Saturday, September 11, 2010


* Have you seen my item on the “New Rules on Flexible Spending Accounts” at MAINSTREET.COM?

* An email brought my attention to the post “10 Things Grads Should Know About Retirement Planning” at the BEST COLLEGES ONLINE blog.

It has some good advice for the recent graduate, beginning with perhaps the best –

Start immediately: This is the most important thing to know, and the one that will jump-start the others. It’s never, ever too late to start saving retirement, but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.”

* Bruce, the MISSOURI TAX GUY (don’t be confused by his url address – the “mo” in motaxguy refers to the state and not “mo” tax, like “mo” money) has been publishing a lot of good non-tax posts lately. One of note is “Should You Invest In Life Insurance”.

I have no dependents or anyone who relies on my income, other than Nosey the cat, so I really don’t need life insurance – although I do have a small term life policy with AARP that provides enough cash to bury me if I spend all my dough before I go.

* Professor Nellen shares her thoughts on “President Obama's New Stimulus Proposals & Tax Policy" at 21st CENTURY TAXATION.

* Diane Kennedy has a post on “EA, CPA or Tax Attorney” at her US TAX AID blog.

She begins the post by saying – “Every so often I read an article making some outrageous claim about Enrolled Agents (EAs) being better than CPAs, or vice versa.”

Well, nothing else but initials known, Diane actually goes on to explain why an EA is better than a CPA, at least when it comes to 1040 preparation –

In general, an Enrolled Agent (EA) is someone who has passed a rigorous tax test given by the IRS.” And - “So, a CPA doesn’t necessarily know about taxes.”

As for a tax attorney, I agree with almost everything she has to say here -

You definitely need a tax attorney if:

• You have a taxable estate, need to make complex estate planning strategies, or need to file an estate tax return.
• You are engaging in international business and need help with contracts, tax treatment, and other legal matters.
• You plan to bring a suit against the IRS.
• You plan to seek independent review of your case before the US Tax Court.
• You are under criminal investigation by the IRS.
• You have committed tax fraud (such as claiming false deductions and credits) and need the protection of privilege

My only disagreement is in the first “bullet” – you don’t necessarily need a tax attorney merely to file an estate tax return.

The above are pretty much the only reasons you need a tax attorney. No one in their right mind would walk in to the office of a tax attorney off the street just to have a 1040 prepared. Hey, we all know that attorneys are extremely expensive. And, by the way, CPAs ain’t cheap either.

* Kay Bell lets us know that “Capitol Hill Workers Top Unpaid Tax List” at DON’T MESS WITH TAXES.

Kay tells us that –

The Washington Post reports that Capitol Hill employees owed $9.3 million in back taxes last year. Even worse for the Washington workers, and their bosses, is that IRS data show tax debt among Hill employees has risen at a faster rate than the overall tax debt on the government's books.”

The Post item states that 638 of the 18,000 employees on Capitol Hill, or about 4%, owe money to their Uncle Sam. That percentage is slightly higher percentage than the 3% delinquency rate among all U.S. tax returns. The average unpaid tax bill of a Senate employee is $12,787, while in the House the overage overdue tax amount is $15,498.

Kay points out that this is nothing new. Each year a similar item appears in the press and the blogosphere.

The IRS information used as a source for the Post article does not “name names” or indicate which party is the bigger offender.

So conceivably, some members of Congress could be tax delinquents. Admit it. You tax geeks and political wonks are wondering if former Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is on this latest list.”

* Howard Gleckman explains the “outlines of the Great Tax Debate of 2010” in “Tax Cut Smackdown: Obama v. Boehner (and Orszag)" at TAXVOX, the blog of the Tax Policy Center.

President Obama insisted on permanently extending the 2001-2003 tax cuts for those making less than $200,000 while allowing those aimed at the highest earners to expire at the end of the year. By contrast, House Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH) said he wants Congress to temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone. Boehner took his cues from an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times by Peter Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, which included a similar proposal for the next two years.”

Gleckman prefers the temporary extension of the Republicans, as do I.

As Howard has pointed out, there is no such thing as “permanently” extending the tax cuts. Congress can change the Tax Code whenever it wants – so nothing is ever “permanent”.

By allegedly “permanently” extending the tax cuts for those under $250,000 BO is walking away from the problem. And, as Howard states, “It implies that the nation can solve its budget problems by simply raising taxes on the wealthy”.

Congress must sit down and rewrite the Tax Code. By extending the cuts for another year or two it is more likely that some kind of real change will occur before the next expiration date – hopefully in 2011 - unless the cafones in Washington just make it another of the “extenders” and continue to avoid their responsibility by regularly passing one or two year extensions

* I have been touting “bi-weekly mortgages” for decades now. Brian O'Connell outlines “4 Ways to Save With Bi-Weekly Mortgages” over at MAINSTREET.COM, where I regularly write about taxes.

It’s not rocket science. When you pre-pay the principal on your mortgage loan, you knock down the total cost of your mortgage. The larger the pre-payments, the more you save. Plus, the sooner you begin to pay off your mortgage, the more you’ll save over the long term.”

* Kelly Phillips Erb, the internet’s TAX GIRL, reminds us that “Deadline Approaches for Public Comment About Forms 1099”.

So you’re really fired up about those new 1099 reporting requirements for 2012, right? The ones that are going to cause all of those headaches for you and your small business?

You’ve bellyached about it on twitter. You’ve railed against it on a number of blogs. You’ve griped about it on Facebook. You’ve passed along chain emails complaining about how much effort it’s going to be to comply.

But, er, have you really done anything about it yet?

The IRS wants to hear your comments on this new law – but time is running out. Kelly tells us that “The deadline for public comment is September 29, 2010”.

* Speaking of the TAX GIRL, let’s end with a bit on Romanian taxes from Kelly – “Ooooh… I See Taxes In Your Future!".


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