January 29, 2018

SAGE Centers for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care - Incredibly Disappointed in Vulgar Post

SAGE Centers for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care:  For all of the years my husband and I, and our faithful canine companions, have depended on you for emergency and specialty veterinary care, including emergency, surgery, and oncology care at your Concord, California location.

So disappointed in your recent vulgar and uncaring social media post.

SHAME.  
ON.  
YOU.

Chow-Pom mix Lexi (left) and Husky-Malamute mix Sid (right).

Yes, oncology care, for out beloved late dog Titus.  Who was treated by Dr. J. at your Concord, CA location, with great care, knowledge, and respect.

But perhaps your specialty practiced has now morphed into "flipping the bird" and other vulgar associations.  Really?  How disappointing with what I thought was a world class organization.

I expect better from you, SAGE.  Shame on you, SAGE!

Perhaps if Dr. Kiselow would actually stay in the Bay Area and treat canine cancer patients and did the same type of research, instead of venturing off to thousands-of-miles-away Lake Placid, NY, then a cure for canine cancer may actually be found. Swimming, bike riding, and running a marathon ain't going to cure canine cancer.

Check out more in SAGE's vulgar Facebook post below.  Thumbs down ... or should I say, four paws down!




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 has 2 Faithful Canine Companions, Husky-Malamute mix Sid and Chow-Pomeranian mix Lexi.  And she doesn't agree with 'flipping the bird' to canine cancer, because giving the vulgar middle finger does nothing ... absolutely nothing ... towards addressing canine cancer, and searching for an end to canine cancer. 

For more information about my professional services, visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 19, 2018

Constitution Quiz: Can you name the part of the United States Constitution that cannot be amended?

Here's a Friday quiz for y'all.  I'll post the answer in the future ... And no cheating! 馃槈

Our Founding Fathers were so concerned about one area of governance, the United States Constitution includes a provisions that one part (Article) of the Constitution cannot be amended.

That's correct.  Just one.

Do you know which part of the Constitution cannot be amended,
and why the Founding Fathers included this provision?

Have a great weekend, 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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 18, 2018

Crossword Puzzles: Oreo strikes again!

Who would think there exists an Oreo Cookie Crossword Synchronicity?  I just think there might!

Shortly after I wrote my January 14 post about Playing Crossword Puzzles and Oreo Cookie Clues, can you guess what happened?  Yep, I completed a Los Angeles Times crossword with an OREO answer.  And a new clue to get the answer:

Crossword Clue:  After-lunch sandwich?
Answer:  ORE0

So the Oreo Cookie Crossword Monster strikes again.  Now sharpen your pencil and get to puzzlin'!

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 16, 2018

Payroll Taxes: New 2018 Employee Tax Withholding Tables Now Available

The IRS has published new 2018 Employee Wage Tax Withholding Tables to conform with the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  Yes, that is the official name of last month's so-called tax reform act.

Anyhoo, for information about the new withholding tables, visit this IRS January 11, 2018 News Release.  As of January 11, the IRS was working on updating the actual withholding Form W-4, but a revised 2018 form was not yet available.

Questions about employee tax withholding or other employment tax issues?  I welcome your email to Mary@FoutsFinancialGroup.com or phone call at (510) 421-5457.

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 15, 2018

Single Payer Health Care in the United States? Just ask the British how their Single Payer System is working out for them ...

Single Payer Health Care in the United States?  Some special interest groups and other proponents champion the concept, although just exactly what "Single Payer" means is up for debate.

To these Single Payer Health Care proponents:

Have you asked the British how their Single Payer System is working out for them?

Three word response:  IT.   IS.   NOT.

As revealed in a recent New York Times article (read the article here), Britain's Single Payer Health Care program - run by the British National Health Service -  is in a state of shambles.  So much so, that British physicians have called their health care services "battlefield medicine" and "third world conditions".

Elderly hospital inpatients are being discharged to a "social care" program to free up hospital beds for others.

Overcrowding and lack of available services is in such dire straights that all ... ALL ... non-essential surgeries were recently postponed, and postponed in all British Nation Health Service Hospitals.  For an entire month.  Effecting thousands of people scheduled for surgery.  And this is not the first time such postponements have taken place.  In the NY Times article, one person commented that this postponement will be the third postponement for surgery he needs.

