Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
February 1, 2013 6:30 pm
(Family Features)—Going to college; getting your first job; moving into your own place. To these rites of passage add one more: doing your own taxes. And, it's not as scary as you might think.
It's not scary because there's help available. It's called Free File, and it's offered exclusively from the IRS in partnership with nearly 15 leading tax software companies. About 3 million people use it every year.
Free File lets you choose brand-name software that does the hard work for you -- all for free. And, it offers a fast, safe and free option for everyone. Brand-name tax software is available to those who made $57,000 or less in 2012 -- which is about 70 percent of us. Earned more? Try Free File's online fillable forms, the electronic alternative to IRS paper forms.
Three simple steps to getting started
Step 1: Gather Your Tax Information
Collect your tax information and log on to Free File through the IRS website: www.IRS.gov/freefile.
Step 2: Choose an Option
The "Help Me Choose A Company" option helps you pick the brand-name software that will guide you through the tax process.
Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic documents, perform basic math calculations and are for people who are comfortable preparing their own paper tax returns.
Step 3: Prepare and e-file Your Return
E-file your return for free. No matter what option you choose, IRS and brand-name software providers use the most current technology to ensure tax information is encrypted, so it's safe and secure when it's transmitted.
Free File is also available online 24/7, giving you the freedom to choose when and how you do your taxes.
Checklist of materials to do your taxes
Keep this list as a checklist of the items you will need to do your taxes. The IRS recommends keeping all tax-related documents for three years, in case of an audit. Tracking income-related documents can help you take full advantage of deductions available to you.
- A copy of last year's tax return
- Valid Social Security numbers for yourself, spouse and children
- All income statements, i.e. W-2 forms, from all employers
- Interest/dividend statements, i.e. 1099 forms
- Form 1099-G showing any state refunds
- Unemployment compensation amount
- Social Security benefits
- Expense receipts for deductions
- Day care provider's identifying number
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps you keep more of what you earned
No tax benefit offers a greater lifeline to working families than EITC. Yet, one out of every five eligible taxpayers fails to claim it, according to the IRS. Because of the economy, even more people may be eligible if they have had changes in their earned income. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
The maximum credit for 2012 tax returns is $5,891 for workers with three or more qualifying children.
Eligibility for the EITC is determined based on a number of factors including earnings, filing status and eligible children. Workers without qualifying children may be eligible for a smaller credit amount.
Learn more at www.irs.gov/eitc and use the EITC Assistant, or ask your tax professional. If you are eligible for EITC, you also are eligible for free tax help at VITA sites nationwide or to use Free File at www.irs.gov/freefile.
EITC: Are you eligible?
- You must have earned income.
- Your adjusted gross income cannot be more than the limit.
- Your filing status cannot be "Married filing separately."
- You must have a valid Social Security number.
- You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year.
- You cannot file Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ.
- Your investment income must be $3,200 or less.
Did you know?
- Most refunds are issued in less than 21 days.
- Combining e-file with direct deposit is still the fastest way to get your refund.
- Use "Where's My Refund?" to get personalized refund information based on the processing of your tax return.
- You can also use the IRS app, IRS2Go, to check the status of your refund.
- Can't meet April 15 deadline? Use Free File for a free extension; then use Free File to do your taxes by October 15.
February 1, 2013 6:30 pm
FHA. Acronym for Federal Housing Authority, an agency created within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures mortgages on residential property, with downpayment requirements usually lower than prevailing ones.
February 1, 2013 6:30 pm
A: Be patient, know your home’s worth, adopt a positive attitude, and do not let emotions – anger, pride, greed, or prejudice – get in the way of negotiating the best deal.
Your home obviously means a lot to you, but you have already made the decision to move on, so begin to think of your home as “the house” or “the condo,” instead of “my home.”
When reasonable offers come along, take them seriously. You can always counter any offer made by the buyer that comes near your asking price. Do not spoil a good deal over a few hundred dollars.
January 30, 2013 6:28 pm
Family Features--Almost half of American adults say they need to change their diets so they can improve overall healthfulness, according to a 2012 survey by The NPD Group. But no matter how wholesome something is, if it doesn't taste good, no one will want to eat it.
