December 29, 2018

Sid and the Christmas Tree

Husky-Malamute Mix Sid


Our goofy, loving big boy and Faithful Canine Companion has enjoyed the Christmas Tree this year.  And not even 1 ornament knocked down by his large frame and wagging tail!  😊

I kinda think Sid is going to be a bit disappointed when we take the Christmas tree down.  Don't you?


About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

December 26, 2018

Taxes: Take Care When Selecting A Tax Professional

As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, I am allowed provide tax preparation, tax planning, and taxpayer representation services (for audits and other matters) to clients in all 50 states and US territories.

Tax Return Preparation


Did you know that when I sign a tax return I have prepared for a fee, I take legal responsibility for its accuracy?  That's true.  This is a professional responsibility I uphold with great care, which is one reason I place great emphasis on obtaining complete ... and accurate ... information from my tax clients.

"Tax Season" for me does not run from January through April, but rather year round.  For my tax clients - who generally have technical and complex tax concerns, including tax issues in multiple states - taxes are not simply a quick return, but rather a year round issue.

For tips on selecting a tax professional, visit this IRS publication "Ten Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer"

Tax Preparation Concerns?
IRS Audit Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

December 23, 2018

Miscellaneous Itemized Tax Deductions: All Deductions Eliminated Beginning January 1, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included a significant change to the treatment of individual income tax miscellaneous itemized deductions.

As in all miscellaneous itemized deductions are eliminated.
Yep.  Every single one.


Individual Income Tax Preparation

Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions


Prior to 2018, taxpayers could deduct certain miscellaneous itemized deductions to the extent the deduction total exceeded 2% of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income.  These deductions included such things as:
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses,
  • Employment required uniform expenses,
  • Union dues,
  • Job hunting expenses,
  • Investment advisory fees, and 
  • Tax preparation and planning fees.

If you planned to deduct these expenses on your 2018 individual income tax return, you're out of luck.

Questions about individual income taxes?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

December 20, 2018

Indigenous Sami People - Yet Another Assault On Indigenous Peoples' Way of Life

Sami.


A group of about 140,000 Indigenous People that populate the northernmost regions of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia.  As in above the Arctic Circle northern.  The Sami of Norway number about 50,000.  About 10% earn their living by raising and herding reindeer as Sami ancestors did centuries ago.  When the reindeer are harvested, every part of the reindeer is harvested and used:  meat, hide, and antlers.

Norwegian Sami Jovsset Ante Sara feeding his reindeer.
Photo credit:  nytimes.com

As with many Indigenous People, the Sami have been cruelly treated at times throughout history.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, (read it here):
"The Sami were colonized by Christian missionaries, forced to abandon their shamanistic ways and assimilate. Grim tales of Sami children being sent to boarding schools and studied by anthropologists in dehumanizing ways remain a stain on the history of the Nordic nations."
And human rights abuses against the Norwegian Sam continue today.

The latest issue jeopardizing the Sami's way of life?  The Norwegian government wants to effectively end the Sami's reindeer herding, by forcing reductions in herd sizes that would effectively make the Sami's ancestral lifestyle economically unfeasible.

Reason?  The Norwegian government has concerns that the land is being 'overgrazed' by the reindeer herds.  With no additional explanation.

That's just plain crazy thinking.  Overgrazing land the sits above the Arctic Circle?

As shown by the photos and video on the New York Time's article, the reindeer are clearly healthy and well taken care of.  For the Norwegian government to attempt to wipe out a centuries old way of life for the Sami is yet another black eye on the world's centuries old cruel treatment of many Indigenous People.  

Cruel and inhuman treatment that sadly continues today.  And which is wrong on so many levels.  Plain wrong.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefit plan consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

December 17, 2018

Personal Casualty and Theft Loss Tax Deduction: Significant Change Beginning January 1, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included a significant change to the tax deductibility of personal casualty and theft losses.  If you incurred such losses in 2018, and planned on deducting losses on your individual income tax return, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Individual Income Tax Preparation

Personal Casualty and Theft Loss Tax Deduction


Prior to 2018, with certain limitations, significant personal casualty and theft losses could be treated as an itemized deduction on individual income tax returns.  A casualty loss is a loss due to a sudden unexpected and unusual event such as a fire or flood.  Progressive events such as termite damage and dry rot are not considered casualty losses.  Limitations included (1) the loss must not have been covered by insurance or other financial reimbursement, (2) the amount of loss must be greater than $100, and (3) the amount of loss must be larger than 10% of your adjusted gross income. 

Beginning January 1, 2018, new ... and very significant ... limitations came into law regarding the treatment of casualty and theft losses.  The prior limitations above still apply.  However, beginning January 1, 2018l, in order for this loss to be deductible, the loss must now occur in a federally declared disaster area.

Not in a federally declared disaster area?  You're screwed!

For instance, say your home sustains flood damage not covered by insurance, but the home does not reside in a federally declared disaster area.  You're out of luck, no casualty deduction.  Say you have jewelry stolen that is not covered by insurance, but the theft does not occur in a federally declared disaster area.  Once again, you're out of luck, no casualty deduction.

And one other thing ... If you take the standard deduction on your income tax return, a personal casualty and theft loss tax deduction is not available to you, regardless of the circumstances.

Nothing like kicking a person when the person is already down, huh?

Questions about individual income taxes?
Questions about casualty and theft losses?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

December 14, 2018

Martha Stewart's First Uber Ride: A Filthy Disaster

Uber.

Once again in the news last month.  And once again, not in a good way!

You see, Uber got some well-deserved negative publicity from none other than Martha Stewart, who was taking her very first Uber ride.  And from the tony Madison Avenue Flagship Tiffany Store, nonetheless.

Problem is, her first Uber was a no show.  The second Uber arrived but was difficult to see, as the driver parked a half block away, facing the wrong way down the street.

Martha Stewart's Filthy Uber Ride


And when Ms. Stewart got into the car, it was a filthy dirty mess, including partially used water bottles in the back seat.  Check out the video below.  That Uber car is DISGUSTING!


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.  Oh, and she has never taken an Uber ride.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

December 11, 2018

S Corporations May Want to Convert to C Corporations Due to Tax Law Changes

If you own a business organized as a pass-through S Corporation and are a high income individual income tax payer, you may want to consider converting your business to a C Corporation.

One reasons business owners structure their business as an S Corporation is to avoid the double taxation of C Corporation taxable income and individual taxable income.  However, beginning January 1, 2018, C Corporations pay a flat 21% federal corporate tax rate.  For S Corporation owners in a high personal income tax bracket, converting to a C Corporation and taking advantage of the lower 21% corporate tax rate may reduce your overall tax burden.  And perhaps significantly.

I welcome your call or email if you have questions about this important matter.

Corporate Tax Return Preparation and Planning

Questions about corporate taxes?
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, including corporations and corrporation shareholders.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

December 8, 2018

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!



Best wishes to all for a joyous Christmas and Happy New Year!

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

December 5, 2018

Sourdough Dinner Rolls: Delicious and Easy to Make!

I love sourdough baking with my 5-year old starter.  My husband Jim says there traces of bread dough on everything in the kitchen ... Don't believe him!  😉

Sourdough Dinner Rolls


One of my staple sourdough bakes is Homemade Sourdough Dinner Rolls.  Tender and flakey, and oh so delicious.  The rolls can be used as dinner rolls or a sandwich buns.  They freeze well, so I can always keep some on hand.

Want one?  Here is my latest bake:




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 Sourdough Baker, baking sourdough bread, rolls, cinnamon rolls, pizza, and cakes.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

December 2, 2018

Corporation With A Fiscal Tax Year? You Have A Corporate Tax Return Headache This Year


If you own a business organized as a corporation with a fiscal tax year, you have a corporate tax return preparation headache this year.

How so?  Glad you asked!

For fiscal year corporate tax returns including dates in both 2017 and 2018,  you have 2 different sets of federal tax codes and corporate tax rates to consider when preparing your corporate tax return:  those before January 1, 2018, and those on and after January 1, 2018.  If the individual who prepared your corporate tax return did not accurately prepare the return using these 'blended' regulations and tax rates, you should prepare and file an amended corporate tax return.

Corporate Tax Return Preparation


Here's what the IRS has to say about this corporate tax headache in IRS Tax Tip  2018-173:

Last year’s tax reform legislation replaced the graduated corporate tax structure with a flat 21 percent corporate tax rate. This new maximum tax rate for corporations is effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017.

A corporation with a fiscal year that includes Jan. 1, 2018, will pay federal income tax using what is called a blended tax rate. They will not use the flat 21 percent tax rate for their entire fiscal year. To calculate their blended tax rate, these corporations will:
  • First calculate their tax for the entire taxable year using the tax rates that were in effect prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
     
  • Then calculate their tax using the new 21 percent rate.
  • Proportion each tax amount based on the number of days in the taxable year when the different rates were in effect. 
  • Take the sum of these two amounts, which is the corporation’s federal income tax for the fiscal year.
The blended rate applies to all fiscal year corporations whose fiscal year includes Jan. 1, 2018.

I welcome your phone call or email if you have questions about this important matter.

Tax Concerns?
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

November 29, 2018

Pears: Oregon Bartlett Pears Are Beyond Delicious This Autumn!

I love fresh pears, especially Bartlett pears.  So does my husband Jim.


USA Pears:  Oregon Grown Pears


The most recent Bartlett pear harvest from Oregon pear growers has been beyond delicious, the best fresh Bartlett pears we've ever eaten.  They are sweet and juicy, with a zingy pear flavor.  Oregon-grown pears will be noted with a USA Pears sticker.

Pears are also grown in California, they are noted with a Grown In California sticker.  However, California pears just don't match up to Oregon pears this year.  They are good, but not nearly as delicious as Oregon-grown pears.

Here are Oregon-grown pears, from the Hood River growing region, available for sale at my local grocer Diablo Foods.  Yum!



Did you know that all pears are picked by hand?  That's a lot of labor!  Also, pears must be picked before they are ripe, and allowed to ripen off the tree.  If allowed to ripen on the tree, the fruit will ripen from the inside out, and typically rot in the inside.  That's a no bueno.

Regarding my favorite pear, the good ol' Bartlett, let the green unripe pears ripen on a window sill until they reach your desired degree of ripeness.  You can also place them in a brown paper bag to ripen, but I prefer to use a kitchen window sill.  Bartletts will turn from green to yellow as they ripen, some will also have a blush of red.  We like our Bartletts when they are nearly all yellow with just a touch of green left.  They are sweet and juicy, but still have a bit of crunch and are not mushy.

To test the ripeness of other pears, lightly press on the pear's neck (stem) area.  The pear should yield a bit to your touch.  Also look for a bit of wrinkling in the pear's skin near the stem.

Bartlett pears pair well with other fruits, too, no pun intended!  Here's one of my favorite combos:  A fresh Bartlett pear and berries, this time blackberries:


Pears are nutritional powerhouses.  A medium sized fresh pear is packed full of vitamins and minerals, and provides 24% of your recommended daily fiber.  All for about 105 calories!

Enjoy a fresh pear 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.  She incorporates generous portions of fresh fruits and vegetables into her daily meals, cooking, and baking.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

November 26, 2018

2018 Taxes: Are your prepared for this year's tax law changes?

The Tax Reform Act passed into law in December 2017 was the most significant tax legislation passed in 30 years.

It contains many changes for taxpayers of all classifications.  Some changes are beneficial.  Others ... Well, not so much.

Itemized Income Tax Deductions:  New Federal Limitations for 2018


If you are an individual income tax payer (filing federal Form 1040 with attachments), and historically have taken large itemized deductions for expenses such as mortgage/home equity loan interest, state and local income taxes,  and property taxes, you may be in for a very unpleasant surprise this year.

The amount of allowable deduction for those expenses has been capped beginning January 1, 2018.  For taxpayers filing jointly, the deduction for all state and local taxes - including property taxes - is now capped at $10,000.  In states with high state taxes and property valuations - including my resident state of California - that cap may adversely affect many property owners with a higher income tax bill.

Ouch.

The end of the year is right around the corner.  Don't put off reviewing your current income tax situation, if you have not already done so this year.

Tax Concerns?
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

November 23, 2018

Lexi and Sid Hope You Had a Nice Thanksgiving!

Lexi the Dog and Sid the Dog.


My Faithful Canine Companions.  They hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!




We sure did!  As you can see, Lexi and Sid are both  in a much relaxed state after enjoying Thanksgiving turkey!  😊

Happy Holidays 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

November 20, 2018

Fire Danger: Do you have adequate fire insurance coverage?

The devastating Camp Fire wildfire remains ablaze in the Paradise, California area.   The area burning is heavily forested, dense with pine trees, brush, and dry grass.  As of Sunday, November 18 at 7:08 AM, the fire has burned nearly 150,000 acres and was 65% contained.  Nearly 13,000 structures have been destroyed, including nearly 10,000 single family homes.  76 people confirmed dead; that number is expected to grow significantly, and perhaps exponentially, given that 1276 people are currently listed as missing.

The devastating Camp Fire burning near Paradise, California
photo credit:  abc7news.com


Fire Insurance Coverage


I've posted before about the importance of adequate insurance coverage to protect owned and rented property.  In my professional opinion, Fire Insurance coverage through homeowners, renters, or commercial insurance coverage is an absolute must.

Fire is a tragedy; it can and does happen.  Don't compound this terrible event by not having adequate fire insurance coverage.

Questions or concerns about insurance matters?

As a licensed Life and Disability Insurance Analyst, Life Agent, and a Fire and Casualty Broker-Agent, I provide consulting services and expert witness services to clients  for a wide array of insurance matters, including property insurance and fire insurance matters.

For information about my Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

November 17, 2018

A Lazy Saturday Morning with Sid and Lexi

"But Mommy ... 
It's Saturday morning.  Do we really, really have to get up?"



Sid the Dog and Lexi the Dog


Every day is a great day with my Faithful Canine Companions, Husky-Malamute mix Sid and Chow Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi!

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

November 14, 2018

Trupanion Pet Insurance: Bizarro Comic Strip Nails the Company's Slimy Claims Practices

Trupanion Pet Insurance. 


The slimy and unethical pet insurance company company that will do anything ... find any reason ... to deny valid claims.

This recent Bizarro comic strip could be Trupanion's moto!  Pretty much sums up Trupanion's slimy claims practices that I and many others have experienced:



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 thankful for her 2 Faithful Canine Companions, Husky-Malamute mix Sid and Chow Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

November 11, 2018

Sid the Dog: Can you see me now?

Sid the Dog.


Do you see me now?

Every day is a great day with our Faithful Canine Companions Husky-Malamute mix Sid and Chow Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi.

Here is goofy and lovable Sid at a vet visit, "hiding" in an exam room behind a potted plant.  How Sid managed to squeeze himself into that corner, and get in and out without knocking over the plant, I have not a clue!


Hard to imagine that Sid was once a stray dog, found by an Animal Control Officer and never claimed by his owner.  Thank you for the smiles you give us, Sid!  XXOO, Mommy and Daddy

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 thankful to have 2 Faithful Canine Companions, Sid and Lexi.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

November 8, 2018

Residential Rental Property Owners: Do you have adequate insurance coverage?

Do you own a residence that you rent to others?  Or perhaps you rent a room in your home to others, or a backyard cottage/in-law unit to others?  Or perhaps you own a property you rent as a short-term rental through Airbnb?

Insurance for Residential Rental Properties  


If so, when is the last time you reviewed the insurance policy covering the property, to ascertain adequate insurance coverage is in place?

Do you know that your traditional homeowners insurance policy does not cover the property if there are rental activities associated with the property?  Let's say you turn your home  or condo into a rental property, or perhaps occasionally rent a room out through Airbnb.  You must notify your homeowners insurance company and tell them about the change in use of your property, so that your insurance coverage can be modified to reflect the new property use.   For Airbnb rentals, Airbnb also offers insurance coverage.  If you do not have the correct insurance coverage, your insurance policy does not cover the property.   In the event of a fire or other catastrophe, that would be a huge mistake.

Regarding residential rental properties, you can expect your insurance premium  to cost 20% or more than an owner-only occupied property.  Why?  Renters typically do not take as good of care of rental properties compared to owner-occupied properties, resulting in a higher occurrence of insurance claims for residential rental properties.

Questions about insurance coverage on Residential Rental Properties?
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

November 5, 2018

2018 Taxes: Significant Changes to Business Deductions for Entertainment and Meals

If you are a business owner, the Tax Reform Act passed in December 2017 brought significant changes to tax deductions for business meals and entertainment.  Here's a summary of what's new for your 2018 taxes.

Business Entertainment and Business Meals:  Effective January 1, 2018, the new law eliminates the tax deduction for business expenses related to entertainment, amusement or recreation.  In other words, no business tax deduction for taking clients on a wine tasting tour or a round of golf.  No business tax deduction for renting a luxury box for clients at a baseball game.  As a business owner you can certainly continue to entertain clients, but the expenses you incur will not be tax deductible.

However, taxpayers can continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals ... if the taxpayer or an employee of the taxpayer is present and other conditions are met.  The meal must be for a 'bona fide' business reason.  The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact, and substantial business discussions must be undertaken either immediately before, during, or immediately after the meal.  The expense may not be lavish or extravagant considering the circumstances.

Little has been said about these changes, particularly the loss of the entertainment business deduction.  The treatment of business-related meals was largely unchanged.  But, additional clarity - supplemented by a Notice of Guidance issued this year by the IRS - was given to specify what must occur for meals to be a business deduction.  The Notice of Guidance also stated the meals cannot be overly lavish or extravagant.

And About Those Free Meals Provided to High Tech Employees

Which brings me to the chef-prepared meals, sushi bars, yoga classes, laundry service, and similar fringe benefits - all free or highly subsidized to the workers - provided by some of the San Francisco Bay Area's High Tech companies.  Given the focus on valid Business Meal Deductions by both the 2017 Tax Reform Act and this year's IRS Notice of Guidance, I suspect we'll see an IRS audit crackdown on this very issue starting next year.  The money spent by large High Tech employers on these "free" fringe benefits - and almost certainly treated as a business expense tax deduction by them -  is huge.  By some estimates, Google alone spent over $72 million in 2017 providing free meals to its employees.  $72 million!  Extrapolate that number across other large High Tech employees that are providing the same free meals and other free fringe benefits, and you have a huge amount of taxes the IRS and State Taxing Authorities are missing out on.

Example of an Employee Free Lunch at Google:  Greek salad, pellie, (whatever in the heck that is!), melon-mint soup, seitan, watermelon-feta salad, green salad, toast, sparkling water, and more.  Dig in!
  I'll post again if new developments arise with this issue.

Tax Concerns?
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

November 2, 2018

Daredevil Stupidity Send Two Hikers to Their Deaths in Yosemite National Park.

Loss of life is tragic.  But, recent loss of two lives at Yosemite National Park was entirely preventable, given that it was caused by the decedents' own risk taking, apparent lack of respect for Mother Nature's power, and plain ole stupidity.

Tragic.  But entirely preventable.

Vishnu Viswanath and Meenakshi Moorthy


What happened?  Well, two Indian nationals, Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, recently plunged some 3,000 feet to their deaths in Yosemite National Park.  The couple was known for their daredevil antics and edge-of-cliff selfies.  It's not known exactly how the fall happened, although investigators assume they were attempting to take a selfie on the edge of a cliff (Taft Point), slipped, and fell some 3,000 feet to their deaths.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the couple had a travel blog (now deleted) and Instagram account highlighting their daredevil antics during their frequent travels.  Here is what Moorthy had to say about the couple's "daredevilry" antics:
"A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs and skyscrapers, but did you know that wind gusts can be FATAL???” Moorthy wrote on an Instagram post attached to a photo of her sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon. “Is our life just worth one photo? When we squirm at another selfie attempt gone south from a skyscraper, let’s remember to save that in our core memory.
-- San Francisco Chronicle, October 29, 2018
Facebook image of now dead couple taking a selfie on a cliff edge.
Lack of respect for the power of Mother Nature is down right dangerous.  Weather, fire, topography, and nature in general are too be respected.  Stupidity at a Cliff Edge + Gravity = Death. 

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.


October 30, 2018

$310,000: San Francisco's Failed Voter Registration Drive

I always enjoy reading the Matier & Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle.  And yes, I still get a printed newspaper delivered daily, two in fact:  the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Anyhoo, Sunday's Matier & Ross column was a doozy.

You see, in 2016, San Francisco voters passed a new law - the first in California - that allowed San Francisco residents who are not US citizens, including people living in the country illegally, to vote in San Francisco School Board elections.  The non US citizens had to be of legal voting age, live in San Francisco, and have at least one child under the age of 19.

The idea - not a bad one, in my opinion - was that this group of individuals were stakeholders in the San Francisco public school system, given they had at least 1 child under the age of 19 who presumably attended public school.

Okay.  So just how did this voter effort work out for San Francisco?


For the past 2 years, the City of San Francisco has spent $310,000 on this new program, designing a special voter registration form, and implementing voter registration drives.

$310,000:  San Francisco's Failed Voter Registration Drive

In the past 2 years, a whopping 49 people have registered to vote under this program.  That's a cost of $6,323 per signed-up voter.
And no idea if any those 49 people will even bother to vote in the upcoming midterm election, in which 3 School Board Seats in the San Francisco Unified School District are up for grabs.
Crazy!  $310,000 down the drain.  Another head shaking, only-in-California event.

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 has already voted by mail for the November midterm election.  👍  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

October 24, 2018

Third Point LLC: Did you receive their despicable racist mailer?

Third Point LLC, an $18 billion investment firm, has earned the Bonehead of the Month Award!

How so?  Glad you asked!


With midterm elections drawing near, our mailboxes are inundated with campaign mailers.  You know, that annoying junk that goes in the trash.

Speaking of these mailers, yesterday's experience was a head shaking jaw dropper for my husband Jim and me.  You see, we received a mailer packet with this mailer showing through the plastic wrapping:



Yep, a mailer advocating to  VOTE THE WHITE CARD  , if you can believe it.

And here's the rest of the story ...

My husband Jim and I looked at this mailer, jaws dropped open and heads shaking. At first appearance, to both of us, the unopened packet appeared to be a campaign mailer from a right wing extremist group advocating voting for a “white card”, or “white (Caucasian) slate” in next month’s midterm elections.

Third Point LLC


Upon opening the packet, we saw it was actually a mailer from $18 billion investment firm Third Point LLC, directed towards a Campbell’s Soup proxy vote. (Disclosure: we own shares in Campbell's Soup stock.) Nevertheless, the very offensive racist tone in Third Point LLC's mailer remains unchanged.


Amazing in today’s #MeToo and inclusivity-focused environment that Third Point LLC, an $18 billion investment company,  would undertake such a despicably themed public campaign against Campbell’s Soup.  You can bet my husband and I would never, ever Vote For The Racist White Card.  

And I kinda think it's time for Third Point LLC to refresh their public relations department, or otherwise #REFRESHTHEIRPRDEPARTMENT.

I sent an email to Third Point LLC this morning, with a copy to Ken Gosnell, VP Finance Strategy & Investor Relations at Campbell's Soup, voicing my extreme displeasure of Third Point LLC's conduct, and their derogatory racist mailer aimed at Campbell's Soup.  If you would like to share your thoughts with Third Point LLC, here are pertinent email addresses:

Third Point LLC General Inquiries:  ir@thirdpoint.com
Third Point LLC Media Inquiries: edoyle@thirdpoint.com
Third Point LLC Voting Related Matters:  Okapi Partners LLC, cpbinfo@okapipartners.com

Ken Gosnell, VP Finance Strategy & Investor Relations at Campbell's Soup, can be reached via email at ken_gosnell@campbellsoup.com.

And to paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes:

No Soup For You, Third Point LLC!
and while I'm at it ... 
#JustSayNoToSoupRacism

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.  And yes, she loves soup!  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

San Francisco: Van Ness Avenue Construction Project Kills Local Businesses

In San Francisco, the error ridden, 18-months behind behemoth Van Ness Construction Project has claimed a victim:  locally owned Bootleg Bar & Kitchen.

This project was supposed ... supposed ... to somehow improve Van Ness Avenue, a main thoroughfare in San Francisco, from Mission Street to Lombard Street.  In its infinite stupid wisdom, the City of San Francisco tore up the street and sidewalks all along the stretch in one swoop.  The project is now 18-months behind, with untold misery for residents and businesses along Van Ness.

Reason for the extreme and ever growing delay?  Contractors are surprised they continue to strike water pipes and other underground utilities they didn't know were there.

As my Architect husband Jim - who has worked on many projects in San Francisco - said this morning:
"Duh!  Did the contractors actually think water pipes from the 1840s would be on City drawings?!"
Locally owned Bootleg Bar & Kitchen, located along the construction zone, is closing its doors.  Since the project started, Bootleg Bar & Kitchen's business is down 50%, and the establishment cannot financially stay open any longer.  You see, patrons can't get to the establishment, given that the road and sidewalks are all torn up, adorned with barricades and 6 foot fencing.  Read more in today's San Francisco Chronicle article.

Van Ness Avenue Construction Project


Here's my beef  with this issue.  The City of San Francisco currently spends over $300 million a year ... a year ... on its homeless services, to "help" an estimated 7,499 chronically homeless people (2017 homeless count) who live in San Francisco.  Homeless people who, by all reporting, are generally drug addicted, mentally ill, or both.  And nearly all, by all reporting, choose to be homeless, refusing offers of shelter but gladly accepting free handouts.

And the city of San Francisco remains a filth bucket, littered with human feces, needles, piles of trash, and homeless people openly shooting up drugs in public.

So let's do the math:  $300 million for 7,499 is $40,000 a person.  But wait, there's more!  Measure C that appears on next month's ballot in San Francisco would tax large corporations on their gross profits, supposedly generating an additional $300 million dollars a year for homeless services.  That would bring total annual spending for homeless services in San Francisco to over $600 million, or roughly $80,000 per homeless person per year.

What has the City of San Francisco done to help the businesses along Van Ness Avenue during this ill fated and disastrous construction project?  Not a darn thing.  Except to print up few cheap signs, hung crooked on the fencing around the project, that point to businesses.  Take a look:

Photo credit:  sanfranciscochronicle.com

Lovely, huh?  For the City of San Francisco to act in this manner, thumbing its nose at and destroying Van Ness Avenue businesses, is wrong.  Flat out wrong.  Plain crazy!

Just another indication of misery and wrongdoing in the once great city of San Francisco.

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

October 20, 2018

Billy McFarland: Fyre Festival Organizer Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

Pretty Boy Fraudster Billy McFarland is headed to the big boy's slammer.  You remember, the infamous fraudster who promoted the fake Fyre Music Festival.  He was sentenced to 6 years in Federal prison for pleading guilty to fraud charges.

But wait ... There's more!

Last year I posted twice about Mr. McFarland, and opined that he appeared to be a criminal Con Artist rather than a brazen 25-year-old pretty boy salesman.  (Read my last post here, after he was arrested for wire fraud related to the Fyre Festival that was really never to be.)  And the Federal Court in Manhattan agreed with me.

But get this for taken brazen to an out-of-this-world level ...

In March of this year, Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to 2 counts of wire fraud related to defrauding investors and the bogus Fyre Festival.  He remained out on bending sentencing.

And just what did Mr. McFarland do while out on bail?  You guessed it!  He had so much time on his hands, he created a new company that sold fake tickets to high end music, fashion, and sporting events.  The tickets were completely bogus, and the purchasers of said tickets were denied entry to the events.  Mr. McFarland pleaded guilty in July of this year to 2 additional counts of fraud related to this new illegal scheme.

No update immediately available about the status civil cases filed against Billy McFarland and his ventures.

Head shaking how brazen this guy is.  Awaiting sentencing after being convicted of felony wire fraud, only to start a new fraud while awaiting sentencing.  This guy is one sick dude, and all of 26-years old at sentencing.  He will never be rehabilitated.  No doubt he'll spend his years in prison AKA Club Fed concocting his next schemes.

Billy McFarland


Anyhoo, if you wish to send a letter to Mr. McFarland, or perhaps pay him a visit, here is his current incarceration information:

WILLIAM Z MCFARLAND
Register Number: 91186-054
Age: 26
Race: White
Sex: Male
Located at: Brooklyn MDC, 80 29TH STREET, BROOKLYN, NY 11232
Release Date: UNKNOWN

Yet another example of reality being stranger than fiction!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits 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

October 17, 2018

Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles Recipe

Do you enjoy Bread and Butter Pickles?  Would you like to make your own, but don't can?  No problem!  Here is a yummy recipe for Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles.  No canning required and keeps fresh in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.



Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles
This is a sweet and spicy bread and butter pickle. Store in refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.

Quantity: Makes 1 quart. Best stored in a quart mason canning jar or a quart glass jar with a snap on lid.

Ingredients

· 1 cup apple cider vinegar
· 1/2 cup water
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
· Thinly sliced unpeeled cucumbers
· Thinly sliced white or yellow onion
· 2 thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, or substitute equivalent diced bell pepper if you don’t want the jalapeno heat.
· 2 teaspoons pickling spice

Instructions

1. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pickling spice in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Set aside to cool

2. In a glass quart jar, layer sliced cucumber, sliced onion, and sliced pepper. Onion and pepper are optional, but they add delicious flavor!

3. Cover cucumber mixture with vinegar mixture.

4. Refrigerate. Blended and ready to eat in 12 hours. Eat within 2 weeks.

Recipe Variations

Other vegetables including cauliflower pieces and sliced carrots are yummy pickled this way. I blanch the carrots and cauliflower first so they are a bit tender, similar in bite to a cucumber.
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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

September 25, 2018

Back in a couple of weeks!

I'm taking a short break ... I will be away from posting new posts here on Thoughts from Mary Rae Fouts for a few weeks.  I will moderate and post comments during this time.  See you in a few weeks!

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

September 24, 2018

Comments: Comments are encouraged, but they are moderated before posting.

Howdy Visitors!  A reminder when posting comments ... 

Comments on this blog are both welcomed and encouraged, submitted with your name or anonymously.  However, given all the spam in today's Internet World, all comments are currently moderated before they appear on the blog.  Comments that contain advertising or spam (which I've gotten a lot of lately) will not be posted.

Thank you!  Mary Rae Fouts   
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

September 22, 2018

Sourdough Bread Baking: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Starter

My husband Jim says that every item in the kitchen has Sourdough Starter or Sourdough Bread Dough on it.

My response?  "No comment!"  😉

But truly, I am an admitted Sourdough Baking Fanatic:  breads, buns, cinnamon rolls, flat breads, cakes.  My Sourdough Starter contains only unbleached bread flour and bottled spring water.  The yeast in the starter is Wild Yeast, captured from the air.  And yes, wild yeast is present in the air around us all.  It's not just a 'San Francisco Sourdough' thing!

My very vigorous Sourdough Starter, more than doubled in
volume.  Getting ready for a large Sourdough Bread bake.

My sourdough recipes contain only Sourdough Starter as the rising agent, no active or dried yeast.  Ready to begin Sourdough Baking?  Here is my Sourdough Starter recipe, with tips for growing and using your water.  Click on this link to download the recipe.

Most importantly:  follow the water tip, and only use bottled spring water with your Sourdough Starter and Sourdough Baking.  Municipal tap water typically contains disinfectants that kill the wild yeast in the starter.  You'll just end up with a water-flour mixture and a bunch of mold!

Let me know if you have questions as you work with your Sourdough Starter.  Once you go sourdough, you won't want to go back to regular yeast bread!

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

September 20, 2018

Business Insurance: Does your business carry adequate insurance?

As  a business owner, I can attest that business ownership brings its rewards.  Right along with struggles and stress.

And don't forget risk, including those risks that can be minimized with adequate insurance.

Do you have adequate liability-related business insurance?  If you have employees, is your worker's compensation insurance adequate?  Do you have sufficient insurance coverage to address employee disputes and complaints, including workplace harassment?  How about insurance for your property, its contents, and financial loss due to interruption of your business activities?  And what about insurance for your business vehicles?

When is the last time you reviewed your business insurance policies for adequate coverage?

I provide Insurance Consulting Services for business owners, including review and recommendations for insurance coverage, and ongoing annual business insurance policy reviews.  I welcome your call at (510) 421-5457 or email to mary@foutsfinancialgroup.com to discuss your concerns and schedule an insurance consultation.

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

September 18, 2018

Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Try this version to take grilled cheese to the next level!

Grilled Sandwiches.  Endless variations.  Delicious, nutritious comfort food.

Like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches?  I sure do!  Each one I make is a bit different from the grilled sandwich before.  The one consistent must?  The sandwiches are always ... always ... made on my homemade sourdough sandwich bread!

Photo Credit:  California Avocados
To take you next grilled cheese sandwich to a whole new level, here is a delicious sounding recipe from California Avocados:  Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Avocado and Creamy Sunflower Romesco Sauce.  Click on the link below for a short video of the recipe and preparation:


The Romesco Sauce itself is one reason to keep the recipe.  Romesco Sauce is a roasted sweet red pepper, nut, and garlic-based sauce that originated a long time ago in Europe.  Fishermen initially used it to flavor fish, but the sauce truly is adaptable to so many uses!  Easy to make, too!

Happy Grilled Cheese!
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

September 16, 2018

Estimated Tax Day: 3rd payment for estimated individual income taxes is due tomorrow!

Do you pay quarterly estimated tax payments for your individual income taxes?  If so, your 3rd quarterly payment for your 2018 individual income taxes is due tomorrow, Monday, September 17.

Generally the payment would be due on September 15, but since the 15th falls on a non-business weekend day, the payment is due on the next business day.

Tax Concerns?
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.  Mary provides tax return preparation and planning, tax consulting, and audit representation to clients throughout the United States.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

September 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence: Relentless storm slams North Carolina coast.

Hugely powerful and massive Hurricane Florence is battering North Carolina.  The Category 1 hurricane is slowly moving further inland into North Carolina and part of South Carolina, then will likely head northwest into Kentucky and West Virginia.  The storm is expected to cause catastrophic flash flooding and storm surge flooding, followed by possibly weeks of river flooding.  The river flooding will be exacerbated by the storm surge at the coast, which acts to prohibit water from draining out rivers and into the ocean.  This phenomena was the cause of much devastation during Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, Texas area.

Hurricane Florence is moving at a crawl, currently at about 5 miles per hour.  This turtle-like-pace creates an exponential amount of rain for the affected areas.  Hurricane Florence is expected to drop 40 inches of rain in some areas, possibly in just a 3 day span.   As of late this morning eastern time today, some parts of North Carolina had already received 15 inches of rain. 3 million people are estimated to eventually be without power (electricity), with no timetable for restoration of power.  Pure devastation.

Here is what Hurricane Florence looked like about 7:15 eastern time this morning when the center of the hurricane reached landfall along the North Carolina coast:


As an admitted weather buff, it is hard for me to fathom how massive this storm is.   I'll post about insurance coverage for hurricane damage in the future.  (And yes, it gets complicated what damage is covered in insurance policies, and what damage is not.)  But in the meantime I hope people are adequately prepared, and hope for no loss of life.

Stay safe 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

September 12, 2018

San Francisco Giants: Another Soap Opera of a Season

Ugh, the San Francisco Giants' dismal 2018 season.  Yet another Soap Opera like, injury filled, and illness filled season for my favorite baseball team.

I looked at the Giants' season stats earlier this week on Monday morning.  Talk about Tommy-has-drowned-in-the-well dismal.  Record last 10 games?  1 win, 9 losses.  4th place in the National League West division, 11 games out of first.  And with a current .472 winning records, it appears the team will yet again end the season under .500.

And the Giants' misery has only continued.

During the Giants' Monday game against the Braves, the last 20 Giants' batters were all retired .. all ... with little effort from the Braves' pitcher.  Oh, ad the Giants lost again yesterday (Tuesday), giving them a 10 game losing streak, tying the worst losing streak since playing in San Francisco.   If the Giants lose to the Braves again today, the' team will have a new San Francisco franchise string of losses record:  11 in a row.

Before Tuesday's Game, manager Bruce Bochy went as far as speaking to the team, reminding them they needed to meet the playing obligations of a major league baseball team.

Ouch.

And more Giants players injured.  More going into surgery for various 'repairs'.

Double Ouch.

I personally think Bruce Bochy needs to go, and have since before the 2017 season.   Something's just not right with the Giants' dynamics throughout the entire organization.  I think the team needs a new skipper to bring a fresh start and outlook to the ball club.  In addition, with the conflagration of injuries to Giants' players this year, the Giants' training staff needs an urgent and extensive overhaul.   Just my opinions.

But heck, there are a couple somewhat rosy items on the horizon.  At least the Giants won't loose 100 games or have the worst, or 2nd worse, record in Major League Baseball this year.

Onward to next season.  Go Giants!

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