Tag Archives: politics

Are You Done Yet? (with your taxes, that is)

As I write this, the calendar has flipped to April 15th – Tax Day, our national celebration day where we pay homage to Big Government programs, politics, government waste, cumbersome bureaucracy, and coffers bloated by the special interest  groups.

As a tax professional, I try to avoid preparing Personal or Individual Income Tax returns. My business, Tax Traxx, specializes in business taxes, specifically Sales Tax matters in 45 states. Every year about his time, as other accountant-types work double or triple shifts busily preparing their clients’ Tax Returns, people say things to me like, “I know you’re really busy this time of year,” or “I know you’ll be glad when April 16th gets here.”  Even though Personal Income Tax returns are not my specialty, I suffer along with the ever dwindling number of Americans who actually pay taxes.

I prepare an occasional 1040 or 1040EZ form for a client here or there. In fact, I did one today. Let me tell you a little story. Today’s example is a single 21-year-old, recently moved from home and working her first “real” job. Today’s subject had a little over $6,000 in earned income, and paid a little less than $200 in withholding throughout the year. In preparing her return, I realized that she was entitled to claim the full “Making Work Pay” credit, which is a $400 (max.) refundable credit. This whole thing about refundable credits is pure and simple Marxist wealth redistribution. Taxpayers can claim refundable credits that exceed the amount that they paid in withholding during the year, so that they possible receive a refund greater than the amount they paid in. In today’s example, the subject paid a little less than $100 in Withholding, but received a refund of nearly $500. If only she had been 25, she could have also claimed the “Earned Income credit” as well.

Where did that money come from? You and me, brethren.

That’s why every year about this time, I’m shocked when I hear someone say that they didn’t have to pay any taxes – they got ’em back! They say this, not realizing that each of their paychecks throughout the year was chock full of withheld taxes – money that would have been theirs, had our elected representatives not seen fit to confiscate said money and use it for whichever of their own self-serving political purposes they deem to be more worthwhile than allowing “working Americans” to manage their own money.

This is not meant to be a diatribe against taxation, or against the necessity to fund core government services (the basic functions required by the Constitution, not the fabricated social welfare programs that began to choke us after World War I and have never loosened their grip). There’s plenty of blogosphere out there to host the arguments of the proponents of all the different alternative solutions like the Fair Tax, flat tax options, value-added tax options, etc.

The simple fact remains that the current system is bad. Some would call it “fatally flawed” but I don’t think that is a strong enough description.

So, what will you do to “celebrate” the day today?


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JSmith’s Email, The Response

If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you read last night’s post about JSmith’s Nasy Email. If not, click here. We’ll wait.

One of the most important lessons I learned in my life as a “government insider” was the ability to answer correspondence of this kind of tone with patience and thoroughness. To illustrate, please see the abridged text of my response to my client’s employee’s husband (Oh, and don’t miss the constitutional history lesson!):

“Dear Mr. xxxxxx

“I have just received your email and wish to address your concerns. First, let me say how sorry I am that I have caused you such obvious alarm and concern. Having been in this business for some time, I perhaps take for granted that everyone understands the intricacies and peculiarities of alcohol law.

“Second, I am not an attorney, but an experienced consultant, who specializes in helping his clients navigate the processes of obtaining business and alcohol licenses in various municipal and state governments.  TaxTraxx (www.taxtraxx.com), is a company I started three years ago, after serving approximately eight years in numerous capacities at the Georgia Department of Revenue. My firm facilitates projects like this for a number of business across the southeast. To date, we have an excellent record of providing services to our clients and we work with individuals of many different nationalities. We also file Sales Tax returns for our clients in 44 of the 45 states that collect Sales and Use Tax (North Dakota is the only exception). On our website, you will see some case studies of services that we have provided for our clients.

‘In this case, my firm has been engaged by xxxxxx, whom I am copying on this message. xxxxxx specializes in the sale of convenience stores and other types of businesses. xxxxxx contracted my services for the purposes of securing business licenses and alcohol licenses for several xxxxxxxx stations in metro Atlanta that are being sold to independent owners.

 “The store where Mrs. xxxxxxx works, is being sold to xxxxxxx, which is 100% owned by a resident of xxxxxxx.  

