Smart TaxesSmart Taxes

Professors start website to encourage wealthy Americans to donate their tax savings to charities.

By Teresa Mears Dec 29, 2010 6:11PM

This article is by John Christoffersen of The Associated Press.


Upset the federal government recently extended tax cuts for the rich, three professors at Yale and Cornell universities have created a website that encourages wealthy Americans to give their tax savings to charities and send a political message in the process.


The professors started to allow Americans "who have the means" to calculate what their tax cut would be and donate that amount to a charity.


"Extending the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans is frankly unconscionable," Yale Law School professor Daniel Markovits said Wednesday. With the website's help, "donors can pledge their money to support the kinds of programs that will help families, create jobs, and set the country moving toward a just prosperity," the professors said in announcing the initiative.


H&R Block's inability to provide the loans this year is good news for consumers. Why pay enormous fees to get your own money?

By Teresa Mears Dec 28, 2010 5:58PM

You may have heard that H&R Block won't be offering tax "refund anticipation loans" this year.


Be grateful. You didn't want one anyway.

With all the fees added, the loans can easily cost taxpayers an APR (annual percentage rate) of 85% to 1,300%, according to the National Consumer Law Center. The loans are usually marketed to low-income taxpayers.


Homeowners who don't itemize lost a deduction, but TV producers, rum makers and race horse buyers gained.

By Teresa Mears Dec 27, 2010 1:12PM

This article is by Steve Ohlemacher of The Associated Press.


The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses.

Millions of homeowners, however, might feel like they got a lump of coal. Homeowners who don't itemize their deductions will lose a tax break for paying local property taxes.


State goes after commercial dog breeders who aren't paying sales and income taxes. Puppies are among the assets seized.

By Kay Bell Dec 27, 2010 12:44PM

Innovative enforcement of Indiana's tax evasion laws has put the state at the forefront of "puppy protection."


Andrew Swain, head of the Indiana Attorney General's Revenue Division, is being lauded for coming up with the idea of using tax statutes to shut down unlicensed, commercial dog-breeding operations that put profits before animal welfare.   


Swain's boss, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, says the closing of squalid puppy mills is a bonus. What really motivated him was going after tax cheats, a category he and Swain believe applies to some of the state's commercial dog breeders.


Why the tax suspicion? Because many dog breeding operators deal in cash-and-carry transactions on which they allegedly fail to pay income and sales taxes.


You have one more week to pay property taxes, add energy-saving improvements, dump losing stocks and empty your FSA account.

By Kay Bell Dec 23, 2010 2:56PM

I'm a sucker for Christmas traditions. I watch A Christmas Carol (the one with George C. Scott as a robust Scrooge is my favorite). Actual Christmas carols are on the CD player. Ages-old schlocky but sentimental ornaments adorn our tree.


And as a writer, much to the dismay of some of my editors (I'm talking about you, Dan!), 'tis the season indeed! That means hauling out holiday hooks for stories and blogs.

Last year, I apparently had more time because I did 12 separate tax tips for Christmas.


2010, however, is a bit more rushed -- thanks, Congress, for putting off the tax bill until the last minute! -- so I'm offering you 12 tax-saving tips in this one post.


States collect levies on bagels, belt buckles, cup lids and haunted houses. Balloon rides? It depends.

By Teresa Mears Dec 22, 2010 6:12PM

This post is from Reuters' Prism Money.


What are the oddest, quirkiest and downright weirdest tax laws of 2010?


According to the Onesource Tax & Accounting unit of Thomson Reuters, some of the year’s most unusual taxes include:


Tax credit for energy-saving improvements was extended, but won't be nearly as generous in 2011. That means a rush now.

By Teresa Mears Dec 21, 2010 4:33PM

This article by Amy Hoak is from The Wall Street Journal:


Forget holiday door-buster sales. For big savings, some homeowners are actually buying themselves new doors for Christmas this year, in time to claim the government's tax credit for home energy efficiency on their income taxes.


The credit covers energy-efficient doors and windows, insulation, roofs, water heaters, biomass stoves, and heating and air-conditioning systems.

And the savings can be big: It covers 30% of the cost of improvements, and taxpayers can get a credit of up to a total $1,500 for all qualifying improvements they've made to their primary residences during 2009 and 2010.


The credit expires on Dec. 31. But buried in the bill that extends tax cuts made while President Bush was in office is also an extension of the home-energy tax credit.


The catch: Next year, that tax credit could be reduced significantly.


IRS Doghouse website lets you rate employees and vent about experiences with the agency, good and bad.

By Kay Bell Dec 20, 2010 2:49PM

Whatever you think of the just enacted tax bill, we at least finally have some resolution to the 2010 and 2011 tax laws. Now comes the fun part: Complying with them.

I suspect the IRS will have its hands quite full in the coming months as taxpayers and tax professionals alike sort through all the retroactive and prospective law changes.


And you know what that means: Confrontations, I mean, interactions with IRS employees.


OK. I do mean confrontations. Even in the best of times, taxpayer experiences with the IRS often don't end well.


Now, however, taxpayers can do more than fume. We have an online outlet through which we can vent.


You can tell the world all about your tax tribulations and how IRS employees helped, or didn't help, you deal with them at IRS Doghouse.




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