Saturday, July 14, 2018

Heat wave tips for keeping yourself, pets & taxes cool

Thermometer hot heat wave sun

It's hot. Not just here in Texas, but across the United States. In fact, around the world.

That means we all need to be careful. More careful than the hubby, who decided to mow our yard yesterday. And not during the relative cooler morning when temperatures were in the 80s, but in the afternoon when the thermometer nudged 100 and it felt even hotter. It wiped him out for the rest of the day and evening.

I love my man, but I guess it's true that the heat does make us do dumb things.

Deadly heat: Excessive heat also tends to be more dangerous that other weather extremes and, according to U.S government data, results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards.

That's why in times of extreme heat, which officially is defined as a long period (2 to 3 days) with temperatures above 90 degrees, we need to take extra care, especially if you live in an area of accompanying high humidity.

During these hot periods, evaporation is slowed and our bodies must work harder than usual to maintain a normal temperature. That added exertion can be deadly.

Remember as temperatures climb that:

  • Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
  • Older adults, children, and those who are sick or overweight are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Animals suffer as much as their human family members.

Take care of everyone: So that means we need to take care of ourselves, as well as those we love. This means our friends and family, including the furry ones.

And that brings me to today's Saturday Shout Out. It's an infographic shared by the aptly named Daily Infographic on 16 ways to help your dog fight the summer heat.

Some of the tips, excepted below, are just common sense.

Dog keep cool summer tips_no car

Others you might not have thought about because you're in good shape, maybe better than your pooch.

Dog keep cool summer tips_no field trips

And while the creative visual advice focuses on canines, many of these tips apply to cat and other animal lovers, too.

Dog keep cool summer tips_hydrate hydrate hydrate

Check out all 16 tips on the full infographic and take care of your furry best friend and all your other pets, too, during this hottest season of the year.

Care tips for humans: Now that you've got your fur babies cooled, it's time to chill out with your family and friends and help them also avoid the ill effects of heat.

Stay in air-conditioned space if possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, go to a public library, shopping mall, heat-relief shelter or other cool location.

If you are outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face.

Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Check with your doctor if you are usually supposed to limit your fluids.

Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.

Cut back on exercise. 

As with your pets, never, ever, for even just a minute leave anyone of any age (but especially not children or older people) in an enclosed, parked vehicle.

Leaving the auto's air conditioning on isn't an acceptable excuse either. An inadvertent swipe of an arm could cut off the cooling and the person in the vehicle might not know how to restart it. And errands generally take more than just 60 seconds.

Recognize and respond: Even after taking precautions, sometimes the heat wins. Here are the most common heat-related illnesses and how to respond to each.

Heat cramp signs include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs. If you or someone experience these symptoms, go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.

Heat exhaustion is indicated by heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache or fainting. In cases of suspected heat exhaustion, go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related malady. Signs include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees on an oral thermometer); red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness. In these cases, call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.

Spreading the cool: After you've ensure you and yours are safe from the heat, consider helping those who aren't as fortunate.

Here in Austin, Family Eldercare, in partnership with (among others) the local NBC affiliate KXAN, holds an annual fan drive to get enough of the cooling units to folks who don't have air conditioning. The primary recipients of the new box and oscillating fans are Central Texas seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children.

I suspect this type of program is replicated across the country, so check with your local social services.

Also touch base with your utility company. Many offer customers the option to pay a little extra with each bill, with the added dollars going to a fund to help those who need help keeping the A/C operating (or the heat in the winter).

If your electric or gas company doesn't have such a program, check out charities that focus on helping folks pay their bills. A secondary Saturday Shout Out goes to, which tracks, as the website's name indicates, groups that help folks cover their day-to-day expenses. In the summer, higher cooling costs put extra pressure on these individual's and families' resources.

And to get back to pets, consider giving to your local animal shelter. Utility bills are a big cost for the agencies that provide a cool summer place for pets until they chill out in their forever homes.

Tax thanks for giving: While I'm sure you're giving this summer and year-round because you want to, remember that the tax deduction for charitable gifts is still on the tax books.

True, most folks now will claim the increased standard deduction amount instead of messing with itemized deductions on Schedule A.

But if you do still itemize, note that while several expense claims were reduced or eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the deduction for charitable donations remains.

In fact, cash gifts got a bit of a boost under the new tax law. Those who are able to give a lot can now claim charitable cash donations that are up to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income, an increase of the previous 50 percent limit.

So if you do give to help others stay cool and safe, thank you.

And if you can get a tax break for your generosity, be sure to claim your tax thank you when you file your return next year.

You also might find these items of interest:



Thursday, July 12, 2018

TV's Emmys highlight role of state tax breaks for productions

Tax, Tech and Form 1099 - H.R. 5377

H.R. 5377, Creating An Online Platform For Instant 1099 Submissions Act, introduced in March 2018 by Congressman Renacci (R-OH), a CPA, calls for something that should already be part of our tax system. H.R. 5377 "directs the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide taxpayers with online access to IRS resources and guidance that will allow them to: (1) prepare and file Forms 1099, (2) prepare Forms 1099 for distribution to recipients other than the IRS, and (3) create and maintain necessary taxpayer records. The IRS must ensure that the online services required by this bill: (1) are a supplement to, and not a replacement for, other services provided to taxpayers by the IRS; and (2) comply with security standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Just like we can pay bills online, order goods and services online, why can't a business complete a Form 1099, such as for payment to a contractor, online with it being automatically sent to the contractor and the IRS?

H.R. 5377 would give the IRS until 2021 to get the system working.  Seems reasonable.

What do you think?


5 Summer Tasks To Help Grow Your Business

Summer is full swing! While many tax pros are soaking up some well-deserved sun after a busy tax season, many are also using this time to grow their business. Whether you’re reading this blog post at the beach, on vacation, or even while relaxing at home, we’ve got good news. There are lots of ways to grow your business during the off-season, no matter where you are or how much downtime you have.

Generally speaking, summer is an excellent time to take care of those business tasks you simply just can’t get to during the busy months. It’s also an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate for next year. What went well? What could be improved? What needs to go to make next year a success for both you and your clients?

Don’t waste this precious time waiting for tax season to rev up again. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your tax business and make the most of your summer.

Create a marketing plan 

Get strategic. Hone in on your target audience and how you can reach them. Remember, having any marketing plan is better than no marketing plan. By taking time to plan in the off-season, you’re better able to communicate your services to those who need them most. Review those surveys you sent out, review your marketing metrics, and decide what worked and what didn’t. Refine what worked, throw out what didn’t, and try something new!

Read our Ultimate Marketing Plan Checklist for more on creating a marketing plan for your tax business, or check out our Tax Business Marketing Manual.

Take CE Courses

Are there any courses you’ve been thinking about taking, but just never have time for? Do you have CE credits looming that need to be taken by the end of the year? Why not knock them out in your down time? This way, you’ll keep your skills sharp, learn something new, and satisfy the IRS requirements. Check out our CE Course offerings and bundles.

Go golfing

Seriously! Whether golfing or some other activity, networking is always good business. Your local Chamber of Commerce or other professional groups are bound to have a mixer. Spend some time making connections, offer up your expertise to speak at a luncheon about the new tax laws of the W4. When tax time comes around, you’ll be glad you did. 

Here are some more networking tips to try this summer.

Research technology tools

Are there any tasks you just can’t stand doing, or that eat up a lot of time better spent elsewhere? A tech solution likely exists! Spend even just a few minutes here and there reading up on what’s out there. What tools can save you time? Which ones are the best to buy? If you’re skeptical about purchasing before demoing a new solution, many tools offer free trial versions you can become familiar with while work is quiet.

Here’s a good list of tools to check out that will get you started with research.

Make positive upgrades

Install faster internet. Hire and train an assistant. Shred outdated documents to free up storage space. Spend time reviewing things that you need to change. It may not seem like growth now, but small adjustments will make things more efficient later.

We hope you find these tips helpful! As year-round tax pros ourselves, we’re always looking for new ways to improve during the off-season. Have a suggestion that’s worked for you that others should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.