“Because the new owner is not a resident of Georgia, the City of xxxxxxxx requires a United States Citizen who is a current employee of the business to be listed as “Registered Agent” for the purposes of securing the new alcohol license. The main purpose for a registered agent is to have a local (within Georgia) contact for process of service, or to send mail in the event that mail might be undeliverable to the business address. The current owner, xxxxxxxxx, and the new owner asked Mrs. xxxxxx if she would be willing to serve in this capacity on behalf of the xxxxxx. From experience, I know this to be a common practice among municipal governments – over the past three years, I have worked with more than 80 different municipalities in Georgia alone. In the city of xxxxxxx, this requirement is specifically governed by Section x-xx of the City Ordinance. On the state level, this requirement is governed by O.C.G.A 3-4-23.

“To answer your specific question about why we asked Mrs. xxxxxxxx for your information, I will direct you to the  Application for Sale of Distilled Spirits, Malt Beverages, and Wine .  Specifically, pp. 3, 6, 9 and 10 are those that Mrs. xxxxxx filled out with me today. Page 3 is the only place on the application that asks for spouse’s information. This information is requested for one purpose only – to provide proof that neither the applicant nor the applicant’s spouse are currently engaged in any other business(es) manufacturing, distributing or serving alcohol. As far as I am aware, none of these agencies are allowed to run credit checks. They are, however, allowed to run NCIC and GCIC criminal background checks, fingerprints, and to check that all tax returns have been filed and tax obligations paid to the relevant local and state governments.

“There is a great deal of legal history related to the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol in the United States. As you know, the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol was prohibited by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1922 and that prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1934. At the time that prohibition was lifted, the US Government went to great lengths to create a 3-tier system for the production, distribution and sale of alcohol in this country. Because of certain federal laws, still on the books, it is illegal to be a participant in more than one tier of the three-tier system at a given time (i.e. a person who owns a distillery cannot also own a distributorship or a retail establishment. Or, a person who owns a bar may not also manufacture distilled spirits.) There have been some very limited exceptions allowed under federal law, specifically wine tastings at vineyards and brewpubs, wherein malt beverages are both manufactured and sold at retail. However, these exceptions are tightly governed by other, equally stringent laws. (As a side note, both tobacco and motor fuel have similar 3-tier systems and laws in place.)

“To your point questioning the legality of inquiring about marital status, I believe you will find that this exclusion only applies to employment-related matters. Mrs. xxxxxx was neither being interviewed for a job, nor was she told that her job would be in jeopardy if she did not provide that information. As a general rule, it is not illegal to inquire about marital status.

‘Regarding your allegation that I would use your personal information for any benefit, I assure you that the only entities having access to your or your wife’s information will be the xxxxxx County Sheriff’s Department, the City of xxxxxxx and myself. I am keenly aware that this seems like an odd practice. Frankly, I’m surprised that in three years of private consulting, yours is the first protest of this kind that I have ever received.

“At this point, I do not have any of your personal information. I have submitted Mrs. xxxxxx’s information to the xxxxxx County Sheriff’s Office. The City of xxxxxx, though, will not accept this application, because it is incomplete without your information.

“In your message, you requested contact information for xxxxx Realty, which I am providing below:


“My contact information follows in the signature.

“Mr. xxxxxx I applaud you for your concerns and for your candor. Again, I assure you that you have nothing to fear from me or from my associates regarding this application, your information or your wife’s information.

“I further hope that my response has given you a sample of the thoroughness I employ when completing a project and a feel for my experience level and discretion and that you will feel comfortable in asking any further questions you may have. The choice is yours and Mrs. xxxxxx’s, of course,  whether she continues as the Registered Agent on this application. If she decides to no longer be considered, the new owner will have to find someone else to fill this role. Regardless your decision, I wish you nothing but the best. Sincerely, P. Todd Kelly”

See? I gave him enough data and background information so that he could not object to my objections. I anticipated his follow up questions and answered them in this reply, mitigating his rejoinder. (Note: I don’t talk like that in real life.)

Let me know what you think. In part 3, I’ll share his response.

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

JSmith’s Nasty Email

I don’t normally do this, but this was too interesting to miss. I’m going to share an email I received from the husband of an employee of one of my clients today. I believe he thinks I’m an identity theft.

I provide this as a public service to those who might be thinking that their email flames a lot.

“From: jsmithxxxx@xxxxx.com      (I don’t think that’s his real name.)

