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.