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Friday, October 28, 2011


By JC Leahy


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 . 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
  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
  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 .(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!


JC Leahy, MA Accounting

Question from Janice in Chicago:

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


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 (tm)

Thursday, October 27, 2011


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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


By JC Leahy, MA Accounting

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 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, or telephone (301)537-5365.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


By JC Leahy, MA Accounting

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.

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.

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. 

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
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



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.

-- 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?

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Friday, October 14, 2011


 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 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.


"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!!