REMINDER: QUARTERLY TAXES DUE TOMORROW

If you file estimated quarterly tax – either because you always do, or because you just made a killing in GLDD warrants and suddenly realize you’re supposed to – tomorrow’s the deadline for the second quarter payment. Here‘s the form, and instructions.

As a general rule (cribbing now verbatim from the IRS) ‘You must pay estimated tax for 2007 if both of the following apply. (1) You expect to owe at least $1000 in tax for 2007 after subtracting your withholding and credits. (2) You expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of (a) 90% of the tax to be shown on your 2007 tax return, or (b) 100% of the tax shown on your 2006 tax return.’

Hint: I wouldn’t tie myself in knots with this, if I were you. It’s an estimate. You made an unexpected $10,000 short-term gain on which the marginal tax, because you’re in the top bracket, is likely to be $3,500? And you don’t ordinarily get a tax refund? OK, so send in $1,200 now and September 15 and January 15. End of story. Realize a big loss later in the year? Skip those last two estimated payments. Make another $20,000 later in the year? Increase the last two payments

There is obviously no penalty for estimating too high (you just lose the use of that extra money between now and when it would otherwise be due in future quarterly estimated filings and ultimately on April 15, 2008); and the penalty for estimating too low falls far short of waterboarding. The penalty calculation is explained here, but I strongly advise against clicking that link. Far better to have TaxCut or TurboTax find, when you do your taxes next year, that you owe a $79 penalty than to have your head explode trying to make sense of the calculation. People’s heads have literally exploded reading IRS Pub. 505.

WHAT JON STEWART REALLY SAID

Joe Devney: ‘In Tuesday’s column you paraphrased Jon Stewart regarding the Republican candidates and gays in the military. The actual quote is more pungent: ‘The only thing worse for these candidates than another terrorist attack would be a gay hero stopping it.’

A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN’S VIEW

Oh, sure, Jon Stewart. And Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter – and General Shalikashvili – and the New York Times. But how about this, on the conservative op-ed page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal?

Don’t Ask, Who Cares
By BOB BARR
Wall Street Journal
June 13, 2007; Page A18

Last week’s forum of 10 Republican presidential hopefuls offered the country some troubling insight into the thinking of leading GOP candidates. In particular, the five who responded to questions about the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy governing military service by gays and lesbians showed a disturbing move away from conservative principles, in favor of what smells strongly of political expediency or timidity.

As a conservative Republican member of Congress from 1995 to 2003, I was hardly a card-carrying member of the gay-rights lobby. I opposed then, and continue to oppose, same-sex marriage, or the designation of gays as a constitutionally protected minority class. Service in the armed forces is another matter. The bottom line here is that, with nearly a decade and a half of the hybrid “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to guide us, I have become deeply impressed with the growing weight of credible military opinion which concludes that allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not pose insurmountable problems for the good order and discipline of the services.

Asked about reconsideration of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy in favor of a more open and honest approach, the simplistic responses by several Republican presidential candidates left me — and I suspect many others — questioning whether those candidates really even understood the issue, or were simply pandering to the perceived “conservative base.” The fact is, equal treatment of gay and lesbian service members is about as conservative a position as one cares to articulate.

Why? First, true conservative political philosophy respects the principles of individual freedom and personal privacy, particularly when it comes to what people do in private. The invasive investigations required to discharge a service member are an unconscionable intrusion into the private lives of American citizens. Worse, while supporters of don’t ask, don’t tell claim the policy only regulates behavior and not identity, the distinction is disingenuous. A service member could be discharged for being overheard remarking that, “I can stay later today since my partner will be taking the dog for a walk.”

Second, and on a more practical level, the ban on gays openly serving in our armed forces is hurting a military that is stretched thin, putting further strain on an institution conservatives claim to love. The U.S. has fired over 11,000 people under the current policy, and in the process has lost over 1,000 service members with “mission-critical skills,” including 58 Arabic linguists. Researchers at the UCLA School of Law have found that lifting the ban could increase the number of active-duty personnel by over 40,000.

Because the military can’t fill its slots, it has lowered its standards, extended tours of duty and increased rotations, further hurting morale and readiness. Conservatives are supposed to favor meritocracy — rewarding ability — especially in the armed forces. Instead, the military is firing badly needed, capable troops simply because they’re gay, and replacing them with a hodge podge that includes ex-cons, drug abusers and high-school dropouts.

Third, the gay ban wastes money. According to a Blue Ribbon Commission made up of academics and prominent defense leaders including former Defense Secretary William Perry, the gay ban has cost taxpayers over $360 million, and even this figure did not include many of the actual costs of rounding up gays and lesbians, firing them and training their replacements. The training of an Arabic linguist alone costs some $120,000; that of medical or aviation specialists can cost up to a quarter million dollars.

For all these reasons, many conservatives and other former supporters of the policy have concluded it’s time to change. In March, former Republican senator and Army veteran Alan Simpson announced he no longer supported policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, and believed it was crucial to lift the ban, which in his view has become “a serious detriment to the readiness of America’s forces.” A handful of other Republicans have signed onto the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal the current ban on openly gay troops. In January, Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, became the highest ranking military official to call for repeal, joining a growing chorus of (mostly retired) military brass to oppose the policy.

Attitudes both within and outside the military have shifted greatly since 1993 when the current policy was formulated. Three-quarters of returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets said in a December 2006 Zogby poll that they are “personally comfortable” interacting with gay people. A majority of those who knew someone gay in their unit said the person’s presence had no negative impact on unit morale. Among the public at large, polls show consistently that roughly two- thirds of Americans favor letting gays serve, including majorities of Republicans, regular churchgoers and even people with negative attitudes toward gays.

These reasons, and the credibility of many experts making the arguments, have convinced me that there is little reason left to believe gays openly serving would break the armed forces. Americans want strong, moral leadership, and they are quick to sniff out pandering and expediency. It sure would be nice if the presidential wannabes were as quick to realize this.

Mr. Barr is a former Republican congressman from Georgia.

One day, Mr. Barr will come around on the other issues, too:

  • If we have hate crimes laws to protect all the other victims of hate crimes (and we do, including white victims and Catholic victims and Pakistani victims), Mr. Barr will one day conclude it is deeply offensive to exclude only one class of victim: those assaulted or murdered because of gender identity. (A bill fixing this has passed the House; remains to be acted on by the Senate.)
  • If we want to encourage stable relationships, discourage promiscuity, facilitate ‘liberty and the pursuit of happiness – or simply give all our citizens equal rights under the law – Mr. Barr will one day conclude gay couples who apply for marriage licenses should be granted them just as straight couples are.

But one step at a time. Mr. Barr is now prepared to allow gays and lesbians to fight and die for their country, and his voice on this issue is an important one. In a few years, he might conclude it is time to extend equal treatment to gays and lesbians in civilian life as well. If he does, his evolving view will be warmly welcomed.

 

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