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Seniors: Have a Safe and Healthy Winter Season

by Vicki Graham, #1 Properties, Vicki@GrahamHouse.com

Seniors: Have a Safe and Healthy Winter Season

By Dr. Judith S. Black


Helping older family members stay safe, secure and independent begins with preparation in the home.
Learn how to help seniors stay safe and healthy by following these tips:
 

  • Since snow and ice and other adverse weather conditions raise the risk of falls during the winter season, it is important to wear appropriate footwear – comfortable shoes with anti-slip soles. This will help secure footing on icy or snowy walks, stairs or driveways.
     
  • Check where you regularly walk and be aware of any surfaces that may present a slip or fall risk. Be sure rugs are flat and secure, especially since footwear in the winter tends to be a bit heavier and bulkier than in the warmer weather months.
     
  • Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. If you haven't done so already, it is not too late to call your friends and family members to remind them to get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot can help prevent complications in older adults and anyone with asthma, diabetes, anemia and other heart and lung problems. Call your doctor today to discuss and schedule your flu shot.
     
  • I also recommend getting a pneumococcal (pneumonia) shot. Unlike the flu shot, which is different each year and is given before the start of the influenza season, the pneumococcal shot can be given at any time of the year. However, for convenience, the pneumococcal shot can be given at the same time as the flu shot.
     
  • At this time of the year, it is also important for senior citizens to be protected from the cold temperatures. Every year, many elderly people die from hypothermia and exposure since our bodies are less able to protect us from dangerously cold weather if they have to be outdoors.
     
  • Finally, diet and exercise should not be neglected during the winter months. While you may not want to venture outside for a walk, it is important to stay active with light exercises indoors.

Dr. Judith S. Black has been the medical director for senior markets at Highmark Inc.

Tips to Navigate 2012 W-2 and 1099 Changes

by Vicki Graham, #1 Properties, Vicki@GrahamHouse.com

Tips to Navigate 2012 W-2 and 1099 Changes

Every year brings with it new changes related to W-2 and 1099 forms and reporting requirements. Due to the government's increasing focus on the proverbial tax gap, it's more important than ever for small businesses to understand the changing W-2 and 1099 reporting environment.

Here are some of the key changes that will affect small business this year.

W-2 Form Changes and New Additions
The reduced rate of 4.2 percent for social security tax withholding (for employees only) is extended for wage payments made in 2012. Also new in tax year 2012, compensation of $600 or more that is paid to H-2A visa agricultural workers must be reported on Form W-2 if the worker furnishes a valid taxpayer identification number. If the worker does not furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, report the payments on Form 1099-MISC.

In addition to the above W-2 form changes, there are several specific form updates to various 1098 and 1099 forms. Below are several of the more prominent changes for 2012:

  • Filers of Forms 1098 (except 1098-C), 1099, and 5498 may truncate a recipient's social security number, individual taxpayer identification number, or adoption taxpayer identification number on paper payee statements for tax year 2012.
  • Form 1098: Mortgage insurance premiums paid or accrued after December 31, 2011, are no longer eligible to be treated as interest paid by the payer/borrower.
  • Form 1099-B: New boxes have been added to Form 1099-B for reporting the stock or other symbol, quantity sold, whether basis is being reported to the IRS, and state income tax withheld. Other boxes on the form have been moved or renumbered. Brokers must also report on Form 1099-B sales of covered securities by an S corporation if the S corporation acquired the covered securities after 2011.
  • Form 1099-C: Box 6 is now titled Identifiable Event Code and requires the entry of a code for the identifiable event. For 2012, all codes are optional except for Code A – Bankruptcy.
  • Form 1099-DIV: Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company are now reported on Form 1099-DIV. Those amounts will no longer be reported on Form 1099-INT. Boxes 12 through 14 have also been added to Form 1099-DIV to report state income tax withheld.
  • Form 1099-INT: Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT. Those amounts will now be reported on Form 1099-DIV. Boxes 11 through 13 have also been added to Form 1099-INT to report state income tax withheld.
  • Form 1099-MISC: Compensation of $600 or more paid in a calendar year to an H-2A visa agricultural worker and any backup withholding must be reported on Form 1099-MISC if the worker fails to provide the employer with a taxpayer identification number. If the worker does furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, report the payments on Form W-2.


Below are some important dates for filers to remember as they enter tax season:

 

  • January 31, 2013 – Due date to send most 1099s and Copies B, 2, and C of form W-2 to each recipient/employee
  • February 28, 2013 – Due date to send Copy A of form W-2 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and form1099 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on paper
  • April 1, 2013 – Due date to send copy A of form W-2 to SSA and form 1099 to IRS electronically (e-file)

Are You A Renter? Insure Your Stuff!

by Vicki Graham, #1 Properties, Vicki@GrahamHouse.com

Are You A Renter? Insure Your Stuff!

By John Voket

I need a bunch of you – specifically you renters – to take a moment and consider an important piece of advice about your stuff. If you love it, then make an extra effort to protect it.

Did you know the majority of homeowners buy insurance, but just one in three college-aged renters insures their belongings? Even more shocking: at least half of all renters fail to buy any insurance protection for their possessions.

Way too many consumers are under the mistaken impression that their landlord’s policy will cover their losses, according to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. BBB says renter’s insurance generally covers property damage or loss caused by theft, fire, vandalism or storms. In addition, most policies include liability coverage, which protects a tenant if someone gets hurt when visiting their home or apartment.

The cost of renter’s insurance is usually lower than homeowner’s insurance because it covers only personal property and liability, not the structure. The amount of the deductible can also affect the cost of premiums.

Two types of renter’s insurance coverage are available:

  • Actual cash value insurance pays to replace items up to the policy’s limits, minus a deduction for depreciation.
  • Replacement cost insurance pays the actual cost of replacing your possessions, regardless of depreciation, up to the limits on the policy.


Consider the value of possessions versus the cost of insurance - even a college student can have property worth several thousand dollars, such as computers, televisions, furniture, jewelry or small appliances.

When seeking a renter’s insurance quote:

Determine if you have specific items of high value, you also may need a rider to cover those items.

  • Ask what deductibles apply to the policy.
  • Find out whether the policy will cover living costs if you are unable to occupy your current apartment or home.
  • Inquire about exclusions, such as types of property that would not be covered.
  • Ask the insurer if they give discounts for burglar alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems or deadbolts on exterior doors.
  • If you are switching insurers, be sure that the new policy is in effect before dropping the old one.
  • As with any insurance product, BBB advises consumers to get estimates from several companies before buying a policy.


Source: www.bbb.org.
 

Six Mortgage Tips for the Self-Employed

by Vicki Graham, #1 Properties, Vicki@GrahamHouse.com

Six Mortgage Tips for the Self-Employed

It's no secret that mortgage lenders are requiring more information from potential borrowers than they did prior to the 2008 financial meltdown. But for self-employed borrowers, qualifying for that mortgage loan is particularly difficult. In the past, self-employed business owners were easily approved for stated-income mortgages – or, loans that didn't require tax documents or bank records to verify income.
But because of more stringent lending policies, self-employed individuals in particular can expect far more scrutiny than in the past. In particular, lenders are looking for proof of stability, or a pattern of income. Fair or not, the self-employed are not considered as "safe" a bet as someone on an established salary.

Simply stated, lenders want to establish that the borrower can sustain a mortgage over time. Accordingly, lenders are likely to require at least 2 years of the most recent tax returns as well as financial statements, and possibly a quarterly profit loss statement. In their assessment of finances, lenders will typically require an overall debt-to-income ratio of 41 percent or less, though some will be less stringent depending on other factors such as excellent credit. Speaking of credit scoring, because some lenders consider self-employed borrowers a higher risk, it is possible to offset that risk with a high credit score. A score above 740, for example, can greatly enhance a self-employed applicant's chances for approval. For self-employed applicants, the secret to success is to prepare in advance.

Here's what you can do to increase your chances for success:

1. Pay-off your debts
Since your debt-to-income ratios will be considered, paying off some of those liabilities can lower your levels to acceptable proportions.

2. Get your credit report in advance
If there is anything negative in your credit history, take action to correct it before you apply for a mortgage. And, in the process, make every effort to raise your score above 740.

3. Adjust your income accordingly
Self-employed business people are typically very aware of beneficial tax deductions that will reduce their amount of taxable income. The problem is, lenders will determine your eligibility for a loan based on your taxable income! With a deflated taxable income, it's entirely possible that you'll qualify for a loan that's far below what you need. So, a year before you're ready to apply for a mortgage, talk to your accountant and see how to maintain quality deductions, while also taking a high enough income. One solution may be to defer certain expenses to a later tax year. In fact, deferment of expenses can also enhance financial reserve levels. Remember, lenders are looking for stability – or, your ability to pay over time. Your cash reserves will be a key element.

4. Meet with your potential lenders face-to-face
Online or telephone-based lenders are extremely convenient, but for the typical challenges that confront the self-employed applicant, it's better to meet with a specialized loan officer in person. Specialized experts are far more likely to direct you to a loan package that meets your specific needs.

5. Consider a joint mortgage
If you're married to someone who draws a regular paycheck on a W-2, consider having them apply as the primary applicant – with you listed as the secondary applicant.

6. Make a bigger down payment
Lenders tend to believe that with a greater personal investment, the borrower is less likely to default. In fact, some lenders will actually require self-employed applicants to submit a down-payment of at least 20 percent.

Source: http://www.realtypin.com

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Photo of Vicki Graham, Broker Associate Real Estate
Vicki Graham, Broker Associate
#1 Properties
6106 Yellowstone Rd.
Cheyenne WY 82009
(307) 631-6884
307-773-8454