Finance Matters

Names!

Every year, the IRS gives us a peek inside the wallets of the highest-earning 400 Americans. It's full of juicy facts like their average income ($318 million in 2014), how much they give to charity ($37 million each) and how much they pay Uncle Sam ($73.5 million). But there's one set of facts the IRS guards as carefully as the secret formulas they use to decide who gets audited — the top taxpayers' names.

That wasn't always the case. Back in 1924, the stock market was soaring, flappers were dancing the Charleston, and

It's Freezing Where?

Taxpayers across much of the Midwest and east coast have enjoyed a relatively light winter this year, with mild temperatures and little snow. But Old Man Winter made up for it last week. Temperatures dropped well below zero and wind chills broke records across the country. Friday morning saw thermometers dip below freezing in the Florida Everglades, and parts of North Carolina were colder than in Barrow, Alaska!

Care to guess where else temperatures have been falling? If you said "in Hell," you're right. That's because the House of Representatives, where gridlock appears to have found a permanent home, actually passed a bipartisan tax bill last week. The America Gives More Act would take three of those maddeningly "temporary" tax breaks that Congress barely manages to extend every year, and make them permanent. As the name implies, all three are intended to reward charitable giving:

Largest IRS Phone Scam Spreading

It is tax preparation season and the scammers our there know that taxes are weighing heavy on the minds of many taxpayers. The scammers are relying on the fact that you are thinking about taxes and the IRS right now.

Yesterday the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is warning all taxpayers to beware of phone calls from individuals who claim to represent the Internal Revenue Service, but in reality are trying to defraud you, in what it is saying is the largest ever scam it has seen to-date.

“This is the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. He commented that TIGTA has thus far received reports of over 20,000 contacts and is aware of thousands of victims who have collectively paid over $1 million (and climbing) as a result of the scam.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy . . . .

Sunday night, millions of movie fans across the globe tuned in as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented the 86th Academy Awards. Viewers were amazed that Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews spun a $250 budget into a Best Makeup award for Dallas Buyers Club. They held their breath and wondered how much Kim Novak had to drink before she stumbled her way through the animation awards. And they thrilled as first-timer Lupitsa Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave. But there's one award we didn't see — and it's a key to getting any movie made. We're talking, of course, about the coveted award for Best Original Tax Planning.

When we think of movies, we immediately think of Hollywood. But most movies aren't

The Naughty List

Christmas is almost here, and that means millions of parents across America are telling their kids to behave themselves or risk winding up on the "Naughty List." (Admit it — if you've got kids, and you celebrate Christmas, you've done it yourself.) But while kids may be on their best behavior, grownups sometimes fail to make the connection between their own behavior and what Santa leaves under the tree. This is especially true when it comes to taxes! Misbehave there, and you risk a lot more than a lump of coal. So here are four cautionary tales to consider as the holiday approaches.

  • Joel Grasman worked as an electrician for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Long Island. He and his wife owed the IRS $10,000 in tax for failing to report a loan from her pension. So, late one night, Grasman snuck into the yard where he works to steal some welding machines to pay off that debt. He loaded the machines onto his truck just fine, but forgot to lower the long boom on the truck before driving off to store the machines at his brother's garage. Uh oh. “I wanted to get out of there before I attracted any attention and I forgot to put the boom down,

Coach's Challenge

December is here, and for millions of college football fans, that means following their favorite coach to a New Year's bowl game. In Birmingham, Alabama's Nick Saban is reeling from the Crimson Tide's last-second loss to archrival Auburn in this year's "Iron Bowl." In Columbus, Ohio State's Urban Meyer is celebrating 24 straight victories after his Buckeyes beat Michigan by just one point in "The Game." And further west, Washington's Steve Sarkisian is celebrating his Huskies win over the Washington State Cougars in the 106th "Apple Cup."

As always, these coaches and dozens more will be paying attention to the latest Bowl Championship Series standings. But this year, they'll also be paying attention to the IRS. That's because a new strategy might help them block taxes when they switch jobs.

College football coaches can make a lot of money. Alabama's Saban will make at least$5.65 million this year, and 51 coaches make more than the average pro player ($1.9 million). In 27 states, the highest-paid public employee is a