To help make sure your family has a nutrition-minded diet that still delivers on taste, stock up on delicious but guiltless ingredients such as:
Colorful fruits and veggies -
Nutritious produce brings vitamins, minerals and fiber to the table. Keep snack-ready apples, bananas, grapes, pears, berries and oranges visible and within reach, so they're easy to grab when the kids get hungry. Look for ways to add veggies to dishes, like unique soup or sandwich recipes.
Whole grains -
Whole grains have more fiber, which is important for heart and digestive health. Look for whole grain sandwich breads, pitas, pastas and pizza crusts. Experiment with side dishes using whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or barley.
Herbs and spices -
Watching sodium intake is also important for heart health. In addition to using lower sodium ingredients, you can boost flavor with herbs and spices. Oregano, basil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, thyme and rosemary can be used to flavor soups, meats and fish, and can be mixed into a small amount of fat-free mayonnaise to dress up sandwiches.
January 30, 2013 6:28 pm
Much fuss was made over the ongoing Capitol Hill negotiations surrounding the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- and yet, for many Americans, the eventual resolutions of the fiscal cliff talks remain somewhat ambiguous. According to a recent CBS News report, however, one of the provisions of the fiscal cliff legislation could prove beneficial to seniors, allowing them to receive tax breaks by contributing part of their IRAs to charitable organizations.
"The American Taxpayer Relief Act just reinstated a provision that allows those taking required minimum distributions from IRAs (which is required starting April following the year in which an individual turns age 70 1/2) to save taxes while donating up to $100,000 to a qualified charity," comments financial planner Randy Siller, explaining this legislation in his new press statement. "The law was reinstated for 2012 and 2013."
Continues Siller, "The reinstatement for 2012 allows distributions made in December 2012 to be sent as a cash contribution to a qualified charity by January 31, 2013. For 2013, the normal method of having the IRA custodian send a certain sum directly to the charity should be used."
For many individuals, Randy Siller says, this provision could prove very advantageous. "The advantage to what is known as a 'Charitable IRA Rollover' is that the amount is not included in a taxpayer's Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Now some might be thinking that, if they don't use this approach they could simply include the amount distributed from the IRA in their income and then, by contributing that amount to charity, obtain an offsetting itemized deduction. So why does excluding it from the taxpayer's AGI save money?"
The answer to this question, Siller says, depends on the taxpayer's unique situation. There are three scenarios in which taking advantage of this legal provision makes sense. "First, under the new tax law, there are limitations on personal exemptions and itemized deductions for couples with income above $300,000 and singles above $250,000. So, if including the distribution in income would put you over the limit, the Charitable IRA Rollover would save you taxes," explains Siller. "If you are already over the limit, then you would not get a full charitable deduction, in which case the Charitable IRA Rollover could save substantial taxes."
Siller highlights a second scenario in which the Rollover makes sense. "For those who take the standard deduction, as it is larger than the total of their itemized deductions, the Charitable IRA Rollover makes sense because there will be no offsetting charitable deduction if the Rollover approach is not taken."
Siller points to one further scenario. "Finally, by not including the distribution, in income it may lower the amount of taxable Social Security benefits," he remarks.
Siller notes that the the implication of this legislation is simple. "For many taxpayers the reinstatement of the Charitable IRA rollover will provide a welcome benefit," he said.
January 30, 2013 6:28 pm
Cold weather is great for winter sports, but on the home front it brings higher utility bills as we try to stay snug and warm. Apart from making best use of the fireplace, it’s a natural and necessary expense. But there are steps we can take to save on gas and electricity even in the coldest days of winter.
Small steps can add up to worthwhile savings, according to consumer consultants at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), who offer 10 tips for lowering utility bills:
- Laundry – Washing your clothes at a lower temperature than usual saves energy and money.
- Lights off – Train yourself (and the kids) to switch off the lights whenever you leave a room.
- Light bulbs – Changing regular light bulbs for energy saving models can save up to 75 percent of electricity usage for each bulb.
- Reducing drafts – Check for drafts around windows and doors. Filling them in won’t cost much but will help save big on utility bills.
- Refrigerator – Every time you open the door, you make the fridge work harder. Be more efficient about how often you open it and how long you keep it open. Also, if you have hot food leftovers, cool them before refrigerating.
- Cooking – Cooking larger portions and freezing leftovers for future use will reduce your total cooking time.
- Tea time – When you put the kettle on, boil only as much water as you will need for a one-time use.
- Showers – Showering for just a few minutes less will save a lot of energy – especially if the whole family does it.
- Air filters- Make sure they fit properly and that you clean or replace them regularly.
- Shut the door – Don’t heat the rooms you don’t use. Keep their doors closed and turn off the heating vents.
January 30, 2013 6:28 pm
A: The list price is your advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what you want to complete a home sale. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sales prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.
The sales price is the actual amount the home sells for.
January 30, 2013 6:28 pm
Exclusive-right-to-sell listing. Listing that gives the broker the right to collect a commission no matter who sells the property during the listing period.
January 29, 2013 6:24 pm
With 'the big game,' coming up, and St. Patrick’s day just around the corner, I want to help you host a safe and successful soiree. That means being a responsible host, and my friends from the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. are going to explain why.
I recently received a notice from Timothy G. Russell, president of PIACT, who has provided sage advice in previous reports. He says, as hosts, homeowners and renters could be liable for the safety of their guests - even after they leave the party.
If a guest drinks and gets behind the wheel, causing an accident, the host may be held responsible. So before you host your party, call your insurance agent to learn what coverage you have and what coverage you might need if a party guest gets injured, or injures someone else.
Russell knows it's important for every host to provide a great party experience, but it’s important to make sure guests are safe in your home - and they get back home safely after the party wraps.
Consider these tips:
- If drinks are a part of your festivities, limit your own alcohol intake so you can determine if a guest is able to drive at the end of the night.
- Pick designated drivers who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
- Provide plenty of tempting non-alcoholic beverages and food for guests.
- Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses.
- Never serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
- Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is over and switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
- Always serve food when serving alcohol. High-protein foods such as meat and cheese take longer to digest, slowing the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
- Try to avoid salty foods. They make people thirsty, so they drink more.
And remember, whether it's a full blown St. Patty's, Super Bowl or Oscar Party, if guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest, or bring them home yourself.
January 29, 2013 6:24 pm
(BPT) - Owning multiple gadgets is no longer the domain of tech geeks - it's the new normal for just about everyone. Between multiple computers, phones, tablets, readers and music players, and the files that fill them up, people have a lot on their digital hands. Because that can be both costly and cumbersome, people are on the lookout for new ways to save money and sync up across platforms.
Luckily, 2013 looks as though it'll be a year full of innovations for gadget jugglers - and particularly music fans. And after the gift-giving rush of the holidays, people will be looking for new ways to make their devices interact, so that they can streamline their digital lives.
One of the best places to get started is with your music collection. For most people, it's not uncommon to have hundreds or thousands of music files. While that variety is enjoyable, those high numbers have some underlying consequences. First, the sheer cost of paying for those songs and albums, and second, the amount of space they take up. And if your music isn't shareable across platforms, there's a serious frustration factor.
How can you declutter your life in the new year? A digital music subscription is one of the best places to get started, offering a variety of benefits:
1. Cost cutting. Digital music subscriptions offer millions of licensed songs and albums, typically for around $10 per month. Weighing that price against what you'd pay for individual tracks, the savings can add up quickly. For example, a premium subscription to Sony Entertainment Network's Music Unlimited service gives users access to more than 18 million songs from all of the major labels and many independents and costs under $120 for the whole year.
2. Access anywhere. Digital subscriptions make it easy to access music across devices like personal computers, iPhone and Android smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles and more. So there's no need to buy yet another gadget to have all the music you want at your fingertips, wherever you are. There is even offline playback for Android devices so you do not need to be connected to the internet to enjoy your favorite music. You can also skip the time commitment of syncing and downloading - your catalog automatically syncs with every compatible device you connect to your account.
3. Keep it secure. If you've ever gotten a "no files found" message or lost a device, you know the panic that the thought of losing your music collection will induce. A digital subscription keeps your library safe in the cloud, so that you don't need to fear losing it all - and having to replace it.
4. Find new music. A defining part of being a music lover is always looking for great new music. An added benefit of a digital subscription is that it allows you to explore bands you haven't heard of before; some services also provide features to help you navigate the choices available based on your preferences. Aside from delivering all of the latest album releases, Sony's Music Unlimited service hosts dozens and dozens of pre-programmed channels and additional channels created by user preference through My Channels.