March 29, 2020

IRS Impersonation Scams: Don't Become a Victim.

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 2020 will be 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.


Telltale Signs of an IRS Impersonator Scam


Taxpayers should remember that the IRS generally first mails a bill to a taxpayer who owes taxes.  The IRS and its  authorized private collection agencies will never:
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.  The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments.
  • Ask for checks to third parties.  The IRS has specific instructions on how to pay taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
If a taxpayer receives a phone call, but doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do, they should:
If a taxpayer owes tax or thinks they do, they should:

Concerned about Tax, Insurance, Annuity, or Related Financial Matters?

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, Annuity Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.  And remember ... Don't just stay positive, be positive!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 26, 2020

Small Business Owners: Does Your Tax Planning Include Retirement Plan Contributions? It Should!

Tax Planning
Retirement Plans
Retirement Plan 
Contributions


If you are a Small Business Owner, does your tax planning include retirement plan contributions?  It should!
Why?  Glad you asked!

When Small Business Owners make contributions into retirement plans, they get much more than just a retirement plan contribution.  In fact, these contribution can pay for themselves many times over.
  1. First off, the retirement plan need not be complex to establish or maintain.  SEP-IRA retirement plans are simple to establish and maintain, with no need for expensive annual administration.
  2. Retirement plan contributions into plans such as a SEP-IRA are not just a tax deduction for a small business owner, but a complete write off against income.  Now THAT is a handy tax planning tool!
  3. Retirement plan contributions into plans such as a SEP-IRA grow tax deferred until withdrawn by the plan participant.  This year after year tax deferred growth can really ... REALLY ... add up big time over time.
So, if you are a Small Business Owner and do not currently have a retirement plan, make time to set one up this year.  You'll thank me later!

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


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, Annuity Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.  And remember ... Don't just stay positive, be positive!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 23, 2020

Coronavirus COVID-19: Gift Certificates Will Be Worthless If Restaurants and Stores Do Not Reopen. Don't Lose Your Hard Earned Money.

Coronavirus COVID-19:  Restaurant Closings and Gift Certificates


Many restaurants and eateries throughout the United States - including where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area - have been ordered to cease in-restaurant service, and only provide service through take out and delivery orders.

In the Pleasant Hill/Walnut Creek area where I live, I've noticed that some restaurants/eateries are continuing to provide service via take out and delivery orders.  Others have closed entirely for the current 3-week mandatory order that affects much of the San Francisco Bay Area.

But, as a consumer, there is one thing about these closures to watch out for:  Your Wallet.  I noticed one restaurant in downtown Walnut Creek that was going to offer take out and delivery, then did an about face on their social media page and said they were shutting down completely for the 3-week timeframe.  We ate there once, a terrible experience with both service and food.  Not to mention a psycho owner who reviews security tapes  and trolls customers who leave negative restaurant reviews.

Then the restaurant went on to say they would sell the "groceries" they had on hand to anyone who would purchase them, and provided contact information.  They also put all ... all ... of their wine inventory up for sale by the bottle, for anyone who wanted to purchase it.

Then the restaurant went on to say that if people wanted to support the restaurant, to please purchase gift certificates from the restaurant for future dining, to help hold the restaurant over for the next 3 weeks.

Ok, stop right there.

Even if you like the restaurant, it is closing.  And selling off their wine inventory - plus no longer accepting credit cards as payment; cash or payment via the very unsecure Venmo application only - are big red flags that the restaurant will likely not reopen.  And if the restaurant doesn't reopen, and you have an outstanding gift certificate, you're screwed.  It's worthless.

So, if you truly want to support restaurants and eateries that are currently closed, wait to do so when they reopen.  Same goes for retail stores and salons closed for this current 3-week period.  Because if they don't reopen, your gift certificates will be worthless. 

Just because you may be big hearted, don't let your generosity make you become a victim of a worthless gift certificate.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

March 20, 2020

Fouts Financial Group is OPEN FOR BUSINESS During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus COVID-19:  Fouts Financial Group is OPEN FOR BUSINESS during the Coronavirus Pandemic.


Government orders and guidance related to the Coronavirus Pandemic are rapidly evolving.  Mary already  provides professional services Monday through Thursday working remotely from her Home Office in Pleasant Hill, CA, so Fouts Financial Group's professional services are generally unaffected, with these adjustments:  Mary will adjust all business engagements that would normally involve airline travel, public transportation, or in-person meetings.  Mary will no longer travel via airline or public transportation.   In consideration of social distancing requirements, any engagement that would normally involve in-person appearances or meetings will instead be conducted via telephone or video conference.

Mary provides client consultations via telephone conference, and shares documents and client data via encrypted and secure Sharefile links, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.  Documents and information sent via email, USPS, and UPS is, of course, also available, as well as local drop off.  Visit the Fouts Financial Group website for more information about Fouts Financial Group's Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Business Practices.

Upcoming Tax Filing and Tax Payment Due Dates:  Many Taxing Authorities are extending upcoming Tax Payment Due Dates and Tax Form Filing Due Dates for individual and business taxpayers.  This guidance is rapidly evolving, and varies from one taxing authority to another, making it impossible to accurately include on this blog or the Fouts Financial Group website.  Please check the appropriate Taxing Authority Website for the most up-to-date and accurate information on this important topic. 

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


Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides Tax Services, Insurance Consulting Services, Annuity Consulting Services, and Expert Witness Services to clients who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.  Office Hours Monday through Thursday.  And remember:  Don't just stay positive, be positive!

Mary Rae Fouts

March 18, 2020

Optimism: It Actually May Be Good For Your Health and Life Longevity!

Optimism.


I recently wrote that it has been kinda tough to remain optimistic some of these days, particularly with the current hysteria about the Corona Virus COVID-19.  Which, by the way, was reported in a San Francisco Chronicle article on Monday, March 9 that (1) the virus is abating in Asia, (2) most cases are mild, and (3) most people who have contracted the virus worldwide have already recovered. 


But noooo, the press and our governmental organizations aren't relaying that message.  Instead we have different advice and information thrown at us ... some of it conflicting ... from various governmental organizations and medical experts.  If you are paying attention to all of this, it's enough to drive anyone to the Loonie Farm!

And, all of this negativity and hysteria - stock market losses included - is enough to make even the most optimistic person fall into a glass of pessimism.  But don't fret!  There are simple steps you can take to remain optimistic in even the most trying times, including simply stepping back and putting matters and events into perspective.

Here's a New York Times article on the topic:  How to Be More Optimistic.

But wait, there's more.

Do you know studies have shown that being optimistic can not only improve your health but also lead to a longer, more fulfilling life? 

Here's a New York Times article on the topic:  Looking on the Bright Side May Be Good for Your Health.

And in the meantime ... Don't just stay positive, be positive!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

March 15, 2020

Taxes ... Did Your Paid Tax Preparer Sign Your Return? It's Required by Law.

Paid Income Tax Preparer Responsibilities


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)  Here's one requirement most people don't know ... 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.  The signature is placed over any existing signature, and other identifying preparer information, such as the tax preparer's PTIN and contact information, must be provided.  

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 review service.  In these instances, the uncompensated Tax Preparer assumes no professional responsibility nor liability for the tax return.

Tax Concerns?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, annuity consulting, and expert witness services to clients throughout the United States.  She brings 32 years of professional experience to her clients, who typically have technical or complex concerns.  For more information visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

March 12, 2020

Sourdough Multigrain Sandwich Loaf Bread! Always a Joy to Make, and Tastes Oh So Good!


Sourdough Multigrain Sandwich Loaf Bread


I call this Sourdough Multigrain Sandwich Loaf Bread our "Everyday Bread".  I always bake 4 loaves at a time ... Large loaves baked in 10" x 5" bread loaf pans.  Every bake is a little bit different, but equally delicious.

This bread is so important to me, that the absolute requirements upon purchasing a new 30" range is that (1) it must have a gas convection oven, and (2) the oven must ... MUST ... be large enough to bake 4 loaves of my Everyday Bread, in my extra large loaf pans, at a time.

My recipe is my own, a high hydration dough that makes a more-or-less uniform loaf on the top (no large dome) for consistently sized slices.  The ends are a tiny bit shorter in height, but not by much.

This loaf was made with my Organic Pumpernickel Starter, followed by Unbleached All Purpose Flour, Whole Grain Flour Blend, and pine nuts.  All flours from King Arthur Flour.  Recipe also includes melted butter, honey, spring water, eggs, and kosher salt.  Each loaf of this bake weighed about 1375 grams.  That made for one large pile o' dough to work with.

My kitchen area smelled so good while the bread was baking, my husband Jim actually asked me what was being baked that smelled so good?  That is one nice compliment, for sure.



Baking bread is addictive, and such a relaxing and fulfilling experience.  And sourdough baking is truly fun, interesting, and rewarding.  Give it a try!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

March 9, 2020

Optimism: Yes, you can teach yourself to be more optimistic! Here's how.

Optimism.


Kinda tough to remain optimistic some of these days, particularly with the current hysteria about the Corona Virus COVID-19.  Which, by the way, was reported in a San Francisco Chronicle article on Monday, March 9 that (1) the virus is abating in Asia, (2) most cases are mild, and (3) most people who have contracted the virus worldwide have already recovered. 


But noooo, the press and our governmental organizations aren't relaying that message.  Instead we have different advice and information thrown at us ... some of it conflicting ... from various governmental organizations and medical experts.  If you are paying attention to all of this, it's enough to drive anyone to the Loonie Farm!

And, all of this negativity and hysteria - stock market losses included - is enough to make even the most optimistic person fall into a glass of pessimism.  But don't fret!  There are simple steps you can take to remain optimistic in even the most trying times, including simply stepping back and putting matters and events into perspective.

Here's a New York Times article on the topic:  How to Be More Optimistic.

And in the meantime ... Don't just stay positive, be positive!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

March 6, 2020

Coronavirus COVID-19 Price Gougers: There's A Special Place In Hell For Them!

Coronavirus COVID-19 Price Gouging


Some businesses and people are gleefully wallowing in the world of price gouging during the current Coronavirus COVID-19 emergency.  So much that EBay has outright banned the sale of both face masks and hand sanitizers on their online sales site.

Take this unethical online business, Stock My Closet.  As of right now (Friday, March 6 at 11:00 AM Pacific Time), Stock My Closet is selling a 4 oz travel size of Purell Hand Sanitizer.

A tiny 4 ounces.  For $51.31 plus $4.49 tax and $12.84 shipping.

That's $68.64 for one tiny 4 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.

That's flat out wrong.  And it should be criminally wrong.

Online business Stock My Closet Charging $68.64 for one 4 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer.  People who price gouge during emergencies should be thrown in jail.  Period! 

EDIT:  In California where I reside, CA Penal Code 396 - California's Anti Price Gouging Law - prohibits raising the price of many goods and services - including face masks an hand sanitizers - by more than 10% after a State of Emergency has been declared, which has now been declared in many counties and also on a statewide basis.  However, I am unable to find a definite answer if California's Anti Price Gouging Law also applies to online merchants and brick and mortar stores located out of California who sell to California residents.  I'll edit this post if I later find out this information.

And another thing is for certain:  There is a Special Place in Hell for people and businesses who price gouge during times of emergency, including during the current Coronavirus COVID-19 situation.  Wouldn't want to be ya!

Hello there, I'm Satan.
And I look forward to hosting all of you Coronavirus COVAD-19
Price Gougers in the future!

Pathetic these individuals and businesses.  Absolutely pathetic.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

March 3, 2020

Representative Jimmy Gomez: Get Your Hand Out of Your Mouth, and Quit Chewing on Your Fingers, for Heaven's Sake!

Coronavirus:  Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face!


So many of our elected politicians set the worst examples.  Take Representative (Congressman) Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles. 

Just what did he recently do?  Glad you asked!

You see, Representative Gomez's panties are apparently all in a wad about how safety procedures were ... or weren't ... followed for cruise passengers who were recently quarantined for the Coronavirus at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA.  But you see, Representative Gomez doesn't practice what he preaches.

Sounds familiar with our elected politicians, doesn't it?

Representative Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles
Going to Town Chewing Away on His Fingers.  Yummy!
A Baby Pacifier
Something that Representative
Jimmy Gomez just might need. 

For Representative Gomez, he can't even follow the simple been around forever health safety tenant:  Keep your hands away from your face!  And for Jimmy, it's worse than that.  Not only does Representative Jimmy Gomez not keep his hands away from his face, he actually has his fingers in his mouth, chewing on his knuckles.  Yep, chewing on his fingers.  Gross!

What's next?  Picking his nose?

Just how many germs did Representative Gomez leave around on items he touched following his finger chewing episode?  Gross!

Representative Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles:  Get your fingers out of your mouth, and keep your hands away from your face!  If you can't so that, then at least buy a baby pacifier to suck on. 

Geesh!  Another example of Politics at its Finest.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 29, 2020

Black Lipstick Has a Modern Appeal? That's News to Me! I've Yet to Meet a Woman Wearing It.

Black Lipstick.


I've been a daily delivery subscriber to the New York Times for probably 20 years.  I enjoy reading the Times for articles and commentary you won't find anywhere else, including interesting Human Interest stories and the paper's weekly Food section.  But sometimes I find an article that is down right headshaking.

As in one that appeared late last year in a Sunday Style Magazine.

The topic?  Black Lipstick.  Yep, Black.  And the article (read it here) states that Black Lipstick has a "Modern Appeal".

Huh?  Living in the San Francisco Bay Area ... an a lover of lipstick and lip gloss (Chanel, thank you very much) ... I have yet to come across a woman in public wearing black lipstick.  Not one.

So how can Black Lipstick possibly have "modern appeal" if women aren't wearing it?  Crazy!

Plus it's down right ugly.  I mean, how more unnatural could these women possibly appear?  Take a look.

photo credit:  nytimes.com

No thanks.  I'll stick with my varied non-black Chanel lipstick and lip gloss shades.  I don't care to look like some Addams Family character, that's for certain.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 26, 2020

Ring Doorbell Security Cameras: Overwhelmed With Gaping Security Holes You'll Need to Fix Yourself. Still Think You Want One on Your Front Door?

photo credit:  nytimes.com

Ring Doorbell Security Cameras.


Ring.  The popular doorbell and peephole security camera made by Amazon.  Prices range from $100 - $500, with millions sold.

But there's a catch.  A BIG catch.

You see, the Ring Doorbell Security Cameras are polluted by gaping security holes, some of which Amazon appears to not want to fix.  Because if the security issues were fixed, the behemoth, ruler of the retail world company Amazon would then not continue to have access to your private data and information.

And Amazon appears to not want that to happen.  Because access to and use of private data and information = $$$$ to Amazon.

Read this New York Times Tech Fix column  by NY Times lead consumer technology writer Brian X. Chen that concisely outlines all of Ring's astonishing security problems.  And I do mean astonishing.

After reading the column, I don't see how anyone ... anyone ... would ever want to purchase and install a Ring security camera on a household outer door.  Do you?

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 23, 2020

2020 Presidential Election: Michael Bloomberg Defeating President Trump is Crazy Talk!

Michael Bloomberg


One of the richest persons in the world, with a net worth estimated at approximately $61 billion, give or take a few pesos.  😜

And the self-funded Democratic Presidential Candidate who is gaining traction as the Democratic Candidate to select.  Not because of Bloomberg's campaign platform and issues ... whatever they may be ... but because of the thought process that Bloomberg is the only Democratic candidate that can defeat President Trump.  Here is a recent op-ed piece promoting Bloomberg for this reason, from the NY Times Opinion Page:  Paging Michael Bloomberg.

That's just crazy talk.  Bloomberg has changed his party affiliation throughout his life, just to serve his own personal political aspirations.  The Democratic Party will never come together and align behind him, and Bloomberg will never rid himself of his Stop and Frisk policy while Mayor of New York City.

And as for President Trump?  Well, bein' from New York, the Trump Machine will have so much dirt about Bloomberg, we'll probably be able to publish an encyclopedia set with all the juicy gossip, dirt, and other stuff that's dug up!

And I say this as no fan of President Trump.  But Trump and his showmanship an rally the masses, and keep them riled and fired up.  And well, they actually vote, too!  Unless some type of utter disaster for Mr. Trump happens between now and November, the Dems don't have a chance in the world of defeating him.

And, just in case you're wondering, my 2016 Presidential vote went for a write in candidate:  Mickey Mouse.  Go President Mickey!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 20, 2020

Sid the Dog ... Here's What Can Happen When Sid Gets Bored!

Sid the Dog.


Every once in a while, Sid gets bored.  This in spite of a long daily walk, a large back yard, and his fur sister Lexi to rough house and commiserate with.   And as anyone who has ever had a Husky as a Faithful Canine Companion knows (Sid is Husky-Malamute mix, we think), bored Huskies can get into a lot of mischief.  And cause a LOT of trouble.

And just what did Sid decide to do on a recently lovely February Sunday morning?  Well, dig.  And dig he did, with Lexi close by cheering Sid on!  Take a look ...

If only I could get Sid to dig on command.  😕  Or at least replace his dirt and grass clods.

Oh, and about those grass clods ... They were found dispersed throughout the backyard.  You see, Sid further entertained himself by running around the backyard with grass clods in his mouth, joyfully throwing them up into the air.  😬  A great big pile of toys in the dog house isn't enough for Sid.  Nope.  That Big Goofball has to have freshly dug grass clods to throw around!



Unconditional Love ... and many adventurous days! ... is as close as your nearest Public Animal Shelter.  Please adopt, don't shop.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 17, 2020

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 2018 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.  Approximately 85 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.

Insurance Concerns?  About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides insurance policy reviews, coverage recommendations, and other insurance consulting services and expert witness services for clients with a broad range of insurance concerns.  She has 32 years of experience in the insurance industry, and is one of the select few Life and Disability Insurance Analysts licensed by the California Department of Insurance.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

February 14, 2020

Iowa Democratic Caucus: I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up!

Photo:  Oops, Logo is a Fallin!
Watch actual video of the event below
.

The Iowa Caucus Disaster


The Three Stooges Fiasco of the Democratic Iowa Caucus only continues.  I kid you not, I couldn't make some of this stuff up!

I mean, this whole caucus thing is goofier than a circus clown to begin with.  And then there is this year's utter disaster, which a Pulitzer Prize winning fiction author couldn't have made up!

Here's one of the newest boondoggles.  The Iowa Democratic Party Logo Sign actually fell off the podium as the then - he's since resigned - Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price was giving a press conference.  Hilarious!  Here is a YouTube video of the latest comical event.  Crazy!


Once again, politics at its finest!  This time, crazy Iowa Caucus style.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 11, 2020

Monarch Butterfly: How You Can Help Save This Struggling Species

The Monarch Butterfly.


The recent overwinter count of Monarch Butterflies in California held a glimmer of hope: numbers were stable from the prior year.   However, the number of Monarch Butterflies along the Pacific Coast has declined an astonishing 99+% since the 1980s.

A stunning diminutive creature weighing a 0.0026 ounce or less, yet with the ability to migrate an amazing 3,000 miles to winter living areas in Mexico and California, including my San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Monarch Butterfly is in serious trouble, with loss of habitat, and loss of essential milkweed and other nectar plants Monarchs rely on for food sources.  The food source loss is greatly impacted by big agriculture's reliance on herbicides (weed killers) such as Roundup, which have wiped out vast areas of milkweed and nectar plant food sources.

But you can help.

Plant a Pollinator-Friendly Garden

The garden does not have to be large; you can help even if you only have room for a few pots on your deck.  Plant a variety of butterfly and bee-friendly plants that will provide food and nectar throughout yearly growing seasons.

Also, don’t be in a rush to dead head your flowers and herbs.  Birds rely on flower and herb seeds for food.  Also, some annual and perennial flowering plants easily reseed, helping create a naturalized garden effect and a new supply of free plants.  And what's not to love about free gardening!

A few of my gardens' pollinator-friendly flowers.

And Don’t Forget to Plant Milkweed

One must-have plant for your garden:  Milkweed.
  
 In the butterfly stage of life, the Monarch Butterfly obtains food (nectar) from a variety of flowering plants.  However, the Monarch lays its eggs on milkweed plants.   In fact, as explained in this Natural Geographic article
“Monarch butterflies begin life as eggs and hatch as larvae that eat their eggshells and, subsequently, the milkweed plants on which they were placed. (Monarchs are dependent on milkweed plants, which larvae eat nearly exclusively.)”
Many types of milkweed plants exist.  When possible, look for varieties native to your area.  Milkweed can be started with either seeds or plants obtained from your local garden center.

Here is a Monarch Butterfly this month checking out some of my gardens’ milkweed plants.  Beautiful, huh?


Lastly, when planning and taking care of your garden, garden organically to the extent possible.  Do not use pesticides (bug killers) or herbicides (weed killers) in your gardens.  Both can harm the Monarch Butterflies (and other pollinators) as well as their plant-based food sources.  You can read more about pollinator-friendly gardening at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Happy gardening, everyone, and thank you for helping the Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators! 

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 8, 2020

IRS: TIGTA Audit Shows the IRS Once Again Fails to Protect and SecureTaxpayer Information and Data

IRS Security of Taxpayer Information and Data 


The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ("TIGTA") recently released the results of an audit they performed, in which the agency examined "the adequacy of and adherence to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) volunteer site requirements to safeguard and protect sensitive taxpayer information."

Here are the services the the IRS Volunteer Program Sites provide, according to the audit:
"The program provides no-cost Federal tax return preparation and electronic filing to underserved segments of individual taxpayers, including low- to moderate-income, elderly, disabled, and limited-English-proficient taxpayers.  The Volunteer Program includes the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs and sites operated in partnership with the U.S. military and community-based organizations.  The program is managed by the IRS’s Stakeholder Partnerships, Education, and Communication (SPEC) function."
Unfortunately, the audit's findings did not surprise me.  (You can view the audit report here.)  Among the disturbing findings:
  1. The IRS did not require that each IRS Volunteer Program Site have in place an adequate plan to protect and safeguard taxpayer data and information; and
  2. Volunteers who prepared tax and filed tax returns for taxpayers were allowed to electronically access and view tax returns after they had been filed.   In other words, the volunteers were allowed to snoop through IRS taxpayer data and records.
This is so wrong, it's beyond words.  Can anyone tell me how the IRS is allowed to exempt its own  programs from having adequate security measures in place to protect and safeguard taxpayer data, when, as a financial services professional, I am required by federal law to have such measures in my place for my clients?

The IRS continues to woefully fail in implementing ... even requiring ... adequate measures to protect and secure taxpayer information and data.   That's not only wrong, but criminal in my opinion.  Taxpayers deserve better.  Much better.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 5, 2020

Nancy Pelosi Morphs Into Temper Tantrum Nancy! Is it Time for Speaker Pelosi to Resign?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi


Once again, one of our federally elected officials has demonstrated behavior worse than a group of 3-year olds fighting over toys in a sandbox.

Who now, you ask?  No, not President Trump's twitter feed.  (And by the way, I'm no fan of President Trump, although I did find it a bit interesting that he sounded like a Democrat in parts of his State of the Union Address last night!)   This time the shameful behavior came from none other then Speaker Nancy Pelosi from my own state of California.

Cry Baby Nancy Pelosi


Photo Credit:  washingtonexaminer.com
Speaker Nancy Pelosi's cry baby, immature melt down after President Trump's State of the Union Address would be comical if it weren't so down right sad.  Tearing up your copy of the State of the Union Address?  Crazy!

Ms. Pelosi, have you lost all of your ability to, well, LEAD BY EXAMPLE?  If so, it's time for you to step down.  Your constituents deserve better than to be represented by an immature, cry baby 79-year old career politician.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

February 2, 2020

Salt: Want to Cut Back on Your Salt Intake? Here Are a Few Tips to Help You do Just That!

Salt Consumption


It is estimated that the average American consumes more than 3400 milligrams of salt each day, or about 50% more than the recommended 2300 mg daily salt consumption.  Over time, excessive salt consumption can lead to high blood pressure, which stiffens and narrows blood vessels.

Want to cut back on your salt consumption?  It's easier to do than you might think.  The culprit in America's excessive salt consumption is not the ubiquitous salt shaker, but rather the amount of sodium present in restaurant meals and processed foods purchased at grocery stores and convenience marts.

For instance, a lunch purchased at your local Burger King, consisting of a WHOPPER® Sandwich with Cheese, a Medium French Fries, a Side of Ranch Dipping Sauce, and a 20 oz. Coke will set you back 1530 calories and 1845 mg of sodium.  Ouch.

I'm not suggesting that you never eat out, or never purchased processed food.  Because, well, that's pretty much just one thing:  Impossible!  However, making smart choices, reading labels, and cooking at home with more fresh produce and herbs (think of it as adding colors to your meals and snacks), and salt-free seasonings, can go a long way in reducing your sodium intake.  Heck, the fresh and crunchy Pink Lady Apple I'm munching on right now has about 80 calories and 0 mg sodium.  And its an excellent source of Vitamin C and Potassium.

To get started on cooking with less salt, take a look at this informative website post about How To Cook With Less Salt  from my friends at Betty Crocker.

Enjoy your day!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 30, 2020

Tax Litigation: Are you Looking for a Tax Expert Witness? Meet Mary Rae Fouts, EA.

Tax Litigation.
Tax Expert Witness.


Are you looking for a Tax Expert Witness to address Tax Litigation Matters?

Mary Rae Fouts, EA has 32 years of experience addressing tax concerns and related financial concerns for clients throughout the United States.  She provides Tax Return Preparation Services, Tax Planning and Consulting Services, and Tax Audit Representation Services for a wide array of tax clients, in addition to Expert Witness Services for Tax Litigation Matters.

Mary has provided Expert Witness Services in federal courts, state courts, and arbitration venues throughout the United States.  She welcomes your call at (510) 421-5457 or email to Mary@FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 27, 2020

IRS Audit? Most likely, your audit results will be shared with your State Taxing Authority. Here's what to do.

IRS Audit


Have you been audited by the IRS, and the audit resulted in changes to your tax return(s) and tax due?

Don't forget to promptly amend any associated state tax and local tax returns to comply with the IRS audit results, and pay any state and local tax due.

Why?

Because if you don't, the state taxing authority will almost certainly send you a notice of tax due based on the IRS audit results, or may even open up an audit on your state tax return(s).  It's all due to the State Information Sharing Program between the Internal Revenue Service and most states.  In fact, the agreement is in place with 48 states and the territories of Guam, and American Samoa.  The only 2 states that do not currently participate are Nevada and Texas.

IRS Audit 

State Information Sharing Program


What tax information is shared?
  • Audit results;
  • Individual income tax return information;
  • Business tax return information; and
  • Employment tax information.
And it's not just one way sharing.  The IRS shares information with state and local taxing authorities, and the state and local taxing authorities likewise share information with the IRS.  So if you've undergone a tax audit on the state or local level that resulted in changes to your state or local tax return(s) and tax due, don't forget to promptly amend your associated federal tax returns and pay any tax due.  Waiting for the state or local taxing authorities to notify you will only result in greater penalties and interest, and may also result in another tax audit.  Yuck.

Questions about Tax Matters?
About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA is an Enrolled Agent licensed by the Department of the Treasury.  This license  allows Mary to provide tax preparation, planning, and audit representation to taxpayers in all 50 states and US territories.  She brings 32 years of professional experience to her clients.  For more information visit Fouts Financial Group.

January 24, 2020

Answer! Quiz Time! Can You Name This Singer?

Quiz Time!

Earlier this month I posted This Quiz Question, which was actually a crossword clue in a crossword I recently finished.

Quiz Question:  Can you name the singer who held all Top 10 Billboard Hits at the same time?

Hint:  The correct answer has 5 letters.

You can see the responses I got by looking at the comments in the original post here.

And the Correct Answer is ...

First of, no one got the answer correct!  And that is rather ironic, as the correct answer is:

NO ONE.  Or in the crossword puzzle:  NOONE.

Yep, no singer has ever held all Top 10 Billboard Hits simultaneously.  No one.

I hope you enjoyed this quiz!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 21, 2020

Forms 1099-MISC and W-2: 2019 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, from February 28 to January 31.  Supposedly the change was done to 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 2019 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, Annuity Consulting, and Expert Witness Services visit Fouts Financial Group.

Mary Rae Fouts

January 18, 2020

Chinese Century Eggs ... Uh, HELL No!

Chinese Century Eggs

Chinese New Year


Chinese New Year is coming up later this month on January 25 ... It's the Year of the Rat, by the way!  It's a big deal in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live, which includes significant Chinese populations in both San Francisco and Oakland.  Anyhoo, I've been seeing articles about the upcoming Chinese Holiday, and also lots of sales adds for gifts to purchase for the event.  Is there ANYTHING that is not commercialized anymore?!

Oh, and I came across on Chinese things that can only be described as Horribly Gross ... Chinese Century Eggs.

Beyond Yuck.

Chinese Century Eggs are a Chinese traditional food.   According to this Instructables Cooking post,
"Traditionally century eggs were made by preserving chicken or duck eggs in a mixture of salt, lime and ash, then wrapping in rice husks for several weeks. During this time the pH of the egg raises transforming the egg, the chemical process breaks down some of the proteins and fats into smaller, more complex flavours. After curing the yolk of the egg turns a dark green and has a creamy consistency, while the white turns amber and is gelatinous. "

The author of the post then goes onto say, "I chose a more modern method to achieve the same results: a salt and lye pickling solution, and encasing in modelling clay. After about a month my eggs were ready, and I'm happy to say they turned out perfectly!"

Yep, pickled eggs that have been ... literally ... laying around for an entire month or so, encased in modeling clay.  And then eaten.  Would you eat one?



I've read various descriptions of the taste and smells, including comparisons to Roquefort Cheese with a whiff of Ammonia.  Yummy!  </sarcasm off>  One recipe post using Century Eggs in a salad even included a comment in the recipe that the Century Eggs are "probably" ok to eat.  Now that's mighty encouraging, isn't it?:!

While I enjoyed Asian-inspired cooking ... my cast iron wok is a workhorse in my kitchen ... No Way Jose would I ever eat a Century Egg.

Now pass the Soy Sauce and enjoy your dinner!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 15, 2020

Quiz Time! Can You Name This Singer?

Quiz Time!

This Quiz Question was actually a crossword clue in a crossword I recently finished.  But, it also makes a great Trivia/Quiz Question, so here goes ...

Quiz Question:  Can you name the singer who held all Top 10 Billboard Hits at the same time?

Hint:  The correct answer has 5 letters.

And no cheatin' now!

If you want to take a shot at this, post your answer in the comments section of this post.  I actually got the answer correct right away, even before I looked at the puzzle to see how many letters were in the answer!

I'll post the correct answer in the near future.  Thanks for stopping by!


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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 12, 2020

Stolen Packages: Increased Online Shopping Means Ripe Pickings for Scumbag Thieves

Stolen Packages


Regretfully, today's robust online shopping environment has created opportunities for scumbag thieves:  Stealing Packages.

The New York Times published this fascinating - yet very troubling - article on the topic last month.  In New York City, an estimated 90,000 packages are stolen - or otherwise go missing - each day.  That's a 20% increase in only 4 years!

And it's not just an NYC problem.  It's everywhere.  Nationwide, an estimated 1.7 million packages area stolen - or otherwise go missing - each day.  That's an astonishing 620,050,000 - six hundred twenty million, fifty thousand packages - that are stolen or go missing across the United States each year.  And that's assuming the theft rate does not increase.  Which, regretfully, it likely will.

Photo Credit:  nytimes.com

There are many measures consumers can take when shopping online, including renting a private mailbox at your local UPS store for receiving mail and packages (I've had one since moving to California in 1994), and using Amazon lockers for delivery.  Regretfully, scumbags are everywhere, looking for easy crimes of opportunity.

Stay safe, everyone.

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts

January 9, 2020

Healthier Eating and Living: Add Some Dark Leafy Greens to Your Pizza!

Healthier Eating and Living

Dark Leafy Greens

Sourdough Pizza


I love to cook and bake, and enjoy incorporating fresh produce and herbs into my meals.

Dark leafy greens are delicious, very low in calories, and are true Super Powers when it comes to the vitamins and minerals they add to your diets.  One way to add more dark leafy greens to your diet is to use them as a pizza topping.

Baby Arugula

And, by the way, I completely disagree with anyone who says pizza is Junk Food.  Pizza can be very nutritious and delicious.  It's what you put on top that counts.  Here is a recent homemade Sourdough Pizza I made, which included coarsely chopped baby arugula.  It also had pizza sauce, pepperoni, pineapple, red bell pepper, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Homemade Sourdough Pizza

So enjoy your pizza, and the added bonus of dark leafy greens to boot!

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


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

Mary Rae Fouts