February 21, 2019

Munchery: No Surprise To Me That This Food Delivery Business Failed.

Munchery.


The San Francisco-based 'artisinal' on demand food delivery business turned its pricey ovens off and shut down last month after chowing through ... no pun intended ... a hot plate of $150 million in venture capital.

Oops!

A food entry from Munchery.
I don't know what it is.
But man, it sure looks gross!

But really.  There is absolutely not one salt shaker of surprise in this business failure.  The company expanded to major cities across the United States before ascertaining its business model had a chance of success.  Munchery built mega-expensive kitchens to produce ... and waste ... mega lots of so-called artisanal food.

And how much waste?  This data is a bit old, but according to Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer:
Financial documents obtained by Bloomberg show that Munchery has been massively overproducing food for years: Between September 2014 and July 2016, Munchery's kitchen in San Francisco made about 653,400 dishes that were never sold. The excess food was both donated to charities and thrown away, according to Bloomberg.
And those food wastage statistics are just for Munchery's San Francisco kitchen!

I mean, really:  How many people are going to pick of their smartphone and order a Seared Slow Poached Chicken Thigh and a side of Vegan Green Soup with Ginger for prompt delivery?  And how could a company, Munchery or any others, believe they could both independently produce this fancy food and deliver it, all the while making a profit.  Munchery's business model has never worked on a mass scale.  It ain't no limited delivery area, small menu Domino Pizza template.

But then again, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 19, 2019

Taxes: Did your paid tax preparer sign your tax return?

Paid Income Tax Preparer Responsibilities


I originally published this post last May.  It covers legal requirements paid tax prepares must follow regarding signing tax returns.  As a taxpayer, know your rights and the resonsibilities of paid tax preparers!  With individual income tax season now upon us, it's worth another read.

~~  Originally posted May 23, 2018  ~~

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 17, 2019

California Taxes


Is there anything California politicians won't try to tax or impose a fee upon?

Apparently not.  What's the latest target?

Governor California Newsom wants to tax drinking water in California.  No wonder so many people think California is plain crazy.

Newsom's water tax proposal is vague, but you can read a little about it here.

Tax Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 15, 2019

Lexi the Dog: Making the Best of a Cold and Rainy Day

Lexi the Dog


Lexi, my Faithful Canine Princess.   It has been cold and stormy all week, with 5.26 inches of rain so far this week.  Today has given us cold, rain,  and hail, with a temperature of only 43.7 degrees at 1:00 PM.

But Lexi, still a bit damp from our morning walk, is staying positive and taking the weather in stride.  What could be better than a nice afternoon nap in the comfy guest bedroom?

Lexi, my Faithful Canine Companion
Unconditional love is as close as your nearest animal shelter.  Please adopt, don't shop.  And please spay and neuter your pets.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 14, 2019

Amazon Pulls Out of New York City Headquarters Plan After Growing Opposition

Amazon pulls out of New York City Headquarter Plan.


Read about it here in the New York Times.

Just announced today, about a week after the New York Times reported growing opposition to the proposal.  That didn't take long, did it?  Read my February 7 blog post about the issue below. 

Shows you that ordinary people can, in fact, voice their opinions and be heard.  Wonder what Amazon will do now?

~~  Originally Posted February 7, 2019  ~~

Amazon's Proposed New York Headquarters.


Thought it was a done deal?  I sure did.

But guess what? It's not!  As I learned in this very interesting New York Times article yesterday.


Twitter using New York Senator Michael Gianaris is no fan of Amazon's New York plans, specifically the $3 billion in state and local incentives that Amazon will receive.  His ire toward Amazon's plan is such that he he calls the proposal Scamazon.  And much to Amazon's disdain, Mr. Gianaris has been appointed to the  Public Authorities Control Board, a little-known state board that .... guess what? ... must approve the Amazon plan.

Fascinating.  This will be some interesting politicking to follow, for sure.  Wish I could be a mouse in the corner to witness the barrage of lobbying that is most certainly going on.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 13, 2019

Stupid Criminal Award: Don't Stop For Tacos!

This month's Stupid Criminal Award is a doozy.


Three suspects in a recent car break in and credit card theft at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge almost got away.

Almost.  Taco's got 'em!

Yes, the perps might have gotten away, if it weren't for tacos.  On their getaway route, the perps decided to stop at the Taco Shop in San Francisco for, well, tacos.  At which the cops promptly arrested all three men as they tried to hide in the bathroom.   All three were charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, including burglary and resisting an officer.

Tacos 1.  Criminals 0!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 9, 2019

Employment Related Moving Expenses: Tax Deduction Was All But Eliminated On January 1, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included a significant change to the tax deductibility of employment related moving expenses.

Unless you are a member of the Armed Forces, all employment-related moving expenses are eliminated.  Yep.  Every single one.

Individual Income Tax Preparation
Employment Related Moving Expenses


Prior to 2018, with certain underlying requirements, employed and self-employed taxpayers could deduct reasonable moving expenses if the move was necessary due to starting work in a new location.  These deductions - which could be significant - included such things as:
  • Packing and transportation of household goods and personal effects, and
  • Travel costs for the taxpayer and family members to the new residence, including lodging but not meals.
Beginning January 1, 2018, employment related moving expenses are only available to members of the Armed Forces.  If you planned to otherwise deduct these expenses on your 2018 individual income tax return, you're out of luck.

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

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

February 7, 2019

Amazon's New York Headquarters: Not A Done Deal After All.

Amazon's Proposed New York Headquarters.


Thought it was a done deal?  I sure did.

But guess what? It's not!  As I learned in this very interesting New York Times article yesterday.


Twitter using New York Senator Michael Gianaris is no fan of Amazon's New York plans, specifically the $3 billion in state and local incentives that Amazon will receive.  His ire toward Amazon's plan is such that he he calls the proposal Scamazon.  And much to Amazon's disdain, Mr. Gianaris has been appointed to the  Public Authorities Control Board, a little-known state board that .... guess what? ... must approve the Amazon plan.

Fascinating.  This will be some interesting politicking to follow, for sure.  Wish I could be a mouse in the corner to witness the barrage of lobbying that is most certainly going on.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 5, 2019

Gross: Tech Workers Eat An All Meat Diet To Get An Edge In Their Tech Work

Just when I thought I'd heard it all when it comes to unhealthy fad diets, this comes along.

Get this ... Apparently the employer-provided free meal buffets are not good enough for some tech workers.  You see, some tech workers have adopted an All Meat and Fat Diet.  That's right!  No fruits, vegetables, grains, or fibre.  Just meat and other fats such as cheese.  It's called a Carnivore Diet.

A Carnivore Diet, aka Carnivory


Ryan Parks, a San Francisco Bay Area tech worker who follows this lunatic and unhealthy diet,  had this to say about his Carnivore Diet (also called Carnivory by those who partake in this unhealthy and gross endeavor) in a San Francisco Chronicle article.  And golly gee, we even get to learn about his bowel movements!
"The first week of the carnivore diet was tough, especially on his digestive system. Fiber adds bulk to stool. Without it, bowel movements were “not enjoyable,” Parks said. Still, he felt lighter and more energized. He no longer required Diet Coke to fend off an “undeniable urge to nap” after lunch. The carnivore diet stuck."
Here are photos of Mr. Parks enjoying ... or presumably enjoying ... his breakfast of a pound of browned ground beef topped with 2 slices of provolone cheese. 

Photo credit:  sfchronicle.com

Photo credit:  sfchronicle.com

Geesh!  At least he could sit down and 'enjoy' his breakfast.  All I can say about this unhealthy fad diet is two words:  Gross!  and  Scurvy!

Crazy!  Now let me get back to my breakfast of fruit and toasted homemade sourdough bread.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

February 1, 2019

Employee Benefits: Is Your Business In Compliance?

Employee Benefits are governed by a maze of federal, state, and local laws.  We're not talking just health insurance issues, but family leave, worker's compensation insurance, personal sick leave, unemployment insurance benefits, and on and on.

If you are a business owner with employees, are your employee benefits in compliance with pertinent laws?  California, in particular, has some of the most protective employment laws in the nation.

I bring 31 years of experience to business clients, including consulting services for Employee Benefit matters.  I welcome your call at (510) 421-5457 or email to mary@foutsfinancialgroup.com if you have questions about Employee Benefits selection, compliance issues, and annual reviews of Employee Benefits.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

January 28, 2019

Individual Income Taxes: Are you getting ready for your 2018 tax return preparation?

2018 Individual Income Tax Return Preparation


The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017 was the largest overhaul to the US Tax Code in 30 years.  Tax regulations for individual income tax payers were significantly change, as were individual income tax forms.  Regarding forms, the 2 page Form 1040 was reduced to 2 1/2 pages ... Don't ask me why the IRS didn't simply put the form on 1 page!  However, the omitted entries from Form 1040 were replaced with 6 ... yep, 6 ... new Schedule pages.  They are numerically numbered as Schedules 1,2,3,4,5,and 6.  So much for efficiency, right?  Not!

