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Tax Carnival #3: A virtual tax vacation

Summers_end_2 Summer's winding down. Kids are getting ready to go back to school or, in some places, already have returned to class. And if you're like me, you feel like you never really got a break.

Well, we've got the perfect end o' summer remedy: Carnival of Taxes #3. Sit back, relax and soak in the August warmth of tax stories, tips and humor.

It's a virtual cybervacation.

OK, a cybervacation for tax nuts, but did you really expect anything else when you clicked over here?

So, without further ado, let's get this Carnival started.

Part of the reason summer slipped by so quickly is that it seems like there's never enough time to complete all the things you need to do. Well, turns out that the Internal Revenue Code might be a contributor to the time crunch.

In 2006, taxpayers will spend more than six and a half billion, yes, billion, hours complying with the tax law. That's the word from MauledAgain in When the Mess Makers Ask Why There's a Mess. The Professor pulls no punches in taking Congress to task for convoluting our tax laws.

Not only do we taxpayers have to deal with the complications of continual tax law writing and rewriting, so does the IRS. So how's that agency doing? Roth & Company provides a personal perspective in answering Is the I.R.S. Getting Better?

A guy who contacted William Perez at About Taxes can't gauge how the IRS is doing its job since the writer had never filed a return! Even more intriguing, says Perez, "This is the second person I have heard from this month who has never, ever filed a return. Interesting... "

Interesting indeed.

That guy also probably has one or more of the 7 Habits of Highly Defective Taxpayers put together by Gina at Gina's Tax Blog. Gina's a new Carnival contributor, and a Texan, too, so we're doubly glad to have her in the tent.

Brian Brown, a CPA who blogs at Your Money Matters, comes at tax tendencies from the other side, proclaiming Organized Tax and Other Financial Records – A Guaranteed Return on Investment!!! Brian says the advice isn't highly technical. I say, and I suspect I speak for a lot of readers, thank you for that! I know my summer-baked brain needs some info that's useful without making me work too hard for it.

Fellow CPA Kevin Hume sends 20 questions (and answers) on taxes, an uber-comprehensive site for those who want to take organization and information to the Nth degrees. Here at Tax Carnival Control, we want to emphasize a 21st resource: the tax blogs and bloggers you see listed here, a group Kevin will be joining soon.

I wonder how organized celebrities are. They might need a few more accountants to keep their lives in order though if this idea posted by taxalicious takes off: "100% tax on US celebrities. Think about it, Oprah has $1billion in the bank, our deficit is $411 billion — let’s choose 411 celebrities and take their money." Which big names would you tax? Let taxalicious know, as he's taking names and kicking … well, he's taking names, at least.

What about folks who are organized in how they slip questionable items past IRS examiners? Well, it seems that some of them might have gotten lucky. Dan Meyer at Tick Marks says, "A poorly-written program fails to catch irregular returns with possible tax revenue losses approaching one-quarter billion dollars." Read the disturbing details at Botched Computer Program for Fraud lets Over $200 Million Get Away.

PennyFoolish toes the tax-law line in her Tax Breaks for the Underpaid. She's part of Under 30 Honor Roll, a group of younger personal finance bloggers who formed a network to support one another's financial improvement efforts. As one who could be the, shall we say, older sister of this group, I say way to go! Even if you're in my demographic, check out this list because many of us, regardless of age, are underpaid and can take advantage of these tips.

When those whippersnappers get a bit older, they'll be glad they saved for retirement. The question, though, is which savings options should you use? Frugal at 1stmillionat33 provides some help in deciding in Roth IRA vs. 401k/Traditional IRA.

For those folks who already have a traditional account and wish they could change it, Ricemutt offers this interesting item on the upcoming tax law change regarding IRA conversions. The post was part of Ricemutt's guest blogger stint at AllFinancialMatters last month, but you can read her regularly at her own blog, Experiments in Finance.

Those conversions could cost the U.S. Treasury some dollars and that could be a problem, especially since our lawmakers already insist on overspending what money we already send them. Don't believe me? Then check out DebtBlog's answer to the question What Does Government Really Cost? He offers some interesting (that word again) and maddening answers on our lawmakers spending compulsions.

Alaska_icy_sea_2_1 Speaking of spending, the bulk of state sales tax holidays just concluded this past weekend. But Anali of the self-titled Anali's First Amendment notes that tax holidays also are held at lower governmental levels. Skagway, Alaska, has had local sales tax holidays between October and March for the past several years. So if you're taking an Alaskan cruise then (do the ships go that way in the winter?) make sure you get a Skagway port call so you can save a few dollars on tchotchkes. Any little bit helps to offset the thousands spent on the trip itself! Skagway's local tax code details are here.

Of course, if temperatures stay hot, hot, hot, a winter cruise to Alaska might be commonplace one day soon. Perhaps, says lecentre at Centrerion, Creative Taxing Can Save Environment.

Such an effort will take a lot of political as well as tax resourcefulness. And then you have to factor in how, or whether, we the public will accept it. Getting public buy-in to taxation is always a tricky business. Witness the recent Picket Line interview with Robert McGee, business professor at Barry University in Miami, who has spent the last decade researching international beliefs about the ethics of tax resistance.

Wow! Some heavy stuff there.

But, as they say in show business, always leave 'em laughing. So before we close, we direct your attention to Dilbert's incisively humorous take on the relationship of taxes and politicians. Thanks to Tax Prof for pointing us to the chuckle.

And thanks to all those who contributed to this third full and fun-filled edition of Carnival of Taxes. We'll be back on Labor Day with more in Tax Carnival #4. Check out the upper right corner of this Web page for info on how to submit items for that and all future editions.

"Summer's End" oil painting by Joshua Suda courtesy of The Waichulis Studio
Icy alaskan waters photo courtesy Steve Hoffmann's Nature and Landscape Photography

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