Given all we see on social media, it seems that many people nowadays have no shame. Some government officials, however, think that this pervasive "so what, no big deal, look at me anyway" attitude doesn't extend to unpaid taxes. They are publishing the names of delinquent taxpayers in the belief hope that it will humiliate the public tax debtors to pay up. It's not a new tactic. Almost as soon as tax departments created a website, these lists started showing up online. But now more places are making sure that folks don't just stumble across the tax delinquents. In addition... Read more →


While most of the world this week was watching the court battle begin over pop icon Prince's estate, some U.S. House members were trying to reconfigure federal law to capture more tax money from more estates. "Requiring more of the wealthiest estates to pay the estate tax and raising the estate tax rate are commonsense steps we can take toward making our tax code fairer," House Ways and Means Committee ranking minority member Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) said in announcing introduction of H.R. 4996, the Sensible Estate Tax Act of 2016. The estate tax has been around in some form... Read more →


Hey, May. You're supposed to be all about the flowers from last month's April showers. You can stop the rain and more any time now. Bluebonnets and more in a Central Texas field along the Willow City Loop. Photo by Kay Bell; art direction by the hubby. Yep, that old climatological adage is not quite accurate. May also brings plenty of showers. And hail. And tornadoes. That trend seems to be on track this year. Just two days into the month, and severe weather has moved from Central and flooded East Texas, where Houston was declared a major disaster area,... Read more →


Brothels are legal in New South Wales, Australia, so officials there had no problem when Jamelie Lahood ran the Stiletto brothel for more than a decade until 2014. A room at Stiletto, a high-end brothel in Sydney, Australia. Photo from the bordello's Instagram account. However, Australian tax officials do take issue with the nearly $2 million ($1.5 million in U.S. currency) they say Lahood owes from her earnings as boss of the self-described "world's finest short stay boutique hotel and Sydney brothel." The money Lahood made operating Stiletto between 2008 and 2014 placed her among the top 0.1 percent of... Read more →


Last week, millions of last-minute filers got their returns to the Internal Revenue Service. As of April 22, the federal tax collector had 136.5 million returns in hand. The tax gap is kind of like the break in the old Florida Keys bridge: Something's missing (Photo by Ewen Robert via Flickr CC) The number of Americans who completed their annual tax duties by this year's April deadline(s) was slightly ahead of the 2015 filing pace. Before the year is over (and the 13+ million of us on extension get our returns in by Oct. 17), the IRS expects total filings... Read more →


J. Sterling Morton started Arbor Day back in 1872 with a simple idea: Set aside a special day for tree planting. Our backyard tree line. That's an oak at left, a crepe myrtle in the middle and a fig to the right, with some junipers and more oaks at back. Even on cloudy, gray days like this Arbor Day 2016, I love looking out at them. Morton saw the value of trees in the wide open high plains of Nebraska, where he had moved in 1854. The tallest of our plants serve as windbreaks to keep soil in place and... Read more →


It's a wonderful day. In preparation for the 2016 National Football League draft that starts tonight at 8 p.m./7 Central, we step back from the drama of the presidential campaign and get ready for the drama of which young men will become instant millionaires. I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, so the draft fascination for me is what crazy move owner Jerry Jones might make. (Photo by Kay Bell; Cowboys vs. Lions, Nov. 21, 2010, at Jerry World) As ESPN senior writer Mike Sando notes, "Like its predecessors, the 2016 NFL draft has proved to be unpredictable and, come Thursday night,... Read more →


The estate planning world is stunned by the news that Prince passed away without a will. Prince performing at Coachella in 2008. Photo by Scott Penner CC BY-SA 3.0 via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons While lots of folks delay officially putting their final wishes on paper, the wealthiest among us, which definitely included The Purple One, tend to have a phalanx of advisers to take care of their money, including how it will be dealt with once they're gone. Such professional financial and tax advice is critical, especially if you have a lot of money and/or live in a state... Read more →


It's official. Much of greater Houston that flooded last week is now a presidentially declared disaster area. Austin didn't sustain the kind of damage from mid-April rains that Houston, about 170 miles southeast, did. But we got enough to fill Lake Travis to the brim, necessitating the opening of a Mansfield Dam floodgate. My video of the released lake water is posted on YouTube. That means that the Internal Revenue Service, which already told taxpayers in H Town not to worry about making the April 18 filing deadline, is providing additional special tax relief for affected individuals and businesses in... Read more →


Trust no one. That X-Files admonition has been co-opted for just about everything, but it's particularly appropriate in this time of increasing tax identity theft and refund fraud. It also apparently is taken to heart by the federal office that keeps an eye on the Internal Revenue Service's operations. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) says its Office of Investigations (OI) examines not only outside threats to the tax collecting agency, but also internal issues. "Specifically, OI investigates misconduct by IRS employees which manifests itself in many ways," said Timothy Camus, a Deputy Inspector General with TIGTA. Insider... Read more →


Tom Brady could be sitting out the start of the 2016 National Football League season. Tom Brady taking the field in Denver Colorado, on Dec. 18, 2011, as the Patriots and Broncos were about to play. Photo by Jeffrey Beall (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons. If the star quarterback does miss the first four games of the 2015 NFL season in connection with Deflategate, he won't be alone in paying the price. Tax collectors in Arizona and Massachusetts also will be out some money. Commissioner vindicated: This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service and millions of taxpayers are breathing easier. Overall, the 2016 filing season went pretty smoothly. A big reason for that was this year's improved taxpayer telephone service. Highways England via Flickr "So far this filing season the telephone level of service is nearly 75 percent, which is a vast improvement over last year," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee during an April 19 hearing to assess the just-completed filing season. The commish is right about the dramatically better phone help. Twice as good: In 2015, the IRS telephone tax help... Read more →


To be, or not to be, a tax cheat, that is the question that William Shakespeare might have asked himself. It seems he answered, "To be." One version of Hamlet's soliloquy from season one of the brilliant Canadian comedy/drama "Slings and Arrows." Click image to watch the full clip on YouTube. In commemorating the 400th anniversary of The Bard's death today, we rightly celebrate his literary genius. But he also was a mere mortal. And as such, according to research from Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, Shakespeare was prosecuted for evading taxes and for hoarding grain during a famine... Read more →


Happy Earth Day 2016. April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth in 1970 of the modern environmental movement. For farmers, however, every day is earth day, says Naomi Starkman, founder and editor in chief of Civil Eats, a news outlet that focuses on sustainable agriculture. "Farmers work every day to care for the Earth and steward the land that sustains us," writes Starkman in an opinion piece for MSNBC. Farmers like Donald J. Trump. Donald J. Trump's goat farm helps him get tax breaks on two New Jersey golf properties. Photo courtesy Columbia Economic Development Corporation, Columbia County, New... Read more →


Timing is everything. Just ask all the Texans coping with the aftermath of recent spring storms and the unfortunate timing of the state's first storm-related tax holiday. Hail and its damage in Wylie, Texas, earlier in April. (Photos by Mary Ann Olson, left, and Wes Stephens, right, via The Weather Channel) On April 11, the Dallas-Ft. Worth areas was pummeled by storms, some of which produced softball size hail. Law enforcement agencies, media outlets and insurance companies were inundated with reports of shattered car windshields, broken windows in buildings and even holes in roofs. The next night, hailstones larger than... Read more →


Even with three extra days to complete taxes this year, some folks missed the April 18 (or 19) tax filing deadline. Did you just give up on tax filing this year? You need to get a return to the IRS ASAP or you'll pay the price. Maybe a personal emergency took precedence. Perhaps you meant to get the job done, but it took longer than you planned and exasperated, you just said, "Later!" Or you discovered you owe, but don't have the money and thought, "What's the point?" The point, regardless of why you didn't get your Form 1040 (or... Read more →


Here's a tax-related travel tip. Mail your return before you head out to your favorite festival. Some of the attendees of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival's opening weekend, April 15-17, tried to fulfill their tax-filing duties. Unfortunately for them, the Coachella campground's post office is not a full-service facility. Instead, the small operation is more of an intermediary between festival-goers and the real local post office in Indio, California, proper. The temporary Coachella post office this year is housed in a life-sized version of a Lincoln Log cabin, according to The Orange County Register. It was put together,... Read more →