The third.

Is this the health care system we truly want in the United States?  Read the article when you have time, and decide for yourself.  The grass ain't always greener on the other side.

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 14, 2018

Crossword Puzzles: Want to start crossword puzzling? Here are some tips.

I love solving crossword puzzles.  A lot.  The challenge and mental awareness  and concentration crossword puzzles bring me adds much enjoyment to my days.

Oh, and by the way, I'm a crossword puzzler on paper.  With a pencil.  Don't like solving crossword puzzles on a computer or smart phone, which to me is a messy, non-cohesive platform.

And yes, you're no doubt wondering why I have a photo of an Oreo cookie on a blog post about solving crossword puzzles.  Stay with me now, I'll get to that in a minute!

Anyhoo, last year, Deb Amilen and Sam Ezersky posted a very interesting article in the New York Times website titled "How to Get Started Solving the New York Times Crossword Puzzle".  It contains a wealth of helpful information and puzzle solving aides, as well as some pretty darn fascinating crossword trivia.

You can read the entire article here.  Today I'll share Ms. Amilen's and Mr. Ezersky first crossword puzzling help topic, with which I totally agree.  Plus, the trivia about OREO New York Times Crossword clues is fascinating!  I'll post more of their crossword help topics in the future.  But for today ...


Crossword Puzzling Tip #1:  Start with the Monday Puzzles
"Mondays are the easiest and they get harder as the week goes on.

This is probably a beginning solver’s most common mistake.

You know what it’s like: You have some downtime on a Saturday and you look around for something to pass the time. Your officemate keeps bragging about his ability to finish The New York Times Crossword. You hate your officemate.

So, not to be outdone, you pick up the paper or download our app and turn to the Saturday puzzle. How hard could it be?

Fun Fact: The Saturday crossword is actually the hardest puzzle of the week. Contrary to popular belief, the Sunday puzzles are midweek difficulty, not the hardest. Mondays have the most straightforward clues and Saturday clues are the most vague or involve the most wordplay. Some later-week puzzle clues may require specialized knowledge.

Just to drive the point home, let’s take a look at the difference between a Monday clue and a late-week clue for a popular crossword entry. OREO cookies (answers in puzzles are generally written in all capital letters) are such a popular entry in crosswords that they have been dubbed by some as the “official” cookie of the crossword. A typical Monday clue for OREO will be very straightforward and drive you almost directly to the answer.
“Nabisco cookie”
“Cookie with creme filling”
“‘Twist, Lick, Dunk’ cookie”
And here are some late-week clues, which might require more specialized knowledge about these delicious treats:
“Snack since 1912”
“It has 12 flowers on each side”
“Sandwich often given a twist”
We weren’t kidding you. There is a big difference between a Monday puzzle and a Saturday puzzle.  
That doesn’t mean that you can’t work your way toward solving a late-week puzzle – and we recommend that you do, because they’re fun – but it takes experience and patience.

If you’re just getting started, though, make your life easy and solve as many Monday puzzles as you can. Eventually, you’ll be ready for more of a challenge, and that’s when you move on to Tuesday puzzles."
--  Deb Amilen and Sam Ezersky, "How to Get Started Solving the New York Times Crossword Puzzle"; NewYorkTimes.com; July 217, 2017
Are the differences in the OREO cookie crossword clues mesmerizing, or what?!  Now grab some Oreos and get to crossword puzzlin'!

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 13, 2018

Winter Blahs? Brighten your life with fresh flowers!

Fresh flowers.  An extension of my love of gardening.  And yet another way to brighten each day.

Here are 2 bouquets of flowers I have around my home.  Their freshness and colors brighten each room, and each day.



The vases don't have to be fancy, nor do the arrangements have to be complicated.  Treat yourself to fresh flowers (and houseplants!), and make your own world a better place.

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 12, 2018

Mudslides. Think your homeowners insurance policy covers the damage? Think again.

