Saturday, January 10, 2009

WHAT’S THE BUZZ? TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’

While you are reading this installment of WHAT’S THE BUZZ I will be at the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals annual NJ State Tax Seminar. I will report on the seminar at TWTP early next week.

* The Tax Foundation has been doing a series of posts over the past two weeks on individual state tax budgets at its TAX POLICY BLOG. Click here to find all the state posts in one place and look up your state.

* I have always wondered why blind taxpayers have been chosen for an additional exemption (the old days) or (now) additional itemized deduction and not individuals with other disabilities. I imagined the following scenario: A bill needed the vote of a particular Congressman to pass. That Congressman’s wife, or brother or child, was blind. Thus the vote was purchased.

Kay Bell’s post “Tax Considerations of Blind Filers” at DON’T MESS WITH TAXES led me to the 4/12/2005 item “When Did the Blind Get a Tax Break?” by Daniel Engbar at Slate.com which gives an informative history of the special tax break for the blind.

* Our favorite TAXGIRL Kelly Phillips Erb has announced her Third Annual “Tax Filing Horror Story Contest” in her post “Hate To File Taxes? Tell Me About It”.

Have a horrible tax filing story? Car break down blocks from the post office? Ran out of paper in the printer? Dog ate your return?

Tell me your worst tax filing story - or simply complain about the thing you hate most about filing taxes - and win some great stuff
.”

Ten (10) randomly-selected winners will receive a free “TurboTax Deluxe”. Disappointing prize – although Kelly has promised to possibly throw in some much more desireable TAXGIRL merchandise.

I certainly don’t want TurboTax (of absolutely no use to me) – but I may enter a story anyway.

Make sure to check out the stories in the comments section – I especially like the “horror story” from Eric (the highlights are mine) –

I usually do them by hand. I hate that it takes 4+ hours to do it, filling in line by line.Last year I had a change of situation (early retirement w/401 K withdrawals using IRS rule 72T) and paid over $300.00 to a famous large tax preparing chain to do it for me. What I got was someone who just filled it out on a computer, reading instructions line by line and every so often shouting out “Oh Lordy!” when she came to a situation she never saw before. She had no more expertise than I did. Talk about frustrating. I’m going back to do it myself this year. What I observed last year in the storefront office last year was that this company is really no longer a tax preparation business but rather a loan company, because they were really pushing their refund anticipation loans to all the poor customers who came in & left the time I was there.”

Can you guess where Eric went last year?

* Speaking of TAXGIRL, Kelly answers an interesting question (actually one I have never heard before in 35+ years) from a reader presumably from Hawaii in her post “Ask the Taxgirl: Responsibility to Ensure Independent Contractor Files?

* I don’t want this to become an “All-TAXGIRL” post – but Kelly was certainly on a roll this week! She provides good coverage to an oft-asked question in her post “Ask the Taxgirl: Girl Scout Cookies”. And she follows it with news that the IRS may really becoming “kinder and gentler” after all in “Delinquent Taxpayers Get Sympathy from an Unexpected Source”.

BTW, Kelly is the latest member in my Taxbloggers Group at Yahoo! Groups. Fellow taxbloggers are welcome to join – click here.

* Have you received a bill for P+I (penalty and interest) from your “Uncle Sam”? All is not lost. Check out taxguy Bruce’s post “
How to Avoid IRS Penalties and Interest”.

I do take exception, however, with one piece of advice in the post. Be sure to read my comment.

* Bruce begins his tax season blogging hiatus earlier than I do. Friday was his final “live” post for “the duration” – “Episode #113”.

The post gives excellent advice – “the single most important thing for you is that I believe you need a tax professional in your corner”.

We look forward to the return of taxguy after the end of the tax season!

* Ever wonder why Henry and Richard charge so much? Here is one reason – an AccountantsWorld.com item reports that “H & R Block To Settle Marketing Case For $4.85. Million”. This is the latest in a long line of settlements made by H+R over the past few years. One excellent result of the settlement – “The agreement prohibits H & R Block from selling the so-called refund-anticipation loans as early tax refunds”, at least in California.

* Taking a cue from Joe Kristan and Russ Fox, who select an annual tax cheat of the year, Peter Pappas has introduced his own “Online Poll: Who’s the Worst Tax Cheat in American History” over at THE TAX LAWYER’S BLOG.

Peter offers five (5) nominees – only 1 historical. You should vote for your choice of the 5, and provide some alternatives as a comment.

* Peter also gives a good reason why he is against any kind of federal tax increase in his post “
Tax Vox Proposal: Hire More IRS Agents to Close Tax Gap” –

I hereby renew my vow never to favor a tax increase of any kind until two things occur:

1. The government eliminates or seriously curtails waste; and
2. It substantially closes the tax gap.

Analogy: What would you do if your 15 year old son asked you to raise his allowance from $50 per month to $100 per month if you knew that he flushed $20 dollars of his monthly stipend down the toilet?


Well said, my friend!

* As you probably know by now, the “Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008” messed up a bit the Section 121 exclusion of up to $250,000 or $500,000 in gain from the sale of a personal residence. William Perez at About.com discusses the new rules for “Modified Home Sale Exclusion for Non-Qualifying Use” that became effective January 1, 2009.

* Joe Kristan tells us “What to Really Watch Out For When Selecting a Preparer” over at the ROTH AND COMPANY TAX UPDATE BLOG.

BTW – Joe also reports that good old Chuck Rangel is the front-runner for his 2008 Taxpayer of the Year award in his post “Rangel Showing Real Leadership” {for a change – rdf}. Voting has ended and I expect Joe will announce the winner on Monday.

* Oi vey! The federal deficit is how much?!? The TAXVOX blog tells us at “CBO’s Rosy Scenario”.

TTFN

2 comments:

Kelly said...

Thanks for the props! I'm glad you enjoyed taxgirl this week. It's a fun time to blog tax - lots happening in the economy + tax season. I'm certainly not at a loss for material!

Robert D Flach said...

Kelly-

Hey, I enjoy taxgirl every week (except during tax season)!

Keep up the good work!

RDF