May 23, 2018

Taxes: Did your paid Tax Preparer sign your return?

If you pay a Tax Preparer to prepare your tax returns, here are a few things you may not know about requirements for a Tax Preparer's signature.

(1)  A paid Tax Preparer is required by law to sign your tax return.  An exception to this requirement is that a paid employee who prepared his or her employer's tax return is not required to sign the return.

(2)  If you hire a Tax Preparer to review a not-yet-filed  tax return that you (or someone else) has prepared, and you pay the Tax Preparer for reviewing the return, the Tax Preparer is required by law to sign the tax return.  And he or she must sign the return, even if someone else has previously signed the return.  

Also, by signing the return, the Tax Preparer accepts professional responsibility  ... and therefore, professional liability ... or all positions taken on the return.  That is why I do not provide "review" services for tax returns prepared by someone else.  Given the liability I would assume, I would need to re-prepare the return to be certain of the tax return's accuracy.

(3)  If a Tax Preparer prepares your tax return for free - in other words, receives no compensation - the Tax Preparer is not required to sign the return.  Same holds true if a Tax Preparer reviews a not-yet-filed tax return prepared by someone else, yet charges no fee for the revieswservice.  In these instances, the uncompensated Tax Preparer assumes no professional responsibility or liability for the tax return.

Tax Questions?
Contact Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 21, 2018

Obamacare: Covered California 2019 Premium Estimates? A Bunch Of Baloney, I say.

Covered California, the California health insurance exchange for Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) coverage, recently released it's state-wide estimated premium increase for policies sold on the exchange in 2019.

Covered California is currently negotiating 2019 rates with health insurance companies. Final 2019 rates are expected to be released in July.

And my opinion of the estimated state-wide premium increase for 2019?

I think its a bunch of baloney.  Here's why.

Covered California health insurance premiums, and the annual increase in premiums, can vary dramatically among California's 19 different "pricing regions" (this "pricing region" scheme is yet another head-shaking problem with Obamacare).  In 2018, the California state-wide average premium increase was 12.9%.   However, this average figure is very misleading, given the eye popping variations in premium increase from one pricing region to other.

Just how eye popping?  In 2018, the average Covered California health insurance premium increase in California's 19 pricing regions ranged from a low of 4.3% average premium increase in Pricing Region 8 (San Mateo county), to a jaw dropping 33.2% average premium increase in Pricing Region 1 (which consists of 22 counties in the most northern portion of the state).

That's simply crazy!  Nuts!

California's 19 Pricing Regions for
Covered California/Obamacare  Health Insurance

Fast forward to the recently released estimated state-wide average premium increase for 2019.  Covered California estimates that (1)  enrollment statewide will drop 12%, largely due to the removal of the individual mandate requiring health insurance, and (2) that on average, health insurance premiums for policies sold in the 19 Pricing Regions will increase by 11%.

Huh?

The anticipated 12% enrollment drop will likely consists of healthy people dropping health insurance coverage.  That will leave a smaller - and sicker - group of insureds who will require more health care, which in turn drives up costs for the health insurance companies selling the policies.

So we've got a smaller group of more expensive and sicker insureds, yet Covered California estimates that the state-wide average premium increase in 2019 - 11% - will actually be lower than the 2018 average state-wide premium increase of 12.9%??!!  That's crazy.

How can one possibly expect that a sicker and therefore more expensive group of insureds will lead to a lower premium increase that the preceding year?

More expensive does not equate to less cost.  Duh.

I'll post this summer when final 2019 Covered California/Obamacare premiums are released.  Until then, I wouldn't put too much faith in Covered California's current Guessing Game.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 19, 2018

Quiz Answer: Can you name this food item?

I recently posted this quiz:  Can you name this food item?   You can read the post and any comments here.

And the answer is ... drumroll ...

An apple!

Yes, a medium-sized apple contains only 95 calories, but is packed with nutrition:

25 Grams Total Carbohydrate
4.4 Grams Dietary Fiber
No Cholesterol, Sodium, or Fat
1% of Daily Recommended Protein
1% of Daily Recommended Calcium, Vitamin A, and Iron
5% of Daily Recommended Potassium and Vitamin B-6
2% Daily Recommended Magnesium


A locally grown Fugi apple.
And remember to eat apples with the skin left on.  According to this post by the University of Illinois Extension:
"Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content. Most of an apple's fragrance cells are also concentrated in the skin and as they ripen, the skin cells develop more aroma and flavor."
I always have apples in the hanging fruit basket in my kitchen.  I refer a sweet-flavored crisp apple.  I enjoy eating a variety of different apples, although my favorite apple is probably a Fuji apple.

And as for nutrition of a red apple versus a green apple?  There is very little difference.  Green apples tend to have a bit less sugar and a bit more fibre, while red apples are a bit higher in antioxidants.

What is your favorite apple?

 Enjoy an apple today!
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 17, 2018

Neighborhood Eggs and Honey ... Yum!

Local organic eggs.

Local honey.

Really local.  As in local from from a neighbor's backyard!

A neighbor recently closed their small pizza patio restaurant, so they now are able to sell eggs and honey from their "backyard farm", Chicks Backyard Farm, that previously went toward pizza making.

The eggs are organic.  Their flock is free roaming in their backyard, and fed organic feed and organic veggies and greens.  The honey is obtained from their backyard bee hives.

I recently purchased my first dozen eggs and 8 ounces of honey.  Haven't tried the honey yet (I'm going to use it for more special uses, such as honey on toast), but can tell you the eggs are spectacular!  Beautiful yolks, full of flavor, and a hard shell.  Here, take a look ...


Yet another reason I live where I live.  So thankful to have access to local and regional eggs, honey, produce, seafood, meat/poultry, and other cooking and baking products.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  She is an avid cook and baker, although backyard chickens are a no-no given the high small prey instinct of dogs Sid and Lexi.  Same goes for a bee hive, as Lexi is very allergic to bee stings!  😟  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

May 15, 2018

Disasters: Are you prepared in the event of a disaster?

Disaster Planning.


I've posted before about the importance of planning for disasters:  earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, you name it.  And don't forget the important of including your pets in disaster planning, too.

The IRS recently published a new Tax Tip Bulletin about Disaster Planning, including the importance of having emergency plans, documenting valuables, and creating electronic versions (stored in a secure location) of important  paper documents.

The  bulletin also includes a downloadable Disaster Loss Workbook to help you compile a room-by-room list of belongings.   And I agree with the IRS:  take photographs or video of belongings.  This visual evidence can help authenticate the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.  And, of course, don't forget to keep the photos and videos in a secure location.

Click here to read this helpful Disaster Planning Bulletin and download the Disaster Loss Workbook.

Stay safe and be prepared, everyone.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts