Update on spin-master senator who explained the cause of an oil tanker spill

About two weeks ago I posted the amazing and funny video of an interview with someone referred to as “senator” who answered questions about a shipping mishap off the coast of Australia, in which 20,000 tons of crude oil was spilled because “the front fell off” of the tanker carrying it. See http://lifelawandtaxes.com/oil-tanker-spill-explained-by-spin-master-senator/

My post asked who this fellow is (regrettably, perhaps, we are not super-current on Australian politics).

A reader from Australia wrote in to say that this was a well regarded Aussie comedy team who “specialise in ‘Taking the Mickey’ out of current affairs.” He added that they are “Not liked by Aussie politicians.”

It turns out that they are the comedy team of John Clarke and Bryan Dawe. They’ve been at it a long time, and are regular contributors to Austrialian ABC television’s “The 7:30 Report” (self-described as “the ABC’s national flagship current affairs program, compered by one of Australia’s most respected and experienced journalists, Kerry O’Brien”). For a large collection of their political and news-event inspired comedy, see http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/clarkedawe.htm. They are all over youtube as well.

What a great thing, to be introduced to a clever, funny political comedy team from another country, on the other side of the world.

Thinking back, it all started when a former client emailed the video of Clarke and Dawe discussing how “the front fell off” to me. Then, once posted here, a reader of this blog clued me in to who these guys (Clarke and Dawe) are. Then, search engines and Wikipedia helped fill in some of the blanks.

The House (Probably) Can Tell Us Which Bailout Recipients Owe the IRS — And Should

One has to wonder if the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on oversight got it right when it told reporters that it could not legally release the names of the companies who received bailout money while owing back taxes, two of which owe more than $100 million each. (See Associated Press article, “Some Getting Bailout Cash Owe Millions In Back Taxes,” in the New York Times on 3/20/2009 A19 col. 6.)

Ordinarily, a taxpayer’s tax information, whether it is an individual or a business, is treated as very private, very secret. In fact, IRS employees can be, and are, fired, criminally charged, convicted, and sentenced for the Unauthorized Inspection of Tax Return Information or Accessing of Tax Account Information.

But, when a taxpayer is late in paying a tax bill, these super-strong privacy rules don’t fully apply anymore.

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IRS Clarifies Position on Tax Consquences of Ponzi Schemes

In the wake of the unravelling of uber-Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff’s scam, the IRS has announced new guidance on how it will handle the tax consequences of being a victim of a Ponzi scheme — whether Madoff’s or any one else’s.

Yesterday, March 17th, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman described the agency’s position in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee:

  • The investor is entitled to a theft loss, which is not a capital loss. In other words, a theft loss from a Ponzi-type investment scheme is not subject to the normal limits on losses from investments, which typically limit the loss deduction to $3,000 per year when it exceeds capital gains from investments.
  • The revenue ruling clarifies that “investment” theft losses are not subject to limitations that are applicable to “personal” casualty and theft losses. The loss is deductible as an itemized deduction, but is not subject to the 10 percent of AGI reduction or the $100 reduction that applies to many casualty and theft loss deductions Continue reading

Oil Tanker Spill Explained by Spin Master Senator

Listen as this seasoned pol tows us all “beyond the environment” in his amazing explanation of how 20,000 barrels of crude oil spilled from an oil tanker. Lucky for us, most oil tankers “are built so that the front doesn’t fall off at all.” (You’ve got to see and hear him to fully appreciate it. Click below.)

Could John Cleese or Eric Idle of Monty Python’s Flying Circus have come up with something zanier than this Australian politician’s (a Senator?) comments?

And, if anyone can tell me who this guy is, or the interviewer, or when it was done, I would love to know. — Any Australians in the house — you might know them! Now, without further ado, the video, please.

Ma-and-Pa Ponzi Schemers Sentenced for Medical Research Tax Scam and $10M Ponzi Scheme

In the wake of master swindler and former NASDAQ chairman, Bernard Madoff’s $65-billion dollar, multi-decade, worldwide Ponzi scheme, it might seem like scams are popping up everywhere one looks..

In this context, in January, 2009, a U.S. Justice Department announcement reports that Ponzi-schemer-or-collaborator Shirley G. Graybill, 72, of North Haven, Conn., was sentenced to two years of probation — the first four months of which she must spend in home confinement. She had pleaded guilty in June, 2005 to one count of making and subscribing to a false 2002 tax return.

What happened between the June 2005 guilty plea and the three-and-a-half-year later sentencing announcement?

According to court records, the Triple Diamond Foundation was an entity created by Graybill and her husband, Dale L. Graybill, purportedly to fund cancer research, but which did not have tax-exempt status from the IRS. The Graybills controlled the Triple Diamond Foundation and its bank account. And apparently, they were quite adept at using that bank account. Continue reading

IRS Commissioner to Taxpayers: Come Get Your 2005 Refund Money Before it’s Gone!

In what appears to be a continuing bid to tell taxpayers that in the current economic downturn the IRS “feels our pain,” has become a kinder, gentler government agency and tax collector, and even perhaps that the days of being a “no more Mr. Niceguy” government agency have passed into the days of “No more ‘no more Mr. Niceguy,'” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman recently reminded taxpayers who may be owed a refund for 2005, but have not yet filed their income tax returns for 2005, to claim that refund by filing their return and to do so quickly to avoid losing it.

This may qualify as a continuing effort in light of Commissioner Shulman’s “I feel your pain” comments, published by the IRS in early January, 2009. See Feb 5, 2009 post in this blog, “IRS to Bail Out Taxpayers?” below.

IRS estimates that there is roughly $1.3 billion in unclaimed refunds for tax year 2005 awaiting more than a million taxpayers around the country. Continue reading

Filing Your Tax Return Early Won’t Do You Any Good

Here we are in the thick of tax season and lots of people are getting their shoeboxes full of reciepts together, organizing their credit card statements and cell phone bills, so that they prepare their tax returns or go to their accountant to do it for them.

Some of us — the enviably well organized — may already be done. Maybe they’ve even prepared their returns already. So now, to file now and get it done? Or to wait until April 15th? Certainly you don’t want to be late (or if you have to be late, you want to file for an extension of time to file), but now the question is: on time or early?

What? No Gold Star? Three Ways Filing Early Might Help

Surprisingly, except three narrow situations, in most circumstances, filing early does you no good. You don’t get extra points or anything.

What you might get, if you are owed a refund, is your refund sooner than if you filed later. That’s one of the three situations: get your refund sooner.

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