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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

What to Do If You Didn't Get Your W-2 Forms

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

So you want to get your federal income tax return done early, but you still haven't received your W-2 in the mail.

What should you do?

The IRS requires employers to file a Form W-2 for each employee. These forms must be sent out to employees by February 1. If employers fail to do so, they could face some costly consequences.

For each W-2 form an employer fails to send out on time, the IRS may slap the employer with a $50 penalty. That's in addition to an employer's potential penalties for improperly filing a W-2, such as providing incorrect information on the form and not reporting the proper Taxpayer Identification Number.

That being said, one option if you haven't received your W-2 forms by February 1 is to report your employer to the IRS. You can contact the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.

But before you do that, you may want to contact your employer to see if they've actually sent out your W-2, Examiner.com suggests. Perhaps they had the wrong address on file, or perhaps it got lost in the mail and it wasn't your employer's fault. See if you can get to the bottom of what happened.

In any event, even if you do contact the IRS, they won't force your employer to give you a W-2. All they might do is make note of it. It won't absolve you from filing your tax return on time.

If you want more time to file your tax return, you can always file for an extension. This is generally only a good idea if you are certain you won't be owing any taxes. Because if you owe taxes, you still have to pay the taxes on time, even if you're allowed an extension to file your return.

If you plan to file on time without your W-2, you can complete a Form 4852, entitled "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." You may need to dig up your old pay stubs and do some calculating, but if you want to get your taxes done on time, this might be the least taxing way to do it.

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.
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Word of the Day

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

Fiduciary. Person acting in a position of trust, responsibility and confidence for another, such a broker for his client.
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Q: How Do I Respond to a Low-ball Offer?

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

A: Let your agent know it is too low to warrant a counteroffer and that you are willing to negotiate but only once a more reasonable offer is made. Ask the agent if the buyer was shown comparable market values of similar homes that have recently sold in your area; and ask if the buyer was ever properly qualified. You do not have to settle for less if you are realistic about your chances of getting more.
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Tips to Avoid Food Safety Disasters

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

You rarely stop to consider the safety of your food before you bite into a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, many of us skip some crucial steps we should be making daily to ensure the cleanliness of our edibles and avoid food related illnesses.

A new study analyzing outbreaks of foodborne illness has found contaminated salad greens make the most people sick, but contaminated poultry have resulted in the most deaths. In light of this study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Home Food Safety program—a collaboration between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods—encourages Americans, rather than avoid certain foods, to practice safe food handling at home instead.

"While this study found produce accounted for nearly half of food poisoning illnesses, everyone should still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Rachel Begun.
"Safe food-handling procedures can help protect you from foodborne illnesses while still allowing you to enjoy these tasty and nutritious foods."

"One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when it comes to the particularly nasty norovirus," Begun says. "The norovirus accounted for 46 percent of the illnesses according to this study, and while hand sanitizer is great to reduce the spread of some germs, research shows us that soap and water is best," she said.

Begun encouraged Americans to visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org for tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning, and offered the following advice:

Produce

  • Properly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables, whether they have a peel or not, with cool tap water just before eating.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Cut all fruits and vegetables on a separate cutting board from raw meats and fish. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
  • Cook raw sprouts, such as alfalfa and clover, to significantly reduce the risk of illness.

Meat and Poultry


  • When buying and handling meats, always look for the Safe Food Handling label on the package, and make sure the meat is tightly wrapped. At the grocery store, pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use fresh, raw chicken within one- to two days of purchase, meats within three to four days, and throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after two days. Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.
  • Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, and use a separate cutting board for raw meats and fish to avoid cross contamination.
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost on the counter. Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately and do not re-freeze thawed meat.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.
Sources: www.homefoodsafety.org, www.eatright.org, www.conagrafoods.com.
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How to Save Your Skin from Harsh Winter Weather

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

In many parts of the country, winter weather is being especially unkind. While you may be bundling up in your winter wear and cranking up the heat, have you stopped to think how your skin may be faring?

"The substantial drop in moisture that occurs during the winter months can be damaging to your skin causing dryness, itching, irritation, cuts or sores," says Jill Weinstein, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. "It's essential to change your skin care regimen each winter to rehydrate your skin and keep it moisturized."

Weinstein offers the following tips to banish dry skin and give your skin care routine a boost:

Skip the hot bath or shower
– "Although soaking in a hot bath may feel great after being outside in the cold, the prolonged water exposure and heat breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin causing a loss in moisture," said Weinstein. "Keep showers and baths lukewarm and short, and opt for gentle cleansers that won't irritate your skin."
Moisturize frequently – Don't rely on your typical lotion to get you through the cold winter months. Creams offer more moisture than lotions; look for creams with ceramides which can help replenish the damaged skin barrier. Be sure to moisturize every time you wash your hands and get out of the shower and again before bed.
Shower then shave – Shaving can irritate dry skin. Men, shave after you get out of the shower. Women, save shaving for last while in the shower. This will give your pores time to open and your hair time to get softer. Be sure to always moisturize after shaving and change your razor often to prevent dull blades or build-up of bacteria.
Hook up a humidifier – Dry, hot air from a heater can leave sensitive skin parched and make itching and flaking worse. A portable humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home to help humidify the dry air and relieve itchy skin.
Protect your lips – "The biggest mistake you can make is to lick your lips when they are chapped," explained Weinstein. "Even though this may provide short-term relief, eventually your lips will dry out as the saliva evaporates. Help keep them moist by using an ointment-based lip balm or lubricating cream made with SPF and petrolatum or beeswax."
Grab a pair of gloves – Protecting your hands from the cold air and low humidity plays a significant role in preventing dry skin. Make sure your gloves are made of material that does not irritate your skin. During bitter cold days, layer a wool mitten over a cotton mitten to help keep your hands warm and dry. Wearing a cotton glove over your moisturizing cream at night is also very beneficial.
Apply sunscreen – "Sunscreen should be applied daily, not just in the summertime," said Weinstein. "The combination of winter sun and snow glare can damage your skin. Make sure you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours if you're planning to be outdoors for an extended period of time."
Wear breathable fabrics – Cotton and silk are good choices for the winter months because they allow your skin to breathe. When you wash your clothes, use detergents without dyes or perfumes. Dressing in layers for warmth is important, but also prevents excessive sweating.

"Many cases of dry winter skin will clear up within a few weeks of adjusting your routine," adds Weinstein. "If your skin doesn't improve, consider calling your doctor. You could be dealing with eczema or psoriasis that requires more aggressive medical therapy."

Source: www.nmpg.com
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Better Business Tips: Avoid Compliance Penalties When Paying Taxes

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

For many businesses it is a necessity to hire contractors to ensure some jobs get done, but tracking payments to service providers properly can quickly turn into a tax compliance nightmare.
The American Accounts Payable Association offers the following 1099-MISC preparation tips to ensure your tax reporting for 2012 is correct.

1. Form 1099-MISC required for noncorporate service providers.

If you paid any service provider (sole proprietors and partnerships) at least $600 for services during 2012, you must provide Form 1099-MISC to them no later than Jan. 31, 2013. If the provider is a corporation you do not have to provide Form 1099-MISC.*

*You must provide Form 1099-MISC to attorneys or medical service providers who do business as corporations. To find out if a service provider is a corporation, have them complete IRS Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.

2. Be on time. If you're sending your Forms 1099-MISC to the IRS by mail, you must mail them no later than Feb. 28. If you're sending an electronic file, you must file it by Apr. 1 with the IRS.

3. TIN truncation extended. The IRS has issued regulations to extend and expand on the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) truncation pilot program for 1099s. The regulations would create a truncated taxpayer identification number (TTIN) for use on electronic and paper payee statements. Under the truncation procedure, the first five digits are replaced with either asterisks or Xs: ***-**-1234 or XXX-XX-1234.

4. No 1099 needed for electronic payments.
If you paid for services with a credit card, debit card, gift card or another electronic payment medium (e.g., PayPal), you're no longer required to send service providers a Form 1099-MISC. The bank or credit card company that made the actual payment will send the contractor Form 1099-K.

5. When in doubt, send a 1099. If you are unsure whether a Form 1099-MISC is required, go-ahead and send one. You set yourself up for penalties if you do not send all qualified service providers their Form 1099-MISC.

Source: www.americanap.org.
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Word of the Day

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

Fee simple. Ownership of real property that is to be used and/or sold at the owner’s discretion.
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Q: Do I Have to Consider Contingencies Made by the Buyer?

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

A: You can reject, accept, or counter any offer that is presented to you. Most offers include contingencies, which protect the buyer in case something goes wrong.

The two most common contingencies deal with financing, which makes the sale dependent on the buyer’s ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender within a stated time period, and an inspection, which allows the buyer to have a professional inspect the property to their satisfaction.

There really is no reason not to consider these contingencies because they are quite reasonable and standard.

However, think twice about a contingency that is predicated on you making expensive home repairs, such as a kitchen renovation. Now, if the roof is caving in, that is an entirely different story. You may need to spend money to replace it or lower the asking price of the home.
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5 Attention-Grabbing Ways to Get Hired

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

In today’s economy, according to business consultant Jim Kukral, you need to be more than experienced, qualified, and personable to get the job you want. You need to stand out from the crowd, approaching your job search in ways that grab –and hold – attention.

“No employer today is going to remember someone who falls in the middle of the pack,” says Kukral, whose book, “Attention! This Book Will Make You Money,” instructs individuals and businesses in the art of using creativity and the Web to find success.

Kukral offers five ways job-seekers can stand out from the crowd:

Ramp up your resume – To most hiring managers, resumes look pretty much the same. Make yours stand out by delivering it in a catchy, unusual way – maybe attached to a box of donuts delivered to the CEO’s office, or on a bulletin board covered with post-it notes describing your most distinctive qualities.
Try a Facebook ad – Facebook offers an inexpensive advertising service that allows you to create your own target ad. Create an ad pointing out your skills, experience and goals – and send it to the companies you want to work for, or specifically to executives of those companies.
Make it personal – Before you go on a job interview, use Facebook, Linked In or other social media sites to learn as much as you can about the interviewer. Is he a golfer, like you? Do her children attend the same school as yours? Do you support or volunteer for the same charity? Anything you can do to create a more personal connection will get your interview off to a memorable start.
Use YouTube – Create a personal video thank you note to send to the interviewer after your meeting. Or put something together that tells a potential employer about your unusual skills and/or creativity.
Promote yourself in unexpected places – It may cost you a little money to put yourself up on a billboard or take an ad in a targeted business magazine. But the investment may be well worth it if it catches the eye of a company executive who appreciates your out-of-the-box thinking.
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The Right Home Tools for a Healthier Lifestyle

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

(BPT)—Even with the best intentions, many of us who resolve to live a healthier lifestyle in 2013 will fall back into old, familiar habits much sooner than we would like. To maintain motivation and create a routine that is both sustainable and effective, it's important to invest in the right tools for every room in your house.

Kitchen
Diet is key to overall wellness, and proper nutrition will help you remain energized and motivated to make other healthy strides. Unfortunately, some think making healthy meals is too time consuming and often make less nutritious decisions in the name of convenience. But with the right tools, creating a wide variety of tasty, wholesome options is quick and simple. With a high-performance blender like the Vitamix 7500, you can make nutrient-packed green smoothies, steaming hot soups and healthy frozen treats in minutes. Simply toss whole fruits or vegetables into the Vitamix, choose the settings, and in a matter of seconds the machine's unmatched power and versatility will create dishes that taste great and are good for you. The new 7500 model also features easy controls and a compact design that will fit into most kitchen spaces - as well as your new healthy lifestyle.

Bathroom

That old bathroom scale won't do you any good if it isn't accurate. To monitor the benefits of your healthy habits and find motivation to continue to make health-conscious choices, invest in a new digital scale. Although many scales come with additional features, such as body-index calculators and memory storage of your latest weigh-ins, consistent readings are the most important way to follow your progress. There's no need to spend a fortune on a new tracking tool as long as your new scale is easy to read and operate, and gets high marks for accuracy. If your bathroom storage space is limited, seemingly endless styles and sizes ensure that you can find a scale that fits any decor.

Bedroom
Sleep is crucial to living well, and making sure your body is well rested will help every other aspect of your healthy efforts. Having a supportive but comfortable mattress and pillow will do more than you may think to help your body get the renewing rest it needs. If you wake up with aches and pains, can feel coils, see depressions in the surface or have had your current mattress for more than 10 years, you likely need to purchase a new one. There are many types of mattresses to choose from, including innerspring, foam, no-flip and pillowtop selections. After researching your options, go to a store to test mattresses before purchasing to ensure you are getting exactly what you want. Carefully read the instructions to care for your new mattress properly and make sure your bed pillows are supportive of the neck and head for a superior night's sleep.

Closet
Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, and the right shoes are essential to any fitness routine. Whether you take an aerobics class, run, bicycle or play a competitive sport, proper athletic shoes will provide the support and protection you need. The wrong type or improperly fitting shoes can cause serious discomfort and even injury, making this a vital component of your fitness plan. Not all athletic shoes offer the same benefits, so don't purchase walking shoes to also act as running shoes, basketball shoes or for any other physical activity use. And despite common belief, adult feet do grow and change, so don't assume you are the same size you were last year. Even if you plan to purchase online, go into a sports shoe store with knowledgeable staff to ensure you find the right features and fit.

Armed with the right tools, you can reach your health goals and reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle throughout the year, and beyond.
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