April 30, 2019

Late April Gardening in Pleasant Hill, California ... Take a Peek!

Late April Gardening in Pleasant Hill, California.


Gorgeous weather.  Check!

Cool mornings and long morning walks.  Check!

Spring and Summer Gardens thriving and soaking up Mother Nature's love.  Check!

And as you can tell, Pleasant Hill's tough clay soil grows some mighty fine artichokes!

I have not a clue as to anyone would ever want to live here.  Do you?  😎

Take a peek at  few things going on in my gardens right now ...





























About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  Mary enjoys gardening organically in her gardens at her home in Pleasant Hill, California.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 28, 2019

Taxes: Beware of Tax Return Mistakes if you Live in a State that Does Not Conform to Federal Tax Code.

States That Do Not Automatically Conform To Federal Tax Code.


With the major overhaul to the United States Federal Tax Code in December 2017, the changes not only created major headaches for tax planning and tax return preparation on the federal level.  These changes also created geometrically larger headaches for some corporate and individual income tax payers in states that do not automatically conform to changes in the federal tax code.

My home state of California included.

When I checked earlier this year, seven states did not yet conform to the federal tax code changes made into law in December 2017, more than a year earlier.  They were:
  • Arizona (both individual and corporate tax codes);
  • California (both individual and corporate tax codes);
  • Florida (corporate tax code);
  • Massachusetts (individual tax code);
  • Minnesota (both individual and corporate tax codes)
  • New Hampshire (corporate tax code); and
  • Virginia (both individual and corporate tax code).
This tax code non-conformity can create major headaches for tax planning and tax return preparation purposes.  If you live in one of these states, and you or your tax preparer did not pay attention to the non-conformity areas that affect your 2018 tax return(s), you could be paying considerably more state income taxes than necessary.

For instance, California continues to allow individual income tax deductions in full for state and local real and personal property taxes,  and does not conform to the $10,000 limitation placed by federal law, you can deduct your full tax amount.  California also continues to allow mortgage interest deductions of up to $1.1 million, $1 million for acquisition mortgage debt and $100,000 for home equity debt. Federal law (for loans taken out as of December 15, 2017, older loans are grandfather in) allows only $750,000 for acquisition mortgage debt and nothing for home equity debt.

And that's merely the beginning of non-conformity tax concerns.  Have a headache yet?

Make certain your tax returns are properly prepared, so you do not pay more tax … perhaps much more tax … than you are legally required to pay.

Tax Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 26, 2019

Looking for Something Fun to do this Weekend? Take a Peek at the National Cornbread Cook-Off!

The National Cornbread Cook-Off


Cornbread Baked in a Cast Iron Skillet
Photo Credit:  Unknown
I know, cornbread can be a love it or hate it quick bread.  Regardless of your stance with this centuries old food, something fun is going on this weekend.

And that fun event is the National Cornbread Cook-Off, taking place in South Pittsburgh, TN this Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28.  In addition to having an adult competition, the event also has a 4-H Cornbread Cook-Off Competition, open to all 4th grade 4-H youths.  Now that is really cool!  What a great idea to get girls and boys interested in cooking and baking.

Lodge Cast Iron (one of my favorite cookware/bakeware companies!) is a sponsor of the event, and will live stream parts of the competition on their Facebook page.

For more information, as well as absolutely scrumptious-sounding cornbread recipes, check out the National Cornbread Cook-Off website.

Happy cooking and baking, everyone!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  She loves to cook and bake, and frequently uses cast iron cookware.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 25, 2019

Healthier Eating and Living: If You Eat Dark Leafy Greens, Particularly Spinach And Kale, Choose Organic!

Dark Leafy Greens and Pesticide Residue.


There's no debating that dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, and cabbage are very healthy.  But another not-so-healthy matter contaminates some of these healthy dark greens:  pesticide residue.  Particular in kale and spinach.  And in some samples, lots of it.

Each year, the non profit Environmental Working Group compiles a list of the top 12 most pesticide contaminated vegetables and fruits, based on laboratory testing of by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.  The 2019 list is based on results from 40,900 produce samples.

For 2019, conventionally-grown spinach earned the dismal ranking of #2, or produce with the 2nd highest concentration of pesticide residue.  And kale?  Well, when conventionally grown, this much touted leafy green earned the dismal ranking of #3, or the produce with the 3rd highest concentration of pesticide residue.

Spinach

Spinach and Pesticide Residue


In the samples of conventionally-grown spinach, every ... EVERY ... sample tested had an average of 7.1 pesticides, with some samples containing as many as 19 different pesticides!  In spite of the fact that the pesticide DDT has long been banned in the United States, residues of DDT were found in an amazing 40% of the spinach samples.

Kale

Kale and Pesticide Residue


In the samples of conventionally-grown kale, an astounding 92% had 2 or more pesticide residues, with some sample containing as many as 18 different pesticides!  And get this - almost 60% of kale samples tested positive for the pesticide DCPA (Dacthal), which the EPA has long classified as a possible carcinogen.  It's been banned in Europe since 2009.

How to Avoid Pesticides?  Buy Organic.


The only way to truly avoid pesticides and other synthetic chemicals in your produce is to buy organic.  These products are not allowed in organic-certified farming, but they are allowed in conventional farming.  Knowing what produce is most often contaminated with pesticides can help you make smarter - and healthier - choices in the produce aisle.


About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  She enjoys year-round organic gardening at her home in Pleasant Hill, California.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 22, 2019

Lexi the Dog: Did You Dig This Big Hole?

Lexi the Dog.


My beloved Chow Chow-Pomeranian mix Princess and Faithful Canine Companion.

Here she is last month watching over a freshly-dug hole in the backyard.  Was she guilty of this dastardly digging?  Nope, it was Sid!  But still cute to watch Lexi seemingly watching over the hole, and taking her hole guarding rather seriously.


And here is Sid, the guilty party, examining his digging work.  Busted!



Every day is an adventure with my Faithful Canine Companions!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 20, 2019

Healthier Eating and Living: New Blog Topic Focused on Healthier Eating and Living!

Breakfast!

Healthier Eating and Living.


Healthier Eating (notice I didn't say Healthy Eating, but rather Healthier Eating)  and Healthier Living doesn't have to be a difficult .  Nor does it have to be a boring experience filled with foods you may not like, as in heaps of steamed kale and brussel sprouts on your plate.

I love to cook, bake, and garden.  Much of my cooking is focused around fresh produce and flavorful herbs, and most of my meals are easily prepared without complex recipes.

I'll be sharing some tips with you in a new ongoing blog post entitled Healthier Eating and Living.   I will continue my ongoing blog posts as I've done the past, covering a variety of personal and professional topics.  I very much enjoy writing, including composing blog posts.  It's very enjoyable for me to write about a variety of topics.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this new blog topic!  Look for the first post on this new topic soon. 😃

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  She is an avid cook, baker, and gardener.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 18, 2019

Answer to the Latest Quiz Time! The Electoral College: Do You Know How Many Times a U.S. President Has Lost The Popular Vote?

The Electoral College

Last month I posted the Electoral College quiz below, asking:  How many times  United States President has won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote?

I received 4 responses, which you can read in the comments.  Two people - Jim and Bev - answered correctly.  Bev even named the Presidents correctly!  Very impressive.

I didn't get the question correct.  I thought it had occurred 3 times.  Nope, it's occurred 5 times, as follows.

1824:  John Quincy Adams won the Electoral College to become President, beating Andrew Jackson who received 10.5% more of the popular vote.

1876:   Rutherford B. Hayes won the Electoral College to become President, beating Samuel J. Tilden who received 1.8% more of the popular vote.   This election remains one of the most controversial Presidential elections.  Get this:  to this day, Tilden remains the only Presidential candidate who received a majority (over 50%) of the popular vote, but lost the election!

1888:  Benjamin Harrison won the Electoral College to become President, beating Grover Cleveland who received 0.8% more of the popular vote.

2000:
  Aw, yes, the good ol' Hanging Chad Election!  George W. Bush won the Electoral College to become President, beating Al Gore who received 0.5% more of the popular vote.  Interestingly, although Gore won the popular vote nationwide, he actually lost in his own home state of Tennessee!

2016:  Twitter lover Donald Trump won the Electoral College to become President, beating Hillary Clinton who received 2.1% more of the popular vote.  Although I would rephrase the results to state that Trump didn't win the election, Hillary lost it.  She campaigned so terribly and had a campaign organization that failed to connect with many American people.  She was way, way too confident in thinking that she was a shoe-in to win the election.

On other interesting note:  There may have been more than 5 times this event has happened.  Why?  Well, the entire national vote in Presidential elections was not tallied until 1824!  So there could have been instances that happened in Presidential elections before 1824.

Thanks for participating in the quiz!

 ~~ Quiz Posted on March 31, 2019  ~~

With recent talk of changing how the Electoral College works (and by the way, I think it's all talk, nothing is going to change, nor should it), it's time for a Quiz Question.

An no cheating!

Quiz Question:  Do you know how many times a United States President has won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote?

Put your answer in the comments section.  I'll provide the correct answer in a future post.

Oh, and when I answered the question, I was not correct.   This has happened more times than I initially thought, with some very interesting history I'll share with you when I post the answer.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 16, 2019

Sid the Dog and His Love of Artichokes!

Sid the Dog.


My goofy Husky-Malamute mix and Faithful Canine Companion.  He loves artichokes.  Just not in the way we humans do.

I grow artichokes in my backyard; one group of plantings is already VERY tall and full.  As always, Sid's resourcefulness - likely honed during his street days as a stray in Richmond, CA - takes advantage of the plants' shading branches.  Yet another primo lounging and sleeping den for Sid!


It is hilarious to watch the large artichoke branches move as Sid crawls under the artichoke to find just the "right" spot!

Thanks for putting a smile on our faces, Sid!  You make each and every day a true adventure.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 15, 2019

April 15 - It's Individual Income Tax Day Today!

Tax Day!


Today - April 15, 2019 - is the due date for Federal, State, and Local Individual 2018 Income Tax Returns.  For those taxpayers who make quarterly estimated tax payments, today is also the due day for the 2019 First Estimated Tax Payment.

If need more time to complete your tax returns, you can file an extension to push your 2018 tax return due date to October.  But remember:  You still must pay substantially all 2018 tax due by April 15, 2019 to avoid tax underpayment penalties.

Don't delay, get something filed today!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 12, 2019

California Taxes: Our State Politicians' Latest Lame Brain Proposal

California Taxes.


Our state elected officials are at it again.  Here's the latest lame brain proposal.

Two state senators have are proposing raising the California state corporate tax rate for companies that have net income above $10 million to 10.84%, up from the current 8.84% rate.

But the proposal doesn't stop there.  The  new 10.84% CA state corporate tax rate would simply be a starting point.  It would increase depending upon the ratio of a company's CEO pay to the average pay of company employees.  The highest tax rate, 14.84%, would apply to companies that pay their CEO a salary more than 300 times the average salary of the company's workers.

Both Fool Hardy and Lame Brain Foolish

This proposal is beyond stupid.  It's crazy!  For starter, current SEC rules that require disclosure of CEO to average worker compensation (this disclosure began in January 2017, and only applies to publicly traded companies) provides for plenty ... PLENTY ... of flexibility as to both how the ratio is determined, and how often it is determined.  What is the state of California going to do?  Require a specific determination methodology, or challenge - via audit or in court - the salary ratio calculations of high net income public companies?

Higher corporate taxes simply mean increased expenses for corporations.  That equates to higher prices for consumers, lower salaries for workers, likely fewer corporate workers, as well as increased use of automation to replace workers.  Any politician who believes a large corporation will simply absorb increased expenses ... be it higher taxes or any other expenses ... is out of touch with reality in the real business world.

How long will it be before more companies - both large and small - discontinue doing business in this very business unfriendly state?    California, a state where the weather climate is great, but the business climate, not so much.  Truly a shame, and a losing proposition for the state and its residents.
   
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 9, 2019

Levi's CEO Says Don't Wash Your Jeans!

Photo Credit: Unknown

Don't Wash Your Jeans.


That's the advice  gross advice from Levi's CEO Chip Bergh.  He recently told FOX Business that his jeans 'hadn't seen the inside of a washing machine in more than a decade.' You can read about this interview here.

I'm sorry, Mr. Bergh, but your hygiene and sanitation practices are just plain gross.  Crazy, in fact!  Wonder how you treat your undergarments?  Probably don't want to know.

But Wait!
What's the REAL Reason Levi's Jeans Should not be Washed?

After typing my initial draft of this post, I got to thinking ... Hey, is there a REAL reason behind Mr. Bergh's recommendation that Levi's jeans should never be washed in a washing machine?

And then while walking my dogs Sid and Lexi during a break in the rain, it hit me.

If Levi's jeans are never to be washed in a washing machine, the only ... only ... plausible reason for that care recommendation has to be the quality of Levi's jeans.  As in they are constructed so poorly, Levi's jeans cannot hold up to being washed in a washing machine.  Not even in a cold water wash on the gentle cycle.

If true, that's a sad state of affairs for a 100 plus year old denim company.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  And yes, she washes her clothes ... denim included, although she owns no Levi's jeans ... in a washing machine.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

April 6, 2019

April: A Few Interesting Trivia Facts About The Gregorian Calendar's 4th Month.

The Month of April.


The month of April is associated with Spring by many people in the Northern Hemisphere , even though Spring officially begins on March 20 or 21 each year.  The month of April is associated with some interesting trivia.  Here are a few things I discovered last year when I researched this topic.


April Trivia


In thе Unіtеd Stаtеѕ, 4 Prеѕіdеntѕ were born іn April: Grant, Buchanan, Monroe, Jefferson.  Four Prеѕіdеntѕ have also died in April: Harrison, Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nixon.

Similarly, in the United Kіngdоm, 3 Prіmе Mіnіѕtеrѕ were born in April: Lord North, the Duke of Portland, and George Canning.  Three Prіmе Mіnіѕtеrѕ have also died in April:  Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and Margaret Thatcher.

Aрrіl іѕ аlѕо a fairly рорulаr first name for people.  April іѕ thе 423rd mоѕt соmmоn nаmе іn the Unіtеd Stаtеѕ, and the 250th most common name in the Unіtеd Kingdom.

The exact origin of the word April is uncertain. However, the most common theory is that April is derived from the Latin verb Aperire, which means to open. This theory corresponds to Springtime events in April, in the blossoming and budding - or opening - of flowers and trees.

April is a food happy month.  April is not only Grilled Cheese Month, it is also Pecan Month, BLT Sandwich Month, Florida Tomato Month, Garlic Month, and Soft Pretzel Month.

April also includes the dreaded Tax Day in the United States, but let's not spoil the month by dwelling on taxes.  😁 

Enjoy your month of April!
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

April 3, 2019

House of Representatives Calendar: Just How Much Is Congress Working This Month?

House of Representatives Calendar for April 2019


Just how many days are our federally elected officials working this month?

Turns out not many.

Take a look at the April Calendar for the United States House of Representatives.  Turns out our elected officials are working a whopping 9 whole days this month.  They're free to go off and do 'other stuff' all of the rest of the days.

How would you like to have a job like that?  And get paid $174,0000 a year, plus benefits including a pension, a Cadillac Health Insurance Plan, and other nifty stuff.  Pretty sweet, huh?!



But then again, perhaps having the politicians spend less time in Washington, D.C. is not such a bad thing.  They will then have less time to spend on time wasting and money wasting investigations that seem to be all-consuming for some of them. 
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts