Word of Mouth is Not Just From the Customer

For a small, locally owned business, no amount of advertising will generate the business that word of mouth will.  Building a good reputation is crucial to building a customer base and every wise business owner knows the importance of treating their customers with respect.  But what about your vendors?

Recently during a conversation with a local vendor they commented on how rudely another local business treats them.  The comment got me thinking. I have seen this same behavior many times in both large and small businesses.  They treat their vendors, delivery people and suppliers as though they are unimportant and an annoyance.  There are two things that these businesses are forgetting.  First – Very few businesses can survive without their vendors.   Second – These vendors shop and they talk.

A businesses reputation is not just built on satisfied customers.  How you treat your vendors and employees contribute greatly to that reputation.  Especially if you’re doing business in a small town.  Remember …… People talk, and everyone is either a potential customer, or knows someone that may be.

 

TAXPAYERS BEWARE!!!

tax scam alertThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is warning taxpayers of a major scam that has hit people in just about every state. TIGTA Inspector General J Russell George said this is the largest scam of its kind that they have ever seen. More than 20,000 people have been contacted with thousands of victims that have collectively paid over $1 million as a result of the scam.

According to reports the caller claims to be from the IRS and states that you owe taxes. They threaten arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license if you do not pay. They demand payment via a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer.

Don’t be taken! The IRS rarely makes initial contact on a tax debt via the phone. They send a letter. They also DO NOT ask that you pay with a wire transfer or a pre-paid debit card.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS asking for payment here’s what you do:
If you owe, or think you may owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. An IRS worker will assist you.
If you do not owe taxes call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484. You can also file a complaint with the FTC at www.FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

For more information on tax scams visit www.irs.gov.

Understanding Your W2 – Code DD

fw2.pdf

One of the questions I am often asked when preparing taxes ……. What is code DD?

You may have noticed Section 12 of your W2 contains alphabetic codes and amounts.  The two most commonly seen codes are D and DD.  Code D is the amount you have contributed to a retirement plan, such as a 401K.  Code DD is a more recently established and utilized code.  I began seeing it last year.  So what is it?

Code DD is the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan.  It shows the amount paid by both you and your employer and is shown for informational purposes only.

According to the IRS here is what you need to know about the value shown on your W-2.

  • The health care law requires certain employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan.
  • The amount of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage appears in Box 12 of the W-2, and has the code letters “DD” next to it.
  • Reporting the cost of health care coverage on the Form W-2 does not mean that the coverage is taxable or that it needs to be reported on your tax return.
  • The amount is only for information, and shows the payments made by you and your employer and is not included in the amount shown in Box 1, which is the amount of taxable earnings.

Visit the IRS website’s W-2 page for more information.

 

Curried Vegetable & Rice Soup

Curried Vegetable Soup (600 x 450)      Curried Vegetables (600 x 450)\

While I typically do not like spicy things, it seems the colder it is, the more ‘heat’ I tend to like.  My favorite ‘spicy’ dish is pretty much anything curry.  I had some vegies in the fridge that I needed to use up so I thought I’d toss them in the crock and make a vegie curry to put over some rice.  Soup was not my intention when I created this meal, but the broth was just so good that’s what I ended up with.   Either way, vegies over rice, or more of a soup, is so comforting.

Curried Vegetables & Rice

1 butternut squash – cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion – quartered and sliced
1 head of cauliflower (or a bag of frozen)
2 – 3 carrots – sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 large clove garlic – finely chopped
1 can garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed
2 ribs celery – chopped about 1/2 inch thick
1 carton chicken broth (about 4 cups)
1 can coconut milk
1 Tbs yellow curry powder (more if desired)
Salt/Pepper
Rice – cooked according to package directions

Add all the vegetables and the garbanzo beans to the crock pot, add chicken broth (vegetable broth would work as well), salt/pepper to taste, and curry powder. Cook on high for 4 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking add the coconut milk. Taste the broth and adjust curry powder and salt/pepper to taste.

Serve over rice, or ladle broth and serve as soup.

2013 Tax Filing Season

2013 tax

Déjá vu.  Tax filing season is delayed again.

Citing the government shutdown in October, the IRS has announced that the 2013 tax filing season for individuals has been delayed until January 31, 2014.  Businesses can begin filing their returns on January 13, 2014.

What does this mean?  The IRS will not begin accepting returns until January 31, 2014, this includes paper returns so there is no advantage to mailing them in.  Some tax preparation services will go ahead and prepare your returns, but they will not be able to submit them until January 31st.  You may also be able to prepare your returns using some e-filing services and submit them,  but they will sit in the services database until January 31st when they can be transmitted.

If your combined income is below $57,000.00 you can free e-file.  Here is a link to get you started:  http://www irs.gov/Filing/Filing-Options .  If you are not comfortable preparing your own income tax return you can also visit one of the VITA locations and have a trained volunteer prepare and e-file it for you.  You can also visit an independent tax preparer, who typically charge less than the large chain preparers.  Just remember, there are many options available to assist you in filing your returns.

Spinach and Artichoke Soup

I admit it, I have done very little cooking the past couple of months.  My daughter and her family moved back home so they could save up to get their own place, and, well we all know how two families living together goes.

One thing that was apparent from the beginning is we eat completely different.  This initially surprised me. I raised my daughter after all, you’d think she’d eat the way I do.  Then it dawned on me.  The way I cook and the types of foods we eat now are not what we did when my kids were growing up.  When you’re first starting out, you tend to go for getting the most from your dollar, not always the best.  And when you’ve got 3 very active kids (and you’re single to boot), meals are on the run and were seldom actually healthy.  Of course, I know realize the error of my ways and hopefully can teach my adult kids to be a bit wiser.  It may seem to cost a bit more at the store, but if you plan your meals, shop wisely, and use leftovers to create second meals, it really is more economical.

My daughter is moving out next week.  I am so excited at the thought of being able to start cooking for just my husband and me again that I did just that the other night.  Of course I couldn’t get my daughter to even taste our soup, and since she wouldn’t I couldn’t get my grandson to either.  I believe they had Bush’s Chicken instead. They don’t know what they were missing.  I guess I will just have to have my grandson spend the night without Mommy in order to get him to taste new foods. .

Image I had a half a bag of frozen chopped spinach in the freezer, and a bag of artichokes.  Two of my favorite vegies.  I’ve also still got some herbs in my garden.  Apparently thyme and sage like the cooler temps we’ve had.  I do believe this is now my favorite soup and I will be making it often.

Spinach and Artichoke Soup

1 bag frozen artichoke hearts

1/2 bag frozen chopped spinach

1/2 onion finely chopped

8 cups low sodium chicken stock

2 Tbs fresh chopped thyme

1/2 cup cream

1 cup fat free half-n-half

salt/pepper to taste

In a large soup pot (or heavy pot) add the spinach, artichokes, thyme, salt/pepper and stock.  Cook until all the vegies are done (the onions will be translucent).  Add the cream and half-n-half and cook for a few more minutes.

That’s it.  That’s all it takes to make a yummy quick soup, and with the exception of the cream, everything in it is good for you.  I’m thinking you could probably omit the cream, but it really does ad flavor.  With a bit of garlic bread, you’ve got dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Since it was just hubby and I eating it, we had 3 meals out of this.  How economical is  that!

ACA Additional Medicare Tax Rules Finalized

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A couple of weeks ago the IRS released the final regulations for the additional 0.9% Medicare Tax that was imposed under the Affordable Care Act.  These regulations are effective beginning with the 2013 tax year.

Under the new regulations, employers are required to withhold an additional 0.9% in Medicare Tax on income over $200,000.00 for single taxpayers, $250,000.00 for married filing joint, or $125,000.00 for married filing separate taxpayers.

This additional withholding applies to wages, railroad retirement compensation and self-employment.

Those taxpayers who have more than one source of household income need to be aware of what their year to date income is.  If their combined wages exceed the threshold they need to notify their employer and have additional Medicare Taxes withheld.  An alternative to having the employer withhold the additional tax would be to make estimated tax payments to the IRS on their own.

With only 3 weeks left in 2013, now is the time to make sure your withholdings are in order to avoid being hit with large payments or penalties come tax filing time.