video. "This is a good deal. It's a solid... Read more →

It's been quite a day for John Koskinen. The Internal Revenue Service commissioner appeared before a Senate Finance Committee hearing this morning to discuss that panel's final report, after almost 2½ years, on the tax agency's mishandling of ostensibly political groups' requests for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. You probably know it as the Tea Party scandal. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen started today testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. He's ending it facing articles of impeachment from the House. Mostly civil on the Senate side: It went as well as could be expected. The interactions were mostly civil. Koskinen generally got all... Read more →

It's the big day for New York and Kansas City baseball fans. If you're among them and looking to pick up a ducat to see the Royals host the Mets at Kauffman Stadium tonight in the first game of the 2015 World Series, be prepared to pay. And be prepared to pay a lot more when the series moves to Citi Field in the Big Apple. The hubby and I bought scalped tickets to a World Series game. The reseller actually wasn't asking too terribly much and did I mention it was to see a World Series game?! Being a... Read more →

It's no secret that I'm a big football fan. I prefer the NFL because I like to yell at my teams and the players, and it just doesn't seem right to berate college kids, even if they can't hear me shouting at my TV. I do, however, appreciate the special energy and enthusiasm that college gridiron match-ups generate. The Ohio State-Rutgers game this past Saturday is a perfect example. The Scarlet Knights knew it was a big game, probably their biggest one this year, going up against top-ranked Ohio State. Staying true to your school: So some Rutgers' fan took... Read more →

I'm a big believer in lists. I can't grocery shop without my piece of paper detailing all the edibles the hubby and I need or want. Yes, I still buy things that don't make the list, but if I forget it, I always have to make another trip to pick up a critical comestible I forgot. Yes, that's my current grocery list on an Earned Income Tax Credit notepad I picked up at an IRS Nationwide Tax Forum. No judging, please, of our food choices. I also keep track of my story assignments via a computer spreadsheet, as well as... Read more →

After reviewing how the Internal Revenue Service mishandled tax-exempt requests of Tea Party and other groups, the Department of Justice (DoJ) determined that poor management is not necessarily a crime. Lois Lerner, the former IRS executive who's been the target of many Congressional investigations won't face any criminal charges in the Tea Party tax exempt applications scandal. I can attest to that. If that were the case, then I've worked for some places where casual Friday attire would have been orange jumpsuits. No names. Arduous, inept process: In case you've forgotten, back in 2013 the Treasury Inspector General for Tax... Read more →

Marriage means doing things together, even things you hate, like visiting the in-laws, cleaning out the garage and filing taxes. You might be able to let those first two slide, but when it comes to taxes, no such luck. Most couples file a joint tax return. That single Form 1040 is a legal document and if you ignore filing it or mess it up, you'll face consequences worse than your spouse's wrath. Her forced smile makes me think she's not buying what he's saying as they work together on their joint tax return. The Internal Revenue Service considers both spouses... Read more →

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) appears to be on his way to becoming the next Speaker of the House. The Republicans' 2012 vice presidential candidate apparently convinced enough of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus (HFC) that he's their man. According to Capitol Hill reports, more than 70 percent of the Tea Party based House group voted to support Ryan after a closed door session with him Tuesday (Oct. 21) night. The new (probably) and exiting House Speaker, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, sharing a lighter moment in 2012. The vote wasn't sufficient to earn the HFC's official endorsement. Its leaders, however,... Read more →

Time, and time shifting, is always a factor when it comes to taxes. We filed our 2014 taxes in 2015 (some of us earlier than others!), simultaneously looking at what we need to do now so that when we file our 2015 returns in 2016, our tax bills are as small as possible. Keeping up with the tax calendar is as important as tracking all the tax numbers. So it's no surprise that the Internal Revenue Service chose today, Back to the Future Day, to issue its 2016 inflation adjustments for more than 50 tax provisions. Countdown clock in Back... Read more →

When you electronically file your tax return next year, get ready to provide a stronger password and meet tougher validation procedures. That's just one of the ways the Internal Revenue Service and the tax industry is planning to protect taxpayer accounts from criminals. The IRS, state tax administrators and tax industry leaders joined forces in March in a self-named Security Summit to come up with ways to combat tax identity theft. The group today provided an update of their efforts. In addition, the Security Summit participants also identified additional tax security topics they plan to tackle in the coming months... Read more →

Irwin Schiff, the man who mainstreamed the tax protester movement, has died. His family said he passed away on Oct. 16 at a Fort Worth, Texas, hospital affiliated with the federal prison where he was serving, yet again, time for tax evasion. The cause was lung cancer. He was 87. The latest prison sentence was Schiff's third, all of them connected with his claim that income taxes are unconstitutional. Schiff made his anti-tax case in his books, including Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes (1992); The Great Income Tax Hoax: Why You Can Immediately Stop... Read more →

Tax evasion is a global problem. Around the world, countries are struggling to make sure that their citizens are paying the taxes they owe. Here in the United States, we try both the stick (audits and even criminal prosecution in some cases) and the carrot (tax breaks) to encourage compliance. The Internal Revenue Service has sweetened the tax reporting pot, especially for those who are hiding their funds in out-of-country accounts. While many tax havens are in tropical locales, you can find places to hide money from the tax man all over the world. For some, the United States is... Read more →

Uncle Sam just closed out the 2015 fiscal year with a bang. Taxpayers handed over almost $3.25 trillion in taxes by the Sept. 30 closing of the U.S. Treasury's 2015 books. That, according to the Treasury Department's September report issued last week, was $228 billion higher than the total receipts in fiscal year 2014. Skylar and Walter White stare in amazement at the amount of money their illicit meth-making business took in on AMC's Breaking Bad. But it wasn't as much as the taxes collected by Uncle Sam in fiscal 2015. The fiscal 2015 tax collection mark was an increase... Read more →

Donald Trump was among the millions of taxpayers who sent their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service on Oct. 15. He even shared some photos of him signing his tax return on Twitter. Trump's implication, of course, is that the ginormous stack of apparent tax paperwork in his photos will be negated under his 'amazing' tax reform plan. Ran Paul's retort: One of the Republicans chasing Trump in the GOP presidential nomination race, however, didn't imply anything. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky used The Donald's tweet to tout his own flat tax simplification proposal. The direct approach is nothing new... Read more →

Today, Oct. 16, is National Dictionary Day. It was created to honor Noah Webster, the publisher of the first dictionary in 1806. Oct. 16 was chosen because it was the day 257 years ago on which Webster was born. Dictionary Day is a day to learn new words with the help of a dictionary. I'm doing my part by updating -- OK, creating in large part -- a tax dictionary for the ol' blog. Photo by eFile989 via Flickr Creative Commons Many years ago, I posted a mini-glossary of tax terms. Since that day, I've meant to put together a... Read more →

Happy Tax Day! No, I'm not six months late. Millions of ultimate procrastinators every year get an extension to file their tax paperwork. That absolutely final filing deadline is today. Oct. 15. I must confess I'm one of those who delayed filing back in April. I finished my taxes a couple of days ago. If you're part of my club, here are some tips on getting your return safely to the Internal Revenue Service. 3 tax delivery tips for electronic filers Filing electronically is the easier option. You just have to fill out the forms, double check them and then... Read more →