Charity Feed

I love that Subaru commercial where the little kid (he's 5!) imagines what it would be like to drive his dad's car. My favorite part is when he exasperatedly utters, "People." That's how I feel today after the Internal Revenue Service felt compelled to issue a warning about possible fake charity scams popping up in connection with the deadly flooding this month in South Carolina and neighboring states. People. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Crooks and con artists look for any hook they can to separate us from our money. It happened after the devastating Haitian earthquake. Criminals also targeted... Read more →

Do you regularly give to charities? Do your neighbors? That's probably the case if you live in Utah. A new study by the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, found that between 1997 and 2012 residents of the Beehive State donated the most to charity as a percentage of their total income. William Freeland, an ALEC research analyst, talks with the Wall Street Journal about "The Effects of State Taxes on Charitable Giving," the group's new study that he coauthored. Click image to see the full video interview. The other top 10 states as far as percentage of income... Read more →

PBS is losing a beloved resident. Sesame Street, which debuted on public television in 1969, now will be seen on HBO, the premium cable channel heretofore best known for decidedly adult dramas. HBO star Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini, welcomes Sesame Street viewers in his own inimitable way to the premium cable network in @JRehling's Twitter take on the channel change. There is, however, a tiny bit of good news for PBS and families who rely on that broadcast outlet for their kids' entertainment. Old Sesame Street episodes will still be available on PBS. And the new... Read more →

And here we are, into August. School will start in some places this month. Elsewhere, folks are sneaking in one final vacation trip. Regardless of whether you're packing the kiddos' lunches or packing for a final seasonal jaunt, you're probably just trying to stay cool during these Dog Days of summer. You also should be looking at some August Tax Moves that could help you keep you cool now and at filing season next year. Here are some ideas. Tax-free shopping: Few things are cooler than getting a tax bargain. That's possible for shoppers in 18 states that this summer... Read more →

What once seemed like a tax Hail Mary pass doomed to fall short is now a game ending completion. The National Football League is giving up its tax-exempt status, which he called a "distraction." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the change, which will take effect with the league's 2015 fiscal year, in a memo to the 32 NFL team owners. Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman and ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee, also reportedly got copies. Goodell cited among the reasons for the change in tax status recent Congressional criticism of... Read more →

As the sharing economy continues to grow, so do the associated tax problems. The Internal Revenue Service obviously is interested in folks who earn money using their autos as on-call car services or rent their homes to out-of-towners. Money collected for special projects via crowdsourcing sites also is generally viewed by Uncle Sam as taxable income, regardless of whether it's for a movie (yay Veronica Mars) or potato salad. Then there are the contributions to help out folks in need. No tax break for donors: Setting up online money-collection sites to help out folks who've encountered a catastrophe is today's... Read more →

Every year, we have to deal with a few new tax laws. This year the biggie is the Affordable Care Act, known by its acronym ACA or its popular nickname Obamacare. Millions of us this filing season are reporting our health care coverage to the Internal Revenue Service or figuring any penalty we owe for not having health insurance for all of 2014 or calculating whether we must pay back any of the advance premium tax credit we got to buy a medical insurance policy via a state or federal exchange. There have been problems. Errors on taxpayer statements issued... Read more →

Full disclosure: I didn't watch HBO's documentary on the Church of Scientology last night. We don't get the premium channel and anyway I had zombies walkers to follow. But I plan to catch "Going Clear" when it's available on video on demand or some streaming option. Alex Gibney's two-hour film apparently focuses more on certain specific allegations about the church, particularly in connection with two of its most famous members, actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise, than did the book upon which it is based. From a tax standpoint, how the Scientologists came to be officially sanctioned by Uncle Sam... Read more →

March Madness is almost over. As with taxes, numbers are critical. We've gone from the First Four to the Select 64 to the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight to today's games to determine the Final Four. Those four teams will meet up on Saturday, April 4, to decide which two men's college basketball teams will vie on Monday, April 6, for the NCAA championship. Click bracket for a larger view (opens as PDF). Also check out SBNation's full college basketball and NCAA tournament coverage. Ending a college sports tax break: College sports are huge money makers. We're still waiting... Read more →

Every year we whine about winter and wish for spring's arrival. Then Mother Nature shows up in a horrid mood and ruins everything. She was particularly nasty yesterday (Wednesday, March 25) to Oklahoma residents. A tornado in a Tulsa-area neighborhood killed one woman and twister magnet Moore about 125 miles to the south was hit again. The March 25 Tulsa-area twister viewed from a downtown hotel. "This was 2 blocks from my hotel & was taken by one of the other hotel guests," writes Gloria Bell on her Facebook page. This morning, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of... Read more →

