July 31, 2019

A $50 Hamburger. Yet Another Only in California Crazy Moment.

The $50 Hamburger.


The $50 Black Label Burger at Selby's restaurant in ultra wealthy Atherton,  California.
Does it look gross, or what?!

Well, I got some more Burger News for you. And this Burger News is truly a Crazy in California story .

The posh restaurant Selby's recently opened in Atherton, California.   Atherton is a tony, high-falutin town on the San Francisco Peninsula, population 7,238 people.  It takes the prize of likely being the wealthiest community in the country, with an average household income of $450,000.

Yep.  Nearly a Half Million Buckaroos a year.

In other words, Athertonites live in another world much different that you and I.

And now their hamburgers are from another world, too.

Take the Black Label Burger on the menu at the newly-opened Selby's restaurant.  It supposedly took the chef six months to develop.  It is made with a custom blended ground beef mixture (surprisingly NOT identified as grass fed beef), and lightly grilled ... the chef recommends a rare or medium rare burger.   (Food poisoning from undercooked meat, anyone?)  Served on only the best fine china and with what, according to the burger's photo,  looks like one slice each of old, rotten and getting moldy tomato and onion, and what appears to be a solitary 4-inch or so piece of butter lettuce. Oh, and don't forget the side of French fries, too.

And gee, you would think for a $50 burger that the chef would at least use Grass Fed Ground Beef!

The burger is topped with a stingy 2-ounces of Epoisses cheese, which is a soft French cheese that melts and runs down the burger.   I mean good Lord, give me some cheese!  Finally, the burger is topped with what one commenter on a San Francisco Chronicle newspaper story about the Black Label Burger said "resembles sweepings from the kitchen floor."  I agree, but alas those floor sweepings are said to be roughly 5-ounces of shaved Australian black truffles.  Not a clue as to why the chef is using truffles from Australia, rather than truffles from France to match his French cheese.  Seems like a misguided cooking contradiction to me.

As for ketchup on the side?  Well, Selby's has not disclosed whether or not a side of ketchup is also available for the burger.  Could be that  Selby's restaurant and the ultra wealthy Athertonians shun the simple All American condiment ketchup.   Heck, ketchup might even be banned in Atherton  (Disclosure: I do not like ketchup.  Neither does my husband Jim.  Hopefully that does not make us Un-American.)

Regardless ... or perhaps Irregardless ... to me, Selby's Black Label Burger just looks plain gross.   I wouldn't touch it if one was given to me.  Would you?

Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 28, 2019

IRS Email Scams: Here are a Few Things You Should Know so that You do Not Become a Victim of an IRS Impersonation Scam.

IRS Scams.


IRS Impersonation Scams are ongoing, with new scams popping up on an ongoing basis.  Here are a few tips from the IRS Tax Tip 2019-87 to help prevent you from becoming the victim of an IRS Scam.


Tips to Help Taxpayers Recognize Tax Scams


New versions of well-known tax-related scams appear every year…and 2019 is no different. No matter what time of year, taxpayers should be on the lookout for scams. Here are some things taxpayers should remember to help them spot scams and avoid becoming a victim.


IRS Email Scams


Know this information so that you do not become a victim of an IRS Impersonation Email Scam.
  • The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
  • The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
  • There are special circumstances when the IRS will call or come to a home or business. These visits include times when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return, or a delinquent employment tax payment.
  • If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be a scam, they should report it to the IRS. They can forward the email message to phishing@irs.gov. They should not open any attachments, click on any links, reply to the sender, or take any other actions that could put them at risk.


Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 25, 2019

Impossible Burger: Why Would Anyone Eat Genetically Modified (GMO) Fake Food?

Impossible Burger.


A vegan, plant based patty that supposedly tastes and looks like beef.  As in a hamburger patty.

Oh, and did you know the Impossible Burger is based on Genetically Modified (GMO) Soybeans?

The Impossible Burger
Yep.  So with every mouthful of Impossible Burger, you're getting a mouthful of GMO food.  Who would want to do that?  Not me, that's for sure.

Soybeans are the most genetically modified food in the world.  Nearly 100% of soybeans grown in the United States are grown from genetically modified soybean seeds.  Oh, and GMO is short for Genetically Modified Organism.

Impossible Foods, the company that makes the Impossible Burger, has been downright sneaky in its description of the current Impossible Burger Fake "Meat", also known as the Impossible Burger 2.0.  Impossible Foods has referred to the Impossible Burger "Meat" as being made with bio-engineered soybeans, rather than genetically modified soybeans.  A rather deceptive description, don't you think?

When Imposible Foods announced last year that it was going to completely retool its Impossible Burger recipe create the Impossible Burger 2.0, they publicly stated the reason for doing so was to give the fake vegan meat a more beef-like "bloody" appearance.  But I think the key reason for the recipe retool were simply profit driven.  You see, last year Impossible Foods announced a nationwide U.S. distribution of its patty to Burger King restaurants.  The problem was, however, that the original Impossible Burger was made with a wheat-based recipe.  And that recipe wouldn't stand up to Burger King's burger grilling over an open flame; the patty actually crumbled!  The 2.0 GMO Fake Meat recipe solved that problem.

I always take care to be aware of what I eat.  True, it's impossible to rid your diet of all GMO products.  I realize the regular and dark bottles of soy sauce in my kitchen are almost certainly made with GMO soybeans.  But for a company - in this case, Impossible Foods, to deceptively market a fake meet product as "bio-engineered" when in fact it is genetically modified ... Well, I find that unethical and just flat out wrong.  Same for chefs who charge $$$ for an Impossible Burger.  Take one restaurant in San Francisco, Violet's Tavern, that has an Impossible Burger on its menu.  It is served on a potato bun with a chipotle aioli, cheddar and caramelized onions; served with French fries.  And heck, you get your daily dose of GMO Food to boot!  All for a tidy $19!  No thanks.

I've never been into Fake Food.  It'll be interesting to see how popular the Impossible Burger remains when ... or perhaps I should say if ... people eating this GMO Fake Meat actually realize they are eating Genetically Modified Food.  And I'll bet you $1 that the majority of people who are eating the Impossible Burger GMO Fake Meat today would say they are against GMO Foods and believe that GMOs are harmful.

What do you think?

Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 22, 2019

Insurance: When is the Last Time You Reviewed Your Insurance Policies?

Adequate Property Insurance Coverage


Yes, I know ... insurance is not the most exciting topic to discuss.

But nevertheless, it's a critical one.

The November Camp Fire in the Paradise, California area was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history.  Nearly 19,000 structures were destroyed, with an estimated damage total thus far of nearly $17 billion.  88 people perished in this inferno.  The community of Paradise, home to about 29,000 residents, was almost entirely destroyed by the blaze.

And unfortunately, many of the homeowners and property owners in Paradise had inadequate homeowners insurance, or no insurance at all.

Adequate property insurance is crucial.  This coverage is a must, even if the property owner is not required to have such insurance coverage.  Avoiding becoming underinsured ... whether it be for homeowners, business property, liability, of an other type of insurance is easy to avoid with annual reviews of your insurance coverage.  Also, your insurance coverage should be immediately reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted if you incur significant changes in your life, including home remodeling and additions.


Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 19, 2019

Books and the Joy of Reading for Children

Books and Reading.


I love to read.  When we designed the addition of our home 20 years ago, one must have was a library with a rolling ladder.  And yes, it is filled with books!  I also subscribe to two daily newspaper, and read them both every day:  The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

And speaking of books ... Here is a wonderful program that supplies children's books to places such as barber shops and laundromats, so that the children can read while their parents go about their business.  Children are encouraged to read out loud to help develop confidence and communication skills.  What a marvelous literacy program!  Read about it here.


Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 16, 2019

IRS Phone Scams: Here are a Few Things You Should Know so that You do Not Become a Victim of an IRS Impersonation Scam.

IRS Scams.


IRS Impersonation Scams are ongoing, with new scams popping up on an ongoing basis.  Here are a few tips from the IRS Tax Tip 2019-87 to help prevent you from becoming the victim of an IRS Scam.


Tips to Help Taxpayers Recognize Tax Scams


New versions of well-known tax-related scams appear every year…and 2019 is no different. No matter what time of year, taxpayers should be on the lookout for scams. Here are some things taxpayers should remember to help them spot scams and avoid becoming a victim.


IRS Phone scams


Know this information so that you do not become a victim of an IRS Impersonation Phone Scam.
  • The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages.
  • In many versions of phone scams, potential victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other verbal threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation and revocation of licenses.
  • Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country. Scammers can even spoof an IRS office phone number, or the numbers of various local, state, federal or tribal government agencies.

Concerned about Tax, Insurance, or Related Financial Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 13, 2019

One Year Ago Today ... Almost, Anyway! Sid and Lexi

Sid the Dog.  Lexi the Dog.


My Faithful Canine Companions just enjoyin' the day about 1 year ago today.  This is a cool feature of Google Photos, when the Photo Assistant compiles past year(s) photos for you.  Great and fun memories.


Oh, the large broken cactus paddles fell off the large Prickly Pear Cactus on the edge of the patio.  It got top heavy last year during the drought, and I lost a bunch of paddles.  But no worries, new growth is replacing what was lost.  That cactus is very healthy and happy in its location!

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax services, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  She lives in beautiful Pleasant Hill, California with best-husband-in-the-world Jim and Faithful Canine Companions Sid and Lexi.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 10, 2019

Easy Ground Beef Recipes that are Anything but Boring!

Ground Beef.


It's an American Meal Staple that is anything but boring.  Getting burned out on burgers?  Click here to get 14 easy ... and delicious! ... Ground Beef Recipes from Betty Crocker.

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 has a preference for Grass Fed Ground Beef.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 7, 2019

Sourdough Rolls ... One of my favorite things to bake!

Sourdough Rolls.


My homemade Sourdough Rolls are one of my favorite things to bake.  Tender, light, and flaky with a delicious buttery taste.  Sourdough Baking never ceases to amaze me; how a simple mixture of flour and spring water can make and raise such beautiful, delicious bread.  Here is my latest roll batch; these have a few black sesame seeds in the dough.



Want some?
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 Sourdough Baker using her about 6-years old Sourdough Starter.   For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

July 4, 2019

Recreational Marijuana in California: The Prop 64 Promoted $1 Billion in New Tax Revenue is Just a Bunch of Smoke

This post, originally published about a hear and a half ago, continues to be one of the most visited posts on my blog.  And ya know what?!  You guessed it!  The topic still is pertinent and holds true today.

In May of this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom sharply scaled back fiscal year marijuana tax revenues that he had forecasted only 4 months prior in January.  From $355 million forecasted in January, to a much reduced $288 million forecasted in May.  Yep, that's it!  And that's nowhere near the $1 billion annual marijuana tax revenue projections that was used to sell this fake bill of goods to California voters.

Just more California Politics at Its Finest!

~~  Originally Posted February 22, 2018  ~~

Legalized Recreational Marijuana in California.


Just how is that all working out for the Golden State?

When California voters approved Prop 64 in November 2016, legalizing recreational marijuana sales in California, the pro-pot pushers used increased tax revenue as a huge marketing tool.

Just how much new tax revenue?

Well, the pro-pot promoters typically touted that taxes and licensing fees from the sale of recreational pot were expected to generate an additional $1 billion in annual  revenue for California state and local governments.

$ 1 Billion Bucks Baby 

Heck, here is a political mailer from the Pro Prop 64 Pot Industry promoting an extra $1 billion in revenue a year:

California Pot Promoter's Political Mailer Promising $1 Billion Annually in New (Tax and Licensing) Revenue from Prop 64, Which Legalized Recreational Marijuana Sales in California.


Sounds like a financial windfall, right?  Na, I didn't buy this expected revenue windfall back in 2016, and I don't by it now.  As I believed in 2016 and continue to believe today, the estimated $1 billion in annual revenue from taxes and licensing fees from legalized recreational marijuana sales in California was ... and is ... just a bunch of smoke.  No pun intended.

And why?  So many reasons why; take your pick from a sample.


  • The cost of testing, licensing, and taxes is estimated to triple ... triple ... the cost of marijuana purchased at a licensed brick and mortar store, compared to today's street in California.  Why is a pot smoker/user going to pay a 300% premium to purchase their weed at a licensed store, when the person can get their fix for 1/3 the price down the steet from their buddy the black market marijuana seller?
  • Most chemicals and pesticides will be banned from use in California's legal and licensed recreational marijuana.  This will make marijuana more difficult to grow; plants will take longer to grow and will likely not bare as much weed as is common in today's chemical and pesticide-laced weed grows.  Why would marijuana growers change their growing habits to make their business far less profitable, or perhaps unprofitable?
  • Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.  Most banks will therefore not provide services to marijuana-related businesses, including those deemed legal under California Prop 64.
  • While recreational marijuana sales became legal in California on January 1, 2018, the licensing process is lengthy and complex.  Moreover, county and local municipalities do not have to follow Prop 64, and can ban legalized recreational marijuana sales, or otherwise greatly restrict pot grows and legal sales.  And this is exactly what has happened.
  • And uh, does anyone ... anyone ... think the large cartel grows, most hidden on public lands, are going to comply with any new marijuana laws?  Or that the smaller growers using stolen electricity and stolen water for their indoor grows are going to become legit and comply with said new laws?

So where are we today?  Glad you asked! Not even a drop in the bucket toward the touted grand $1 billion in new tax and licensing revenue.  According to a report recently published by the California marijuana group California Growers Association, fewer than 1% of California's estimated 68,120 marijuana growers were now legally licensed under California's recreational marijuana Prop 64 law.

More specifically, as of February 7, 2018, only 534 of the 68,120 marijuana growers were legally licensed.  That's a paltry 0.68%.  You can download the report here.

Using Current Statistics, Here is What California can Realistically Expect for New Annual Revenue from Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales

And Just What is the Estimated State Budget for Overseeing Legal Recreational Marijuana Activities, Anyway?