To: todd@taxtraxx.com
Todd Kelly,
 Why would you ask my wife about her marital status, want my name, drivers license, and social security number today, while discussing the change in ownership for the xxxxxxxx xx xxxxxxx with my wife?
  I am not an employee, nor have I proffered an application.
As you are aware, it is against the law to even ask about marital status,much less ask  very personal questions for which you have no legitimate purpose  and which serve no useful business purpose. 
Perhaps you thought because my wife is naturalised, her husband would not know US laws.I assure you that is not the case.I will legally protect my wife and my interests,and will not tolerate this egregious behavior, Mr Kelly. 
I will be checking to see if you have inquired about any of my personal information,sir, and will hold you legally accountable for any such actions.
 I want copies of everything you have regarding my wife and or myself immediately ,and complete (sic). I also want the name of the company(and principal) that hired you,as well as contact information for their legal council (sic).At this point I do not see a need to contact them, but will if things change.
If my wife suffers any  negative consequence as a  result of this, we will take legal action against you and the company that hired you.”  

So, some of you probably have received similar missives in response to just doing your job. Frankly, I used to get them all the time when I was a “government insider”. This is about the first one I’ve received in private life. And, in this case, I had a legitimate business reason for acquiring this gentleman’s information (his name, SSN and Driver’s License number), that being to complete a form his wife was filing to become a registered agent for a local alcohol license application in metro Atlanta, GA. It’s what I do almost every day. State and local law require that this information be on the form. I know it’s tasteless, but it’s the law.

Oh, and JSmith? It’s not his real name.

Thoughts anyone? I’d love to hear how you would respond.

In a separate post, I think I’ll share my response. Register now (top right corner) to be updated on this continuing saga.


BTW, I found the greatest marketing idea of all time – in a FREE book http://www.supertips.com/ultimate/x/?id=4781

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Social Networking, Tax Issues

GA Unable to Account for 911 Fees

This morning, I nearly spit out my coffee after reading an article in the Macon (GA) Telegraph concerning the inability of the State of GA to audit prepaid cell companies operating in Georgia to account for 911 fees.

About two and a half years ago, the GA Legislature passed laws requiring that companies offering prepaid cellular service in Georgia pay  $1.50 per prepaid customer per month in 911 fees that the traditional cell phone consumers already pay as part of their contracts.

I understand from the Macon article, written by Travis Fain – tfain@macon.com, and visible here http://www.macon.com/local/story/905004.html, that the DCA (GA Dept of Community Affairs) is powerless to enforce these regulations. Furthermore, any kind of audit of these records is unfunded. This creates a hollow law, with no teeth, and makes the state look foolish, once again.

Fain quotes Clint Mueller, the legislative director of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), who says, ““There’s a lot of corporations that they’re (DCA) not collecting from. We don’t know how much (money) is getting left on the table.”

Says Fain, “The DCA was given power to collect the 911 fees, which were supposed to go into a pot that local 911 operations could tap for grants. That hasn’t happened, and instead the state has used the money to help fund its normal budget, which funds all sorts of state functions, such as public education and the Georgia State Patrol.”

GA Rep. John Lunsford, who sponsored the origianl bill and whom I know to be a reasonable legislator, says “The process is flawed. I think we need better accounting and we need to put some teeth in the laws. What I’d like to actually see is criminal penalties for failure to pay.” I’m with you Rep. Lunsford, but why didn’t we think of this in 2007?

“This is real money that actually belongs to the local taxpayers.” Lunsford said. He’s right in so many ways.

How much real money? Nobody knows. The DCS has collected $15.5 Million since 2007 from companies who HAVE been paying their share. What is unknown is the number of companies, representing an unknown number of consumers, who are not paying their share.

So, we have multiple problems here. First, we have cell phone companies who may not be obeying the law and may not be paying the required toll to support 911 services in Georgia. Second, we have no way to know the impact of these underpayments because the state cannot afford to conduct the audits. Third, we have created laws with no teeth. Fourth, we have a state agency who has little or no control over laws and regulations they are charged with enforcing. Fifth, we have a state budget process that is using collected funds, designated for a pool from which 911 Emergency Service agencies can tap for grant money, that the state is using to fund the General Operating Budget. Finally, we have no plan to fix this. 