Call it Camp 2.0. Today the House Ways and Means Committee, now under the chairmanship of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), approved seven bills to permanently renew some provisions that traditionally have been part of the larger tax extenders package. This law-by-law approach was favored last Congress by then Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who retired at the end of the 113th Congress. Instead of pushing through one big tax bill of 50-plus tax breaks, Camp preferred separate consideration of each extender. He also wanted to make many of the laws permanent, instead of having them expire every year... Read more →

Political wonks are distraught today. Mitt Romney will not seek the presidency in 2016. He told a small group of advisers of his decision in a conference call this morning. Tax geeks also are upset. No Romney run also means we won't get any further tax return revelations. President Obama meets with Mitt Romney in the Oval Office following their White House post-election lunch on Nov. 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) I don't know about y'all, but I was really looking forward to seeing if the 2012 Republican presidential nominee amended his tax returns. Reclaiming tax... Read more →

It's always been a challenge to teach kids history. They truly live in the moment. History is what happened to old people. But on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2015, tens of thousands of young people have an opportunity to see and hear some remarkable representations of history. "Selma," the acclaimed new movie of the Dr. King led historic march for civil rights, is screening nationwide. In an effort to get kids into movie theaters to see the film, groups in around two dozen cities are offering free tickets to middle and high school students. Click the image to... Read more →

This is it. The end of the 2014 tax year. One business day left to make moves that could lower your tax bill. Since December is traditionally the month for giving, I've focused a lot on tax-related charitable donations this month. Far be it from me to break a streak at this late date. The final Weekly Tax Tip of 2014 looks at uncommon charitable gifts, such as miles driven to help your favorite nonprofit, gifting certain appreciated assets and even sending Uncle Sam a few dollars to pay down the federal debt. The many pluses of donating a vehicle:... Read more →

There are just two days left in the 2014 tax year. That's not much time, but folks determined to save on this year's taxes still have time to make a few year-end moves. I was up at o'dark-thirty this morning to discuss some quick year-end tax tactics with KARN radio. If you weren't up at 6:10 a.m. (and why in heaven's name would you be!?) or aren't in the Little Rock, Arkansas, broadcast area, here's what I talked about (and more). Do you itemize? If so, you have more tax-cutting options than those who claim the standard deduction. Here are... Read more →

Christmas Day has passed, but it's still the time for giving, both from purely philanthropic and tax perspectives. Just before wrapping up its lame duck session this month, Congress gave some older folks with certain retirement plans a way, again, to share their savings. Lawmakers finally approved for the 2014 tax year direct rollovers from individual retirement arrangements (accounts, or IRAs, to most of us) to qualified charities. This option was one of the more than 50 tax provisions that were renewed retroactively for this year as part of the extenders package. IRA owners age 70½ or older now have... Read more →

Are you still shopping for the perfect gift? Let me share my motto with you: Say it with cash. Some folks find monetary gifts crass. They are not related to me. As the old saying goes, green looks good on everybody and always fits. Another good thing about financial gifts is, for most of us, there are no tax consequences. As I noted this last week at my other tax blog, the Internal Revenue Code gift giving rules are pretty generous. But there's another type of giving, your financial or other support of a charitable group. The latest Weekly Tax... Read more →

Have you filled up your car lately? If so, you were probably like me. Very pleasantly surprised. Gas prices have been falling. Just last week when I snapped the price board at a nearby station, a gallon of regular was $2.45. That's 15 cents less than AAA's national average price of $2.60 on Dec. 12. And fuel industry experts expect the prices to drop even more. With pump prices the lowest they've been in four years, many say that now is the perfect time to raise the federal gasoline tax. That tax has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993.... Read more →

For the last few years, my mother has lived just up the road from me. So not only do I get to see her more often, I've also become well-acquainted with the issues that are important as we age Among the tax-related concerns of older folks is meeting the withdrawal requirements of traditional IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and similar workplace plans. Most folks who are 70½ or older -- we'll get back to those in this age group who aren't affected shortly -- must take payments from their individual retirement arrangements and similar saving vehicles... Read more →

The hubby and I performed our annual holiday ritual today. We bought some toys for Austin area kids who might otherwise find no presents under their Christmas trees on Dec. 25. Our December contributions are to the Blue Santa program, which partners with several local businesses to raise money and collect the toy donations. We always drop ours off at our neighborhood Chuy's restaurant. That way we get to eat Tex-Mex as a reward for our good deed. Presents price tag: We noticed that the goodies jammed in our shopping cart were a bit more expensive than last year's batch.... Read more →