Biggest tax problem cited: complexity
Too intimidated to do your tax return without help? Join the club. At nearly 4 million words, the U.S. tax law is so thick and complicated that businesses and individuals spend 6 billion hours a year complying with filing requirements, according to a report Wednesday by an independent government watchdog. That's equal to 3 million people working full-time, year-round. "If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the United States," says the report by Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate. Olson ranks complexity as the most serious tax problem facing taxpayers and the IRS in her annual report to Congress. She urges lawmakers to overhaul tax laws, making them simpler, clearer and easier to comply with.
Float driver won't face charges
A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict the driver of a float involved in a train collision that killed four U.S. military veterans in a west Texas parade. Dale Andrew Hayden, the driver of the truck pulling the float, won't face charges stemming from the Nov. 15 accident that injured 16 others. Though the grand jury did not indict Hayden, it "has not concluded its review of the incident," according to Midland County District Attorney Teresa Clingman.
El Paso, Texas
Missile plot yields nearly 3 years
A federal judge sentenced a British businessman to 33 months in prison Wednesday for trying to buy surface-to-air missile parts from undercover U.S. agents to resell to Iran. Christopher Tappin, 66, pleaded guilty in November to aiding and abetting to export defense materials.
North Korea: A private delegation including Google's Eric Schmidt on Wednesday urged North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens in a country with some of the world's tightest controls on information.
Gabon: Talks on the crisis in Central African Republic began Wednesday with representatives of the government, rebels and other groups gathering in this nearby country.
Jordan: The fiercest winter storm to hit the Mideast in years brought a rare foot of snow to Jordan on Wednesday, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people died.