Law Feed

420 Day celebrant photo by GoToVan via Flickr Happy 420 Day, when marijuana smokers commemorate cannabis. It's not surprising that the origins of this unofficial holiday to celebrate weed are fuzzy. Some say it's based on the California police or penal code number 420 that designates marijuana smoking. Not true. Another theory is that there are 420 active chemicals in marijuana. That count must have been made after a few tokes over the line. There are more than 500 active ingredients in marijuana, with only about 70 or so being cannabinoids unique to the plant. A more likely explanation is... Read more →


March Madness is heating up. We're down to the Elite 8. I usually don't pay too much attention to college basketball, or college sports in general. I follow the professional games because I like to yell at the players, and I feel much more comfortable cursing guys who're pocketing beaucoup bucks instead of unpaid college athletes. I am in the minority, even in my house. The hubby has been sneaking some TV time watching the NCAA men's basketball championship tournament, though truth be told that's mainly because our alma matter, Texas Tech, is doing pretty well. Only the ELITE remain!#MarchMadness... Read more →


College and its ever-increasing costs certainly have gotten a lot of attention. There's the group of Democrats seeking their party's 2020 presidential nomination. Obviously spurred by the enthusiastic supporters of Independent-turned-temporary-Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders and his promise of free college, many other White House wannabes also are talking up educational assistance. Then there's this week's Operation Varsity Blues. You might not have caught the name, but let me drop two others to spur recognition: Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Yeah, that's the name federal investigators gave to their take down of a far-reaching college admissions scheme. Wealthy parents, elite school... Read more →


Part of today's International Women's Day celebrations are for the continuing employment advances by women. Our 21st century progress is due in large part to the pivotal roles of female employees in traditionally male jobs, like this woman machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1942. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons) Back in 2017 when Congress was formulating the comprehensive tax law changes that would become the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the #MeToo movement was in full force, shining a light on the prevalence of sexual assault. As the TCJA... Read more →


Michael Cohen makes his opening statement before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, 2019. (C-SPAN video screenshot) We have a complicated relationship with money, particularly when it comes to divulging details about it in our personal lives. Few of us (outside of personal finance bloggers) want to say how much we make. We tend to be vague, saying we're doing fine or perhaps going as far as to say things like "in the high five figures." We're a little more forthcoming when it comes to taxes, especially when we get tax refunds or don't, as recent social media complaints... Read more →


Armie Hammer and Felicity Jones as Martin and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the movie "On the Basis of Sex." (Photo courtesy Focus Features) The U.S. Tax Court has gotten some unexpected attention of late for two very different reasons. The fun reason is the movie "On the Basis of Sex." The film is based on a real-life gender discrimination case involving caregiver tax deductions claimed by a man. He is represented by a young and future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her tax litigator husband Martin Ginsburg. The Ginsburgs won the Tax Court case and the rest is... Read more →


Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are getting a divorce. I know, it's hard to feel too bad for folks who are so wealthy. They tend to come through difficult circumstances quite well. But the joint announcement today (on Twitter, of course) from the world's richest man and his soon-to-be ex-wife got me thinking about, of course, taxes. By making the decision to end their marriage in 2019, Bezos is losing a tax break while Mrs. Bezos is getting one. As I said, I'm sure neither Mr. or Mrs. Bezos won't suffer too much. Both he and his wife will have lots... Read more →


The Dallas Cowboys, in white uniforms during a game with Detroit at Jerry World a few years ago, are heading back to the NFL playoffs. The Pokes last won a post-season game in 1996, when they ultimately won Super Bowl XXX. Will they change their dismal playoff run in 2019? (Photo by Kay Bell) National Football League fans in Texas are pretty happy this final regular season game weekend. Both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys will play the post-season, with the Pokes actually winning their division. Go figure. I haven't been paying as close attention to the NFL this... Read more →


I've never been a big shopper. So when the ability to virtually peruse shelves and racks came along, it was like a gift from heaven. I am not alone. Even folks who enjoy the in-store experience have been shifting to online shopping in recent years. Cyber Monday 2018 hit a new shopping record. You'd think that this burst of online shopping would be good for state tax departments, more of which are now getting additional sales tax money following this summer's 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. That ruling struck down the prior Quill nexus requirement... Read more →


Did you get all your shopping done on Cyber Monday? A lot of us did. Adobe, which tracks the multitude of transactions among major U.S. retailers, projects that online sales this Cyber Monday will be $7.8 billion. That's an 18.3 percent increase from the $6.6 billion spent last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving. If that figure is reached (or bettered), it would make Cyber Monday the highest-selling day of the 2018 holiday season. Those sales amounts seem to support the argument made by online sales tax advocates that the levies wouldn't materially deter cyber shoppers. Court opens door for... Read more →


The post-Thanksgiving shopping ad inserts, stacked at left, consumed more newsprint than my local newspaper in which they were stuffed! Welcome to the first holiday shopping season after the U.S. Supreme Court's Wayfair decision. That ruling last June OK'ed states' efforts to collect sales tax from companies even if they don't have a physical presence, aka nexus, in the locales. Some states were champing at the bit and quickly enacted or tweaked laws mandating at least some sellers, generally those of larger size, start collecting from their customers and sending the tax cash to the appropriate offices. Others are being... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service's crime fighting division did a bang-up job last fiscal year, stopping almost $10 billion in tax fraud. That 2018 amount was four times more than the previous fiscal year, according to the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Division’s annual report released today. CI, which marked its 100-year anniversary at the Oct. 1 start of the 2019 fiscal year, identified $9.7 billion in tax fraud during the last fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30, 2018). That's up dramatically from the $2.5 billion CI found in fiscal 2017. Much crime, but tax fraud focus: General tax fraud... Read more →


Winston Shrout giving a financial seminar via YouTube before his recent tax legal troubles. Winston Shrout believes he's an alien with Biblical origins who was sent to Earth to destroy a particular group of Catholics. Shrout's also a convicted tax evader. Last week, a Portland judge determined that despite Shrout's out-there delusions, the 70-year-old is competent to face sentencing on guilty verdicts on 13 counts of issuing fake financial documents to banks and six counts of willful failure to file tax returns. During his 2017 trial, prosecutors introduced evidence showing that between 2009 and 2014, Shrout earned $562,224 from a... Read more →


There won't be many bets on the Dallas Cowboys to win the Super Bowl next February. Odds makers say that possibility is a 30-to-1 longshot. I'm a fan of the 'Boys and I think that's being way too optimistic! (Cowboys playing Detroit Lions in Dallas by Kay Bell) Professional football fans are ready for some football as the NFL's 2018 season kicks off tonight. And the league itself may finally be ready for some legal gambling on its sport. The reason is, of course, money. Billions in betting-related revenue: National Football League could pocket an added $2.3 billion a year... Read more →


New York Giants fan chow down at a pre-NFL game tailgate party. (Photo by Ben Vardi via Wikipedia Commons) College football begins in full force this Labor Day weekend. The professional pigskin players kick off the 2018 season on Thursday, Sept. 6. That means crazy body paint, tons of tailgating and betting. Yes, although professional sports leagues and especially the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hate to admit it, gamblers put down billions on games every year. Most of those wagers have been, and will continue to be, placed illegally despite the May 14 decision by the Supreme Court of... Read more →


The courthouse where a federal jury on Aug. 21 found Paul Manafort guilty of eight charges, including five tax evasion counts. Could he also face state charges? (Photo via Google Earth) It's the day after bombshell revelations in two federal courtrooms and the political and tax world is still abuzz. Almost simultaneously on Tuesday, Aug. 21, afternoon, two of Donald J. Trump's former presidential campaign officials faced serious legal judgments in two separate courtrooms. In New York City, Trump's former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight federal felony counts of tax and bank fraud, as well as campaign finance law... Read more →


After years of being lambasted for efforts to regulate tax preparers, the Internal Revenue Service is on a roll in its efforts to oversee certain tax professionals. A recently introduced bipartisan Senate bill would give the IRS the authority that many argue it doesn't have to set standards for tax professionals who aren't subject to other professional guidelines. This is not the first time such legislation has been introduced. But those previous bills never went anywhere. However, the tide now seems to be shifting a bit in the tax agency's favor. Influential tax professional groups are among this latest legislative... Read more →


Money courtesy Pictures of Money via Flickr Most of us can't afford extravagant wardrobes. And we own, at most, one house. But for many of us, there's one thing that most of us share with lavish-living Paul J. Manafort. We, like the former lobbyist and political consultant, are not fans of paying taxes, especially really big Internal Revenue Service bills. Rick Gates, Manafort's former right-hand man, today told jurors hearing the tax evasion and bank fraud charges against his former boss that Manafort disliked paying a lot of taxes. But, I hope, that we aren't following Manafort's alleged method to... Read more →


Al "Scarface" Capone at his sentencing for tax evasion. Back in the Prohibition Era, federal agents — notably those from the Internal Revenue Service — took down the notorious gangster. The tax agency's armed Criminal Investigation agents are still on the job. (Photo courtesy All That's Interesting: 25 Al Capone Facts) Paul Manafort's tax evasion (and bank fraud) trial is shining a spotlight, at least in the tax world, on the Internal Revenue Service's unit that goes after tax criminals. In most cases, like that of Donald J. Trump's former campaign manager, it's white collar tax crime. U.S. taxpayers don't... Read more →


When you hire a tax professional, you want someone you can trust. In Paul Manafort's case, that apparently meant someone he trusted to file fraudulent returns. The accountant for former Donald J. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told jurors hearing the bank fraud and tax evasion charges against the long-time political operative that she helped backdate documents and falsify financial records. Cynthia Laporta, who has been given limited immunity for her testimony, said the accounting maneuvers suggested by Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates, who's also working with the prosecution and expected to eventually testify in the case,... Read more →