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, 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.
_____________________________________

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

September 10, 2018

One A Day Vitamins: Is it truly a One A Day if it is not ... well ... one a day?

Bayer's One A Day Vitamins brand has earned the Bonehead of the Month Award.

Why so?  Glad you asked!  One A Day Vitamins have been around since the 1940s.  During this time ... nearly 80 years ... their key selling point was (duh!) that a person took one vitamin a day.  Yep, just like the label boldly says.  One A Day, as the label states on this One A Day Kids Gummies Vitamin:

Photo credit:  oneaday.com


But wait, there's a big problem!  Can this Gummies chewable vitamin be a One A Day when it is actually a Two A Day?

I personally don't think so.

You see, One A Day vitamins came out with this chewable Gummies vitamin last year.  It's marketed as a children's chewable Gummies vitamin, and comes in kid-friendly shapes like the Batman Gummies in the photo.  One A Day's website broadcasts the Gummies with its One A Day label.

But it's only until you look at the fine print on the back of the label that you discover kids age 4 and older, as well as adults, need to take 2 Gummies a day to get the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.  Heck, One A Day so obscures this fact that they do not make it easily available on their website.  I had to download a separate .pdf label document about the One A Day Gummies Chewable Vitamin to learn it's actually a Two A Day Gummies Chewable Vitamin:


Oops!  Looks like One A Day needs a new Two A Day brand and label for their Gummies Vitamins.  Because clearly the Gummies are a Two A Day vitamin!

And a California appellate court appears to agree with my opinion.  The court has reinstated a class action lawsuit against Bayer and their One A Day Vitamin brand over just that fact:  the One A Day Gummies Vitamin label is misleading.

Did Bayer actually think they would get away with this misleading marketing and sales scheme?  Crazy!

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 3, 2018

Insurance: When is the last time you reviewed your Homeowners Insurance or Renters Insurance coverage?

Insurance.  Not the most exciting of topics, for sure.  But an important one nonetheless.

If you carry homeowners insurance or renters insurance, when is the last time you reviewed your coverage?  Are you certain you have adequate coverage for the value of your home and contents.  Do you know basic coverage is limited for certain contents, including jewelry?

I recommend reviewing homeowners insurance and renters insurance coverage each year; more often if you've made improvements to your home, or have acquired significant new household contents.  I do not sell commissioned-based insurance policies.  All of my insurance services are provided on a consulting basis.  My professional compensation is based on my hourly rates and reimbursable expense.

I welcome your call at (510) 421-5457 or email to Mary@FoutsFinancialGroup.com to schedule your  insurance policy review, or to address other insurance concerns you may have.

Insurance 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

August 30, 2018

Chicago Fire Update: 10 Children Dead

This post updates my last post regarding a horrific residential fire in Chicago last Sunday morning.

Death Toll Update:  The death toll in the fire has now been updated to 10, all children between the ages of 3 months and 16 years.  It was originally reported that 2 victims were adults; this was incorrect.  All victims died from smoke inhalation.

Residence:  The residence was originally described as an apartment building.  That is a bit in accurate.  It is actually a home (described as a 2-story Coach House) that appears to have been separated into unique rental living units by floor.  Whether or not the building separation was legal and permitted has not been disclosed.  The first floor was vacant, the children were all on the 2nd floor of the residence.  The Coach House sits behind the main house on the property, a 3-story brownstone.  Code Enforcement had issued Code Citations since 2007 on both homes, although the details of the citations have not been made public.

Children:  The children were all at a sleep over.  The children were unattended, no adults were present at the home.  A Child Neglect Investigation has been opened up by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service.

Smoke Detectors:  It has been reconfirmed that no working smoke detectors were found in the building.  Investigators did find 1 smoke detector on the 2nd floor, but the battery had been removed from it.  Fire investigators have stated that it is the building owner's responsibility to install smoke detectors, but the tenant's responsibility for maintaining the smoke detectors, including keeping batteries in the units.

Cause of Fire:  Not yet determined.  The fire started in an enclosed porch at the rear of the building.  It has been called the deadliest Chicago fire in more than a decade.

As I stated earlier ...

According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Larry Langford, the deaths and injuries could have been avoided if working smoke detectors had been in use:
"It was not hard to get out. The fire started in the rear, and the entryway to the front was wide open," Langford said. "Had they been awake or if someone had woken them, they would have gotten out."
The people would be alive today had there been working smoke detectors in the apartment.

During a fire, a person can become unconscious and die from smoke inhalation in as little as 2 minutes.  2 minutes!  This is one life saving issue I counsel clients on when I review residential and business fire insurance.  Make sure your home and business has working smoke detectors.  If battery powered, change the batteries every 6 months.  Replace smoke detector units every 10 years, or sooner if they malfunction.

Smoke detectors.  Inexpensive and life saving. 

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

August 27, 2018

Fire Safety: Smoke Detectors Save Lives. Make sure you have them, and that they work.

Another completely avoidable fire-related tragedy, this one in Chicago.

Early Sunday morning, 8 people - 6 children and 2 adults - were killed in a residential apartment fire in Chicago.  2 additional children are hospitalized in very critical condition, so the likely death toll will be 10 people - 8 children and 2 adults.  1 firefighter was also hospitalized.

The fire started in an enclosed porch at the rear of the building.  It has been called the deadliest Chicago fire in more than a decade.

And working smoke detectors?  None found.

According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Larry Langford, the deaths and injuries could have been avoided if working smoke detectors had been in use:
"It was not hard to get out. The fire started in the rear, and the entryway to the front was wide open," Langford said. "Had they been awake or if someone had woken them, they would have gotten out."
The people would be alive or otherwise uninjured today had there been working smoke detectors in the apartment.

During a fire, a person can become unconscious and die from smoke inhalation in as little as 2 minutes.  2 minutes!  This is one life saving issue I counsel clients on when I review residential and business fire insurance.  Make sure your home and business has working smoke detectors.  If battery powered, change the batteries every 6 months.  Replace smoke detector units every 10 years, or sooner if they malfunction.

I'll post (again) about fire extinguishers in a future post.

Smoke detectors.  Inexpensive and life saving. 

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

August 23, 2018

Happy National Sandwich Month!

I eat a lot of sandwiches, and what a better month to celebrate doing so.  August is National Sandwich Month!

I don't have a favorite sandwich, as I have very broad tastes and enjoy many different sandwich fixings.  Lately I've been making homemade refrigerator bread and butter pickles to have with my lunch sandwiches.  That's been a treat!  Also, I bake all of our bread, all sourdough with my own sourdough starter made with only bread flour and bottled spring water.

And what about this yummy sounding sandwich?!  A dynamite looking chicken sandwich that incorporates one of my favorite fruits:  pears.  Here is a link to the Casablanca Pear and Chicken Sandwich recipe, courtesy of USA Pears.   Doesn't this sandwich look delicious?!

Photo credit:  usapears.org
Happy National Sandwich Month, 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

August 21, 2018

Nancy Pelosi: A Poster Child for Excessive Cosmetic Surgery Procedures

Normally I don't publicly discuss the appearance of other people.  After all, we all have our own look, body figure, and style.  But I occasionally make an exception to this rule (uh, guideline) with one issue:  People who have ruined their appearance with excessive, or botched, cosmetic surgery procedures.

And on the subject of excessive cosmetic surgery procedures, I now present a poster child for this topic:

California's own Congressional Representative Nancy Pelosi.

You know, the 78-year old politician who claims she hasn't had any cosmetic surgery done.  But pictures taken over the years show a markedly different, and obvious answer:

Pelosi clearly has had a lot ... A LOT ... of cosmetic surgery work done through the years.  She's starting to remind me of Michael Jackson.


Here is a picture of Pelosi taken last month in July.  (You can look online to find additional historic photos of Pelosi from years ago that present the same excessive-cosmetic-procedures evidence.)  Does she look absolutely horrid, or what?!

I mean, it's almost painful to simply look at her.

Face Lifts:  Nancy Pelosi has had so many face lifts that her hairline is now pulled back to halfway up her head.

Eyebrow Lifts and Other Cosmetic Eye Surgery:  Pelosi has had so many eyelid lifts done that her eyelids don't even fit correctly over her eyes anymore.  And as for Pelosi's actual eyes?  Well, she's had so much work on them (probably some type of fat removal around the lid area), that her eyes are so sunken, they look as if they have been excavated with a melon ball scoop.

What happened to the old fashioned concept of aging with grace and dignity?  Guess Nancy Pelosi finds that simple concept to difficult to adhere to.  But the end result has turned her into a woman that looks like a freak show.

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

August 18, 2018

Flowers: A simple flower arrangement can bring so much joy to a room.

A very simple flower arrangement, in a drinking glass, from my summer gardens.  My gardens are suffering with the poor air quality.  Air is smokey from the inferno of Northern California wildfires.



Struggle my gardens may do, but not without glory.  A simple flower arrangement brings so much joy to a room.  A reminder that tomorrow is, indeed, another day.

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

August 16, 2018

Avocados: My Favorite Reed Avocados are In Season!

If you are an avocado fan, take note:  California Reed Avocados are in season!

These nearly larger than life avocados are one of my favorite seasonal produce items.  They are in season for just a few months, typically from early August to October-ish.


Reed Avocados are sublime.  Very creamy, with a smooth, nutty flavor that reminds me of Swiss Cheese.  The skin is sturdier than other avocado types, such that you can actually use the skin as its own bowl!  They are delicious by them selves, in salads, sandwiches, Mexican dishes, eggs, and much more. 

And another bonus:  Reed Avocados do not turn brown when sliced.   That alone is reason to buy them!

Do try Reed Avocados if you can find them.  Generally sold by the pound, rather than by the piece.  The Reed Avocado in the photo was $3.99 a pound.

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

August 13, 2018

Transportation: San Francisco Bay Area's Broken Public Transportation System

This is the first of occasional posts I'll be making discussion Transportation Issues.  And anyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows there are a lot ... A LOT ... of transportation issues to rant about!

Take public transportation for instance.  Or the lack thereof.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, the public transportation system is downright broken.

It's true that huge amounts of money are thrown at public transportation, including gas tax money, ballot proposition money, and money from the 5 Bay Area bridge tolls .  However, but a person often can't get where the person needs to go using public transportation.  Or if the person can get the the location, she can't get to the location in a reasonable amount of time, or at the time she needs to be there.

And then there's the public transportation crime and safety issue, but that's a whole other discussion.

Take this example.

I volunteer at the Bray Courthouse in the county seat of Martinez, California.  If I left my house this morning at 11:10 and drove to the Courthouse, the 11.1 mile trip via Interstate 680 would take me about 18 minutes.

No complaints there.  But heck, what if I wanted to use public transportation.  A person should be able to get to the main Courthouse in the county seat using public transportation, and do so  with little hassle in a reasonable amount of time ... Right?

Nope.  If I were to use public transportation, here is the Odyssey From Hell trip I would have.

First off, I'd have to walk 0.8 miles from my house to the bus stop.  I get on a bus at 11:51 AM, and ride the bus for 16 minutes to downtown Pleasant Hill.  During that 16 minutes, the bus makes 11 stops.  (Oh, and by the way, downtown Pleasant Hill is a mere 1.3 mile drive by car from the bus stop.)

I than wait get off bus #1 and wait 23 minutes for bus #2.  I get on bus #2 at  12:23 PM.  I ride bus #2 to Martinez for 29 minutes, during which the bus makes 31 stops.  I finally get to Martinez, and get off at the bus stop on Marina Vista and Court streets.  I then walk 0.2 miles to the Bray Courthouse, eventually arriving at the Courthouse at 1:18 PM.

And this assumes the buses are running on time.

So here are my options for a Monday trip from my Pleasant Hill home to the Bray Courthouse in Martinez, CA at  11:10 AM:

(1)  Drive my car to the Bray Courthouse  via Interstate 680.  Route is 11.1 miles.  Trip would take about 18 minutes; I would arrive at  11:28 AM.

(2)  Take public transportation to the Bray Courthouse.  Trip would require that I walk 1.0 miles, and take 2 different bus connections that travel God knows how many miles.  Cost for each bus connection is $1.  Oh, and during the time I'm wondering the Pleasant Hill/Martinez area on the buses, the buses would make 41 stops during the combined 39 minutes I'm on the buses.  Total time for the trip (assuming the 2 buses are running on time), from leaving my home to arriving at the Bray Courthouse?  1 hour and 27 minutes, arriving at 1:18 PM.

Why would anyone use this grossly inefficient public transportation?  A 11.1 mile car trip that would take 18 minutes is turned into a 1 hour and 27 minute odyssey with public transportation, including a mile of walking and 2 buses?  That's 1 hour and 9 minutes longer.  And 1 mile of walking to boot.  Crazy!

Just one example of public transportation that can't get you where you need to go, when you need to get there.  And do so in a timely and efficient manner.  I hate to drive, and would love to use public transportation.  Sad to see so much money wasted on the broken and inefficient San Francisco Bay Area public transportation system. 

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

August 9, 2018

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

Photo credit:  nationaldaycalendar.com
I love to read, both books and print newspapers.  Always have.  When my husband Jim and I built the addition onto our home, adding a library area was an absolute must!  Also love to do crossword puzzles, which I count as part of my reading.

I enjoy reading many genres, including nonfiction, books about human events and experiences, historic fiction, and crime dramas/mysteries - as long as the crime dramas are not gory.  Oh, and don't forget recipe books and reading the dictionary to improve your vocabulary!  And we get daily delivery of the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle newspapers.  (Yes there are still print newspaper readers out there!  )

Along that line of thought ... Today is National Book Lovers DayWhat do you enjoy reading or puzzling?

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 yep, she loves to read!  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

August 5, 2018

San Francisco: The once great city has become a cesspool of filth.

San Francisco.  Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but today many other less desirable things are being left on San Francisco's streets, sidewalks, and alleys.
  • Human feces.
  • Human urine.
  • Used syringes with needles attached.
  • Oh, and don't forget about people openly shooting up heroin and other drugs in public.
The above issues are the result of San Francisco's ballooning homeless population.  A population of people driven by San Francisco's weather and very generous public handouts, plus the enablement of City leaders who ... well ... often just let the homeless people do whatever they want to do.

Oh, and don't forget about San Francisco's Needle and Syringe Exchange Program.  The problem with this program is that it, well, it actually isn't a needle and syringe EXCHANGE program. It's a needle and syringe GIVE OUT program, as the City of San Francisco does not require used needles and syringes to be exchanged for the new, clean needles and syringes.

Today's San Francisco.  A disgrace.
Photo credit: sfchronicle.com

And just how many new needles and syringes are given out every year in this program?  At last count, between 4.45 to 4.80 MILLION needles and syringes each year, to an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users that live in the city.  These 22,000 drug users represent about 2.6% of San Francisco's population, estimated at 846,816 people.  So yep, 2.6% of the population making it miserable for other San Francisco's residents, workers, and visitors.

To hell with the rest of San Francisco's residents, workers, and visitors, right?

And I haven't even mention other safety issues in San Francisco, including the estimated 30,000 auto break-ins in 2017.  Yep, 30,000.

And as far as coming off the streets?  In the last significant attempt by the City of San Francisco to get homeless off the streets, nearly all homeless people contacted refused the shelter and related supportive services offered by the city outreach workers.

I don't go to San Francisco anymore unless I absolutely have to for business purposes.  And I know I'm not alone in that decision.

San Francisco.  Sad how derelict, miserable, and broken a once beautiful city has become.

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

August 2, 2018

Natural Disasters: Do you have an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

Photo credit:  sacbee.com
Wildfires are raging once again in California, including threatening urban areas.  Given the early start to the wildfire season this year - generally the worst fires are in September and October - this year may end up being the worst in history for California.

 While California's current concern is wildfires, different disasters can strike around the United States, including floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  If you had to evacuate on short notice to save your life, could you do it?

The Sacramento Bee newspaper has published a very helpful article providing 5 key steps to implement in your evacuation plan.  They are:

  1. Know your risks where you live and work.
  2. Pack and store a Go Bag, containing at least 3 days of food and water, clothing, medicine, and other necessary provision such as a portable phone charger and a flashlight.  And don't forget provisions for any pets you have.
  3. Organize important documents for quick retrieval.
  4. Identify possible escape routes.
  5. Come up with a family communication plan.

The article also contains additional information and links to emergency-related websites.  Read the entire article here.

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