Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

HOW TO REPAIR YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION ON YOUR PALM TREO OR CENTRO

By JC Leahy


My Palm 755p wouldn't connect to the Internet for several weeks from any location.  I kept getting the message that there was an "error" loading any internet site.  I also was unable to send or receive e-mail from the phone. I called Sprint and learned how to "restore Vision services" to reset the Internet connectivity.  It worked.


Here's the procedure:


Got to the telephone dialing screen.
Press the code ##3282# .  This is called the "data restore code."  (It also accesses the menu to unlock you phone.)
Select "Data" at the top left corner of the screen."
Select "Vision Services"
Follow the prompts to "restore Vision services"


That should do it.  You can verify Internet connectivity by looking for the little letters "EV" next to the signal-strength-bar icon on your phone.  If "EV" is displayed, you have Internet connectivity.  Apparently, though, not all Treo's display the "EV" symbol, because my 755p displays no "EV" even though it is now able to access the Internet and send/receive e-mail just fine.


If this procedure doesn't work, your phone will have to be hard-rebooted.  This will destroy all data on it but it will also fix your Internet connection.  If you call Sprint, they can set up an electronic work order for a Sprint store to back up your phone, hard-reboot it, and restore all your data.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TAX PLANNING QUESTION: CAN I DEDUCT MILEAGE TO GAMES I REFEREE ??

By JC Leahy
Twitter@jc_leahy

JC Leahy
TAX QUESTION, FROM MIKE, IN BOWIE, MARYLAND:  As a paid sports referee, what  mileage can I deduct when traveling to referee a basket ball game? Can I count the mileage from home to game site and from the game site back to home?

ANSWER:  Mike, you are refereeing games as a regular, paid activity.  You are paid on a 1099-basis  You are, in fact, conducting a small business, and the basketball sites are, in fact, your client work sites.  I know from our conversations that there is no out-of-town overnight travel involved.   You drive from home to the basketball courts and back.

As a rule, when you use your personal automobile to drive to a business site, or between business sites, or to run business errands of any sort -- you are entitled to deduct  automobile costs at the IRS-designated mileage rate.  The exception to this rule is commuting.  Commuting is travel from home to and from a place of regular employment or business.  Commuting miles are personal expenses and are not tax deductible.  If you regularly referee at several athletic facilities and you drive from home, the mileage would probably be classified as nondeductible commuting. All other business mileage EXCEPT commuting is deductible.  This includes mileage for referee-related business errands of any kind as well as mileage for transportation between any business or client locations.

 One way to optimize your mileage deductions would be to have a tax-qualified home office for your referee business, and to engage in business related activities in your home office before and after each trip to an athletic facility.  That way, when you get in your car, you are not driving from/to HOME; you are driving from/to YOUR OFFICE -- to a game.  That's deductible.

For your home office to "qualify", it must be your "principle place of business."  Ever since the aftermath of the Solomon Case in the early 1990's, it has been much easier for a home office "qualify" as your principle place of business.  If any one of these 3 tests is true, your office is your principle place of business:

  1. The primary value of your business is delivered in the home office, or
  2. You regularly meet with customers or prospects in the home office, or
  3. The primary management or administration of your business is conducted in the home office.
Additionally, the home office must be used ONLY for your business, and not for ANY personal things.  And your home office must be physically separated from personal-use areas of your home, as by the walls of the room or by any sort of partition.  If you office meets any of the 3 use tests, is used only for business, and is physically separate, then the office "qualifies" as your as your principle-place-of-business tax-deductible home office

For documentation, you'll need a contemporaneous log of your mileage, and also some sort of written log or evidence about the before-and-after business use of your home office. 

Here's material for further reading:
Small Business Mileage Deductions

Any further questions, of course, let me know!


JC Leahy, MA Accounting

Sunday, November 13, 2011

GAMES THEY PLAY WITH SOCIAL SECURITY

Question by Bill of Silver Spring, Maryland
Answer by JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Twitter@jc_leahy

Question:
I am receiving Social Security retirement benefits, but I also have to work for extra money to make ends meet. I am a self employed full-time painting contractor. Business has been really tough these past couple of years.  Last year, despite my full-time efforts, I made a net of zero at the painting business. This year, so far I have a net $70,000. This income won't reduce my monthly Social Security check, will it?

Answer:
Bill, Congress has made our Social Security benefits into an unfortunate shell game. I won't tax your interest with all the details -- but here are the scraps that relate to your specific retirement planning question.

If you work after you start to receive Social Security benefits, your Social Security benefits may be reduced because of  your employment or self-employment income. This only affects you if you are receiving early Social Security retirement benefits. If you have reached your "full" retirement age, your benefits are NOT reduced as a result of other income. Early retirement age is 62. Your full retirement age depends on how young you are..

To determine your full retirement age according to the SSA, look for your birth year in this list
• 1937 or earlier: 65
• 1938: 65 + 2 months
• 1939: 65 + 4 months
• 1940: 65 + 6 months
• 1941: 65 + 8 months
• 1942: 65 + 10 months
• 1943-1954: 66
• 1955: 66 + 2 months
• 1956: 66 + 4 months
• 1957: 66 + 6 months
• 1958: 66 + 8 months
• 1959: 66 + 10 months
• 1960 or later: 67

For example, Bill, based on the above table your full retirement age is 65 years and 2 months because you were born in 1938. Your current age is 71. Since you are older than your full-benefits retirement age, your Social Security benefit will NOT be reduced because of your self employment earnings.

If you were, say 62, not only would you get a reduced Social Security benefit, but that reduced benefit would be FURTHER reduced by $1 for every $2 of income you made in excess of $14,160 annually. So, if you had a net of $70,000 from your painting business, your Social Security benefit would be reduced by ($70,000 - $14160) x 0.5 = $27,920 REDUCTION. In your case, Bill, $27,920 subtracted from your annual Social Security benefit would leave you a remaining Social Security retirement monthly check of approximately zero. It's a lucky thing they don't count negative numbers in that calculation, because if they did, Congress would want YOU to send THEM a check!! LOL!!!


Oh! Wait a minute!!  Au sérieux!  You might actually have to send Congress a check -- even if you ARE over the full retirement age. No kidding!!  Here's how it works. If you earn wages, salary, self employment income or any other kind of income while you are receiving Social Security -- Uncle Sam may want you to send some of that Social Security money back in the form of income tax .

Paying income tax on Social Security retirement benefits DOES seem unfair. After all, every payday for your entire working life you paid FULL Federal income tax, state income tax, and various payroll taxes on EVERY DIME of Social Security once already. To tax you again when you take the money back out of Social Security is to tax you TWICE!!!! But that's the way the system works. Originally, back in the New Deal era, all Social Security retirement benefits were exempt from this double-taxation but Congress just couldn't resist the temptation to change that.  You might call this the Raw Deal. 

It's definitley a bad investment.  Experts often say that your investment in Social Security is one of the least attractive investments you will ever make -- and when you delve into the details, it's not hard to see why.

So it's good-news and bad news for you, Bill. You are old enough so that your monthly Social Security check will not be reduced. You will, however, face double-taxation of some of your Social Security benefits.

I hope this helps. If you need more information, give me a call or enter a "comment" below.

(Question to young folks: So you think your Roth IRA benefits are going to be tax-free when you retire? Hmmmm....)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Obtain a Transcript of your Federal Income Tax Return

By JC Leahy,  MA, Accounting
Twitter@JC_Leahy

In this case, the transcript was required the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. My client had filed a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) for his wife. The Immigration Service was demanding that he show proof that his marriage was not a sham "entered into in order to evade U.S. Immigration laws." Immigration demanded an "official transcript" from the IRS of one or more joint income tax returns.

His question for me was: "What the heck is a tax return official transcript and how can I get one." An official transcript from the IRS can be obtained free by filing a Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.. It's a free service. Form 4506-T is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you tell them on line 6 what form you want a copy of.  Be sure, also, to tell them on line 8 which years' tax returns you want. Here's a link to print a copy of Form 4506-T with instructions:

DOWNLOAD FORM 4506-T, REQUEST FOR TRANSCRIPT OF TAX RETURN


The problem with using Form 4506-T is that is takes considerable time to process.  You can speed up the process by using the telephone.  Simply call the IRS at 800-908-9946 and make your request verbally.  If you are near a FAX machine, they will FAX you your transcript while you wait.  In that case, be sure not to call them on the same phone line that the FAX uses.

There is a very similar form in case you need a copy of a tax return with all it's attachments. This if Form 4506 "Request for Copy of Tax Return". It sounds similar, and the form is very similar, but this one costs you a fee of $57 per tax return. A complete copy will show the details of all the attachments to your tax return while a transcript does not. Here's a link to print a copy of Form 4506-T with instructions:

DOWNLOAD FORM 4506, REQUEST FOR COPY OF TAX RETURN

There are all sorts of reasons why you might need a copy of your tax return or even an "official transcript."  For example, mortgage loan applications, job applications, security clearance applications.  You might want to bookmark this article, just for future reference.

Comments or questions? Enter them as a "comment" to this article.

ADDENDUM:

District of Columbia Tax Contact Telephone Numbers
Maryland Tax Contact Telephone Numbers
Pennsylvania Tax Contact Telephone Numbers
Virginia Tax Contact Telephone Numbers

Contact Data:
JC Leahy,  MA, Accounting
JC Leahy and Company, LLC
dba Maximul Legal Refund (TM)
Income Tax Help When You Need It! (TM)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Tel. (301)537-5365
E-Mail jcleahy@taxhelpwhenyouneedit.com

TAX PLANNING: RAFFLE AND CONTEST TICKETS AS TAX DEDUCTIONS

By JC Leahy
TaxHelpWhenYouNeedIt.com
Income Tax Preparation & Consulting
jcleahy@taxhelpwhenyouneedit.com

If I buy raffle tickets from a charitable or educational organization, how much is deductible on my income tax return?  For example, what if I buy a raffle ticket from my child's school?  How much of that is deductible as a charitable contribution?

The general rule is that if you give something to a tax exempt organization and receive something in return, you must subtract the value of what you received, to determine the amount of your charitable contribution. For example, if you give a charity $10 for a box of candy which normally sells for $8, then only $2 is deductible as a charitable contribution: $10 minus $8.  In the case of a raffle ticket, when you buy the ticket, you get something in return - a chance to win the prize. In the IRS's eyes, the value of the CHANCE to win the prize is always WORTH THE  PRICE  you pay for the raffle ticket; therefore, NOTHING  is deductible. So if you buy a $10 raffle ticket from you child's school, zero is deductible: $10 minus $10 equals zero.

The exception occurs if you pay money to a tax exempt organization and then get a raffle ticket free. For example, you might pay $200 regular annual dues to a tax exempt organization and the organization might send you a raffle ticket free of charge. Since you paid nothing for the raffle ticket, EVERYTHING you paid to the charitable organization is deductible. In the example, the full $200 is deductible.

So the answer is:  Everything, nothing, or somewhere-in-between, depending on the situation..

Friday, October 28, 2011

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR HOME PAGE IN FIREFOX OR EXPLORER

By JC Leahy

Firefox

Your home page is the page that appears automatically when you start your browser.  My Firefox's default home page is AOL.  Now that AOL has merged with the hateful-extreme-ultra-liberal Huffington Post, I wanted to change to a different website for my home page.  Accomplishing this change is very simple.  I decided to make my blog my new home page, at http://jcleahy.blogspot.com/ . Here's how:

  1. From the Menu Bar at the very top of the screen, select "Tools" 
  2. From the Tools drop-down menu, select "Options"
  3. In the "Home Page" space of the Options Window, just replace the address there with the address you want -- in this case http://jcleahy.blogspot.com/
  4. Click "OK"  at the bottom of the Options Window.

That's it!!! Finished!!!!!!!  It's as simple as steps 1-2-3, literally.

There is one variation you might find useful.  Before you perform the 3 above steps, , GO to the website that you want as your new home page.  Then, instead of typing in the address in the Options Window, just select "Use Current Page."

Microsoft Internet Explorer

If you have Internet Explorer, changing your home page is just as simple.  Here are the steps:

  1. With Internet Explorer open, from the Menu Bar at the very top of the screen, select "Tools." This will bring up the Tools drop-down menu.
  2. In the the drop-down Tools menu, choose Internet Options.  This will bring up the Internet Options window.  Make sure you're on the "General" tab.
  3. In the Internet Options window, simply replace the displayed web address with the address you desire -- in this case http://jcleahy.blogspot.com/
  4. Click "Apply," then click "OK"  at the bottom of the Internet Options window.
As with Firefox, there is  the variation you might find useful.  Assuming you are on the web page that you wish to make your home page, from the Internet Options window, instead of typing in the web address you can simply click the "Use Current" button.

Support This Blog At No Cost To You !!!!!!!!!