Where have we seen this before? See my previous blog articles: “Protesting a 12-day Shutdown of State Gov Agency” http://wp.me/pxvZf-E and “Why I’m Not a Fan of Sales Tax Holidays” http://wp.me/pxvZf-h. So you northerners won’t think this is a southern problem, here’s where I rcently dinged Illinois’ stupid sales tax law changes http://wp.me/pxvZf-m.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

Thoughts on the Obama Address to Congress

I really don’t want to get engaged in political flashpoint issues on this, but after last night’s heckling of the President by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), I guess I have to put in my two cents worth.
This afternoon, I got involved in an online “conversation” with several younger people. The originator commented that if she had called her boss a liar in a staff meeting, that she would have been fired. Hmm.
Someone responded with this gem, “His boss is not the President, his boss are the racist republicans that he represent [sic] in his district. To them he is a hero. And of course he is the liar because the plan does not cover illegals. You know that I’m glad to see that you are paying attention…Don’t call your boss a liar LOL!!!” She kind of halfway had that right. His boss is not the President, but his constituents who hired him to represent them.
My response, was this. “I may be missing something, but how can Joe Wilson’s outburst be construed in any way as racist? It was stupid of him to shout it out, but racist? Nope.”
Another response to that was, “To Todd Kelly…Who [sic] do you see on TV when illegals are mentioned and what is the President. [sic] Last but not least who [sic] do you see at the town hall meeting with the same disrepectful mentality of Joe Wilson? That’s how I see it! Yep!” (Notice the clever repeating here. I said “Nope”, she gave the witty rejoinder of “Yep!”)

I understand, of course, what she meant by “what is the President”. I’m not one to prejudge people based on their membership in a demographic group, or based on their ethnicity, ‘cuz I try to live in a post-racial world. I don’t care what the President’s race is – or what anyone’s race is, for that matter. I’m much more concerned about the content of his character. Isn’t that what Dr. King wanted?

What does puzzle me is that many of the same people (of all races and ethnicities) cry the loudest when “their man” (is that sexist?) is heckled. When the past administration was challenged with chants like “Bush Lied, People Died”, where were those people’s protests? When previous legislators were shouted down at war protest rallies and social security town hall meetings, where were these people? Oh wait,  think they the ones doing the shouting.

If it’s respect for the office of President of the United States, you want, then show it equally across the board, no matter the occupant. Otherwise, don’t get upset when “your man” gets challenged. President Obama is as much my president as he is anyone else’s. I respect the office he holds. He’s just really, really wrong on this whole socialized medicine issue.

Bottom line is, in my opinion, it’s a bad plan the way it’s currently proposed. Government control of medicine, the insurance industry, the auto industry, the oil industry, or any other industry simply does not work, because those who are elected soon find that they can use their regulatory power over those industries to control the ballot box. We’… Read Moreve found that already with Social Security, with Medicare and Medicaid, with public education and public transportation. They don’t work – this won’t work either.
I wish it would work. I wish that we could live in a Utopian society, wherein all of our members had universal health care and where everyone simply got along. That’s another blog topic for another day.

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Filed under Government Waste, Tax Issues

Protest of 12-day Shutdown of State Gov Agency

Shame on you AJC! You didn’t let me comment on this article. Why not? Because you didn’t, I’ll comment here.

First, let me share the article I’m referencing: http://alturl.com/v82h

This article comes from www.ajc.com, the online version of what once was “The South’s Standard Newspaper”, the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal, which, for decades claimed to “Cover Dixie Like the Dew”.

The headline for this article reads “12-day shutdown of state social service agency protested – Advocates say children could be more at risk”. To this, I say, “Harumphhhh.”

First a little background. Georgia’s bloated state government (more than 100,000 employees) is in deep financial trouble. Falling sales tax revenues (see my other blog articles on government waste) have resulted in agencies being forced to require employees to take unpaid furlough days in order to cut costs.

So, the Department of Human Services, and Commissioner B.J. Walker have tightened their belt and agreed to furlough employees for 12 days beginning the Friday before Labor Day and going through next June.

At first glance, this seems like an honorable solution to help with the state’s budget shortfall. But, there’s some deception in play here. Allow me to explain. All of the days, except for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are Fridays. Several of the Fridays fall before a scheduled 3-day state holiday weekend (Labor Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and Memorial Day). I’m not sure why they don’t have the Friday off before Confederate Memorial Day, which Georgia still celebrates at a state holiday the last Monday in April. This means that DHS is really extending the vacation time for these employees.

