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review 2017-07-22 00:43
Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli
Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli - Diane Kelly

Not my favourite of the series, but not bad.  It had fewer mini-plots running concurrently, in fact, there was only one, and I missed them.  Kelly is really good at those multiple mini-plots and they keep the story moving and lively.  Without them, this one dragged a bit.

 

Tara is undercover here, working directly for the mobster's wife in her restaurant and the scenes with the wife were probably the best in the book.  I liked the dynamic between her and Tara.  Unfortunately, the rest of the storyline failed to catch my complete interest.  Tara didn't do much in the way of investigating at all and that's some of my favourite parts of past stories.

 

It was still a solid read and hopefully in the next book the author will have Tara back to juggling her usual caseload.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages:  325  

$$: $9.00 (location multiplier)

 

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review 2017-07-01 03:30
Death, Taxes, and Cheap Sunglasses (Tara Holloway, #8)
Death, Taxes, and Cheap Sunglasses - Diane Kelly

It's been awhile since I picked up a Tara Holloway novel, and I don't know why - they're really fun and better built than your average cozy.  Needing to read a book where the character had to be good with a gun was just the motivation I needed to get back into the series.

 

In this book Tara is investigating an email scam, a Facebook scam, and two non-profits that might not really be non-profits; one of these involved an animal sanctuary, and up-front, I skimmed a lot when this story line came forward, although the wrap up of it was awesome.  Running through the whole of the story is her boyfriend and best friend (an IRS and DEA agent respectively) going deep undercover against the Mexican drug cartel.  

 

While Tara's investigations are relatively lightweight and suffuse the storyline with humour, the cartel storyline is not light.  Kelly has done her research and, while she has a tendency to overshare that research with readers sometimes, here it's relevant, timely and the perfect hook for setting the level of danger involved.  Tara contributes once or twice, but is mostly in the dark about what's going on until the end.  And the end is unbelievably tense for a cozy and the happy ending doesn't come without scars and baggage.

 

My biggest complaint about the book is the level of internal dialog the reader has to put up with as Tara agonises over Nick's safety and whether or not he's alive.  There was just a little too much of it and it became tedious.  Otherwise, a great read and I'm glad I already have the next one ready to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages:  336

$$: $6.00

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text 2017-06-14 04:42
Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to face taxes as a new college graduate

Graduating from college also means big life changes. And those changes could affect tax time too.  Getting a refund during filing time and saving money are possible with the following steps prepared by The Southbourne Tax Group.

 

In case you don’t know but up to $2,500 of the interest portion of student loan payments can be tax deductible if your modified adjusted gross income is below $80,000 (for singles) and $160,000 (for married filing jointly).

 

Unfortunately, you can’t deduct your expenses on job hunting if you are looking for a work in a new career field or a full-time work for the first time. But there’s a possibility of tax breaks if you’re moving to a new city for your first job.

 

Each year, up to $18,000 can be secured from your income taxes if you contribute to your company’s 401(k) wherein you can also start your retirement savings. In addition, if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you could secure another $3,400 (for singles) and $6,750 (with family coverage) on your contributions to a health savings account. Putting your money into a flexible spending account can help you keep an additional $2,600 out of your taxable income as well.

 

Big deductions for business expenses could be claimed if you are planning to be your own boss or be a freelancer as a new college graduate. Southbourne Group advises that you should save at least 25% of what you’re earning for the IRS.

 

Lifetime Learning Credit is also a good thing to consider. You can claim up to $2,000 of tax credit per year for post-secondary work at eligible educational institutions. But this is possible if your modified adjusted gross income is below $65,000 (for singles) and below $131,000 (for married filing jointly).

 

Being able to save also brings different wonders such as cutting your tax bill. It is possible as well to qualify for the Saver’s Credit if you have an adjusted gross income of less than $31,000 (for singles) and $62,000 (for married filing jointly). Up to 50% of the first $2,000 and $4,000 you contribute to an eligible retirement plan can be reduced on your tax bill.

 

Getting tax software and a professional help from experts are good options to consider but make sure not to overspend on each. You can depend on free packages from many tax software companies if you have simpler tax situation. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program could also be your choice if you want professional help.

 

We have our own ways of facing our taxes, but with those mentioned above, Southbourne Group hopes that you learn something that can help you move on with your taxes.

 

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text 2017-02-22 01:11
The Southbourne Tax Group: Ready to file your 2016 taxes?

 

The 2016 tax filing season has begun, with W-2s arriving in the mail and some confusion arising from news of a refund delay.

 

While most people will be minimally impacted by changes this year, one of the biggest additions is aimed at helping low-income families.

 

The California earned income tax credit is entering its second year. The credit applies to people who earn $6,717 or less with no children up to $14,161 with two or more children. To help you get the most out of your taxes, we asked Aaron Martinez, a tax expert with H&R Block since 1998, and Andrew Nelsen, a certified public accountant in Fountain Valley, for tips ahead of the April 18 filing deadline.

 

REFUND DELAY

 

Some who file early may be in for a surprise. Those claiming the EITC or a child tax credit – an estimated 30 million taxpayers – will have their refund held until Feb. 15.

 

“We’re telling everyone to file normally,” Martinez said. “They just have to wait a little bit longer to get their refund.”

 

The delay, created by the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, is meant to prevent fraud.

 

“Those two credits are target credits for identity thieves and fraudsters. The IRS wants to make sure that the W-2s that are coming in are correct and that they have time to make sure there is no theft,” Martinez said.

 

The IRS estimates that as many as 26 percent of EITC claims may be paid erroneously in 2015. “Some of the errors are unintentional, caused by the complexity of the law, but some of the claims are intentional disregard of the law,” the agency said.

 

For people who need the refund sooner, H&R Block is offering a $1,250 refund advance, a no-interest loan that’s repaid when the refund is issued by the IRS.

 

WHAT's NEW

 

The personal exemption has been increased to $4,050. But that amount is phased out for taxpayers at higher income levels. Similarly, those with higher adjusted gross income might not be able to get the full value of their deductions.

 

The alternative minimum tax is still around, but the exemption has increased to $53,900 for single taxpayers, $83,000 for those married filing jointly and $41,900 for married filing separately.

 

People who have been issued an individual taxpayer identification number, or ITIN, instead of a Social Security number may have to renew it before filing their tax returns. The IRS says current ITINs will no longer be valid if they weren’t used at least once in the last three years or if the number was issued before 2013.

 

Make sure you have last year’s tax return handy when you prepare to file your taxes this year.

 

“Taxpayers who are changing tax software products this filing season will need their adjusted gross income from their 2015 tax return in order to file electronically,” the IRS said. “The electronic filing PIN is no longer an option.”

 

That, too, is part of the agency’s attempt to battle tax fraud and identity theft.

 

CLAIM ALL YOUR CREDITS

 

Martinez said there are a lot of deductions people forget to take. They include:

 

--Charitable contributions

 

--Mortgage interest, property taxes and mortgage insurance

 

--Employee expenses such as mileage and phone bills

 

--Education costs: Schools issue a tuition statement, form 1098-T, for eligible deductions

 

--Filing status: For example, a single mother with a child can file as head of household

 

--Caring for parents

 

--Even if you have a degree, the IRS offers a lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 annually

 

--Delivery drivers, especially those working for Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, should keep track of miles, oil changes and vehicle repairs as business expenses

 

PATH ACT

 

“A big change this year is the PATH Act. This act made some tax changes permanent and made some expire,” Martinez said.

 

Under the act, the American Opportunity Education Tax Credit, which gives undergraduate students up to $2,500 in tax credits, and some other tax breaks were made permanent.

 

This is the last year for private mortgage insurance, mortgage debt forgiveness, a tuition and fees deduction, and non-business energy credits.

 

“Next year is the year that could really be topsy-turvy,” said Nelsen. “Not a whole lot changed this year.”

 

AVOID SCAMS

 

To prevent fraud, file your taxes as early as possible, Martinez urges.

 

The IRS will not ask for your credit card or send the sheriff to your house. Anyone threatening to do so is likely a scammer.

 

Anyone impersonating the IRS can be reported online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by calling 800-366-4484.

 

EXTENSIONS

 

Taxpayers who need more time to file can request an extension.

 

“Getting a filing extension avoids the late filing penalty, but it doesn’t avoid the late payment penalty,” said Barbara Weltman, a consultant and author of books on taxes, law and finance.

 

So the advice from tax experts: To avoid the late payment penalty, estimate the amount due and pay it before the April 18 deadline. But even with that, you won’t be able to avoid interest on payments made after the deadline.

 

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

 

While Republicans seem committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act, it remains to be seen what might replace it.

 

In the meantime, people who do not have health insurance should be prepared to pay more this year as penalties for those without coverage have risen.

 

The penalty for not having insurance is $695 per uninsured adult or 2.5 percent of household income over the filing threshold – whichever is greater. In 2015, it was $325 per uninsured adult or 2 percent of household income.

 

Enrollees with insurance through the state’s health exchange, Covered California, have to file a 1095-A form with their taxes.

 

To help with the cost, there are 30 exemptions available for people who are uninsured, according to Martinez.

 

“It’s in its third year. The first year people didn’t really understand it,” Nelsen said. “The second year penalties really started kicking in, and people started to catch on, so I know it’s on people’s mind this year.”

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