Here's how to support this blog at no cost to you:  Change your browser's home page to http://jcleahy.blogspot.com/ .(as outlined above).  Then, whenever you want to go to Amazon for shopping, enter the Amazon website by clicking on any of the Amazon advertisements located within blog articles or at the bottom of each page in the blog.  If you do this prior anything you buy from Amazon will result in a commission being paid to this blog -- at no cost to you.  Even if your Amazon shopping cart is already full, just re-enter the Amazon website through this blog before checkout and the commission will apply to everything in your Amazon shopping cart.  Thank you!

TAX PLANNING: DEDUCTION FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES WHILE ON TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENT

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
TaxHelpWhenYouNeedIt.com


Question from Janice in Chicago:

JC
JC, I read this is taxable, so my question is:  I am taking a post-doctoral Fellowship in Washington, DC that pays 94 K and an additional 12,000.00 for housing relocation for a 14 month period. The place I am thinking about renting is 1550 per month almost the same as my mortgage. (Yikes) Will I get a tax break by paying to live in both DC and Chicago? The rent in Dc is unbelievable! No longer will I be making 119/year

Answer:

Hi Janice! I tried calling your home phone but missed you, so here's your answer. Even though you view it as a scholarship, your fellowship, is (1) post-doctoral and (2) requires you to perform services. For both of these reasons, it, indeed, is taxable.

The next question is whether or not your out-of-town expenses are deductible.  Generally, if you are away from home for a temporary period of time on business, your expenses for travel meals and lodging are deductible. That is the general rule, but the details can be problematic. The key phrases are "away from home" and "temporary period."

Let's talk about the "away from home" part. To be away from home, you must have a home from which to be away. This is called your "tax home." If you don't have a "tax home" then your home is where you hang your hat.  In that event, the IRS views you as an itinerant.  Itinerants' travel expenses are not deductible. Your tax home is where you live on a permanent basis and either own or rent.  It must continue to be your home while you are away. For example, if you were a young person still living free-of-charge with your parents and you got a temporary out-of-town assignment, your parents' home would not qualify as your tax home because you would not have the burden of rent and other upkeep during your absence. Therefore, your travel expenses would not be deductible. For another example, suppose you owned your home and took a temporary out-of-town assignment and you decided to rent your home out during your absence. In this case, your house does not qualify as your tax home because you have rented it to be a home to someone else. In your case, you have a home in Chicago and I surmise that you are going to keep it there unrented, available to you while you are gone. So your situation in that regard is compatible with having deductible travel expenses.


The next key requirement is that you be away for a temporary assignment. This must be far enough from your tax home to require you to obtain lodging and sleep. Your 14-month assignment several hundred miles away from Chicago certainly meets that test. Your assignment must also be for a definite period. If the period is indefinite, it is not a temporary assignment for tax purposes. Your fellowship is for a definite period, which is good. However, the general rule is that a temporary travel assignment is not temporary if it lasts longer than a year. This seems like an arbitrary rule, but it is a rule, nevertheless.  If you could obtain a 12-month assignment, that would be great. If it must be for 14 months, just make sure that the 14-month limit is clearly stated in writing. Then we could ask for a determination from the IRS -- or we could just run with it and hope for the best. After all, your assignment is truly temporary. I would recommend asking for an IRS determination

You are going to receive a separate housing relocation stipend as part of your 14-month compensation package. If your employer thinks this is a non taxable stipend, it will appear on your W-2 in box 12 with a code of "L". When taking deductions, you generally are not allowed to pay for a tax deduction with tax-free money. This would be a double tax break. Therefore, I believe that your travel costs, including meals, transport, and lodging, would only be deductible to the extent that they add up to more than your tax-free housing stipend. In other words, If you have $15,000 of travel costs and a $12,000 stipend, $3,000 is deductible. The stipend in this way would be counted like a reimbursement of travel expenses.

Some caveats: Meals cannot be extraordinary in amount. Also, if you decide to go back and visit Chicago (your tax home) every now and then during your temporary assignment, those costs are personal, not deductible. Finally, clarify with your temporary employer whether they will give you a W-2 or a 1099. I have known some educational institutions to issue 1099's. If you get a 1099, you will have to worry about paying self employment taxes.

I hope this helps, Janice! Let me know if there is anything else I can tell you!

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
TaxHelpWhenYouNeedIt.com (tm)
Tel.301-537-5365

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TAX PLANNING: DEDUCTION FOR FIXING-UP EXPENSES

 By JC Leahy, MA Accounting
JC Leahy
Twitter@TaxHelpWhenNeed
When you want to sell a house or condo, you might feel the need to fix it up before you show it to prospective buyers.  Much has been written about the wisdom of doing this.  This article is about whether or not you can deduct fix-up expenses on your income tax return.  The answer is: maybe, maybe not.
For tax purposes, fix-up expenses include the cost of decorating and repairing a house for sale.  Fixing-up expenses do not include major outlays for capital improvements, which are treated differently.  Fixing-up expenses are subtracted from the sales price of the house to reduce the capital gain (or increase the capital loss).  Like Cinderella and the stroke of midnight, fix-up expenses have certain time limitations.  To be counted as fix-up expenses, the decorating or repair must be PERFORMED no more than 90 days before the sales contract, and PAID not later than 30 days after date of sale – otherwise, you are, as they say, SOL.
If the stroke of midnight has passed, your fix-up expense deduction might still be saved if this slipper fits:  If the house was a rental property, then you might well make the case that repair and decorating expenses are deductible as rental (Schedule E) expenses.  In that event, they will either offset ordinary income (if your $25,000 passive loss exception kicks in) or carry forward to the house’s capital gain calculation as unrecognized passive loss  -- thereby reducing your capital gain. 
For more information about how to compute capital gain/loss, CLICK HERE.  For assistance with your income tax filings contact:

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
TaxHelpWhenYouNeedIt.com (tm)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Tel.: (301)537-5365

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TAX PLANNING: DON'T FORGET TO CLAIM YOUR INVESTMENT RELATED EXPENSES!!!



By JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Twitter@jc_leahy

 
JC Leahy
As you plan your income tax return, don't forget about money you have shelled out to buy, sell, and manage your investments. Personally, I group investment-related expenses into 4 categories. Each category treated differently on your tax return.  This "Leahy" categorization of investment expenses goes like this:

 
• Category I: Those that you just can't deduct
• Category II: Those that relate to buying and selling particular investments
• Category III: Those that relate to buying, selling, and managing your investments in general
• Category IV: Those that relate to royalty income and real estate rentals.


 
CATEGORY I: THOSE THAT YOU JUST CAN'T DEDUCT
Costs specifically related to tax-exempt investments can't be claimed on your tax return at all. Congress' reason for making it this way is that if you're not going to have to include the income on your tax return, you shouldn't be able to include the deductions either. That makes sense.
However, here's one little point to remember: IRA's and 401k's and similar vehicles are NOT tax exempt!! They are tax DEFERRED. This means that outlays related to managing your IRA are, indeed, tax deductible if other requirements are met. On the other hand, outlays related to managing your tax-exempt municipal bonds are NOT.
Travel costs to attend an investment seminar, conventions, or stockholder meetings, or to investigate potential rental property are generally NOT tax deductible. Congress made it this way because they noticed that these activities so often occur in warm, sunny vacation locations. That makes a certain amount of sense.
Another investment related outlay that can't be deducted is one that you didn't pay. For example, if your brother Bob paid your annual IRA management fee, you can't deduct it. (Neither can your brother Bob, by the way.) That makes sense.
This leads to one important point of caution, however. If, Bob doesn't pay that IRA management fee, and the IRA management company simply takes it out of your IRA account, you can't deduct it. Why? Because technically, although you control your IRA, you don't own it; it is owned by a trustee. Therefore, if the fee is simply deducted from your IRA account, YOU didn't pay it! Always pay your IRA related expenses from a source outside the IRA; that way they will be deductible!!
Another expense that you just can't deduct is any part of the basic monthly fee for the first telephone line in your house.

 
CATEGORY II: COSTS OF BUYING AND SELLING SPECIFIC INVESTMENTS
Outlays related to buying any investment are capitalized as part of the investment, increasing its cost, or "basis". This reduces the amount of any gain when you ultimately sell the asset.
Outlays related to selling any investment are subtracted from the selling price, reducing it to the "net amount realized." Again, this lowers the amount of any taxable gain when you sell the asset.

CATEGORY III: OUTLAYS RELATED TO GENERAL MANAGEMENT OF YOUR INVESTMENTS
Unless you're a "real estate professional" or professional securities trader, which is pretty narrowly defined, all these expenses of owning and managing your investments go on Schedule A (Itemized Deductions) of your Form 1040 as "Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions" -- all except expenses related to royalties and real estate rentals, which go on Schedule E. We'll talk about Schedule E expenses later; let's focus on Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions for now. Almost anything you can think of could be included here as long as these conditions are met:
• You must itemize your deductions using Schedule A of Form 1040.
• You must literally "pay or incur" the expense yourself.
• The expense must be "ordinary and necessary."
• The relationship between the investments and the expense must be "reasonable and proximate."
Here's a partial list of deductions to think about:
  • Fees for investment advice
  • Subscriptions to investment or financial publications
  • IRA setup and custodial fees
  • Software or online services to manage your investments
  • Safe deposit box fees if used to store investment related documents
  • Transportation costs to and from your broker or advisor's office – including mileage
  • Attorney, accounting, or clerical costs
  • Charges for automatic investment services or dividend reinvestment plans
  • Costs to replace lost security certificates
  • Straight-line depreciation on your computer and peripherals to the extent they were used to manage investments
  • Bank deposit losses if not FDIC insured
  • Casualty or theft of non-rental, non-royalty investment property
  • Investment fees for non-publicly offered mutual funds shown in Box 5 of Form 1099-DIV
  • Proxy fight expenses related to non-frivolous policy disputes
  • Salary of a bookkeeper, secretary, or other employee to keep track of investments
  • Investment property management expenses
  • (Investment interest is also deductible but is reported differently that other "investment expenses."  It is NOT included under "miscellaneous itemized deductions;" instead, it has a separate line on Schedule A and potentially requires a Form 4952 to compute its limitations.)
Once you have compiled your list of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions and investment interest, the amount you can actually deduct is subject to a series of different limitations:

 
FIRST of all, the amount of any investment interest you are claiming cannot exceed the following amount: investment income minus the deductible portion (after 2% AGI floor) of other related investment expenses.. . This excess investment interest, if any, can be carried over and deducted on your tax return in some future year. There is no limit to the number of years you can carry it forward until you get a chance to use the deduction.  You may be required to submit a Form 4952, "Investment Interest Expense Deduction" do compute and document all of this.

 
SECOND, most Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions, including investment expenses, are subject to a "2% of AGI Floor." This means that you multiply your adjusted gross income by .02 and subtract that figure from your investment expenses and other Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions.
The only people who don't have to worry about the 2% of AGI reduction are professional securities traders, who can put all their expenses on a Schedule C. These insiders have no reduction or limit on their investment expenses writeo-off at all. (Go figure!!!)

 
THIRD: This rule has been suspended for 2010, 2011, and 2012, but it's scheduled to come back in 2013, so here's how it will work:  If there is anything left after applying the first two limitations, it is subject to being reduced by a "phase out" of your total itemized deductions. Phase-out of miscellaneous itemized deductions occurs if your Adjusted Gross Income exceeds certain thresholds. These thresholds for 2009 were:

  1. If your filing status is "married filing separately" $79,975
  2. Single $159,950
  3. Head of Household $159.950
  4. Married Filing Jointly $159,950
  5. (2 Singles living together out of wedlock = $159,950 x 2 $319,900 ---  Do you see the big marriage penalty in those numbers?)

Generally, 27% of itemized deductions above these thresholds evaporate in this sneaky Congressional take-back called the "phase-out" of itemized deductions. Gambling losses, medical expenses (minus 7.5% of AGI "floor"), and casualty/theft losses (minus a series of limitations that apply only to casualties and thefts) are not subject to "phase-out."
And again, there is no phase-out for the insiders who are able to list their investment expenses on Schedule C.
FOURTH: If there is anything left of your Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions at this point, it is now subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax -- which completely disallows all of your investment expense deductions.
Have you heard the term "shell game"???!!!!. Thank Congress! LOL!

 
CATEGORY IV: RENTAL AND ROYALTY EXPENSES
Royalty and real estate rental expenses, which appear on Schedule E, must meet the same requirements as the Schedule A expenses, namely:
• You must literally "pay or incur" the expense yourself.
• The expense must be "ordinary and necessary."
• The relationship between the investments and the expense must be "reasonable and proximate."
In order to limit the amount of royalty and rental expenses you can deduct, Congress came up with a scheme that classifies all income into 3 categories: "Earned Income," "Portfolio Income" and "Passive Income." . Earned Income includes wages and the net income (or loss) from conducting a business or a farm and certain other things like unemployment compensation. Any other income, in Congress' view, is "Unearned." Unearned income is divided into Portfolio Income and Passive Income. Portfolio Income is interest and dividends stocks, bonds, and bank accounts. Passive Income relates to things such as real estate rental and royalties. The tricky part about Passive Income is that if your expenses exceed your revenues, the resultant loss CANNOT be deducted unless you have another passive activity that is producing an equal profit – which is referred to as a "passive income generator," or PIG. In most cases, because of depreciation of high-cost assets such as buildings, rental activities generate only a small profit, or, more often, a nondeductible loss. This is to say that the deduction for passive investment expenses is limited to the amount of passive revenue. The excess can be carried over to future years until either the asset is sold, in which case the accumulated carried forward losses become part of a capital transaction, or a PIG comes along.
There is one important exception to the limitation of deducting real estate rental losses. If you have more than 10% of a real estate rental and you help manage it in a "active" way, and if your "Modified Adjusted Gross Income" is less than certain thresholds, you may use up to $25,000 of rental loss to offset other non-passive income, such as a salary. The thresholds are:
Married filing separately Zero
Married filing separately as abandonded spouses $50,000
(But the exception amount is $12,500 each, not $25,000)
Single $100,000
Head of Household $100,000
Married Filing Jointly $100,000
(2 Singles living together out of wedlock = $100,000 x 2 $200,000)
(Anybody see a marriage penalty in these numbers?)
Between $100,000 and $150,000, the $25,000 exception is phased down to zero.
Another exception relates to "qualified real estate professionals." These insiders can deduct their real estate losses fully every time without limit.

 
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line to all of these complexities, is to keep careful track of all those investment related expenses and consult your tax advisor about how to best use them. For assistance with your income tax filings, you may wish to contact JC Leahy & Company, LLC at jcleahy@ymail.com, or telephone (301)537-5365.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

HOW MUCH CAN I CONTRIBUTE TO MY IRA FOR 2011, AND WHY SHOULD I???

By JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Twitter@jc_leahy


CAN I ESTABLISH A TRADITIONAL IRA?
If you have taxable earned income and you are less than 70.5 years old, you can establish a traditional IRA.  Earned income includes salary, wages, commissions, self-employment income, alimony, and combat pay.  It does not include any pensions (including Social Security), interest, dividends, or annuities.  In the year you reach the age of 70.5, you can no longer establish or contribute to a traditional IRA.


HOW MUCH CAN I CONTRIBUTE?
For 2011 (and 2012 also) you can contribute $5,000 per year or the amount of your taxable earned income, whichever is less, to a traditional IRA.  This is true whether you are covered by a retirement plan or not!!  If you have reached the age of 50 during the year, you may contribute an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.  This makes a total limit of $6,000.


Here's the exception.  It's a good one: If one spouse doesn't work or earns less than $5,000, he/she may establish and contribute to an IRA based on the earnings of the other spouse.  Between them, there is a limit of $10,000, which can be allocated in any way they wish between their two IRA accounts -- provided that neither one's account receives more than $5,000. For example, if the husband makes $100,000 and the wife makes zero of earned income, the wife may contribute up to $5,000 into her traditional IRA and the husband, likewise, may put up to $5,000 into his IRA.  This also applies to the $1,000 catch up contribution.


One other fine point:  If you have a Traditional IRA and also a Roth IRA, the $5,000/$6,000 limit includes both. In other words, you can only contribute $5,000/$6,000 TOTAL between the two.





DO I HAVE TO MAKE THE CONTRIBUTION BY DECEMBER 31??
The really great news is that you have until the April, 2012 tax filing deadline to open your Traditional IRA account and make your 2011 contribution. 


HOW MUCH OF MY TRADITIONAL IRA CONTRIBUTION CAN I ACTUALLY DEDUCT?
Don’t be confused on this point:  If you are not covered by a retirement plan at work at any time during the year, you can deduct every penny of your traditional IRA contribution.  Period. .


IRA Deduction Phase Out: It's slightly more complicated if you were covered by a retirement plan at work.  In that case, if your "Modified Adjusted Gross Income" (MAGI) is less than certain thresholds, you still get to deduct your entire Traditional IRA contribution.  For 2010, this threshold is $56,000  for Single or Head of Household filers, and $90,000 (up from $89,000 in 2010)  for Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widower filers.  Above those thresholds, the deductible portion phases out between $56,000 and $66,000 for Singles and Head of Household, and $90,000 and $110,000 (up from $109,000 in 2010) for Married-Joint and Qualifying Widower filers.  If MAGI is greater than $66,000 ($110,000 for Married-Joint) then NONE of your Traditional IRA contribution can be deducted.  But you can still make your $5,000/$6,000 contribution to the IRA account -- you just won't be able to deduct it.


One other important tax-law quirk: If your filing status is Married Filing Separately, you are screwed!  Your IRA deduction phase out starts at $1 of Modified Adjusted Gross Income and that deduction drops to zero when your MAGI reaches $10,000!!

 
In situations when you can't deduct your Traditional IRA contribution, why would you want to make the contribution at all?  There are two reasons.  First, earnings accumulate and compound every year without being diminished by annual income taxes.  You only pay the tax on earnings when you withdraw them in your old age -- and you will probably be in a lower tax bracket then.  Second, if you have a nondeductible Traditional IRA contribution, you get what is called a "basis" in your IRA account.  This just means that when you eventually withdraw from your IRA, the "basis" portion will not be taxable.


If you need assistance with your income tax filing this Tax Season, you might want to contact:

JC Leahy, MA Accounting
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
Tax Help When You Need It!!! (TM)
Silver Spring, Maryland
E-mail: jcleahy@jaitoday.com
Tel. (301)537-5365

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Problem Placing an Order with Amazon

I emailed the problem to Amazon technical support this morning.  Here's the issue:

"I am trying to order the hard disk in my shopping cart.  When I get through with checkout and press the "place order" button, nothing happens: no order is placed & there is no error message.  I've tried on 3 computers.  What's up??"

We'll see what they say.

Is anyone else having this problem?

JC Leahy
Twitter@JC_Leahy

AMAZON'S ANSWER:

Hello,

In addition to our large selection, one of the benefits we try very hard to offer our customers is convenience. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience you experienced in placing your order.

It appears that this problem will require some further research by our technical specialists. I have forwarded your message to them so that we can try to resolve this problem.

We're continually fine-tuning our presentation to provide our customers with the greatest value, selection, and information for their online purchasing decisions.

Please try placing your order again in the next day or two. Errors like this are usually corrected shortly after they're reported.  If you are still experiencing the same problem after this time, please write back to us with the information given below so we can investigate further.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html

-- Error message URL.
-- Error message.
-- Description of the issue faced.

Here are our customer service phone numbers for any further assistance regarding this issue:

— U.S. and Canada: 1-866-216-1072
— International: 1-206-266-2992

We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Thanks for your patience while we fix this problem. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you for your recent inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

If yes, please click here:


If no, please click here:

Best regards,

Kavitha C.


Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company.
http://www.amazon.com/your-account
Amazon

Friday, October 14, 2011

JOB FAIR IN WASHINGTON, DC TODAY – AT LEAST 15 EMPLOYERS TO BE REPRESENTED

 October 14, Washington, DC
There’s a multi-employer job fair today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  It is being held at the VA Medical Center, 50 Irving Street, NW, Washington,  DC 20015.  Free parking is available.  The following employers (PLUS others)  will be conducting interviews and taking applications:
  • Allstate Insurance
  • America Works
  • BTI Security
  • CW Resources
  • Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
  • International Yacht Restoration School
  • Linden Resources
  • MV Transportation
  • National Harmony Memorial Park
  • National Housing Corporation Learning Center

Free parking is available.  There is also shuttle and bus service from the Brookland, McPherson, and Columbia Heights Metro stations.





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Have a Beef with the TSA

By JC Leahy

I flew Delta Airlines out of Baltimore Washington International Airport on October 7.   At 7:30 a.m.  I went to the TSA security checkpoint at Gate C.  The first TSA employee I encountered was a middle-aged black woman.  I smiled and gave her a very pleasant "good morning."  She kept a flat-aspect face -- no expression -- and acted like I hadn't said a word.  I thought that was rude.  I thought that for a government employee responsible for public interface, such a cold demeanor was irksome, to say the least!!   I told her that she was being needlessly rude to ignore a simple, pleasant greeting.  I asked for her name or badge number.  She dismissively refused to give either.  I then asked to speak with her supervisor, who advised me that TSA employees are "no longer" required to give their name or badge number.  However, if I had a complaint,  I could fill out a complaint form. I accepted the form and took it with me to fill out later.  When I got around to filling it out, it asked for the "TSA Employee [name/badge number]  (if known)"   On the other side of the form, the instructions reiterated, "It would be helpful to provide the following information:...name and badge number of the TSA employee." Well how would I know THAT if the employee isn't required to tell me his name or badge number???  Even police officers are required to tell you AT LEAST their badge number so that the public -- their employers -- can complain about their mis-behavior.  For the TSA to think they above this kind of accountability is beyond unreasonable.

That's what I think.



ADDENDUM:  THE TSA REPLIES

"The Transportation Security Administration is unable to respond to your inquiry with the information you have provided. If you wish to pursue your request for information, please contact us with a detailed explanation of the information you are seeking."  Oh!!  It sounds like they need a name or badge number!!!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Economic Stimulus Proposal

From JC Leahy to My Friend Noralyn

If there is no tooth fairy -- which I am NOT conceding, but for the sake of discussion, let’s just say:  If there IS no tooth fairy -- or if she is unwilling or unable to perform her traditional duties --  then I want Congressional legislation providing for the bedside exchange of cash for children’s teeth.  This legislation will launch a bold investment in our children.  It will deliver money for food, education, and welfare directly to families with dependent children.  It will provide economic stimulus to our troubled economy.  After all, large numbers of jobs will be provided for personnel to schedule and coordinate individual deliveries (including optimal routing and work assignments), to make the actual deliveries, to create and manage a database of eligible children, as well as administering a program to certify eligibility of each child in accordance with whatever detailed requirements that are set forth by the legislation.  Tens of thousands of jobs would be created!!  We could even re-task elements of the Postal Service, thereby saving that great institution from obsolescence and demise!!!  What a marvelous stimulus program!!!  And  I also want free health care!!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Helping Catherine

By JC Leahy

If catalogued with the microscopic diligence of Leeuwenhoek, the daily details of my life might be dismissed as a poor, implausible fiction.  Alternatively, one might embrace such a catalogue as a masterpiece of entertainment because the intricate pivots and turns of the plot might amuse or amaze any mind.   The problem is, my life is not fiction.
A case in point:  I work at a certain Medical Center in Washington, DC.  I manage the ENT Clinic, albeit without the title or pay of “manager.”  Catherine works at our front desk.  She is a volunteer.  Catherine is punctual, personable, and conscientious, which I find especially impressive for a person who comes to work for no paycheck.  A month and a half ago, Catherine left me a voicemail saying that she had some personal things to take care of and would not be coming to work for a month or two.  She said she really enjoyed working for me and didn’t want me to think she was quitting.  She said she wanted to come back to work as soon as she could.  The rumor was that Catherine had found gainful employment elsewhere.
Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a woman looking for information about Catherine.  I took it for an employment reference inquiry.  I told the inquirer that I had always found Catherine to be punctual, personable, and attentive to her duties.  That was the end of that.
Then last week I got a text message from a certain Lutricia Bagley.  Lutricia was a functionary from our Medical Center Human Resources Office.   She was not part of my normal circle of contacts at work, but I had helped her once to prepare her personal income tax returns.  I believed she had left her HR job at the Medical Center but I wasn’t sure about that.   Her text message said that Catherine wanted to speak to me and could the three of us please meet for lunch.  I replied "sure."  She texted back, “where?”  I suggested the hospital cafeteria, or the nearby cafeteria at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  She texted back that she would prefer Colonel Brooks Tavern because the food is better.   Colonel Brooks Tavern is a landmark pub near the Brookland Metro Station, a mile and a half from the hospital.  I replied "okay."  She texted back, how about Wednesday the following week?  I replied "okay".  She texted how about one o’clock.    I replied that I had Clinic a 1 o’clock but I could meet them at 12 o’clock.  She texted back okay.  I marked my calendar: Wednesday, September 28, lunch with Lutricia and Catherine. 
I assumed that Catherine wanted to know about coming back to work, or how to seek work, or employment contacts. In preparation for the meeting, I went online to usajobs.gov and searched for Federal jobs suitable for Catherine.  I discovered that searching for the key words “program assistant” and “management assistant” produced a wealth of job opportunities.  I phoned my engineer friend Randy who has been out of work for two years and would take any job with benefits.  I tipped him off to this wealth of job openings.  After all, we ought to look out for our friends.
Wednesday arrived yesterday.  In the morning I received a phone call from a half-way house.  The man said that Catherine wanted to return to work at the ENT Clinic and he needed to confirm that I would authorize her return.  I explained to him that I had found Catherine punctual, personable, and always attentive to her duties – but that her return would have to go through the proper channels.  First he should contact the Volunteer Office for authorization, and then the supervisor of the outpatient specialty clinics.  Once those approvals were in place, I would welcome Catherine’s return.  I gave him the phone numbers.  He said he would place the calls and try to make the arrangements.
A few minutes later, Lutricia texted me asking if we were still “on” for lunch.  I said sure, see you at noon.
At noon, sharp, I arrived at Colonel Brooks Tavern dressed in my scrubs and lab coat.  I have noticed that if you go to Colonel Brooks Tavern dressed in hospital garb, they always endeavor to seat you out of sight, either upstairs or in the room on the far side of the entrance. 
The maître d’ met me at the door and asked, “Would the room on the far side be okay?”
“No.  I am expecting to be joined by one or two others, and I want to be visible in the main dining room.”
She seated me at a table for two on the far side of the main dining room, saying that if a third came she would move us to a larger table.  The waiter introduced himself as Sean, and I ordered a cup of coffee.
At 12:07, I texted Lutricia and advised her that I was at Colonel Brooks Tavern.  She texted back that she was ten minutes away.  She suggested that I go ahead and order my food.  She asked that I order her a salmon salad.  Her text said nothing about ordering food for Catherine.  Based on that, I surmised that Catherine might not be attending.  I summoned Sean and ordered a mushroom-brie burger for me and a salmon Caesar salad for Lutricia. 




When Sean brought the food, I elicited a little small-talk about Sean and Colonel Brooks Tavern.  Sean works not only at Colonel Brooks but also at a famous restaurant down on the Maine Avenue riverfront called the Flagship.  Colonel Brooks Tavern is planning to close forever after Christmas to make way for upscale condo development.  They didn’t tell Sean until after he had started working there.  The Flagship will also be closing soon for upscale development of the Maine Avenue riverfront. 
With the food sitting in front of me and the coffee cup emptying, I  began nibbling on my side dish.  I had ordered macaroni salad instead of fries, so I nibbled away the macaroni salad. I planned my small-talk with Lutricia.  I would ask about her son.  I would talk about the brave guys repairing the upper reaches of the Washington Monument after the recent earthquake.  I would see what Lutricia was up to nowadays.  I looked at my watch.  My watch isn’t flashy, but it is solar powered, so it never stops, and it synchronizes itself up to 6 times daily over the airwaves with an atomic clock in Denver or somewhere like that, so it always tells me the right time.  It was 12:20.  I took a bite of the burger.  Yikes, what a good burger!!  I texted Lutricia that the salmon salad had arrived.  She texted back that she was on her way.  She wanted know where I was sitting.  I said first floor, main dining room. 
By the time I finished my burger, it was past 12:40.  I needed to be back at the hospital and in Clinic at 1:00.  I began to consider how careless Lutricia seemed for my time and consideration.  I began to wonder what I should do with the Caesar salad. I could eat it for lunch at the Clinic the next day.  I was on the verge of having Sean pack it up when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lutricia enter the restaurant.  I pretended not to notice, and focused on my coffee cup.
“Yes, the gentleman has been waiting,” said the maître d’.
“Where?”
“Over there.”
“I don’t see him.”
“He’s right there.  He’s been waiting. I’ll take you around there.”
Lutricia had a haggard, old woman in tow, whom I did not recognize.  They came up beside my table.  I looked Lutricia square in the eye.  She looked back with an unrecognizing, blank expression. Then she turned her head and stared for a moment at the salmon salad, and her brow wrinkled.  She looked back at me and said in loud astonishment, “You’re the wrong john!!” 
That’s all Lutricia ever said to me. Nothing else!!  Zip!!  Nada!!!  She turned to the haggard old woman and exclaimed, “Catherine!  This is wrong john for you!!”
The old woman never said anything, but just shook her head back and forth continuously.   Half of the patrons in the main dining room were now staring at me, and the other half were conspicuously pretending that they weren’t noticing.
“Oooh!!  My phone book is going to get me into trouble!!!”  exclaimed Lutricia loudly, still standing beside my table.  “Catherine, he’s the wrong john!!!”
At this point, without any explanation,  Lutricia scooped up the salmon Caesar salad from my table and scurried off to a nearby empty booth, with the old woman in tow.   They sat themselves down there.  “He’s the wrong john!”  Lutricia was still exclaiming.  The old woman was still silently shaking her head.
I hoped that all the other diners realized that my name was John!  I raised my hand and asked Sean for a bill.  “Will you be paying for both meals, sir?” asked Sean.  This elicited some snickering at nearby tables.
“No, Sean.  The lady has taken her food to another table and she will be paying for it.”  I paid my bill and made a beeline for the exit.   I saw no need to speak to Lutricia.  She had revealed herself to be an inconsiderate, socially deficient dunce. Here's my quadry, though:  Deep inside, I already suspected that Lutricia was a self centered fool;  yet I expended my attention and consideration for her.  What does that say about me?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting For Irene

The storm has not hit us here in Maryland/DC as of 1pm.  We've put away everything that might blow around and attached long pipes to the downspouts to carry water away from the house. The motorcycle, lawn tractor, and garden furniture are all put away in sheds.  There is a new stick-built shed in the back with a drainage system that was just completed yesterday --- it will be interesting to see if it works under extreme conditions. The builder insists that it will, bu I have my doubts.  We also have a new bedroom in the house, with a new roomer in it.  It has a drainage system that ultimately relies on electricity to run a sump pump.  We've got our fingers crossed on that one, and will probably have to think about a backup generator in the future.   We are careful to trim or remove questionable trees on a regular basis, so we're hoping that no trees fall on the house or cars.  We've frozen a large quantity of ice to keep food cool in case power fails.  We've charged up our cellphones and Kindles and collected our candles and filled the cars with gas, with extra stored in a shed.  Now we'll just wait and see what happens :)

My understanding is that Florida is going to escape the worst this time and New York City is going to be slammed.  That an unusual reversal!!!

Be safe!!!

JC Leahy






Friday, August 19, 2011

What's Wrong with Yahoo Bookmarks ??!!

I have more than one Yahoo e-mail account and all of them are having the same problem with Bookmarks.  You can't add new bookmarks or move existing bookmarks to a category.  This problem occurs with both Internet Explorer and Firefox.  Is it time to transition away from Yahoo??!!  Does anyone know what's going on? 

JC Leahy

Friday, August 5, 2011

Taking Down the Bird Feeder

An E-Mail "Forward" from Nurse P. Cannon, Rockville, Maryland

I bought a bird feeder.  I hung
It on my back porch and filled
It with seed.  What a beauty of
A bird feeder it was, as I filled it
Lovingly with seed. Within a
Week we had hundreds of birds
Taking advantage of the
Continuous flow of free and
Easily accessible food.

But then the birds started
Building nests in the boards
Of the patio, above the table,
And next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was
Everywhere: on the patio tile,
The chairs, the table ..
Everywhere!

Then some of the birds
Turned mean. They would
Dive bomb me and try to
Peck me even though I had
Fed them out of my own
Pocket.

And others birds were
Boisterous and loud. They
Sat on the feeder and
Squawked and screamed at
All hours of the day and night
And demanded that I fill it
When it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even
Sit on my own back porch
Anymore.  So I took down the
Bird feeder and in three days
The birds were gone. I cleaned
Up their mess and took down
The many nests they had built
All over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like
It used to be .... Quiet, serene....
And no one demanding their
Rights to a free meal.

Now let's see.
Our government gives out
Free food, subsidized housing,
Free medical care and free
Education, and allows anyone
Born here to be an automatic
Citizen.

Then the illegal's came by the
Tens of thousands.  Suddenly
Our taxes went up to pay for
Free services; small apartments
Are housing 5 families; you
Have to wait 6 hours to be seen
By an emergency room doctor;
Your child's second grade class is
Behind other schools because
Over half the class doesn't speak
English.

Corn Flakes now come in a
Bilingual box; I have to
'press one ' to hear my bank
Talk to me in English, and
People waving flags other
Than 'Old Glory' are
Squawking and screaming
In the streets, demanding
More rights and free liberties.

Just my opinion, but maybe
it's time for the government
To take down the bird feeder.

If you agree, pass it on; if not,
Just continue cleaning up the poop 

Friday, July 22, 2011

President Obama on Raising the Debt Limit

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
-- Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

Thursday, July 21, 2011

LOST CHURCHES OF LOUISIANA

E-mail humor submitted by Don Greenwood of Florida

The hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast of our nation were devastating. They did not spare the houses of worship in and around the area. One of
the local television stations in South Louisiana aired
 an interview with
a woman from New Orleans .

The interviewer was a woman from a Boston affiliate. She asked the
woman how such total and complete devastation of the churches in the
area had affected their lives?

Without hesitation, the woman replied, "I don't know about all those
other people, But we ain't gone to Churches in years.  We
 gits our
chicken from Popeye's".

The look on the interviewer's face was priceless.

They're out there, they live among us, AND THEY VOTE!!

Now you understand
 how we got our president?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ENVIRONMENTAL DATA RELEASED BY CONSTELLATION ELECTRIC

By JC Leahy

According to Constellation Electric information release dated June, 2011, the electricity it provided in Maryland during 2010 came from the following sources:

Coal, 49.8%
Gas, 11.41%
Nuclear, 35.01%
Petroleum, 0.49%
Captured methane gas, 0.28%
Geothermal, zero percent
Hydroelectric, 0.97%
Solar, zero percent
Solid waste, 0.57%
Wind, 1.28%
Wood or other biomass, $0.19%
Fuel cell, zero percent

Constellation Electric also states that for the year 2010, the following pollutants were generated for each megawatt hour of electricity generated:

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), 5,266 pounds
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), 1,322 pounds
Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 1,164,659 pounds

The company states, "CO2 is a 'green house gas' which may contribute to global climate change. SO2 and NOx released into the atmosphere react to form acid rain.  NOx also react to form ground level ozone, and unhealthful component of 'smog.' "

Constellation Electric is a trade name of BGE Home Products and Services, LLC.  Their telephone number is 888-219-4239.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Consumer Complaint: W at ICC Gas Station

By JC Leahy
Some days I wake up and feel like I’ve been transported to another planet.   On the way to work this morning I stopped to get gas and put some air into one of my car’s tires.   I pulled up next to the air pump before proceeding to the gas pump.  I fished 3 quarters out of the ash tray and went around the car to the air pump.  I was vaguely annoyed that the price of pumping air had increased from 75 cents to a dollar.  What could I do?  I found another quarter in the center console and dropped all 4 quarters into the coin slot.  The air pump, however, remained dormant.   I double checked the price.  Yup, it was one dollar.  The pump was not working.  I felt cheated.
Leaving gas pumping into my car, I walked to the cashier to discuss the air pump. 
“I put a dollar into your air pump and it didn’t give me any air.”
The cashier had a thick accent, maybe African.  “You put a dollar into the air pump?”
“Yes.”
“The air pump doesn’t work, sir.”
“I know that. When did it stop working?”
“Oh…it hasn’t worked for some time, sir.”
“Well, did you ever think about putting an “out of order” sign on it -- or maybe putting some tape over the coin slots?”
The cashier looked at me intently as if I had come up with a stunningly creative idea, but no words came out of his mouth..
“If you have an air pump at your gas station and the air pump doesn’t work," I continued patiently, "you really should post an “out of order” sign,"
No  response.
"Anyway, can I have my dollar back?”
“Oh, no sir!  I can’t give you a dollar out of the register.”
“Well, I’m not buying any more gas here until I get my dollar.”
The cashier looked puzzled but remained silent.
“If you won't give my dollar back, I want to write a letter to the owner.  Can I have his name and mailing address please?”
“Name and mailing address?”
“Yes.”
With this, the cashier went into search mode.  He looked on his cell phone, poking at the screen and peering at the little screen.  He rifled through a little book.  He looked on papers.  I was starting to think I would be late for work and was about to tell him to never mind.  Just then he came to me with a hand written scrap of paper that said “Genet, 301-431-1274.”
“You can call there to get your dollar back.”
“This is the company that can give my dollar back?”
“Yes.”
“Sigh…..okay.”   With that I hurried off to work.
At lunchtime, I dialed the number.  A woman answered.  She said something.  It sounded like a company name, but I couldn’t make it out.  She spoke English with a very thick accent.
  “Is this a company?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“What is the name of the company?”
She said the name, but again I couldn’t understand.
“Do you have vending air pumps?”
“Air pumps?”
“Yes.  Do you have vending air pumps?”
“Yes we do.”
“Well I put my dollar into one of them and it didn’t work.”
“It didn’t work?”
“No!”
“That’s too bad.”
“Well, may I have my dollar back??
“No, we can’t give your dollar back.”
She hung up her phone.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
The gas station  is:
W at ICC (aka Washingtonian)
14300 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver spring, MD 
Tel. 301-879-5052
Steer clear of that air pump!  :)