Time does fly by, and April will be here before you know it.  And, along with it, the deadline for paying 2018 individual income taxes, and either filing individual income tax returns or an extension of time to file.  Given all of the changes in 2018 taxes, don't delay preparing for this new tax return season!

Tax Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 25, 2019

Page Mandarins: One Of My Favorite Fruits Is In Season Now!

Page Mandarins.


One of my favorite fruits, these yummies are in season in California now.   If you haven't had a Page Mandarin, you are really, really missing out!

This exceptionally delicious, small-to-medium-sized citrus is a cross between a Minneola Tangelo and a Clementine Mandarin.  Page Mandarins typically arrive at your grocer in very ripe condition.  They are very sweet, juicy (!) and fragrant.  Easy to peel, too.  Paige Mandarins pair exceptionally well with other fruit, including banana, berries, and pineapple.

And Page Mandarins are good for you, too.  1 medium Page Mandarin has only 47 calories, but is packed with vitamins and minerals, including 39% of recommended daily Vitamin C, and 11% of recommended Vitamin A.  Plus 6% of recommended daily fiber intake. 

Here was my breakfast fruit this morning:  2 Paige Mandarins and a sliced Banana.  Plus a slice of toasted homemade Sourdough Bread.  Delish!  Do try this delicious fruit if your local market carries it.


About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 22, 2019

Billy McFarland: Imprisoned Fyre Festival Fraudster the Subject of Competing Documentaries

Billy McFarland.


Here's an update about the pretty boy Fyre Festival Fraudster (that's a mouthful!) who is currently better known as Federal Convict Number 91186-054.


Remember the Fyre Festival Hoax?


Well, two competing documentaries have been released about the Fyre Festival hoax, apparently with more than a little trash talking amongst those involved with the documentaries.

I don't care to watch either documentary.  Nor do I care to follow the trash talking that is supposedly going on.  However, I thought I'd take a moment to revisit the Fyre Festival hoax.  I followed reporting about the hoax, and authored 3 blog posting about my thoughts on the bogus festival and Billy McFarland in 2017-2018.

Here's my post #3 after McFarland was sentenced to 6 years in the Big Boy's Slammer.  He's an Artist of Cons, for certain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Originally posted October 20, 2018   

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

But wait ... There's more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy McFarland


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

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

Yet another example of reality being stranger than fiction!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 20, 2019

Forms 1099-MISC and W-2: 2018 Due Dates Coming Soon!

Form W-2 and Form 1099-MISC Due Dates


If you are a business entity that issues Form W-2 or Form 1099-MISC to workers, your 2018 IRS filing due dates are soon approaching.

Beginning with the 2016 tax filing season, the IRS moved up some due dates for filing Forms W-2 and Forms 1099-MISC, February 28 to January 31.  Supposedly the change will help prevent tax fraud by permitting the IRS to more quickly verify filed tax return entries with corresponding W-2 and 1099-MISC information.

To verify your 1099-MISC and W-2 filing due dates, visit the IRS Employment Tax Due Date page.  

Tax Concerns?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax planning, preparation, and representation services for taxpayers with complex or technical tax issues.  As an Enrolled Agent licensed by the United States Department of the Treasury, Mary is allowed to provide tax services in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  For more information about Mary's Tax, Insurance Consulting, Employee Benefits Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 17, 2019

Trupanion Pet Insurance: Don't Waste Your Money On This Worthless Insurance

The tag line should read:
"No medical insurance for your pet
because we won't pay your claims, Sucker!"

Trupanion Pet Insurance Denial of Claims Complaints


Blog Post Flashback:  I originally posted this entry in April 2016, about Trupanion Pet Insurance and its slimy company culture of doing anything and everything possible to deny claims.

This Trupanion entry has been one of the most visited entries on my blog.  Unfortunately, from complaints that pop up on current internet searches, Trupanions' abusive denial of claims continues to this day.  Here's what I had to say about my mind numbing experience with Trupanion.  Feel free to comment if you have Trupanion experiences and complaints you'd like to share.

