At Issue: The Principle of the Principal

Owing $26,696.48 on his 2002 taxes, Potomac, Md. lawyer Jerome J. Norris worked out a deal with the IRS to pay two installments of $13,348.24. Applying the usual convention of rounding tax payments to the nearest dollar, he made twin payments of $13,348.00. The agency sent him a bill for 48 cents—and for another $439.52 in late-payment penalty and interest. Representing himself, Norris sued. U.S. Tax Court Chief Judge Joel Gerber just ruled for Norris, calling the collection effort “ an abuse of discretion” while noting the parties’ costs “far exceed” the amount disputed.  —J.N. and W.P.B.

He Lost Only Half?

Inundated by spam e-mail hawking various penny stocks, Joshua Cyr, a software developer in Portsmouth, N.H., decided to quantify the quality of the pitches. On paper he bought 1,000 shares of each new stock mentioned in an incoming e-mail. His fledgling Web site, displays the results. Since May Cyr has sifted through more than 1,000 tips, eliminated duplicates and invested a theoretical $17,405 in 37 companies. The latest value of his portfolio: $9,089, a loss of 48%. Cyr writes of a recurring pattern he found: “Almost all of those stocks went up a few cents max, then dropped like flies the next day.” 

                                                                                                      —Scott Woolley


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