The devastating mudslides near Montecito in Santa Barbara County, California have killed at least 17 people (a number which is regretfully expected to rise as search efforts continue) and  injured scores more.  An unknown number of homes have been damaged or completely destroyed.  Highway 101 remains closed in the slide area, inundated with tons of mud and boulders.  The mudslide is so deep that some single story homes are buried in mud up to their gutters.  Homes were completely knocked off their foundations from the power of the mudslide.  Others had giant holes through them cause by the boulders rushing down hill.

The loss of life and injuries is horrid.  But regarding damage and destruction to homes, I can only hope the homeowners had proper insurance coverage.  Mudslides and similar earth movement events are not ... I repeat not ... covered by traditional homeowners insurance policies.  The homeowner must purchase a homeowner insurance policy rider to provide the needed earth movement coverage, or purchase a separate insurance policy that provides such coverage.

Hwy 101 near Montecito, California, covered in tons of mud and other debris.
Photo Credit:  latimes.com

If you live in an area subject to mudslides or other earth movement damage, don't delay reviewing your insurance coverage to ascertain you have adequate coverage for damaging perils.  Whether or not you should obtain such insurance coverage is based on your risk exposure, insurance availability and benefits, and cost.

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 11, 2018

Taxes: Required to file tax "information returns" such as Form 1099-MISC? Don't expect to receive a filing extension from the IRS.

One topic I stress with tax clients is always ... always ... provide all required tax information returns to affected taxpayers, and file such returns with the IRS.  And do so in a timely and compliant manner.  Tax information returns consist of Forms 1099 and other tax forms, including Form 1099-MISC provided by businesses to their independent contractor workers and consultants.

The IRS recently sent out a notice that it will grant information return filing extensions in very limited instances, such as a taxpayer whose records were destroyed in a natural disaster.  Refer to IRS Form 8809 for more information.

Penalties for failure to provide and file correct tax information returns are stiff:  $100 for each return not provided or filed in a compliant manner, up to a maximum of a $1.5 million penalty per year.  That penalty is easily avoided by providing and filing compliant Forms 1099-MISC and other tax information returns

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 10, 2018

2018 Tax Calendar

Time to talk about Tax Time!  But then again, it's always Tax Time for me.

Anyhoo, if you are a taxpayer who juggles with ongoing tax obligations and due dates, having a Tax Calendar to help manage your tax obligations can be a big help.

The IRS Federal Tax Calendar, IRS Publication 509, provides federal tax payment and tax form filing due dates for individual income taxes, employment-related taxes, and excise taxes.  Download the 2018 Tax Calendar at this IRS webpage.

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 9, 2018

Sumo Mandarin Citrus: Get this short availability, out-of-the-world citrus fruit while you can!

Sumo Mandarin Citrus.  My absolute favorite fruit, and it's in season now!

But this very limited edition fruit has a very short season, and when its gone, its gone.  Sumos arrived at my local grocer Diablo Foods (in Lafayette, CA) last week.  An boy, are they delicious!  The very best Sumos I've ever had.  Take a look!

Sumo Mandarin Citrus.  Want some?

So what is Sumo Citrus?  It is a very large mandarin-type of citrus, with a bit of orange citrus character.  As you may have guessed by the name, Sumo Citrus was developed in Japan; it is now grown on family farms in California's San Joaquin Valley.  Absolutely seedless, and peels easier than any other citrus fruit.  Oh, and  Sumo Mandarin Citrus has a very low level of acidity.

I agree with the Sumo Citrus website ... Sumo Citrus is likely the sweetest citrus fruit you will ever eat.  

And speaking of the size of the fruit ... I just weighed one on my kitchen scale; the little monster weighed in at 11.36 ounces.  That's nearly 3/4 of a pound of the best citrus you'll ever eat!

Do try Sumo Mandarin Citrus if you can find them.  You'll certainly come back for more of this exquisite fruit.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 8, 2018

Christmas Sid Style!

I love the time of the year between mid-November and mid-January.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays, and I try to keep their spirit in my life each day throughout the year.

And, apparently, so does my Goofy Canine Companion, Husky-Malamute mix Sid.  Poor Sid is clearly not too excited about taking the Christmas Tree down!


