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December 2015

November 2015

It's officially Cyber Monday, but it looks like a lot of shoppers this year have already headed to their keyboards instead of stores. More than 103 million people reported that they had shopped online or planned to do so starting on Thanksgiving and through Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation's consumer sentiment survey. That bests the nearly 102 million people who shopped in stores during the four-day period holiday period. The main reason folks shop via Internet instead of heading to stores is convenience. No traffic. No crowds. And in some cases, no sales tax. But that last reason... Read more →

How are those Thanksgiving leftovers holding up? While you might be sick of the excess turkey, dressing and countless side dishes, too many people face the opposite problem. They don't have enough to eat every day. Food pantries and soup kitchens get a lot of attention during the holidays, and that's good. But they welcome help throughout the year. And some are getting it from nontraditional sources. Many hunters and the organizations that support them have charitable offshoots through which game meat is donated to help feed the hungry. A volunteer serves game meat at soup kitchen. Click image to... Read more →

Mom and Pop shops across the United States are hoping that today's Small Business Saturday will boost their bottom lines. The day was created by American Express five years ago as a way to encourage shoppers who frequent major chains on Black Friday to also spend some of their holiday budgets the next day at locally-owned firms. The added income definitely will help, especially if Small Business Saturday 2015 comes close to 2014's numbers. Last year, 88 million people got out to, as the marketing phrase says, shop small. But regardless of the take today, small businesses already had something... Read more →

While some folks are starting to question whether Black Friday prices really translate to substantial savings, millions of people are still hitting the stores today because sales! Black Friday shoppers rushing into Macy's flagship New York store in 2012. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA via Flickr. If you're part of the bargain-hunting crowd, good luck to you. And here's one more piece of shopping advice. Budget a bit extra for sales taxes. Just five states -- Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon -- don't collect state-level sales taxes. In the other 45, however, the checkout price of most of your purchases... Read more →

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your family members, even -- or for many of us, especially -- the furry ones. My mom and her furry child having an important pre-Thanksgiving dinner conversation. As we gather today to say thanks for all we have, many of us will include our pets among our blessings. I know my mother would be lost without her constant companion. She is not alone. Almost every pet owner will tell you that their animal is a member of the family. The IRS, though, tends to disagree. That's why the taxman won't let you claim your... Read more →

Does your Thanksgiving Day menu include a turkey, yams and those fancy stuffed potatoes that grandma used to make every time the family gathered at her house? Thanksgiving meal photo courtesy Satya Murthy via Flickr CC Then there are two things you need to do. First, send me your address and set another plate at the table. Then second, when Congress returns to Washington, D.C., after its holiday break, contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to finish up the tax extenders. If the 50+ tax breaks that expired on Dec. 31, 2014, aren't reinstated, then many of the... Read more →

Uncle Sam and we taxpayers all have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. From the government's point of view, Treasury took in almost $3.25 trillion in taxes for the 2015 fiscal year that ended back on Sept. 30. And from taxpayers' perspective, that record amount or tax dollars was achieved without most of us having to endure a tax audit. Based on tax data from fiscal 2014, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the Internal Revenue Service's examination function -- that's tax-speak for auditing of returns -- dropped by 11 percent from the fiscal... Read more →

Millions of Americans are thinking about travel this holiday week. So is Congress, but on a larger scale. As the House and Senate work out details of a long-term transportation bill, one funding road sign is clear. International travelers will help pay for domestic road and transit projects. Photo courtesy Mike via Flickr CC Lawmakers in both chambers have agreed on a provision that would direct the State Department to deny passports to taxpayers who are "seriously delinquent" in their tax payments. State also could rescind existing passports of affected taxpayers. The highway bill funding measure is projected to bring... Read more →

Alaska is notable for many things, especially when it comes to taxes. The Last Frontier is the only state that does not have an individual income tax or collect a state-levied sales tax. Instead, Alaska relies primarily on oil money to keep its coffers full. Oil rig drilling in Alaska's deep snow (circa 1940–1970). Photo courtesy Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks That personal petroleum reserve, however, is dropping. And that means the 49th state is considering some potentially painful tax changes. Alaska's costly oil subsidies: There's already talk about scaling back the subsidies the state offers oil... Read more →

Thanksgiving is next week. You know what that means. Tax filing-season is just around the corner. Before we all get lost in family gatherings and football and gift giving, the Internal Revenue Service wants to remind us that it's working on new ways to protect our tax data. It also wants us to know that we can help. Last week, the participants in what the IRS has named its Security Summit announced a new tax safety public awareness campaign: Taxes. Security. Together. "We all have a part to play in fighting identity theft," said Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen... Read more →

To many, Donald Trump is a blowhard. But it turns out he has a legitimate connection to wind beyond his personal constant stream of hot air. The Republican presidential hopeful told a group of Iowa voters at a town hall meeting this week that he supports the federal tax credit for wind power producers. That's a pretty big surprise. Not just because Trump is actually talking about a piece of tax policy, but also given his hairdo you'd think he wouldn't be a big fan of wind. Yeah, I know, cheap and easy joke, but when someone walks into it,... Read more →

Hey, smokers. How's it going for you on Great American Smokeout day? This annual American Cancer Society event occurs the third Thursday of November. It was created as a way to encourage smokers to kick the habit for good. It's a good idea, but I'm not sure it really works. I think folks need a more personal reason to permanently snuff out their smokes. I gave up the nasty habit as a birthday gift to the hubby. A friend quit smoking after his doctor warned him he probably wouldn't be around to see his grandkids if he kept inhaling. And... Read more →

For the last few months, the standing joke in our house has been that the first words the hubby and I say to each other every morning is, "Can we retire today?" Beach? Mountain cabin? A cruise? Traveling across Europe? What's your retirement dream? Start planning now to achieve it. OK. Maybe we don't ask that question first thing in the morning, but that's mainly because the hubby is not a morning person. But we have been paying closer attention to our retirement stash, as well as checking on what we can one day expect from Social Security. Calculating retirement... Read more →

Mother Nature is drunk or in a particularly bad mood or can't read a calendar. Whatever, yesterday's outbreak of tornadoes in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as into Kansas and Nebraska, was extremely rare. Some weather folk are characterizing it as historic. Click image to watch Pecos Hank's video of the massive Pampa, Texas, wedge tornado on 11-16-15 via AccuWeather. Joking, sorta, aside, I have to quote the weather professionals here. "Tornadoes can happen any time of year," notes Dr. Harold Brooks of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory. "It looks like the... Read more →

Maybe this last Sunday you were watching continuing coverage of the horrific terrorist attacks on Paris. Or perhaps, needing a break from the evil that humans too often inflict upon each other, you switched over to the Sunday night NFL game. Regardless of why, you missed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's appearance on 60 Minutes. Click image to watch the CBS video. That meant you also missed the former Republican presidential nominee and GOP budget guru sharing a few thoughts on tax reform. You're really kicking yourself now, aren't you? No worries. Thanks to, or maybe curses on, the Internet,... Read more →

I can tell the holidays are just around the corner. I'm getting, and making, lots of call about our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. In most cases, the phone conversations are on my and my relatives' cell phones. We are not alone. Wireless service is becoming the sole means of telephone communication for a growing number of Americans. Surveys by the Centers for Disease Control found that at the end of 2014, more than 44 percent of all adults relied solely on mobile phones. The percentage is even greater, more than 59 percent, among lower income individuals. Cellular taxes at all... Read more →

The Browns are in Pittsburgh today. That's good news for Cleveland tax officials. On this given Sunday, they don't have to worry about taxing visiting National Football League players. Cleveland officials are revising their jock tax system, through which they've collected money from athletes and entertainers who've come into town to perform over the years. The city lost a court battle over its jock tax methodology and could end up refunding, by one estimate, as much as $2.4 million to previously taxed NFL players. Before it was challenged, Cleveland had taken its tax portion from visiting pro footballers' pockets based... Read more →

Today's a pretty big day for me. On this day 10 years ago, I published my first post on Don't Mess With Taxes. It's now 6,306 posts later and I'm still going, strong on some days, struggling on others. Yep, blogging is like life. You just keep on keeping on. So while I'm not much for celebrating my personal birthday, today seemed somewhat noteworthy. And I get a kick out of looking at how the ol' blog has grown over this past decade. I make no promises or predictions about another 10 years, but I can guarantee I'll still be... Read more →

Take a look at the signatures on a letter sent last week to Representatives and Senators who set funding levels for government agencies. They are the John Hancocks of seven former Internal Revenue Service commissioners. The dates following each name represent the years each person served. The individuals themselves represent a wealth of tax expertise. The seven former IRS commissioners -- Mortimer M. Caplin, Sheldon S. Cohen, Lawrence B. Gibbs, Fred T. Goldberg Jr., Shirley D. Peterson, Margaret M. Richardson and Charles O. Rossotti -- on Nov. 9 wrote to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate... Read more →

Are you hunkered down at home today, hiding out until Friday the 13th passes? You are not alone in suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia. The number 13 has been considered an omen of bad luck for ages. One explanation is that 12 has historically represented the number of completeness; examples include the 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours of the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus, and 12 Imams of Muhammad. Thirteen, on the other hand, is seen as an outlier. However, I will happily take a specially priced Baker's Dozen of pastries on... Read more →