Smart TaxesSmart Taxes

Some states, such as Colorado, don't require much farming to get a tax-saving agricultural exemption.

By Kay Bell Mar 9, 2011 6:29PM

Want a lower property tax bill in Colorado? Get yourself a couple of sheep. Or grow a little hay.

That's all it takes to earn an agricultural designation by the state. You don't really have to be a farmer or a rancher, just play one and that will get you the much lower property tax rate Colorado created for the agriculture sector.

The Denver Post lists the wide array of so-called Colorado agronomists who have "secured low property taxes through agricultural designations on land they own even though they personally have little or nothing to do with producing food."

Among those the newspaper cites as benefiting from being deemed owners of agricultural property are actors Tom Cruise, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, a network television executive and his former-actress wife, an energy industry billionaire, a professional blackjack player turned media mogul, a ski gear inventor and a Colorado state senator.


The IRS accepts plastic but, unlike mechants, it doesn't pay the fee for you to use it, which is up to 2.35%.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 8, 2011 7:13PM

This article is by Mark Jewell of the Associated Press.


Use a credit card to pay taxes to Uncle Sam, and interest charges aren't your only worry. Expect to pay fees of at least 2% on the amount of taxes owed. And that has nothing to do with whether you pay off the balance quickly or not.


Those fees are big enough that using a card to pay should be a last resort.


Regardless of how big the tax bill, any convenience from paying by credit is likely to come at a steep price. That's important to understand because some card issuers are promoting use of their cards to pay taxes, including offering discounts on electronic tax filing products for those using plastic to pay.


Many states provide tax incentives for making movies there. But some are cutting the subsidies, saying the benefits are not worth the cost.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 7, 2011 5:36PM

This article is by Errin Haines of The Associated Press.


Thanks to a tax break used to lure Disney filmmakers away from North Carolina to coastal Georgia, Harry Spirides figures his beachfront hotel raked in an extra $85,000 because Miley Cyrus spent a summer filming here.


The producers of Cyrus' film, "The Last Song," were brought in with an across-the-board tax credit of 20% when they rolled into Tybee Island in June 2009. Lawmakers in Georgia and other states, though, are worried that they can't afford to offer Hollywood those incentives any longer as they struggle to find enough money to pay for programs like Medicaid.


For Spirides, though, the economic benefit from the tax credit was clear:


The crew rented a parking lot at Spirides' Ocean Plaza Beach Resort for $30,000 to set up makeup trailers and dining tents. Then there were hundreds of families working as extras on the film, who would crash at the hotel after shooting until 2 a.m.


"The shooting of the movie definitely made it a lot better of a summer financially than it would have been," Spirides said. "It really, really helped when we were in the depths of the recession."


In January, though, a Georgia state council said those benefits are fleeting. It said even though the crews bring jobs -- and lots of people who spend money locally on food and lodging -- those benefits are lost when they pack up and leave after filming.


The council recommended ditching the film tax break, which meant $140.6 million in lost tax revenues last year. Film producers spent $617 million in Georgia last year.


What if you could take this year’s tax refund, spend every dime, then get it all back, plus 30%? Impossible? Not at all.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 4, 2011 7:47PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Last year I wrote an article called Transform Last Year’s Tax Refund Into Next Year’s Tax Credit. That story was about how I invested my tax refund in a $5,000 high-efficiency central air conditioner: something that generated a cool $1,500 tax credit.


It's not often that we get lump sums of cash, and the temptation is great to do the wrong thing. Here's a quick checklist.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 3, 2011 7:17PM
 This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average American's refund for tax year 2010 is about $3,000, a slight increase over the previous year.


But whatever you're expecting, there are smart things you can do with it, as well as things that aren't so smart. Here are some dumb things, along with some advice on how to check on the progress of your refund if you've yet to receive it.


Obama wants to increase the IRS budget and bring in more revenue, but GOP wants to cut the agency's budget.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 2, 2011 7:29PM

This article is by Stephen Ohlemacher of The Associated Press.

Every dollar the Internal Revenue Service spends for audits, liens and seizing property from tax cheats brings in more than $10, a rate of return so good the Obama administration wants to boost the agency's budget.


House Republicans, seeing the heavy hand of a too-big government, beg to differ. They've already voted to cut the IRS budget by $600 million this year and want bigger cuts in 2012.


The IRS has dramatically increased its pursuit of tax cheats in the past decade: Audits are up, property liens are up and asset seizures are way up. President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress see stepped up enforcement as a good way to narrow the nation's staggering budget deficit without raising tax rates or cutting popular spending programs.


The costs of alcohol and drug abuse treatment are allowed as write-off for taxpayers who meet the medical deduction threshold.

By Kay Bell Mar 1, 2011 5:08PM

Charlie Sheen, star of the popular CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, continues to speak out from what has been described as at-home rehab.


Two pieces of advice:


First, shut up Charlie. We all have run-ins with our bosses from time to time, but burned bridges, even in today's bottom line, crazy showbiz world where anything goes, can be hard to rebuild.


Second, check into a real rehab facility and stick with the program. It will help you clean up your act sooner.


Some of the costs might even be tax deductible.



Stars and wannabes will owe taxes on lavish gifts handed out in Oscar VIP suites.

By Kay Bell Feb 28, 2011 1:27PM

The Academy Awards were presented Sunday night. You know what that means.


Swag bags!


These bags -- sometimes actual totes, other times just a general reference to the loot -- represent a tradition of giving goodies to people who don't really need it. The giving of gifts to awards show presenters and other participants began in the 1970s and over the years became an increasingly lavish tradition.


In 2006 the tax man got involved. That year, the IRS decreed that the goody bags were not actual gifts, but rather compensation and that the recipients would owe taxes on the value of the items handed out at awards shows.




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