"But Mommy, do we reeeeealy have to take down the Christmas Tree?"


Happy New Year from Sid the Christmas Tree Dog!

Oh, and PS:  No ornaments were broken or harmed in the taking of these photographs. 馃巹馃帊

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 5, 2018

Skippy Peanut Butter - It's not just for sandwiches, but much more!

Peanut Butter.  Specifically Skippy Peanut Butter.  It's a favorite in our house, for general eating, cooking, and baking.  Faithful Canine Companions Sid and Lexi love peanut butter, too.  As I posted in 2016 (read the post here), their absolute favorite brand is Skippy.  Sorry, Jif!

Skippy peanut butter is a often-used staple in my pantry, and it's more than just for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or peanut butter on my homemade sourdough toast.  Sid and Lexi love Skippy Peanut Butter in their Rice Cake Surprise, the dessert they have after their dinner each day.   Get the recipe, and watch a put-a-smile-on-your-face video of Sid and Lexi enjoying this delish dessert here 

I also cook and bake with Skippy Peanut Butter.  Peanut butter is more than a cookie ingredient, it adds flavor to many meal items, including Asian-inspired dishes.  The Skippy Peanut Butter website (Skippy's website is the easy to remember www.peanutbutter.com) has a wonderful recipe section (including great photographs!) of many easy-to-make recipes using Skippy Peanut Butter.

How about some delicious Open-Faced Asian Turkey Burgers:

Photo Credit:  peanutbutter.com

or some yummy Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites:

Photo Credit:  peanutbutter.com

Get these two easy recipes and many more by visiting the Skippy Peanut Butter Website's Recipe page.  Have fun cooking and baking!

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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 4, 2018

California State Senator Kevin de Le贸n's Latest Tax Proposal May Lead the List of This Decade's Bozo Political Measures.

Awwwwww, California's Politicians!  Seemingly always up to something.  Something absurd and crazy, that is.

Maybe something even more crazy than Governor Jerry Moonbeam Brown's  High Speed Rail  Crazy Train to Nowhere project.

And what's happenin' now in the Beautiful but Crazy State of California?  Glad you asked!

You see, California State Senator Kevin de Le贸n - who also happens to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate against firmly entrenched Senator Dianne Feinstein - apparently plans to author a bill that would ostensibly thwart the recent federal tax code change that limits the federal individual income tax deductibility of state, local, and property taxes to $10,000.  de Le贸n envisions changing California law to allow individual income taxpayers to make a charitable donation to the State of California rather than paying state income taxes.  No word on any similar proposed work around for property tax payments, which are payed on the local/county level.

de Le贸n believes his proposal would then allow a California taxpayer to deduct the full amount of such "charitable donation to the state" on Form 1040 Schedule A, as the recent federal tax law change did not place a limit on the amount of charitable donations that may be deducted.

But wait, there's more!!  If a taxpayer refuses to make this "charitable donation" to the State of California, the taxpayer would be required to pay state income taxes.

 Memo to California State Senator Kevin de Le贸n

This looniness is what happens when a person who appears to know almost nothing about taxes (and also nothing about deduction charitable donations; I'll get to that in a minute) starts dreaming about rewriting tax codes.  Memo to Senator de Le贸n:
Numero uno:  Your inane tax code concept will never survive a legal challenge.  You cannot simply label a monetary payment a "charitable donation" when it is, in fact, payment for state income taxes owed, and would be calculated as such.  Put lipstick on a pig, and ya still got a pig.  Perhaps a bit prettier pig, but still a pig nonetheless. 
Numero dos:  You cannot force a person to make a charitable contribution.  Unlawful concepts such as coercion, intimidation, and extortion come to mind.  Ouch.
Numero tres:  Your own tax code concept will be a simple Exhibit A for the legal challenge that will immediately be filed if your ludicrous concept is placed into law.  That you force California taxpaying residents to pay state income taxes if they refuse to make your so-called "charitable donation" to the State of California proves, in very simple terms, that the "charitable donation" is not a true charitable donation, but rather a state income tax.  And therefore subject to the new federal $10,000 deductibility limit to state, local, and property taxes.
Numero quatro:  And even if this "charitable donation" to the State of California - in lieu of paying state income taxes, which would ostensibly be equal to the exact same amount of such "charitable donation" - would be determined to be a valid and deductible charitable donation, your concept has another fatal and unavoidable issue.  You see, you apparently don't know much about charitable contributions and tax deductibility.  This is important, so read carefully. 
A charitable donation is deductible only to the extent that the donation exceeds the value of any goods or services received in exchange.  If a person makes a charitable donation (in your tax code concept, the "charitable deduction" to the State of California) and receives something in exchange for the donation (in your tax code concept, this would be the donating taxpayer's California state income taxes), the taxpayer can only deduct the cost of your donation less the value of the item received. 
In your scheme, a California taxpayer's state income tax debt is forgiven by the state of California if the taxpayer makes de Le贸n's "charitable contribution" to the state.  The California taxpayer would therefore be required to subtract the value of his or her California state income taxes (the taxpayer's forgiven tax debt) from the amount of the "charitable donation".  As the state income taxes would exactly equal the "charitable donation", the amount the taxpayer would be able to deduct would be zero.
Yes, a big fat $0.00 charitable deduction.  Ouch again.
And lastly, Numero cinco:  Your advisor Kirk Stark, professor of tax law and policy at UCLA School of Law, supports your new tax code concept.  He has stated “This isn’t some grand new thing.   This is something that states all over the country have been doing for some time.”
Uh, waaaaaaaait a minute there, Professor Stark. Your comparison is an invalid apples to oranges comparison. The "something" that some states allow is to provide state  income tax credits to taxpayers who, by choice, make a donation to a specific charitable organization or non-tax-debt-related fund, such as a charitable fund that finances charter school vouchers.  de Le贸n's cockamamie tax code concept involves neither a specific charitable organization or non-tax-debt-related charitable fund, nor is it based on the obligatory doctrine of choice by the taxpayer.   Shucks, those pesky details! 
But then again, as I see you're from UCLA, I can see why you don't seem to have a solid grasp of taxes, in spite of your title.  Sorry, couldn't resist.
Awww, California Political Craziness!  Never a dull moment and always somethin' to blog about.

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 did not graduate from UCLA!  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 2, 2018

Answer to Recent Geography Quiz: Here are the countries (and territories) that form the continent of North America.

Countries in North America?  No one got this quiz correct.  Including me.  You can read the original post and responses here.

And, I kinda flubbed up on the original quiz question.  I should have referenced territories in addition to countries, stating the question as "Can you name or point out all of the countries and territories in the continent of North America?"   My bad.

And the answer?  North America includes many more countries and territories than most people think.  This continent includes much more than just the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  How much more?

32 Countries and Territories, to exact!
Here's the list:

Countries in the Continent of North America 

Antigua and Barbuda
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Costa Rica
Cuba
Dominica
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Grenada
Guatemala
Haiti
Honduras
Jamaica
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America

 Dependent Territories in the Continent of North America

Puerto Rico (Territory of United States)
United States Virgin Islands (Territory of United States)
Bermuda (Territory of United Kingdom)
Greenland (Territory of Denmark)
Cayman Islands (Territory of UK)
Turks and Caicos Islands (Territory of UK)
British Virgin Islands (Territory ofUK)
Anguilla (Territory of UK)
Montserrat (Territory of UK)

For another perspective, here is a map of the continent of North America.  All of the non-white-colored countries/territories are part of North America.  Surprising, huh?!

Map Credit:  4 Geeks Only

I thought that some of the most-south island countries/territories, including Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada, were part of South America.  I also thought that Greenland was part of Europe!  Particularly given that Greenland remains a territory of Denmark ... Did you know that? ... although Greenland does maintain it's own parliament.

Regarding Central America, its not a continent, as many people think.  Central America is defined as a region within the North American Continent.  And to add to Central America's conceivable identity crisis, world organizations and some countries cannot even agree on what countries constitute the region of Central America.  Some bodies include Mexico with Central America, while yet other bodies include some South American countries with Central America.  Poor Central America!

I hope you enjoyed this quiz, and that perhaps you learned something new from it.  I sure did.  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 visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts