What's gloomier than taxes? When disaster strikes a sub-prime lender

I have joined the ranks of the tax procrastinators. I didn't mean for it to happen. It just did. Usually, I do my taxes in February, write a little column about it, move on to the next pressing topic.

Let's just say this year I got distracted by my vacation (one week in the Ojai Valley where most of the time it was cloudy and cold) and the equally dismal sub-prime mortgage market. This is a scary topic - home owners are the core of a community's economic health. Ben Bernanke couldn't have said anything more gloomy.

First, a word on taxes for all of you fellow procrastinators.

If you use a land-line telephone or cellular, this applies to you.

According to the IRS, most cell-phone users qualify for the federal telephone excise tax refund. In most cases, the refund is also available to land-line, fax and Internet phone customers as well. The method of phone signal transmission does not affect the refund. The telephone-tax refund can add $30 to $60 - or even more - onto a taxpayer's refund.

If you don't want to figure out your bills dating from 2003 to 2006 (and who would? If you are one of the crazy few, visit irs.gov for more info, or pick up form 8913) just claim the standard deduction of $30 on line 71 of a 1040 or line 42 of the 1040A. Whenever I get around to doing my taxes, that's what I'm going to do.

Look how a procrastinator can prosper. Also, don't forget to e-file for free if your income is $52,000 or less. Use the free file link on irs.gov to connect to a private-sector company offering free e-file services.

The next pressing topic: sub-prime mortgages.

These higher-interest home loans often help low-income earners, those people with poor or limited credit histories, or high-debt burdens compared to their incomes, get into a home. But then disaster strikes - such as in the heart-wrenching case of Prince Jones Jr., who was profiled in a recent Bloomberg.com story on this mortgage market. This self-employed barber was hoping to secure a lower rate on his mortgage through maintaining a steady payment record - right before he was injured by a drunk driver in a car accident. He was out of work for four months.

Such loans made up about one-fifth of all new mortgages last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington.

There is a push to make it tougher for sub-prime lenders to get these loans.

Some worry this will threaten the recovery of the U.S. housing market. This is an issue will see more of in 2007.

• Do you have a story about your sub-prime mortgage? Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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