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TAXING TIMES

Newsletter Volume 8 (July 2004)

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Dear Client,

I am trying something new: a mid-year newsletter via email. I plan on doing these a few times a year as well as occasional quick bulletins when something that affects my clients needs to be brought to their attention.

I know we all get WAY too much unsolicited email, so if you have no interest in receiving future missives from me, please write back & ask me to remove you from the distribution list.

There are three items I would like to point out to you all. I have discussed some of these with some of you already so pardon the repetition.

•  If you are concerned about identity theft, one of the most important numbers to guard is your social security number. It is not a good idea to carry your number in your wallet, but more people do just that without realizing it. Most medical insurance cards have the holder's ssn as their id number & that is right there on your card.

You can do what I did & call your carrier & INSIST they issue you a new number. It took me several phone calls (be polite & “who is your boss?”) and two letters to have them change the number. The insurance company said among other things that it was too difficult for them to do so part way through the year. Don't accept such nonsense from them – computers were invented to accomplish difficult tasks!

•  Another identity theft threat as well as a junk mail bother is the enormous number of unwanted pre approved credit card applications arriving in our mailboxes everyday. You can shred them or even tear up all the inserts & mail them back in the postage paid envelopes provided (thereby costing the junk mailers a lot of money) or call a toll free number to have your name removed from all the mailing lists. You punch in various bits of personal information & you will not receive these annoying solicitations after a couple months. That number is 888-567-8688.

•  This is the only real tax issue of the three. There is a NEW & IMPROVED medical insurance option available for those of us who are small business owners, self-employed, or employees of small businesses struggling with medical insurance costs. It is called the Health Savings Account (HSA). This only started up the first of this year & is only available from a limited number of carriers in the state, but there should be more competition soon. The only company I know for sure that is offering this is Premera Blue Cross with their Lifewise product. I would suggest to anyone who is interested in this new type of policy to investigate thoroughly before switching.

Here is an overview of this new deal: The HSA has two parts – the insurance & the savings account. The insurance is a high deductible, & (supposedly) low premium policy. For example a family would have a $2000 deductible but lower premiums than with a more traditional policy. For a self-employed person (including corporate owners), the premiums are still tax deductible. The savings account (arranged for by the insurance company) side of the deal is also tax deductible. A family can put up to about $5000 yearly into this account. The money deposited in the account is used to meet the policy deductible ($2000 in this example). It is also used to meet co-pays, non-covered items such as glasses, dental & prescriptions. Whatever is not used by the end of the year is rolled over to the next year, and the next & the next, etc. (It is NOT a ‘use it or lose it' concept.) Whatever is in the account at retirement & Medicare time is converted to an IRA. It is a very sweet deal! You pay the insurance company less & are able to deduct medical expenses that you usually would not be able to in the past (i.e. the money you put in the savings account).

Another thing I would like to mention is my loose network of contacts in all walks of life. If you are looking for a referral for various goods & services & don't know where to find a terrific travel agent, the low stress leader in home loans, a fabulous real estate agent, insurance agent, estate planning lawyer, builder, mechanic, computer sales & service, investment person, dentist or the WORLD'S GREATEST CATERER (my wife), let me know & I will be very happy to help. I do NOT have any kind kickback, commission or a vested interest in any of these people (except the caterer) & I only refer those whose services I use myself.

(The list above is just a sample – I know people in MANY walks of life & am not shy about referring them, so please feel free to ask)

If you have any questions about any of the above topics or ANY tax questions, please feel free to call me – remember, I do NOT charge clients for phone calls or short office visits. I prefer you to keep me in the loop throughout the year than you surprise me at tax time.

 

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