June 28, 2019

Harriet Tubman $20 Bill ... Take a Look at the Preliminary Design. Yuck!

The Harriet Tubman $20 Bill.


Recently, there's been talk and evolving conspiracy theories as to why the Harriet Tubman $20 bill has been delay.

I'm not participating in that discussion, and have no opinion.  Not interested, quite frankly.

But what I am interested in is how downright ugly the preliminary design of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is.  Harriet Tubman looks out of proportion - too wide - and looks more like a man than a woman.

True, by most accounts, Ms. Tubman wasn't the most attractive woman.  But for goodness gracious sake, the Bureau surely can do better than this sorry design:


Crazy!  Looks like the Bureau needs a new crew of designers and engravers.  Geesh!

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

June 25, 2019

Heard in Public! New blog topic featuring something overhead in public. Enjoy!

Here is what my husband Jim and I overheard on a weekend in June as we walked our dogs Sid and Lexi along the Contra Costa Canal Trail.
Said by one man to another man while riding bicycles past us: 
"When they handed out brains, my brother got them all."
Not a clue as to what the overall conversation was about, but that much is pretty funny, huh?!

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 long morning walks with her best-husband-in-the-world-Jim and dogs Sid and Lexi.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

June 22, 2019

Just Enjoying the Day ...

Gorgeous Weather.


Peace and Quiet.


These photos were taken earlier this month.  Just enjoyin' a late spring day in Pleasant Hill, California.  No idea why anyone would ever want to live here, do you? 😉









About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

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

Mary Rae Fouts

June 19, 2019

Quiz Time - Updated Quiz! How Many STATES Have an Annual Budget Smaller Than SAN FRANCISCO'S Proposed $12.3 BILLION Annual Budget?

Quiz Answer:  How many STATES have an annual budget smaller than SAN FRANCISCO'S proposed $12.3 BILLION annual budget? 


Thanks to everyone who took a crack at this latest quiz!  No one got the answer correct, but there were some good guesses!

Based on currently available data, the answer is .... drum roll ....

16 States have an annual budget smaller than the City/County of San Francisco's proposed $12.3 billion annual budget.  They are:

Alaska
Delaware
Idaho
Iowa
Maine
Mississippi
Montana
Nebraska
New Hampshire
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Rhode Island
South Dakota
Vermont
West Virginia
Wyoming

And, since someone commented that the United States Territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have smaller budgets than San Francisco, I'll add this:  Guam has an annual budget smaller than San Francisco.  Way, way, smaller.  Guam's annual budget is about $966 million, or only about 7 1/2 % of San Francisco's bloated $12.3 billion annual budget.  On the other hand, Puerto Rico, as well as Washington, DC, both have annual budgets larger than that of San Francisco.

Thanks to everyone who participated!  MRF

~~ Originally published June 8, 2019  ~~

San Francisco has proposed a humongous $12.3 billion annual budget for upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019.


Updated June 8, 2019:  Well, I need to update the last quiz (haven't posted the correct answers yet), because good old San Francisco has outdone itself.  Yes Siree.  San Francisco Mayor London Breed is proposing a new, even bigger ... aka bloated ... budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1:  $12.3 billion (that's a cool $12,300,000,000), an amazing 10.8% increase from the city's current $11.1 billion annual budget.  Now that's a lot of coin!

So, we need to revisit this quiz with the new $12.3 billion budget.  Go ahead and guess again if you'd like, as the answer has changed, as in the number of states has gone up, hint hint.

Updated Quiz Question:  How many STATES in the United States currently have an annual budget smaller than the CITY of  SAN FRANCISCO'S $12.3 billion proposed annual budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019?  And, if you you care to name them, what are these STATES?

~~ Originally published May 27, 2019  ~~

San Francisco has a humongous $11.1 billion annual budget.


Yep, the City of San Francisco - which covers a mere 46.87 square miles and has a population of 883.305 people - currently has a jaw dropping annual budget of $11.1 billion.

That's $11,100,000,000 for the current fiscal year.  Of that amount, a San Francisco will spend more than $300 million (yes, $300,000,000) just to 'address' the City's homeless problem.  Which, if you frequent San Francisco, you know is getting worse by the month, with homeless people camping out on San Francisco sidewalks, trash strewn everywhere, and homeless people using the sidewalk for their bathroom and a place to openly shoot up heroin and smoke meth in public.

San Francisco even has a number to call, and an app to use, to report piles of human poop on city sidewalks.

Yummy.  Makes you really want to visit San Francisco, doesn't it?

And by the say, the city of San Francisco and the County of San Francisco are one and the same.  (Unlike Los Angeles, where the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles are distinct entities.)  But that makes no difference for this quiz.

And with San Francisco's bloated budget and remove-human-feces-from-the-sidewalk app in mind, it's time for a Quiz Question.

And no cheating!

Quiz Question:  How many STATES in the United States currently have an annual budget smaller than the CITY of  SAN FRANCISCO?  And, if you you care to name them, what are these STATES?

You are allowed to look at a map of the United States to help you answer, but no looking up current  state budgets.   I'll give you one correct answer:

ALASKA.  Alaska's annual state budget is $10.1 billion.  Alaska is also the largest state, covering 663,268 square miles.

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

June 17, 2019

Camping this Summer? Here are 36 Easy Recipes Ready for the Campfire! Delicious Made at Home, too.

Campfire Cooking.


Going camping this summer?  Truthfully, I'm not.  I've never liked camping.  In fact, my version of camping is staying in a nice B&B where the kitchen shuts down at 10 PM.

But, for all you campers out there, check out this compilation of 36 Easy Campfire Cooking Recipes  from Taste of Home.  They really look delicious.  Plus, you can just as easily modify the recipes and prepare them in your home kitchen this summer.

Happy Almost Summer, everyone, and Happy Summer Cooking and Baking!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  Mary doesn't care to camp, but she does love to cook and bake, including delicious no recipe and easy recipe dishes.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts


June 14, 2019

Taxes: Tips for Safeguarding Your Tax Information in the Event of a Natural Disaster

Natural Disaster and Taxes.


Both can ... and do ... happen.  Well, and death, too, but that's another topic.

If a natural disaster were to strike your community, how safe would your tax information be?  For many people and business, the current answer is likely  "well, not very".

Let's change that!

Here are some tips from the IRS to help individuals and businesses safeguard their tax information in the event of a natural disaster.  Don't procrastinate, be prepared!

IRS Tax Reform Tax Tip 2019-67

Safeguarding Your Tax Information in the Event of a Natural Disaster


Floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados and other natural disasters happen quickly and often with little warning. No one can prevent these disasters from happening, but people can prepare for them.

Here are some things taxpayers can do to help protect their financial safety should a disaster occur. Taxpayers should:

Update emergency plans. A disaster can strike any time.  Personal and business situations are constantly evolving, so taxpayers should review their emergency plans annually.

Create electronic copies of documents. Taxpayers should keep documents in a safe place . This includes bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies.  This is especially easy now since many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically. If original documents are available only on paper, taxpayers should scan them.  They should save them on a DVD or CD, or store them in the cloud.

Document valuables. It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of any home.  This is especially true when it comes to items of value. Documenting these items ahead of time makes it easier to claim insurance and tax benefits if a disaster strikes. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook. Using this can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

In the case of a federally declared disaster, affected taxpayers can call the IRS at 866-562-5227.  The taxpayer can speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers can request copies of previously filed tax returns and attachments by filing Form 4506.  They can also order transcripts showing most line items through Get Transcript on IRS.gov.  They can also call 800-908-9946 for transcripts.

Know what tax relief is available in disaster situations. Taxpayers should be aware that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act modified the itemized deduction for casualty and theft losses.  After Dec. 31, 2017, net personal casualty and theft losses are deductible only to the extent they’re attributable to a federally declared disaster.  Claims must include the FEMA code assigned to the disaster.

Additional IRS Resources:
Publication 584-B, Business Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook
Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts
Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families (PDF)
Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records
National Weather Service website
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

June 11, 2019

Lexi the Dog: Life is Just Better with a Faithful Canine Companion!

Lexi the Dog.


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

Such a special soul mate.  So proud of how she has overcome her abusive, neglected past since we adopted her in October 2014.  Brightens my heart ... every day ... to see what a happy, content, alert, beautiful, and healthy dog Lexi has become, and continues to become.  Our Husky-Malamute mix Sid has been an integral part of Lexi's transformation.  He has served as a confident and gregarious canine teacher, helping Lexi learn how to ... well ... simply be a dog.  Lexi is an excellent alert watchdog and ... well ... can be stubborn and aloof as any other Chow Chow!


Unconditional Love is as close as your nearest animal shelter.  Please adopt, don't shop.

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

June 5, 2019

Trupanion Pet Insurance: Good Luck Canceling This Worthless Pet Insurance

Blog Post Flashback:  I originally posted this entry in April 2016, about Trupanion Pet Insurance and its jaw grinding hassel when you attempt to cancel your pet's Trupanion Insurance.

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 and cancellation request hassels continue to this day.  Here's what I had to say in April 2016 about my mind numbing experience with Trupanion.  Feel free to comment if you have Trupanion experiences and complaints you'd like to share.

~ Originally posted April 23, 2016 ~

Trupanion Pet Insurance Complaints.

Trupanion Pet Insurance:  Only Hassels When You Try To Cancel Your Policy.


I recently posted about my extremely negative experience with Trupanion Pet Insurance.  Namely, that Trupanion trumps up bogus reasons to deny valid claims, based on my experiences and those of many other current and former policyholders.  I advised readers not to waste their money on this worthless pet insurance.

Trupanion won't pay valid claims, but they will gladly take your premium money each month.


But wait, there's more!

I initiated cancellation of my Trupanion Pet Insurance on April 12 with a phone call to their 24 hour customer service number.  The customer service person I spoke with stated she did not have authority to cancel the policy.  I checked my policy, which stated coverage could be cancelled by written notification via email, fax, or postal mail.  Over the course of the next 8 days, I submitted 4 separate requests in writing (3 via email and 1 via fax).

Trupanion is very good at silence
when it comes 
to responding to
cancellation requests.


Or should I say, failing to respond.
And Trupanion's response?  You know, Trupanion, the pet insurance company who responds via email within a couple hours of filing a claim to tell you they have denied the claim?


Silence.  As in silence like crickets chirping.

My 4th and final request stated that I would (1) dispute any future premium charges with American Express, and (2) file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance the following week if I did not receive immediate notice of cancellation and unearned premium refunded.  I finally got a response on April 21, a phone call from Trupanion's customer service department telling me they needed to verify all of my information before processing the cancellation.

Yep, that's right.  Yet another hassle from good ol' Trupanion Pet Insurance.

Well, the company picked the wrong person to mess with.  I promptly informed the caller that the company had all of my information, I did not need to verify it in order to cancel the policy, and that they were once again failing to honor the terms of their policy.  I told her to provide confirmation of cancellation that day, or I would file a complaint the following day with the California Department of Insurance.

And then I hung up the phone.  About 2 hours later I received an email from Trupanion confirming cancellation of the policy.  Now let's see how long it takes for my unearned premium to be refunded.

How many other policyholders have gotten bamboozled by Trupanion?

What bothers me is that while I knew what to do with Trupanion's mess - As of January 2016, I've worked in the insurance industry for 28 years, including working as an Expert Witness for arbitration and litigation insurance disputes - I realize that Trupanion's typical policyholder is not an insurance expert.  How many Trupanion policyholders ... good people trying to do the best for their companion pets ... get the same denied claims that I received, and get the same run around attempting to cancel a policy?  How many people simply continue to pay monthly premiums thinking they have a value medical insurance policy for their pet, when the coverage has been proven to be worthless ... annual premium increases, denial of valid claims, money down the train into Trupanion's pockets ... for so many people?

Insurance consumers deserve much better than what Trupanion provides.  Perhaps a future Insurance Department Market Conduct Examination will help provide more publicity about Trupanion's deceptive pet insurance practices.

In the meantime, don't waste your money on Trupanion's worthless pet insurance coverage.


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

June 2, 2019

Taxpayers: Yes, You Have a Bill of Rights With the IRS.

Taxes.


IRS.


Two words ... well, one word and one acronym  much maligned in the English Language.

But, just like death, taxes are unavoidable and part of life.  As a taxpayer, do you know that you have a Bill of Rights when dealing with the IRS?  Yes, you do, and here it is.  One thing:  Although not explicitly stated in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights below, you always have the right to speak with an IRS Agent's supervisor, too.

IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights

  1. The right to be informed. Taxpayers are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures on all tax forms, instructions, publications and notices. They have the right to know about IRS decisions affecting their accounts and receive clear explanations of the outcomes.
  2. The right to quality service. Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their interactions with the IRS. They have the right to be spoken to in a way they can easily understand. Also, to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service.
  3. The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax. Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due. This includes interest and penalties.
  4. The right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard. Taxpayers have the right to raise objections in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions. They also have the right to expect the IRS to consider their timely objections promptly and fairly and to receive a response if the IRS does not agree.
  5. The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum. Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including many penalties.
  6. The right to finality. Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge an IRS position.
  7. The right to privacy. Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, audit or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary.
  8. The right to confidentiality. Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect appropriate action will be taken against employees, preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer information.
  9. The right to retain representation. Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation.
  10. The right to a fair and just tax system. Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to consider facts and circumstances that might affect their case. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty. They can also contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service if the IRS has not resolved a tax issue properly and timely through its normal channels.
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.  Mary's tax services include representing taxpayers in front of the IRS and State Taxing Authority during IRS and State Taxing Authority Audits.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts