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PA – We have a Budget!!

Dear Fellow Pennsylvanians
The following article was just reported in the Tribune Review On-line. I’ve posted verbatim. As one who’s working to improve local government across the state, I’m ecstatic that we have a budget. This is long overdue. So congratulations to all. The absence of a budget puts communities, school districts […]
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United States – Divided

Does the picture disturb you?
It should. We are a divided nation. Why? Simple, division sells. Pick a topic, create polarization, write a book and, before too long, there’s money to be made. Disagree? If so, name a few people that are promoting the ‘United’ States. Better yet, name even one. (I can’t). Tell me about the […]
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It happened. You owe $1 million dollars

A student of numbers, I’ve always had a side interest in U.S. macro economics. Back in the early 1980s, the national debt was approaching $1 trillion dollars and the Debt/GDP ratio was in the low 30 percent range. I remember thinking “How could that ever be repaid?” Imagine having a credit card with 30% interest. […]
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Issues for Candidates

What are the issues being debated today, or better yet, what should those issues be? What’s being talked about and what should be talked about are not necessarily one in the same. Decisions are being ‘made’ in the press, social media and around the dining room table with little scientific basis and heavily weighted on […]
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PA K-12 Taxes To Rise

The Declaration of Independence turned 239 years old yesterday. One of the primary reasons was forced taxation (without representation) on items such as sugar, paper, glass, paint and tea. The colonists rebelled and eventually fought to gain their own country.
Fast forward to 2015 and tax increases have become an established way of life. In June, the […]
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US Debt – new perspective

This was one of the best reads ever on our national debt crisis – and yes, it is indeed a national debt crisis. I’m a numbers guy and have been […]
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Illinois Tosses Pension Reform

“Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law.” So says Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.
That’s a scary statement. I say, “If not during a crisis, then when?” Illinois is in dire straits. Their state pension fund is around $111 billion in the […]
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Is there a fair tax?

Taxes are an undesirable necessity. They are required to provide the minimum resource levels to maintain a society – a monetary supply and national defense to name a few. The amount of resources is usually when the arguments begin. Do we pay for healthcare for all, have deductibles, provide scaling based on wealth, etc.? While […]
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Strange Taxes

Previously, I’d thought that Steven Forbes was on to something. Wouldn’t a flat tax be easier to administer, provide faster cash for our communities and really hold our legislators accountable? I’m still leaning that way, but……there is something to be said about bipartisan cooperation that can produce meaningful legislative code like some of the items […]
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Forbes is right – go FLAT !

Below is an excerpt from Steve Forbes 2014 article “Make it flat”. Perhaps it’s now the time to listen. His proposal first came into prominence when he ran for President in 1996 and warned of the strain on the nation’s economy if the national debt continued to increase. He was shot down from both sides […]
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Tax Everyone

At every level of government, the plan is to raise taxes. The President’s State of the Union address will focus on raising taxes on the rich and strengthen the middle class with tax credits for working families and expanding the child tax credit. With the nation gearing up for the 2016 election, the big winners […]
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Do you know your Charity?

In America, we have a lot to be thankful for. We are a giving country and many find this an opportune time to open the pocketbook and donate to those less fortunate.
Make it count. How much of your donation gets to where it needs to be? […]
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Time Bomb: $18 Trillion and counting

The frequency in which America is flipping the first number to the National Debt is frightening. It took 206 years to reach the first trillion in 1981. There was some panic when the debt doubled again in 1985 to $2 trillion. It doubled again in 1992 and a third time in 2005 to reach $8 […]
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Taxing Policies – PA

By The Tribune-Review, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A study by a Duquesne University professor affirms what liberals perpetually deny: Higher taxes pushed by the tax-and-spend crowd create less, not more, economic growth.
Specifically, higher state taxes lead to lower gross state product, fewer new businesses […]
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Government Waste 2014!

