IRS Again Warns of Phone Scams 8/15/14

We have included this story before but the IRS has repeated their warning about these types of scams.  The number of incidents continue to mount as taxpayers report of unsolicited phone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS agents.   During these calls taxpayers are threatened and told that they must provide immediate payment for taxes owed.  These scams may also include somebody pretending to be a law enforcement official “verifying” the IRS agent’s claim.  Please remember that the IRS will never initiate contact over the phone or email and nor will they demand immediate payment.  The first correspondence will always be through mail.  When in doubt write down the name and badge number of the agent and call the IRS office directly.


Iraqi Prime Minister Steps Down:


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed last night to leave office to allow a successor to take over.  The move is thought to allow for a more inclusive government that will better be able to counter Islamist militants, as well as heal sectarian and ethnic rifts that have long separated the country.  U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice thought this development was one of several “encouraging developments that we hope can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people against the threat presented by the Islamic State.”


Retail Sales Disappoint:


July Retail Sales data was released on Wednesday and showed no growth over the prior month.  Economists were expecting at least 0.2% growth over June, on average.  However, when viewed as a year over year change, we see that retail sales actually rose 4%, which is in line with the last several years of growth.  The weakest area of retail sales was in general merchandise (think Target, Wal-Mart, etc), which was down 0.5% since last month.  Our thoughts are that seasonal-adjustment factors make July a very tough month to look at in isolation.  Before we can claim that the retail sector is struggling, we would need to see several months of “missed” data.


Jobless Claims Rise:


The weekly Jobless Claims numbers came in higher than expected yesterday at 311,000.  This was higher than the average economist estimate of 295,000 and was the highest number of people filing for unemployment insurance for the first time since late June.  These new claims allowed the four-week moving average to tick up to 295,750, although this number is still roughly 15,000 below the four-week moving average from this time last month.  Overall, 2.54 million Americans are still receiving jobless benefits.  However, while these numbers do seem high, it is important to put them into historical context.  Over the past three economic expansions, claims reached an average low of 274,000 and over the past forty years, the lowest this number has ever been was 259,000.