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Split it, put it in a trust, lease it, deduct it and create a legal tax break.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 3, 2010 12:07PM

The IRS says you can’t depreciate land. Here’s how to do it….better.


Depreciation is the recovery of your cost from the purchase of an asset with a useful life of more than one year. If an asset, say office supplies, is expected to be used up within a year, you deduct the cost as an expense. But another asset, say a building, clearly has a useful life of many years. So, using prescribed IRS guidelines, you recover your cost by deducting a percentage of that cost over many years, technically the useful life.


The Tax Code doesn’t allow you to recover the cost of land. That’s because land has an unlimited useful life.


But, there’s another way to recover that cost.


Say you bought a rental property for $120,000 with $20,000 allocated to the land. The rules say you depreciate the building over 27.5 years (39 years for non-residential rental) and get no deduction for the land.


But, we don’t care about no stinkin’ rules!


Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy can't count on tax returns to give a bump in consumer spending this year.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 2, 2010 6:15PM

TheStreetBy Joe Mont, TheStreet


Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), Best Buy (BBY) and other retailers shouldn't expect a bump in spending during tax-return season as Americans keep paying down debt.


Among those expecting a refund, 44% will use it to reduce debt, according to the National Retail Federation's 2010 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BIGresearch, a consumer market-intelligence firm. In 2009, 48% said they would use the money to lower debt. Sixty-six percent of tax payers are expecting a refund, down from 68.4% last year.


For those no longer in scrimp-and-save mode, 12.5% of those getting a refund plan a major purchase, up from 11% last year. Ten percent said they plan to use their refund for a vacation. Tax refunds are potentially massive sources of income for retailers. Last year, 238 million tax refunds were distributed, or about $426 billion.


In divorce case, wife says couple paid no state or federal tax on $108 million in earnings.

By Kay Bell Mar 2, 2010 11:39AM

Some high, hard pitches are being thrown in connection with a couple of Major League Baseball teams, but they're not part of spring training drills.


The nastiest knuckleball so far has been fired by Jamie McCourt.


The estranged wife of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt (she contends California's community property law makes her co-owner, a claim the court will decide) has revealed how she says the couple avoided taxes on millions.


If you decide to collect benefits early, you can change your mind later. It might pay.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 1, 2010 12:11PM

How would you like a $100,000 interest-free loan from Social Security?


Even better -- you can elect whether to pay it back.


Here’s the deal. And the best part is that there’s really no downside.


While taxpayers still want the IRS to offer assistance in person and by phone, they're relying on it less.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 26, 2010 3:10PM

TheStreetBy Joe Mont, TheStreet


Despite placing less value on the Internal Revenue Service's assistance programs, taxpayers are likely to be heartened by the government's planned crackdown on paid preparers, according to an annual survey of attitudes by the IRS's Oversight Board.


The Oversight Board, created by Congress in 1998 to serve as a watchdog, has been surveying taxpayers annually since 2002. This year's report was based on 1,000 interviews conducted in August, evenly split between men and women.


The IRS expects the number of people who file electronically to top last year's record of 95 million. While people still want assistance to be available in person and by phone, they're relying on it less.



When Congress changes the law late in the year, the agency doesn't alway update its publications.

By Jeff Schnepper Feb 26, 2010 2:08PM

I recently got a phone call from my editor, Charley Blaine. It was 9:30 p.m. so I figured it was important. Charley is the ultimate professional. Look up “credibility” in the dictionary and it says “see Blaine, Charley.”  This time he was really disturbed.


When MSN posts a tax column, it links to appropriate IRS tax publications about the issues being discussed. Part of Charley’s job is to insure the accuracy of what’s posted. But, he complained, the relevant IRS publication on the tax aspects of home ownership and sale was wrong. It hadn’t been updated for the latest changes in the law.


You can give anytime if you want to deduct it from your 2010 taxes, but special provision for 2009 deduction ends Feb. 28.

By Teresa Mears Feb 26, 2010 2:00PM

This post comes from Jim Robinson at MoneyTalks News:


People living in Haiti have it tough. Haiti is one the poorest countries in the world, politically unstable and in the path of numerous hurricanes each year.


On Jan. 12, the latest disaster hit: a massive earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left more than a million people homeless. You’d have to have a heart of stone to ignore the need.


In addition to good karma, those answering the call maybe also get a good tax benefit. Monetary contributions are deductible on either 2009 or 2010 income taxes.

Normally, donations made after Dec. 31, 2009, wouldn’t be deductible on a 2009 tax return. But a special provision enacted Jan. 22 allows you to do pick which year in which to take the deduction. In addition, donations to foreign organizations normally aren’t tax-deductible. But an exception to this rule has also been granted for Haiti relief.


But time is running out.


IRS sues 2 Miami tax preparers, saying their clients' claims were bogus.

By Teresa Mears Feb 25, 2010 1:47PM

This news article comes from William P. Barrett at partner Forbes:


Continuing its long battle against tax preparers it considers incompetent or dishonest, the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday sued a pair of Miami practitioners, saying they wrongly claimed the first-time homebuyer credit for dozens of clients.


In separate civil lawsuits, IRS lawyers said both preparers claimed the credit for clients who had not even bought homes. One preparer, Paula O. Patrice, who operates To the Max Professionals Inc., allegedly listed nonexistent addresses for purchased property, while Henry E. Medina Jr., who runs Medina Group Inc., also known as Medina & Associates, purportedly listed the same bought-property address on tax returns of different clients.




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