As I said, any dream of $1 billion in extra tax and licensing revenue from this statewide marijuana experiment in nothing but smoke.  No pun intended.  If we use the 0.68% to arrive at expected new tax and licensing revenue, that equates to $6,800,000 in new annual revenue.

And just how does this teeny tiny bit of new revenue compare to the annual cost of the state regulating legalized marijuana through the newly formed California Bureau of Cannabis Control?

Glad you asked!  The Governor’s May 2017 Budgte Revision included 201 state employee positions and a $43.2 million budget in fiscal 2017‑18 from various funds to conduct cannabis regulation-related activities.  These resources are provided across seven state departments.

So you see, the realistic $6,8000,000 in new annual revenue won't even begin to cover the current estimated $43,200,000 annual state regulatory budget.  And the monetary figures are even worse than what I have provided, as the estimated $6,800,000 revenue does not all go to the State, but rather is share with State and Local taxing authorities in California.

Granted, I don't smoke ... anything.  Never have, never will.  But that's not the point.  The point is that California voters are consistently mislead by proponents of ballot measures; and California elections are nearly always loaded with ballot measures.  Don't simply believe what you hear, or read on the Internet or in proponent propaganda.  Do your own research (which often takes very little time) before forming your decisions on voting issues.

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


Tip Income? It's a Frequent Audit Target for the IRS. Here are a Few Things You Should Know ...

Got Tip Income?


Tip Income is a frequent audit target for the IRS.  Here are some pointers from the IRS about handling tip income records, and properly reporting tip income on your individual income tax returns.

IRS Tax Tip 2019-71:  Tip Income


Aside from regular wages, many taxpayers have jobs where they get tips from their clients or customers. Generally, income received as a tip is taxable. Here’s some information to help taxpayers correctly report the income they receive as a tip:

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant.

This tool on IRS.gov asks taxpayers a series of questions. After the taxpayer answers the questions, the tool gives responses based on the answers. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant to find out if their tip income is taxable.

Show all tips on a tax return.

Taxpayers use Form 4137, Social Security and Medicare Tax on Unreported Tip Income, to report the amount of any unreported tip income. This form allows the taxpayer to include it as additional wages. This includes the value of non-cash things someone receives as a tip, such as tickets or passes to an event.

Report all types of tips.


Taxpayers must pay tax on all tips received during the year, including those:
Directly from customers.
Added to credit cards.
From a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.

Report tips to an employer.


Employees who receive $20 or more in tips in any month must report their tips for that month to their employer. They must do so by the 10th day of the next month. When reporting tips, the employee should include cash, check and credit card tips they received. The employer must withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on these reported tips.

Keep a daily log of tips.

Taxpayers use Publication 1244, Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer (PDF), to record tips. This will help report the correct amount of tips on their tax return.

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

July 1, 2019

Canine Heart Disease: FDA Study Links Canine Heart Disease to Certain Brands of Dog Food, Mostly Labeled as Grain Free

Canine Heart Disease Linked to Grain Free Dog Food.


If you are feeding your dog grain free dog food, you could be placing your dog at significant risk of developing life threatening Canine Heart Disease.

The FDA study (read it here) shows a link between Canine Heart Disease and 16 brands of dry dog food, most labeled as “grain free”.  (FYI, I cook for my dogs, see picture in post.  Sid and Lexi eat no commercial dog food.)  The dog food brands linked with the most instances of Canine Heart Disease, in descending order, are:

Acana
Zignature
Taste of the Wild
4Health
Earthborn Holistic
Blue Buffalo
Nature’s Domain
Fromm
Merrick
California Natural
Natural Balance
Orijen
Nature’s Variety
NutriSource
Nutro
Rachael Ray Nutrish.

The most reported breed was the Golden Retriever, but researchers think that could possibly be skewed by a greater general awareness of canine cancer among Golden owners.


No Commercial Dog Food for Sid and Lexi.  I cook for them.
Here is Lexi's Breakfast:  Steamed organic rice, including brown basmati and other rices;
roast organic chicken; steamed peas and carrots; crumbled hard boiled egg;
canned pumpkin; cottage cheese; full fat plain yogurt.
Delicious and Nutritious!

Sid gets almost the same food, a bit larger portion.
He does not get cottage cheese as it doesn't agree with his bowels.
"Grain Free" dog food has been a trendy type of dog food for several years now.  Unless your dog truly as a grain allergy, I don't believe in grain free food.  Sid and Lexi get nutritious and delicious steamed organic brown basmati rice with their meals.

Please contact your veterinarian if you have questions about this critical matter.

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax services, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  She enjoys life with her Faithful Canine Companions Sid and Lexi.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts