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Columns

  • Hiring a tax preparer

    The U.S. tax code grows more complicated every year and currently spans thousands of pages – even government experts can’t agree exactly how long it is. So it’s not surprising that millions of Americans hire professional tax preparers to complete their returns.

    Relinquishing the onerous task of calculating your taxes to a professional may save you time and give peace of mind – they know more about tax law than you do, right? 

    But remember: You’re still legally responsible for all information on the return. 

    So if the preparer makes a mistake or intentionally defrauds the government, you’ll be on the hook for any additional taxes, interest and penalties – even possible prosecution.

    The IRS notes that although most tax return preparers are professional, honest and serve their clients well, taxpayers should use the same standards for choosing a preparer as they would for a doctor or lawyer, and be on the lookout for incompetence and criminal activity.

    There are several basic types of tax preparers: certified public accountants, IRS-designated enrolled agents, tax attorneys, storefront agents (think H&R Block) and self-employed preparers.

  • An apology to the dittos

     

     Recently, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to admit that I’m wrong.  I was accused of misrepresenting the NRA and yes, I did exactly that.

     I erroneously accused Wacky Wayne of being, well, wacky.  That he’s an idiot and didn’t know what he was saying.  I misrepresented the NRA as an organization of fools who don’t know shootola from shinola.

     I was wrong.  The NRA knows exactly what it’s doing.  They’re selling a product and they’re really good at it.

     And I have to thank my new best friend, Skippy, for setting me straight.  I now see the infinite wisdom of arming teachers.  

    The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

  • One big tax proposal seen among many of slight importance

    The final day for introducing bills into the 2013 legislative session came Valentine’s Day.
    My attention has gone to examining the diversity of the state, and I haven’t paid detailed attention to the session. Huge controversies have stayed hidden in the woodwork. Not that nothing is happening. Legislators have introduced 1,218 bills. Some are duplicates, with one introduced in the House and one in the Senate. A few are “dummy bills” with language about serving the public good that can become real bills later if needed.
    Still, much stuff is kicking around the Roundhouse. For those concerned about taxes, the New Mexico Tax Research Institute (www.nmtri.org) provides an invaluable tracking resource through its free online newsletter, “Tax Matters.”
    The urge to tinker with the tax code appears a common element in obscure proposals. Certainly all these proposals will make New Mexico better. After all, the tax code is a fragmented mess, so what’s one more totally reasonable exception. Let’s do something for group A or industry B.

  • Congressional GOP courts economic disaster

    It makes neither political nor economic sense, but evidence mounts by the day that the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is determined to wreck the nation’s economy.
    It is beyond mindless; it’s reckless.
    New Mexico’s freshman Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham drove the point home last week when the Dist. 1 Democrat warned that Congress must act to avert the disaster of sequestration before March 1 when massive across-the-board federal budget cuts are scheduled to kick in under a measure passed in 2011.
    If Congress doesn’t get down to business and do its job — either by producing a budget or by rescinding that sequestration mandate requiring $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts — tens of thousands of New Mexicans will see their jobs vanish, Grisham said while visiting an Albuquerque high-tech company.
    According to a recent George Mason University study, Grisham noted, no sector of New Mexico’s economy, be it public or private, will be spared crushing economic blows if Congress — starting with the Republican House majority — allows sequestration to proceed on schedule.

  • Richardson Express charges down track

    SANTA FE – What’s Bill Richardson doing these days? The answer is lots. And recently it is the sort of thing that gets you in the Washington Post and on weekend talk shows.
    Last month Richardson took another trip to North Korea. I’m not sure what the link is between New Mexico and North Korea. Richardson has taken several trips there. A top North Korean delegation was Richardson’s first visitors when he took office January 1, 2003. The North Koreans arrived on the 6th, as I remember.
    Former Gov. Dave Cargo was a good friend of the North Koreans, too. After his two, two-year terms, he says he made several private visits to North Korea. I’m not sure we ever knew exactly why but the first time Richardson was dispatched to Korea, Gov. Cargo offered to tag along and introduce him around.
    Maybe the North Koreans are interested in New Mexico because of our nuclear history. Richardson says when he asked them what sights he would like to see, they pointed toward Los Alamos. Maybe they were scouting out the entire area so that they could familiarize future spies. That reportedly is what the Russians have long done.

  • Liberals whine. Conservatives rage.

    Listening to a particularly inane discussion in a Senate committee one recent day, I caught myself thinking, “Geez, they sound like a bunch of whining liberals.”

    Yeah, I know. That will surprise a few people. Not the whining but my response.

    The subject was the new constitutional requirement that Public Regulation Commissioners have more education and experience. The whining, from people I usually consider intelligent, was about how the requirements might be unfair to somebody. By that logic, we’re all qualified to be judges, too. I’ve written before that this commission must make difficult decisions based on hours of technical testimony. Voters agreed by a large margin, and yet some of these people were prepared to ignore voters’ wishes.

    Whiners surfaced again during a House floor debate of a measure to study the possibility of a humane slaughter and processing facility as a remedy to the state’s thousands (yes, thousands) of unwanted horses. What we heard was an hour or so of hanky wringing about how much everyone loved horses, interrupted by bursts of reality from ranchers, who also love horses.

  • Session smooth at midway point

    The Legislature is now in full swing. Committees are hearing many bills. Some now are reaching the floor and sessions are getting longer. But it will still be almost a month before the pace gets frantic in the final week of the session.
    The first bill to reach the governor’s office for a signature always is the “feed bill,” which finances the session. No one gets paid until that is signed.
    An early bill to reach Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk may be the informed consent bill that controls the liability of suppliers. The present tenant, Virgin Galactic already is covered but the two year delay in getting coverage for others has meant that Virgin Galactic still is our only tenant, and an unhappy one. It expected a bustling scene with many other space companies flying out of there.
    In order to try to keep Virgin from alleging breach of contract, the bill it wants was introduced the first day of the session and may be to the governor’s desk by the time you read this.
    Trial lawyers are taking a big hit for the two year delay. They don’t like to see liability limited. Gov. Martinez has to shoulder her share of blame for not keeping the project going at the same break-neck speed of the previous governor. Chalk that up to a steep learning curve.

  • Beware happy dogs

     In Tennessee, an imbecile of galactic proportions surrendered his male dog to a shelter because the dog was humping another male dog.  This candidate for dumbest person of the century said “My dog is gay!  I refuse to own a gay dog!”
     Seriously, how much stupid can some people fit into one head?
     Bad enough to be a flaming bigot, but to also be freakishly stupid is a sad thing indeed.
     Fortunately, not everyone in Tennessee has a single digit IQ. The dog was adopted by a loving owner and given a new name, Elton.
     And so Elton was spared euthanasia.  Sadly, so was his previous owner.
     Commenting on Elton’s rescue, William Donohue, President of America’s Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, protested bitterly that saving Elton’s life was evidence of pro-gay bias.  Isn’t it sweet that he would take the time to complain that someone saved the life of a dog?

  • Jumpstarting the economy and Dumbo's feather

    Minimum wage debates this year may eliminate the need to heat the state capitol.
    Albuquerque voters just voted to increase the minimum wage despite a vigorous campaign against it, and the minimum in Santa Fe is above $10.
    There Republicans count businesses that have closed or departed and Democrats count increased job creation.
    Before I put on my hip waders, let me first admit that I always have mixed feelings on the minimum wage.
    On one hand, in a battered economy, I wonder what mythical pot of gold these new wages are supposed to come from.
    On the other hand, there are moms and dads working two jobs to pay the rent, and their paltry wages make possible the low prices we enjoy in stores and restaurants.
    Personally, I’d rather pay more for my burger and know that the server is herself served.
    Let’s also recognize that an increased minimum doesn’t have a universal impact. Astute business people already pay better wages to hang on to their good employees.
    The law falls on others who for various reasons don’t. We have this fight with each increase, state or national.
    Proponents and opponents draw their pistols and fire data at one another, and eventually the new minimum is accepted.

  • The county budget: A balanced approach

    It became clear in December 2012 that our net county tax revenues for fiscal year (FY) 2013 would be about $9 million less than initially projected.
    We can make up half of that shortfall by economizing on county operations.
    The county has maintained reserves of 25% of yearly revenues, about $15 million, to deal with such problems.
    So why not go ahead with our original spending plans, and just dip into reserves for the other half of the shortage?
    The answer is that this is potentially not a single-year budget problem.
    Estimated revenues for the next few years are at best flat, so a substantial part of this year’s shortage is likely to continue.
    Going farther into reserves in coming years would put us at a serious disadvantage if revenues drop still further.
    Federal sequestration cuts, or a federal deficit-reduction deal that involves unknown spending cuts, are quite possible.
    The national security and science roles of LANL will not disappear, but we can’t assume that the Lab will be immune to the budget pressures on all parts of government.
    Some re-evaluation of our county’s spending priorities is clearly in order.
    In 2012, the county council made plans to spend $33 million over the next four years on eight new Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs).