Archives for May 2011

IRS Scrutinizes Gifts of Real Estate


Home-AuctionThe Internal Revenue Service has a low-profile but sweeping effort under way to use state land-transfer records for evidence of omissions in reporting gifts of real estate to family members.

Beth Shapiro Kaufman, a partner in the private-client group at law firm Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C., said many tax advisers may not be aware of the IRS effort. She added that as the agency gets records from more states, “we can expect additional examinations.”

New tax rules have made big gifts to family members popular this year, as Congress raised the limit on how much a person can give in a lifetime to $5 million without having to pay gift tax. Still, any time a gift to one person exceeds $13,000, the giver is supposed to let the agency know in a filing.

Details of the IRS effort were revealed in a request to a federal judge in California for a John Doe summons for data that the agency wanted to serve on that state’s State Board of Equalization, a taxing body. The IRS said it needed the summons because the state’s Proposition 58 and Proposition 193 complicate the data the IRS maintains about real-estate transfers. This week, the judge said the IRS couldn’t serve the summons because it hadn’t shown it couldn’t get the data otherwise.

The IRS declined to comment.

A court document with the IRS filing described efforts by Josephine Bonaffini, the coordinator of an IRS state and federal gift-and-estate tax program, to find people who haven’t filed Form 709 to report U.S. gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes to the IRS.

The document, dated Dec. 21, said 323 taxpayers in the previous two years had been examined for failing to report possible gifts. Another 217 were being examined and 250 more were being considered for review. So far, Ms. Bonaffini said in the document, 97 had failed to report gifts on Form 709. Twelve cases resulted in taxes or penalties because a gift put the donor over the $1 million lifetime gift credit that applied at the time.

States that have handed over information on gift-like transactions are Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the document. Ms. Bonaffini examined a sampling of data from these states and it showed “an extremely high failure-to-report rate,” the document said.

A chart in the document indicated noncompliance rates of 60% in Connecticut, 90% in Florida, 60% Nebraska, 100% in Ohio, 90% in Virginia, 80% in Washington, and 50% in Wisconsin.

Ms. Kaufman said taxpayers need to be aware that there is no special exception to the rules when making a transfer to a family member. If the property is valued at more than $13,000, a gift-tax return must be filed. Even if the transfer falls within a lifetime exemption amount—currently $5 million—it must be reported.

Cutlery Clock

Kitchen Fork Spoon Clock

Where would you hang the Kitchen Cutlery Clock? With all the forks and spoons it may seem like the only logical places would be the kitchen or the dining room. However, I typically eat in the office… This might look crazy hanging on my office wall, but, wherever you put it, this clock is sure to stand out and attract attention.

Would you put this up in your home?

Available for $29.99, the Kitchen Cutlery Clock can be ordered from

Easy Home Projects

Memorial Day traditionally represents the kick-off of summer. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbeques are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following is a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.

Outdoor spaces

GardeningGardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! This weekend I will be planting an herb garden; I planted summer vegetables a few weeks ago.  If you’re thinking of doing the same, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.

Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space with great potential, including a partially covered patio perfect for entertaining. This weekend I plan to upgrade the space with small touches to make it summer party ready. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.

BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.

Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.

Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.

Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out, as I learned one particularly hot July!

De-winterize- I once was doused head to toe when we were turning the water back on to our exterior pipes because the pipe had split in the winter- so make sure all your pipes survived the cold, check your winterized projects and prepare your house for summer.  This is also a good time to look around the exterior, checking roof, gutters and siding.

Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.

Inside spaces

Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.

Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.

SpringCleanupAir it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.

Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.

Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.

Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!

Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.

Today’s Smile Photo


Oh!! that’s what happened to Clippy.

History of Memorial Day


Ideas to spruce up your garden

There are a multitude of ways to create a new garden or improve an existing one. Better Homes and Gardens magazine features gardenscape plans and ideas that may suit your taste and outdoor space.

  • Plant a No-Fuss Garden if you have limited time to maintain the beds or seriously lack a green thumb.
  • Consider the Colorful Front Yard Garden to increase your home’s curb appeal.
  • Vegetable Garden is perfect for families who want to do a little urban farming.
  • Window Boxes add drama and romance to any home’s exterior.
  • Summer Gardens offer vibrant color and can attract certain types of wildlife, like butterflies.

Reap the fruits of your labor when summer arrives. Check out these before and after shots that will convince the reluctant gardener that any plot of land outside the home can and should be beautified.

Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time

Considered the greatest scene in the movie. The scene that the producer can put his money on if forced to. When done right, these scenes outlive the movie. Fifty years down the road, younger people will still know of the scene, what was in it and what was said but not necessarily what movie it was into. This could be because of a dress or a sofa or a beautiful scenery of the beach it was in. It could also be the audacious costume or the funny make-up.

Below are ten of the most popular movie scenes that have affected the movie industry in huge ways.

10. The skirt

sevenyear Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Seven Year Itch

Actor(s): Marilyn Monroe

The scene shows Marilyn Monroe standing above a ditch with a blower. The air blew and her skirt hiked up showing her legs.

This movie served as the ultimate Marilyn Monroe photo. The haltered white dress is the ultimate white sexy dress of all women in the whole world. It’s like they can never prove they are sexy until they can rock the Marilyn Monroe white dress.

9. Where s the money?

show Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Jerry Maguire

Actor(s): Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Show me the Money! is everyone’s expression for just about any situation that involves money.

Before that, though. It was nothing but a movie scene written for a sports agent at the end of his wits. Tom Cruise played it so well that it has invaded the whole world.

8. Do not dare lie

truth Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: A Few Good Men

Actor(s): Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise

Lt. Daniel Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Nathan R. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

So when your girlfriend tells you she wants the truth about that girl, you know what to say.

7. The flying bike

bike Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: E.T.

Actor(s): Elliott and puppet (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)

After seeing E.T. lifts the bike and his friend Elliott from the Earth, every kid wants a bike that’ll fly across the moon and wants an E.T. friend.

6. He is watching you

casablanca humphreyandingrid1 Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Casablanca

Actor(s): Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

The line ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ is often used by parents to children nowadays. Knowing the movie makes hearing it a bit like hearing a incestuous relationship in progress.

Trivia: Because the film was made during WWII they were not allowed to film at an airport after dark for security reasons. Instead they used a sound stage with a small cardboard cutout airplane and forced perspective. To give the illusion that the plane was full-sized, they used little people to portray the crew preparing the plane for take-off.

5. That kick

kick Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Karate Kid

Actor(s): Ralph Macchio

That kick executed by Daniel in the last part of the first Karate Kid movie is called Jumping Frog Kick. It’s a very basic kick and is taught even to White Belts.

4. Still scary

exorcist Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: The Exorcist

Actor(s): Linda Blair

There are many great moments in The Exorcist and when I say ‘great’, I mean scary as hell. The one that really stands out is when Linda Blair turned her head 180 degrees. Freaked me out the first time I saw it. The movie, in general, still freaks me out today.

3. He is behind you

pyscho Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Psycho

Actor(s): Vera Miles and Anthony Perkins

The shower scene has over 90 splices in it, and did not involve Anthony Perkins at all. Perkins was in New York preparing for a play. During the shooting of the shower scene, Hitchcock arranged for the water to suddenly go ice-cold when the attack started. Hitchcock originally envisioned the shower sequence as completely silent, but Bernard Herrmann went ahead and scored it anyway and Hitch immediately changed his mind. The blood in the shower scene is actually chocolate sauce.

2. Don’t talk to him

talkin Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Taxi Driver

Actor(s): Robert De Niro

“You talkin’ to me?”

That line is an improv by De Niro. Long live method acting.

1. Where did you get the idea he gives a damn?

damn Top 10 Most Important Movie Scenes of All Time Part 1

Movie: Gone With the Wind

Actor(s): Thomas Mitchell and Scarlett O’Hara

I had to watch this movie thrice because I fell asleep the first two times but I knew I had to fight through the merciless length and phase of this movie but like any hardship in life, it paid off. I saw that last scene and suddenly felt empowered to tell everyone in my life “Frankly My Dear, I don’t Give A Damn!”

5 facts about Memorial Day

memorial dayConsidered the unofficial kick off to the summer season, Memorial Day is often associated with the beach, barbeques and sales. But there’s much more to this federal holiday than a day off of work.

Memorial Day is held in commemoration of US citizens who have died in war. So before you slather on that sunscreen and head to the pool, take a moment to learn about the rich history of this American holiday.

1. Memorial Day was first held in 1868 when John A. Logan, a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, asked his soldiers to decorate the graves of their fallen compatriots.

2. Memorial Day is also known as Decoration Day, referring to the decorations and flowers placed on the soldiers’ graves.

3. After World War I, the holiday was extended to encompass all Americans who have died in war, not just those in the Civil War.

4. In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared that a moment of silence should be held at 3 p.m. EST each Memorial Day. Official services are held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (pictured at the right) in Arlington, Virginia.

5. Since 1950, by congressional request, Memorial Day is also set aside to pray for permanent peace.

Read more about Memorial Day on or ask your own questions in our Memorial Day category. Oh, and have a great summer!

The all-denim orchestra [video]

How did Levi’s not think of this? Really, guys, 140 years in the jean biz and this never occurred to you?