So . . . furloughing the thousands of employees in the DHS for 12 days saves the state money, right? Not really. Here’s why. As I observed during my eight years or so as a manager in GA Government, a huge number of employees take these days off anyway, using personal leave, annual leave, or conveniently scheduled sick leave. In Georgia government employment, annual leave and sick leave are earned each month that an employee works, based on a rate that increases as tenure increases. Personal leave can be earned by “cashing in” unused sick leave (up to three days per year) – so this is paid bonus time that employees can use for any reason, that allows them to save annual leave that can later be used or “cashed in” at retirement or resignation. [Disclaimer, when I resigned my position in the Department of Revenue, I “cashed in” about 4 weeks’ worth of unused Annual Leave, thus earning an additional paycheck equal to about a month’s pay for time I was not on the payroll. No, I’m not sending the check back.]Why is this NOT a good deal for the state? Because employees who would otherwise be using annual, sick, or personal leave to be off on these days are now off without pay. This means they don’t have to use their leave, and can take off another day at some other time during the year. By having the employees taking an additional day off, the services will be cut even further, causing a reduction in efficiency and putting the vulnerable citizens who need these services at further risk.

Anyone who has ever worked in a government environment, or any corporate environment, for that matter, has seen how little work gets done on the Friday before a long weekend, with employees taking it easy and getting into “weekend mode”. Now, the weekends in several cases will be 4-day weekends, so Thursday will be the day that those workers get into “weekend mode”. I have no empirical evidence to support this prediction, but I’m guessing that there will be a significant percentage of the workforce who uses annual, sick, of personal leave on the Thursday preceding these newly created 4-day weekends. Some may even try to take Wednesday, or at least Wednesday afternoon, as well.

Knowing that they are, in effect being paid less for their services, will also reduce their incentives to provide the best quality of service. I can imagine several of my former employees saying something like, “Well, they aren’t paying me for tomorrow, so I’m not working today”, while sitting in their cubicles reading a newspaper, and, by extension, reducing vital services to Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens. Again, I have no evidence to support this prediction, other than real life experience supervising more than a hundred government employees.

So, in my opinion, the bulk furloughs of state employees is not the money saver the state expects it to be, or advertises it to be. A better solution would be for DHS to rotate the furlough days by having a percentage of their work force take their furlough days on various days throughout the year.

An even better solution, in my opinion, would be for the state as a whole to make some drastic changes in the way that annual leave is awareded. First, they should eliminate the “Personal Leave” program and require employees to leave sick leave as sick leave. Employees are not allowed to “cash in” unused sick leave at termination like they are with annual leave. Second, employees should be limited in the number of annual leave hours they are allowed to roll over at the end of each year. Finally, the state should (and they have the authority to do so) trade the forced furloughs back to employees and require all employees to take a 15% reduction across the board to the number of annual leave hours accrued. This move alone would create a savings of millions of wasted dollars, and would protect the state for years to come – not just this year.

Now, if the AJC were a competent journalistic entity, they would assign a reporter to dig deeper into the REAL financial impact of these decisions. Hey, AJC, feel free to contact me at todd@tweetraxx.com and I can show you how to get your head out of (the sand) and walk you through how to investigate this.

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Filed under Georgia Government, Government Waste, Tax Issues

Thoughts on Ted Kennedy

From a political standpoint, I never really agreed with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy on much. His brother President Kennedy died almost exactly two years before I was born, and his brother Bobby was murdered when I was only 2 1/2 years old, so Ted was the only Kennedy I really knew about in life.

I remember following with interest his run to unseat Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination in 1980. I had just moved to Georgia a year earlier and the people there were so aghast at what a poor President their native son had become – I think that’s when Georgia flipped over to become what is now called a “Red State”.

One thing about Ted Kennedy that I always admired was that he never waivered in his positions. He never changed his tune. He was a liberal and was not ashamed to say so. So many from the left nowadays shy away from the liberal label, preferring to be called things like “progressive”, while conversely requiring derogatory labels for others.
Kennedy had his problems, no doubt, and history may or may not remember them. He had his qualities and we will hear of them ad nauseum for weeks.

Now, I hear that Robert Byrd wants to name the Socialized Medicine bill in Kennedy’s honor. Appropriate, considering that this was his dream for decades

I don’t know. I’ll kind of miss the liberal old lion. Now all we’re left with are lyin’ old liberals.

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