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U.S. VP Joe Biden, HBO 'Veep' Selina Meyer hang out

Yeah, I watched the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. I admit it. As well as being a tax geek I'm an unashamed political wonk. You can't spend almost 20 years in Washington, D.C., and not have some of it stick with you even after you leave. And yeah, President Obama was pretty witty, although he still too often tends to be amused at his own jokes. As has come to be expected at the event, the president poked some self-deprecating fun at himself, mostly connected with the botched federal health care exchange opening. Obama also got off some decent... Read more →

John Paul Pinette, the portly comic who is probably most recognized as the carjacking victim who set in motion the trial in the 1998 finale of "Seinfeld," died April 5. If the 50-year-old Malden, Mass., native had followed his original career path, he likely would be working on tax returns today. Pinette earned an accounting degree in 1996 from what is now the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and, according to the New York Times, "embarked on a brief, unhappy career in the field." "I was a very bad accountant," he told the Montreal Gazette in 2006. "I knew the book... Read more →

If you're rushing around this Christmas Eve to finish up your shopping, I hope you find everything you're looking for without too much trouble. And I hope it doesn't cost you as much as the collection of gifts given to a true love in the classic Christmas song The 12 Days of Christmas. Yes, I'm still stuck in a song loop, having just wrapped up the Christmas Tax Tip Tunes feature on the day before the day before Christmas. And while it's not strictly tax-related, the annual PNC Christmas Price Index is always fun. So fun, in fact, that the... Read more →

Sleepy Hollow already was my favorite new show of the fall television season. It's got an incredibly easy-on-the-eyes Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) with a wonderful British accent. Then there's Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), the perceptive deputy sheriff who is starting to believe Crane's tales of time travel and witches and a Hessian soldier he turned into the Headless Horseman. Add in Abbie and Ichabod's chemistry, word that John Noble (aka Fringe's Walter Bishop) is joining the cast as a recurring character and creepy special effects and Fox has done it again. I'm seeing the next Mulder and Scully. And if... Read more →

If you can pull yourself away from that DVR of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl -- Hey, don't be embarrassed; I watch it as often as I can myself. -- it's time on this International Talk Like a Pirate Day to discuss some swashbuckling taxes. Yes, taxes and pirates have many connections. Pirates as tax collection catalyst: Let's start with some early U.S. tax history. Before we broke away from Great Britain, we had relied on that country's vaunted naval force to help protect colonial ships from Barbary Coast pirates. During the Revolution, Benjamin Franklin... Read more →

Happy National Failures Day! Yeah, I have no idea how official this is or who came up with this lame loser unconventional commemoration. But I've seen a couple of comments about it on social media and, as the saying (or television commercial) goes, if it's on the Internet it has to be true. Bonjour! Plus, Fail Blog and its Facebook page are two of my favorite ways to waste time get insight into the myriad ways people do, or don't, accomplish life's tasks. So I'm celebrating Nation Failures Day, inspired by Thomas Edison's wise words: "I haven't failed. I've found... Read more →

In case you missed it last night, The Daily Show took a look at tax reform efforts. And the ol' tax blog got a shout out ... sort of. Click image to view the Aug. 6, 2013, Daily Show episode. John Oliver, who's filling in while regular host Jon Stewart is off making a movie (or maybe not; Oliver says there could be a Jeff Bezos connection to Stewart's absence), puts the show's usual wry spin on the ludicrousness that is our tax code and all things associated with it. Oliver nails the out-of-control Internal Revenue Code itself, the special... Read more →

You know you are a beyond-all-hope tax geek when you see a headline like the one below and immediately think "Why did Buffy hire a ringer to do her taxes and what exactly is a tax ringer?" instead of realizing that the story is using one of the other possible, non-IRS meanings for "taxing." Tax Forum focus: In my defense, it's been a long day. Who can tell me why every road in North Texas is under construction? But, despite road crews' and detours' best efforts, I'm finally settling into my hotel room just outside of lovely Grapevine, Texas, where... Read more →

Donald Duck's debut and pro-taxes effort during WWII

Happy 79th Birthday, Donald Duck! On June 9, 1934, Walt Disney released The Wise Little Hen, in which we were introduced to a duck named Donald. Before long, the easily exasperated duck with the distinctive delivery style was a cartoon star on his own. And within a decade, Donald Duck was making animated films not just for Walt, but also for Sam. Uncle Sam, that is. A ducky tax proponent: During the height of World War II, Disney worked with the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry to produce an animated short encouraging folks to pay their income... Read more →

Nerd Prom, otherwise known as the White House Correspondents Dinner, showcases D.C.'s lighter side

I'm sure you had your own fun stuff to do Saturday night, so you might have missed the Barry and Coco Show. You probably know the duo better as Barack "Barry" Obamaand Conan "Coco" O'Brien. The president of the United States and the late night TBS comedy show host headlined Washington, D.C.'s annual Nerd Prom, or as it's officially known, the White House Correspondents Dinner. C-SPAN, the cable television outlet that provides coverage of federal government proceedings and other public affairs programs on its three channels, has been covering the dinner since before it was cool. You can check out... Read more →

The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2013 were announced today and I must mention Steve Sack, who took this year's top honors for editorial cartooning. No, it's not because I regularly read the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where Sack has been using his art to put a spin on events since 1981. And it's not because Sack also was a Pulitzer finalist for cartooning in 2004. It's not even because, as the Pulitizer jury put in selecting Sack, he produces a "diverse collection of cartoons, using an original style and clever ideas to drive home his unmistakable point of view." It's because... Read more →

Tax season isn't official until David Letterman welcomes New York City area accountants to his late-night show to read a tax-related Top 10 list. This year's topic, presented Tuesday, April 9, was the Top 10 things you don't want to hear from your accountant. Click image to view the Late Night Top 10 presentation on YouTube. The clip is only 3½ minutes, but if you're a swamped tax preparer and just don't have even that much time to spare right now, here's the list: 10. Take off your clothes and sit on the examining table. (Harvey Tanton) 9. Good news... Read more →

We're less than a week away from April 15, Tax Day. You know what that means. Families of tax accountants will not see their loved ones for the next six days. Funny Pictures If you do see your tax accountant, or other tax professional, during this filing season home stretch, be nice. Yes, you and your taxes are important, but you probably aren't your tax pro's only client. If you run across someone who seems to be a little flustered, consider that he or she might be a tax accountant and give those folks a break. Just in case you're... Read more →

I've been a big fan of Mario Batali for ages. His cooking advice regarding classic Italian eats is magnifico. And today I learned that Molto Mario also offers tax advice. OK, he actually provides a tip on what to drink at tax time. Batali told the New York Times Sunday Magazine: "I never feel that good about paying the triple hit of New York City, state and federal taxes. My accountant says these are great problems to have, but that is probably because he is going on vacation next week. My answer is tequila. Put a bottle of your favorite... Read more →

The hubby's favorite tax season chant -- and, yes, he does just that each year as I work on our return -- is "Deduct! Deduct!" He even makes a few suggestions now and then. But as creative as the hubby is, he's never come close to some taxpayers' really wild and wacky tax deduction attempts. There's the nose job a wine connoisseur wanted to write off as a job expense. And then there's the profuse perspirer who was insistent that his air conditioning qualified as a medical deduction. But my favorite is the pie shop owner who wanted to claim... Read more →

Everybody's a critic, even James Tiberius Kirk. That's right, William Shatner has weighed in on the Internal Revenue Service video parody of the original Star Trek. Shatner, whose distinctive staccato line delivery is forever connected to the Starfleet captain he brought to life on television and movie screens, is not amused or impressed. The actor delivered his criticism via Twitter: The sci-fi mini remake, which was shown at a 2010 IRS conference, and a Gilligan's Island training video were made at the tax agency's studio in New Carrollton, Md., and cost a combined $60,000. The Star Trek production accounted for... Read more →

The other shoe has dropped on the Internal Revenue Service videos under fire by a House Ways and Means Committee member. Or rather the beach flip-flop has dropped, since the second video in question is a training tape based on Gilligan's Island. Click image to go to YouTube video. In "FA Quality Island," the tax castaways discuss field assistance, or FA, the IRS term for face-to-face help provided taxpayers. You can read the IRS manual on FA if the 16-minute training skit is not enough for you. The set for FA Island isn't elaborate, but in the spririt of the... Read more →

IRS boldly went too far with 'Star Trek' parody video

Lucky for the Internal Revenue Service that the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee only set its phasers to stun. But it was a stinging hit nonetheless. On Wednesday, March 20, the subcommittee's chairman, Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-La), wrote to the IRS seeking release of video parodies produced in the agency's television studio in New Carrollton, Md. In addition to a take-off on the popular science fiction franchise Star Trek, the IRS also made a video based on the 1960's television sitcom Gilligan's Island. Boustany had asked in February about the productions and the IRS replied by letter, acknowledging the... Read more →

The more tax things change ...

Just ran across this tax tidbit as part of research I'm doing for a larger tax project and just had to share it on this first day of the 2013 tax filing season. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, collecting income taxes has always been a struggle: "Taxing income (as opposed to real estate, personal property or other tangible assets) was begun by the Puritans in Massachusetts in 1643. It didn't work. In fact, all 16 states that tried to tax incomes from 1643 to 1911 failed to raise significant amounts of revenue. The principal reasons that income taxes didn't... Read more →

President Obama is working on his annual budget, but we know one thing that he won't be asking Congress to approve: construction of a Death Star. Death Star by Krischan at Blitz Research Planet Creator forum The main reason is because building a "Star Wars" style space station/super weapon would cost an estimated $850,000,000,000,000,000. The Lehigh University students who arrived at that spectacular amount say it is roughly 13,000 times the world's gross domestic product and is for just the steel needed to complete the project. $850 quadrillion (yes, I looked up the name for 15 zeros) also is this... Read more →