Welcome to the Labor Day edition of the Carnival of Taxes. Since this holiday honors the efforts of those making a living, and complying with tax law is a job unto itself, it seems fitting that many of our submissions make that work-tax connection quite nicely.
So let's quit lazing around and get right to the job at hand.
We start this edition with a new contributor, Sheila Livingston, a CPA and blogger at Get Sheila!, who has some words of advice -- or warning -- for clients about their unrealistic ideas about the job of a tax preparer. Apparently, some of these folks think that CPA stands for "Careless Paperwork is Acceptable." Uh uh.
Sheila's entertaining yet unyielding open letter lays down the law, complete with her fees for ill-prepared taxpayers who think accountants are miracle workers. My favorite: the storage fee "for all the crap you sent me that was completely unrelated to your tax returns."
Some equally stringent CPAs should have looked over the expenses claimed by some, shall we say, creative taxpayers. Russ Fox at Taxable Talk relates how these businessmen, two dentists and a jeweler, are now paying the price.
Those guys conducted their businesses in standard offices, but some workers have legitimate tax trouble with the deduction for a home office. It's not an easy calculation, notes CPA Gina Gwozdz at Gina's Tax Blog, and is best left up to a tax professional. Then, being the consummate tax pro, Gina details the requirements for us in her very thorough post, "Is the home office deduction worth it?"
Whether you work from home or in a downtown office, the result is the same: You end up paying taxes on your income. Spencer Hill at Hill's Personal Finances offers us some hope via Tax Freedom Day. That's the day that you've worked long enough to meet your federal, state and local tax burdens so that the rest of your year's earnings are yours. To make the most of your money and help cut into the tax collector's portion, Spencer offers some ways to maximize your tax-planning strategies.
If your job, even a part-time one to supplement in-office income, is selling items online, then you want to check out Your Money Matters, where CPA Brian Brown alerts us to the tax implications of eBay transactions.
Have you been putting away some money so you can eventually retire from your job? Then William Perez's discussion at About: Taxes on the new Pension Protection Act is must reading.
William also notes that for those whose profession is also a calling, i.e., the clergy, the tax laws offer some unique challenges and opportunities, detailed in this article from the tax publisher CCH.
The churches that employ those tax-planning preachers could be beneficiaries of the goodwill of charitable taxpayers. But it's now going to be harder for donors to claim the tax benefit of gifts of clothing and household goods, notes Mighty Bargain Hunter in this item that looks at the new rules on writing off such contributions.
Giving is an act of conscience. But what if your conscience tells you to hew to the civil disobedience path advocated by Henry David Thoreau? Such a choice, notes Brandon Peele at Generative Transformation, sometimes means refusing to pay taxes to a government or its actions you don't support. It's something we've all thought about, the chance to opt out entirely or direct our IRS money only to specific programs. Read more in Brandon's review of Thoreau's essay.
We might not be so upset about how lawmakers spend our tax money if we could only get some clear answers about the process and projects. That's the goal of some Senators, notes video blogger zefrank, but it was waylaid by a single dissenting colleague. who wanted to remain anonymous. Thankfully, the open-government opponent wasn't able to keep himself hidden.
I'll let zefrank tell the sordid tale in his the show with zefrank video below. Trust me, after the toddler spins around, zefrank gets to the story. Just click the arrow at the bottom left of the screen below and keep watching.
Some of our tax money goes to build and maintain prisons. Nina at Queer¢ents reports that an inmate in a Massachusetts facility is fighting for the state to pay for his sex-reassignment surgery, a cost that could be as much as $20,000. You can bet that this debate is about much more than tax dollars and will continue raging regardless of the decision the presiding federal judge ultimately hands down.
Another federal judge's ruling, this time in Washington, D.C., already has tax watchers and employment law experts buzzing. Paul M. Secunda at the Workplace Prof Blog notes that the decision last month that emotional distress damages were unconstitutionally taxed could have wider labor and tax law ramifications.
I don't know about you, but sometimes working does cause me extreme distress. But that's not exactly what the judge was looking at, so I've still got to pay Uncle Sam his part of my income, regardless of the emotional state in which it leaves me!
Thank goodness for breaks like this Labor Day holiday and the bit of relief they provide. And on that note, I'm off to take the rest of the day off.
Here's hoping you, too, enjoy the rest of your break from work. Thanks to all who contributed to the 4th Carnival of Taxes and to all who read it. We'll be back in early October (find the exact date and submission guidelines here), with cooler temperatures (I hope!) and definitely with more good tax carnival items.