February 27, 2017

2016 Form W-2 - Still haven't received one from your employer?

If you are employed, your employer is required to give you a Form W-2 with annual wage and withholding information.  Employers are required to send Form W-2s to employees by January 31 of the next year, or the following business day if January 31 falls on a weekend or federal holiday.  2016 Form W-2s should have been sent to employees by January 31, 2017.

Wage and withholding information provided on Form W-2 is necessary for proper completion of annual individual income tax returns.  If you are expecting a 2016 Form W-2 and have not yet received it, here are a few tips from the IRS about what to do now.

Tax Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA, CFP provides tax planning, preparation, and representation services for taxpayers with complex or technical tax issues.  As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, Mary is allowed to provide tax services in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  For more information about Mary's fee-only Consulting, Tax, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 24, 2017

Coffee Flavor: Can you guess where it primarily comes from?

I have ordered coffee every month from Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Ft. Bragg, California for more years than I can remember.  Probably 20 or so.

Thanksgiving Coffee Company simply makes the best coffee beans ever.  I am a light roast fan; my favorite blends include Save Our Wolves, Good Dog Blend, Peru Miel de Cajamarca, and Boliva Canto de Bolivar.  All of these selections are light roast, fair trade, and certified organic.  I plan to try the Bee Bold light roast soon.

I purchase whole beans, and grind the beans with a bit of cinnamon stick, then make a pot of drip coffee.  I like old fashioned drip coffee better than any other preparation.  Served in a mug with a bit of milk (unsweetened almond milk at home, or 2% milk if on travel).

Coffee Flavor - Where it comes from may surprise you!

I've learned a lot about coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee Company.  Did you know that coffee bean roast color determines 80 percent of a coffee's flavor?    Not the type of coffee bean, not the source location, but the roast color!  I did not, and was amazed to learn that fact.  Not to mention the characteristics of light roast coffee match my general personality!  😊  Learn more about selecting coffee here.

Credit:  thanksgivingcoffeecompany.com
For the best coffee ever (and great customer service!) visit Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 22, 2017

Unconditional Love: Adopt a shelter dog today!

Dogs at public animal shelters often suffer from public stigma.  Far too many people think all of the animals are there because they have behavior problems, and no one wants them.


Dogs end up in public animal shelters for many reasons:  strays never claimed by owners, owner surrenders, dogs seized due to abuse and neglect.  And yes, some dogs do end up at the shelter due to human aggression, dog aggression, or other animal aggression.  But, dogs will only be made available for adoption if they pass behavior tests and are deemed adoptable by shelter staff.

All of the Beloved Canine Companions ... ok, dogs! ... I've had the privilege to have as family members since moving to California have come from public animal shelters in Martinez, Pinole, and Antioch, California.  They ended up there for various reasons:  (1) found as a stray by animal control and never claimed by human owner, (2) surrendered by owner because owner had no time for the dog, and (3) seized by police for severe abuse and neglect in a backyard puppy mill.

And wonderful dogs all!  Here are our current Faithful Canine Companions, Chow-mix Lexi and Husky-mix Sid, playing on the beach during a recent trip to beautiful Carmel.  They are one very bonded pair!

And, I confess to my dog affinity for Northern Breed Mixes and Herding Breed Mixes.  They will always have the doggie place in my heart.  Guilty as charged!

There are more dog breeds and mixes than just Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas at public animal shelters.  Visit your local shelters and have a look for yourself.  Here are 2 gorgeous northern breed dogs available for adoption today at the Contra Costa Animal Services Shelter in Martinez, California:

Mr. Peanut says:  "May I please go home with you today?"

UPDATE 02/23/2017 - The dog shown below is no longer named Myrna Loy at the shelter.  She has been renamed Minerva.  If calling the shelter about an animal, always identify the animal by the animal ID number that begins with #A, as sometimes the names are not in the computer system, or are entered incorrectly in the computer system.

Also, when visiting animal shelters please note that an animal's kennel location may have changed.  Don't leave if the animal is not in the kennel you suspect; ask someone for assistance.

Myrna Loy (now named Minerva as of 02/23/2017) says:  "May I make my Forever Home with you?  I'm a nicely sized dog and promise to be good!"

So many wonderful animals waiting for their forever homes.
Forever unconditional love and companionship.

Visit your local animal shelter today.  You might just find your new Forever Friend!

Mary Rae Fouts

February 21, 2017

Hwy 17 commuters show us that adding a chainsaw to your vehicle's emergency bag is a pretty good idea after all.

Are you prepared in the event of a local or regional emergency?  Well, these Santa Cruz, California area commuters were more than prepared, and willing and able get the job done.  A huge fir tree recently fell over Hwy 17, the main route between Santa Cruz and the San Jose area.

And what happened?  Did commuters and travelers simply wait for Caltrans to show up and clear the road?

Nope.  People got out of their vehicles, equipped with chainsaws, brooms, and good old muscle power, and cleared the tree and highway themselves.

Not that is what I'd call being prepared, ready, and willing.

Read the entire story and view more photos here.  For a quick peek, take a look at Santa Cruz resident Liza Miller's comments, and one of her photos, below.  Pretty amazing, huh?

Photo credit:  Liza Miller, published on eastbaytimes.com
"SANTA CRUZ — High winds knocked down an enormous fir tree near the summit of Highway 17 at approximately 3 p.m. Monday, blocking all four lanes and prompting a massive effort to clear the roadway by stranded travelers.Liza Miller was commuting home to Santa Cruz from work when traffic came to an abrupt stop.

“I was maybe the seventh car back. It took me a while to realize what I was looking at. There was this giant tree across all lanes and people were jumping out of their cars and running up there. I thought a car was trapped, but people had just begun instinctively clearing the highway,” she said."

Be prepared.  

Have emergency exit routes planned from your home in the event of fire.

Have water, food, medicines, and emergency supplies on hand
in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster.

Review your homeowners, business, renters, and other property insurance coverage
 to be certain you have adequate coverage.

And especially if you live in a wildfire or flood prone area,
have a to-go bag ready and be prepared to evacuate.

Stay safe, everyone! 

Mary Rae Fouts

February 20, 2017

New York Times Crossword Puzzle: Happy 75 Birthday!

I am an avid crossword puzzler.  One of the reasons I subscribe to daily delivery of the New York Times newspaper is for the daily crossword puzzle.

Wow!  An age 13 crossword dynamo has his crossword published in the New York Times!
Photo credit:  newyorktimes.com 

So imagine my surprise to read in yesterday's Sunday paper that the Times' daily crossword puzzle was celebrating its 75th birthday.  I had always assumed the puzzle was much older than that.  While the Times had published a crossword puzzle much earlier in 1913, it delayed daily publication.  Why?  The newspaper's editorial board thought the crossword puzzle was "a sinful waste of time".

How's that for an out-of-touch newspaper editorial board?

Fast forward a bit ... The New York Times was the last major metropolitan newspaper to offer a daily crossword puzzle.  Yep, the final holdout.  It finally did so in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to provide a comfortable distraction to war-weary people.

And so the daily New York Times crossword puzzle began.  And has flourished.  Can anyone argue that the New York Times daily crossword puzzle is not the most popular newspaper crossword puzzle?

And another fascination piece of trivia:  In the past 75 years of daily publication, there have only been four different crossword puzzle editors at the New York Times!  Maybe the crossword puzzle editors and the United States Supreme Court Justices had something in common?  (As in lifetime appointments. 😃 )

Read about the history of the New York Times crossword puzzle here and here.  And if you are not already a crossword puzzler, do give this most enjoyable, relaxing, and sometimes hair pulling challenging pastime a chance.  Sharpen a few pencils, poor a cup of coffee or tea, or glass of wine or other favorite beverage, and get to puzzlin'!

Mary Rae Fouts