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has released his annual “Wastebook 2014”. Coburn, the Republican from Oklahoma has a broad resume. He earned a business degree, worked for 8 years for a manufacturer and after suffering from malignant melanoma, went back to medical school and became a doctor. He opened a practice specializing in […]
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Property Tax Elimination

The discussion that has surrounded Property Tax Relief in Pennsylvania has been around for a long time. Many capital projects have had the tag line of bringing relief, but few have had any marginal impact. Now a major hurdle has been passed as the PA Senate Finance Committee has approved a measure that would replace […]
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Johnstown Tax?

Have you ever heard of the Johnstown Tax? Most Pennsylvanians probably have not. It’s an 18% tax that is buried in every purchase of wine or alcohol in the state. Every so often, when the debate begins on whether to privatize alcohol in the state, this buried tax comes up front and center. There are […]
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PA Tax Increases

Wanted: Ideas on how to balance budgets without raising taxes.
There are not a lot of businesses breaking down doors to do either move here or conduct business here. The Post Gazette reported the following in an August 8th article. “Pennsylvania earned a D in overall friendliness to small businesses, placing it 33rd out of the […]
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Print money?

The physics of money has changed. Currency looks fake. Every checkout counter is equipped with a yellow marker. If you’re a forger in these times, you have my blessing. With all of the holograms and fibers and office printers that automatically report a person trying to copy currency….I mean, that’s […]
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Government Corruption Continues

How incredibly sad. Ray Nagin, the former Mayor of New Orleans and front face in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption.
According to the NY Times, Mr. Nagin, a Democrat, was found guilty in February on 20 counts, most relating to kickbacks from contractors looking for […]
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Theft in 2014 – Really?

Enough already! I’m not sure what is more upsetting – the relentless media stories about public funds being stolen or realizing that it’s 2014 and in the public sector world known as local government, there are few checks and balances. Where’s the outrage? We view our corporations and banks through a microscope, looking at every line […]
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Land Banks – Now!

Few things have a more negative effect on a community than blighted and unkempt properties. Uncut grass, boarded up businesses and broken down homes broadcast the signs of a long slow death. With all of the heartache of the 70s and 80s still fresh in the minds of many Western Pennsylvanians, the PA Land Bank […]
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Tax Excuses

The power of the web. I uncovered this ‘tax excuse’ site which lists hundreds of (apparently) real court cases where the defendants had to explain why they didn’t pay their taxes. Some of these are a riot. I mean, everyone would have a valid reason for not paying, right? The intention of everyone is to pay […]
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Stealth Tax

Definition: “A type of levy that governments use to increase their revenues without raising the ire of taxpayers. Compared to income taxes and property taxes, stealth taxes are smaller and less visible, so they are less likely to attract attention or spark protest. Examples of stealth taxes include sales taxes, value added taxes, tobacco taxes, […]
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Today’s Real Crisis

Historians are famous for saying “those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. And they are correct. If you are a half-empty sort, you will look at the headlines of the weekend and predict gloom. If it’s not global warming leading to an abnormal winter, then it’s the situation in […]
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Mapping Detroit

Big cities across America share some of the same problems – shifting or eroding tax base, infrastructure maintenance, acquiring new business and tackling property degradation. In Detroit’s case, the number of abandoned properties has reached the 80,000 mark. It’s not that long ago when ‘Made in Detroit’ represented the best in American know-how. Now they’re […]
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IRS – Refund?

There is one news snippet that is catching the attention of many across the U.S. The IRS will not have enough money to pay for tax refunds. That’s what people hear. First, it’s the Treasury, not the IRS that is responsible for issuing checks. What Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress is that […]
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Dope Tax – coming soon!

The legalization of marijuana is coming soon to a state near you. Bet on it. Any time there is item, sector or product that can be taxed without hurting the hard core voters, it seems to make its way into our lives. Why? In this case, it’s easier than proposing just about any alternative. Soon to […]
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It’s here! Wastebook 2013

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has released his annual “Wastebook 2013”. Coburn, the Republican from Oklahoma is a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This report provides the Senator’s opinion of the 100 worst examples of wasteful spending totaling approximately $30 billion dollars. The report is a must read […]
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Pittsburgh Transition

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people” is one of the phrases that really stick with you. President Lincoln used the phrase in Gettysburg 150 years ago. There’s lots of bad financial news coming from cities across the U.S. and for good reason. Things are not going as well as they should. […]
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Charitable deductions

Christmas is a time for giving. Charitable contributions are also tax deductible. If you are in the practice of giving back, you should note the following, as it has favorable tax implications. The IRS allows you to take a the following percentages of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) each year. […]
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Taxes – no joke

Fewer times during the year are more stressful than tax time. And the more uncertainty (aka “how much will I owe”), the more stress. I was always taught by a lady very dear to me that the way to combat stress is to interject a little humor. That being the case, here’s a couple pieces […]
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Thank you Veterans!

Today marks the 238th birthday of the Marine Corps. Yes, their birthdate is a year earlier than the United States. I’ll never forget this date because of a lifetime mnemonic. My eldest son was born on this date. Coincidently, he is a Marine. And as they will tell you – bluntly, I may add – […]
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The Ultimate ROI

No, your not quacking up. Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers hosted the 40 foot spectacle and it was a huge hit for the kids – even those in their 80s and 90s. Over 1 million people – three times its population – came to visit […]
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Shutdown ‘Winners’

The news of the shutdown ending last evening was a relief. It buys America another few months before we ramp up to the next chapter in this saga. Both parties are declaring their winners and losers. If you look at the data, there are no winners. If one compared the American economy to something like […]
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…plus tax

“….plus tax” – the phrase that follows every purchase. If you google this phase, it will find a quarter billion entries or so. It’s is so engrained in any purchase that no one any longer gives it a thought. You should. The ‘plus tax’ is not a one-time event in the life cycle of an employees’s […]
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Passing Pluto

Voyager I has left the Solar System. After 36 years and 12 billion miles, it has entered the domain known as interstellar space. As one of the cornerstone projects of NASA, America should be extremely proud.
Think of all of the items that are bought and paid for with American Tax Dollars. Roads, environmental cleanup, currency […]
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Learning from Children

When we teach our children, we have rules and standards. And granted, each parent has their own style. Before they are of school age, we teach them basic skill sets – organization, safety, how to read, etc. Our opinions are included but there are standards and guidelines that we are require to work […]
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COLA vs MLB

COLA is an acronym for Cost Of Living Adjustment and one web site that does a great year to year comparison is provided by the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER). Click here to compare any two years from 1913 to 2013. I wanted to see how major league baseball (MLB) salaries […]
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Looking out for Detroit

Detroit is not alone, although most in that city may feel that way. There are many cities that have borne the challenge of how to transform to the next generation when nothing seems to go right. Detroit is an extreme example, as evident by the estimated 78,000 abandoned properties. Pittsburgh was […]
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Calling All Taxes

Disposable income just isn’t what it used to be. Americans would be shocked if they were able to magically account for all of the taxes they pay AFTER they are taxed on their income. One of higher taxes you probably didn’t know you were paying is what’s buried on your cell phone bill.
An interactive chart […]
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US Debt: A gamble?

The U.S. debt is creeping closer to the $17 trillion mark ($16.9) and current projections place it at $23 trillion by 2017 – a whopping increase of 36%. Today also marks the opening of the Nemacolin Woodlands Casino – dubbed the ‘Lucky Lady’. This casino cost $60 million in addition to a $50 million […]
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‘Interest’ing Number

The U.S. Treasury is the 3rd largest expense in our nation’s budget. It trails only national defense and entitlement programs. Within the treasury expenditure is the $360 billion paid on the national debt (currently at $16.8 trillion dollars). When we have annual deficits, the overage is added to the debt which raises this interest number […]
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IRS & Star Trek

Corporations often have creative ways of having their employees unwind. You have to admit – there is something that makes one smile when imagining the effort and camaraderie involved in producing a Star Trek episode. Until you get to the cost. There was $50,000 spent on the Star Trek and the Cuban dance shuffle. Hmmm. […]
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Taxes: Up in smoke

It doesn’t seem that long ago when smoking was the norm, homes displayed a variety of ornamental and free standing ashtrays in every room and smoking with the group was ‘cool’. There was a national uprising when segregation hit the airlines and smokers were relegated to the back of the plane. […]
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You owe $1 million !

Can you imagine getting a bill like this in the mail? Talk about sticker shock. Fortunately this will not occur – unless, of course, you are a tax payer. According to the debt clock at the US Debt Clock the amount of liability that each taxpayer is responsible for […]
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IRS: Targeting Taxpayers

OMG. The IRS is being accused of targeting Tea Party constituents. If it’s false, then a tremendous amount of resources are being wasted to defend this agency and its practices. If it’s true, then a tremendous amount of resources are being wasted to target one demographic over another. Either way, a tremendous amount of resources are being wasted. […]
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Internet Sales Tax

The taxing of internet sales has a lot of support and is expected to pass in the Senate as soon as this week. From there it would travel to the House of Representatives and all indications are that nothing is going to stand in the way. A recent article on CNN/Money describes the playing field. Here […]
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Sequester takes flight

The Sequester is affecting the air traffic controllers and that is affecting the on-time rates of the airlines pretty hard. I’m hearing from my circles that airline travel is not quite what it used to be. I can’t remember the last time I took a flight that wasn’t either 95%+ full or overbooked. Of course, I’m […]
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Death and Taxes

“‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This common quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin. No one disagrees with Ben. These are for certain. But for so many Americans, you wonder if taxes death. I don’t know of anyone that is not under some level of stress to get […]
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The Lottery/Casino Tax

Americans are often blamed for not saving enough money throughout our lifetime. Social Security’s financial crisis is well documented and each year, there are changes to when the system will ‘run dry’. Personal savings are inadequate. We’re told that tax increases are required to fill the void between what […]
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Wastebook 2012 – Proof!

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) released his Wastebook 2012 which outlines wasteful federal policies. The cost to taxpayers? How about in excess of $19 billion dollars a year! This 200 page document is excellent! Here’s just a few highlights: Professional sports organizations like the NFL, NHL and PGA are non-profit. Also known as a sports loophole, […]
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$40 BB – Asteroid Insurance

This has become a hot topic since the meteor explosion over Russia earlier this year. We are inching closer to protecting our planet from unfriendly visitors from the sky. (A brief definition: An asteroid is a smaller version of a planet with a rocky surface and no atmosphere. If it enters the earth’s atmosphere, […]
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Military Tuition Assistance Cut

“Higher education’s for-profit sector may be hit especially hard as a result of the program suspensions because of the colleges’ vigorous recruitment of members of the armed forces and veterans. For-profit colleges received more than half of the $563-million in Department of Defense tuition assistance paid to active-duty service members in the 2011 fiscal year, said a […]
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The Optimal Tax Rate

This question comes up daily. What is the optimum tax rate for a working Americans? Hell, that’s easy. It’s ZERO. At least that’s the optimum tax rate for me. But there are expenditures that require dollars and I get that. National defense is certainly something I would not want to live without. […]
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Sequester’s Biggest Losers

If one were to believe the media over the last few weeks, Friday’s events would have had the same effect on the American economy as the Chelyabinsk meteor had over the Ural mountains in February. The media buildup of the Sequester deadline led many to believe that the financial markets would come crashing down. The truth is, […]
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Sequester exposes priorities

This Friday, the cuts will take effect. About half of the $85 billion will come from national defense. Besides reductions to military benefits, there will be additional reductions to airport security, border security and military research. Furloughs are expected to be delivered to 800,000 civilian members of the Defense Department. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta […]
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Scamming the IRS

There must be some substance to the concern about a cyber war. Those that are able to hack into a government web site or utility company must have either a false sense of security or they’re certain they will never be caught. But those that scam the IRS for income tax refunds are in a […]
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Stay or Go?

Washington lawmakers have a dilemma. They are scheduled to go home for Easter Break on March 25th and the break lasts until April 7th. The White House budget which comes out in mid-February is not expected to come out until mid-March. If the budget does not address the necessary funding for to run the government, […]
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Herman’s 9-9-9, with a twist

Do you remember Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal? As a Republican candidate for President, Herman created shock waves last year when he proposed that America eliminate the existing tax code and replace it with a 9% tax on personal income, a 9% business tax and a 9% national sales tax.
Forget about the 9’s for a moment […]
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America’s Finances – 101

Transposing the ‘numbers in the news’ to a household budget is a simple analogy. While it is true that large of the national debt is owed to Americans, it is debt. And it needs repaid. Take a close look at the following and answer the questions at the bottom. * U.S. Tax revenue: $ 2,468,599,000,000 * […]
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Moving the Cattle

Have you ever felt like time is moving too fast? I hear that all of the time. One of my mentors once said “You have as many hours in the day as others have had – people like Einstein, Beethoven, Newton and Lincoln.” Ouch. He knew how to shut down a complaint. But those famous people […]
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New Year’s Eve-Dropping the Ball!

Dropping the ball. It means a lot more this year than most. The news today that our government could not come to terms is not completely unexpected, but it is disappointing. 2013 will surely provide a lot of excitement as it appears that history will repeat itself, as least as government is concerned. […]
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Fiscal cliff….tick, tick, tick

“Government is a function of budget”. This is a great quote and I can’t remember where I first heard it, but what a profound statement. One would think that the same technologies that are common and time tested in our banking system would be common place in our tax collection and distribution system. […]
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Donating? Check here 1st !

Americans are a giving people and the combination of holidays and year end mean December is always a big month for donations. Prior to the internet, and if you were like me, you probably thought that nearly 100% of donations, in fact, reach their final destination. The internet played a big part in exposing those non-profits that were perhaps not as ‘non’ as one would expect. […]
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Fiscal Cliff – How much will you pay?

I’m not sure what is more bothersome. Is it the fact that just weeks after a national election, we can’t get our representatives to talk to each other? Or is it that $ 600 billion, $ 1.2 trillion or $16 trillion are just numbers to most Americans and no longer bring incite fear? As the fiscal cliff draws near, there seems to be more folks that believe it may occur. Some of them are saying ‘let it happen…..why put off the inevitable?’ […]
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Fair share – who pays?

Property Taxes are heading for an increase through assessments and increased millage. There is no shortage of arguments on how to levery a fair tax. The following excerpt from the Post-Gazette certainly is an eye-opener. […]
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Debt, Debt & More Debt

I’m a numbers guy and have always been fascinated by compound interest. Where this gets scary is when the compound interest involves the National Debt. One organized web site that shows the national and state debt balances is www.usdebtclock.org […]
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Presidential Elections: Be Thankful

It’s the day after. Half the US is in mourning and the other is jubilant. With all of the rhetoric and negative ads, it really is a relief to have all of this […]
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Do you have a tax story?

I’ve traveled around the great state of Pennsylvania over the last few years to meet with administrators and delegates to discuss our tax system and get their thoughts on ways to improve it. I thought those more closely affiliated with the industry would be immune to any horrible experiences. I was […]
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Retirement and Taxes

I’m tired of looking at the calendar. Because it seems that every time I look, I’m flipping the page. And being one that loves to work and is passionate about my current role – automating tax systems – I can say honestly that I just don’t see myself being retired. But for those that are getting close, there are a number of online sources that provide pertinent facts regarding the states where you will eventually call home. […]
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This Election is Taxing !

“My opponent raised corporate taxes and voted on party lines. However, I was part of a bi-partisan effort that worked with our government leaders to close loopholes on big business.” […]
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TurnKey Taxes Launches New Site

Welcome to the turnKey Blog! Here’s a few interesting Pennsylvania statistics: In our great state, there are: […]
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