Trupanion Pet Insurance Denial of Claims Practices


~ Originally posted April 13, 2016 ~

When we adopted our dogs Husky-mix Sid  (in late Sept. 2014) and Chow-mix Lexi (in late Oct. 2014) we decided to purchase pet health insurance from Trupanion.  The coverage seemed to have improved since we looked at it (but didn't purchase) for our late Chow-mix Titus.  We provide our dogs with the best veterinary care possible, and knowing what costs can be (Titus had 2 TPLO surgeries and also surgery and chemotherapy treatment for canine cancer) thought it prudent to purchase coverage for catastrophic events.

Boy.  Were We Wrong.

Our Trupanion policy supposedly ... and I stress the word supposedly ... provided coverage for 90% of of vet costs, excluding ordinary and routine care including exams, following a $1000 deductible.  The most recently monthly premium for both dogs (currently about 4 years and 3.5 years old) was $54.40.

Sid the Dog snoozes in "his room" (a guest room) on a rainy Spring 2016 afternoon.

Lexi relaxes in the backyard on a glorious Spring 2016 afternoon.

We didn't file any Trupanion claims for Lexi, but we did file claims for Sid.  While Sid's claims did not meet the $1000 deductible, we wanted to get claims started in the event the conditions manifested to need additional care that would meet the deductible.  For three claims - the last one being this week, when we threw our hands up in the air and cancelled the coverage to avoid more money going down the drain - Trupanion denied the claims.  Reason?  Sid had an infection in 1 ear when we adopted him from the local county animal shelter.  We treated it, it cleared up in 2-3 weeks.  Our 3 claims involved separate and distinct acute infections, yet Trupanion insisted that since Sid had an ear infection prior to coverage, that infections were pre-existing conditions and not covered.  Claims denied.  (And by the way, I am a licensed insurance agent and insurance analyst, and have worked with insurance matters, including insurance coverage and claims, since 1988.)

No kidding.  Infections ... unrelated, newly-onset infections ... not covered because Sid happened to have an ear infection more than 18 months before that was treated then and completely cleared up within 2-3 weeks.   We could see the writing on the wall that Trupanion will do whatever they can to deny a claim.  Surely the same would have held true with Lexi, they likely would have denied claims tying some connection to her prior neglect and abuse, or her surgically-removed fractured lower canine teeth.

A quick search on the Internet reveals many similar complaints from both current and former Trupanion Pet Insurance policyholders.  Denied claims time and time again.

Don't waste your money on Trupanion Pet Insurance.

If you have pets, don't waste your money on Trupanions' worthless pet insurance.  Based on our experience and that of many other pet owners, the policy premiums are (or were) simply money down the drain.  Set the money aside for the day when you need it for unexpected pet veterinary needs.  Don't expect Trupanion to be there when you need them, although they will gladly take your premium money each month.

California Insurance Complaints


If you live in California, are a Trupanion Pet Insurance policyholder, and believe all or part of a claim has been wrongfully denied, you may have the matter reviewed by the California Department of Insurance:
California Department of Insurance
Consumer Services and Market Conduct Branch, Claims Services Bureau,
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone:  800-927-4357

You can also file an online complaint with the California Department of Insurance.

Questions about insurance coverage? I welcome your call at (510) 421-5457 or email to Mary@FoutsFinancialGroup.com. For information about my nationwide Consulting, Expert Witness, and Tax Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Once again, another life lesson learned with help from my Faithful Canine Companions!

Mary Rae Fouts

January 14, 2019

Lexi Waits Patiently for a Sample of One of Her Favorite Foods ... Roast Turkey!

Chow Chow-Pomeranian Mix Lexi


Lexi, my Faithful Canine Companion and can-be-stubborn princess lioness.  She has blossomed and grown so very much since we adopted her as a skinny, scared of everything, thin furred dog in October 2014.  One of Lexi's favorite foods is roast turkey,  a staple in my meal rotation.  Here Lexi waits patiently near my chair at dinner for a few samples of slow roasted turkey breast.


Lexi gave the roast turkey breast a 4 paws up rating!

And remember, unconditional love is as close as your nearest animal shelter.

Lexi.  💗💜💚
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, employee benefits consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  She enjoys life with her husband Jim and Faithful Canine Companions Lexi and Sid.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2019!

Back in a couple of weeks.


It seemed like 2018 flew by in a whirlwind.  Time surely seems to move faster each year.  For me, anyway.



I'm taking a New Year break from the blog; will be back posting in a couple of weeks.  Best wishes for a Very Happy New Year and a rewarding 2019.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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