Yes, You Can Work Without a Social Security Number

I recently rediscovered Claire Wolfe’s article Yes, You Can Work Without a Social Security Number. Wolfe writes about the benefits and challenges of trying to do without what has become the default key by which Americans are known to databases large and small, governmental and video rental.

Learning how to navigate this process can be important for people who want to work in the underground economy or avoid IRS levies.

Kay Bell at Don’t Mess With Taxes answers a question I’ve been wondering about: when I reach retirement age and have to start withdrawing money from my IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts, is there anything I can do to avoid the tax hit?

Here’s an idea for people who are faced with this situation today:

[A] provision of the Pension Protection Act that was signed into law in , allows taxpayers who are [at least as old as] 70½ to directly transfer money from an IRA to a charitable organization. By doing so, these filers don’t have to include the transferred money in taxable income.

This provision only lasts , though, unless Congress renews it:

, if you don’t need the IRA money, you can instead shift it — as much as $100,000 each year — directly to your favorite charity. That way it doesn’t count as taxable income to you since you never got your hands on it. The drawback: You can’t deduct the gift [as an itemized deduction].

Bell goes on to discuss the circumstances in which you might want to transfer funds to charity this way, and other circumstances in which you might want to withdraw funds from the accounts and then donate them (which would add to your income, but which would allow you to take an itemized deduction).

Marcelle Hopkins writes an amusing story about “Really Really Free Markets”:

The police were prepared for the worst. They had received word that anarchists were rallying in downtown Raleigh, N.C., one summer Saturday in . Museums were closed, a Civil War re-enactment was canceled and parking meters were hooded. A helicopter circled overhead while police mounted on horses and bicycles patrolled the empty streets around the Children’s Garden.

“There were 40 fully geared-up riot police waiting in the building next door while we were folk dancing, giving free massages and exchanging old books in the park,” said Liz Seymour, 57, a freelance writer and community activist.

Dubbed the Really Really Free Market by organizers, the event did not turn out to be the sort of anti-globalization protest police had expected. It was, instead, a peaceful gathering of about 200 people who came to give and get free stuff and services. There was an old-time string band playing under a tree, used clothing and knickknacks laid out like pirate’s booty on bed sheets, and a bike-repair workshop to fix flat tires. Everything was free. That’s right, really, really free — no trading or bartering and absolutely no money being exchanged.