Tuesday, December 23, 2014


* Tax pros, PLEASE check out the December “issue” of THE TAX PROFESSIONAL and let me know your comments on my “Soapbox” editorial.

* Kelly Phillips Erb, FORBES.COM’s TaxGirl, has begun her annual “12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2014” – starting with Goodwill Industries, The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, and Neighborhood Bike Works.

* New at BOB’S BABBLINGS – “LBJ Took The IRT Down to 4th Street USA. When He Got There What Did He See? The Youth of America on LSD!  Huh?  Also some Holiday Surfing USA.

* Prof Annette Nellen makes an excellent statement on temporary tax benefits in her 21st CENTURY TAXATION blog’s announcement that “Over 50 Provisions Retroactively Extended on 12/19/14” -

This is an odd way to design a tax system. When something is added temporarily, such as to help get out of an economic recession, it should be allowed to expire when the need no longer exists.  If another provision is deemed appropriate for a tax system, such as allowing individuals who itemize to deduct either their sales tax or their income tax (assuming there is even a reason to deduct either), make it a permanent part of the system.”

* In his announcement of the same thing at TAXABLE TALK Russ Fox suggests something good coming from the cuts in the IRS budget –

The IRS is anticipating answering just 50% of the phone calls it receives. On the bright side, since many of the answers given on the IRS help line are wrong this might have a positive component.”

* Robert W Wood tells us that we can actually learn something from opportunist Al Sharpton, the black Donald Trump, or at least from his situation, in his post “Rev. Al Sharpton's Key Tax Tips...From Lois Lerner” at FORBES.COM.

First he tells us of Sharpton’s good luck (highlight is mine) –

In ‘Tell it to the Reverend Al’, the New York Post says Rev. Sharpton still owes New York State $916,000 from tax liens filed against him between 2008 and 2010. In all, Mr. Sharpton is said to have $4.5 million of tax liens. He claims he paid them, but state officials say otherwise. This isn’t the first time his records do not line up. Indeed, on two prior occasions he suffered inconvenient fires that destroyed records.”

The lessons to be learned - 

ü       Keep your business and personal transactions separate.  For example, don’t have your business, or your charity, pay for your clothes or your daughters’ private school tuition.

ü       Keeping good records can help you in a tax controversy or keep you out of tax trouble in the first place. Most audits are correspondence audits. You may be told your deductions will be disallowed unless you mail back records substantiating them.”

And keep your records in fire-proof file cabinets.

* No surprise here. Kay Bell reports that according to a recent Gallop poll “Congress Gets Low Marks for Honesty, Ethical Behavior” at DON’T MESS WITH TAXES –

Congress comes in dead last when it comes to professions known for honesty and ethical behavior.

Only 7 percent of people Gallup polled in early December rated members of Congress as being honest of having high or very high ethical standards.

That's one point lower than the proverbial used car salesman. It's also one point lower than Congress' honesty and ethical acts rating last year.

It gets worse when the issue is approached from the other side. In the same poll, 61 percent of the Gallup respondents said that Congress is full of folks with low or very low levels of honesty and ethics.

That's 16 percent worse than the folks pushing vehicles on car lots across America.”

Yet we, or rather you, continue to re-elect the idiots.   

* And Key also brings the word that “the IRS is the government agency that gets sworn at the most” in “The Blankety-Blank IRS!

However, when compared to the NJ Division of Taxation, the IRS is a model of efficiency, honesty, and “taxpayer friendliness”.

An example.  If you overpay the IRS, or it receives a payment it does not know what to do with, you will promptly get a letter of inquiry from the Service.  If you overpay, or double pay, the State of NJ on a state tax return or report the NJDOT remains unethically silent, hoping you do not discover the overpayment.

* While this has nothing to do with taxes (although, as you will see, I do provide a tie in), it is another “no surprise here” story.  From Karen Kaplan at the LA TIMES comes “Real-World Doctors Fact-Check Dr. Oz, and the Results Aren't Pretty” –

What do real-world doctors have to say about the advice dispensed on ‘The Dr. Oz Show’? Less than one-third of it can be backed up by even modest medical evidence.

If that sounds alarming, consider this: Nearly 4 in 10 of the assertions made on the hit show appear to be made on the basis of no evidence at all.”

The piece quotes a study published in a recent issue of The BMJ (the journal of the British Medical Association) -

Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows.  Viewers need to realize that the recommendations may not be supported by higher evidence or presented with enough balanced information to adequately inform decision making.”
I seem to recall reading a while back that Dr. Oz had a strange obsession with excrement, and I don't mean reality tv.

You should take any advice – medical or financial – spouted by a so-called tv “expert” with many grains of salt.  In most cases the motivation of the “expert” giving the advice is to sell books, programs, or products, and not to share accurate and helpful advice.

Never, never, never act on advice or information provided by Dr Oz, Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, etc, etc, etc without first discussing the matter with your own doctor, broker, financial advisor, or tax professional.

To be fair, I have found Ed Slott to be more accurate than his “contemporaries” when it comes to retirement issues, based on the information on his website I have reviewed over the years.

The Final Word –

I never thought I would hear this said in a holiday season radio advertisement -

A new luger under the Christmas tree will mean a lifetime of pleasure!

I realize I now live in “the country”, where guns and hunting are often a part of everyday life, but this still sounds wrong to me.


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