Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Send Free "Thank You" Postcard to U.S. Troops Overseas

I just found the website LetsSayThanks.com. From this Web site you can send a
free printed postcard to U.S. soldiers deployed overseas thanking them for their
service and showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country.
Once again it is FREE because XEROX and Give2TheTroops® have teamed up to
print and sent these postcards.

They (postcards) are based on children, ages 6-14, designes. So, if you have a child, or work with children, consider having them submit their artwork for new postcards.

Our troops need to know that we support them and appreciate their services.
This is the least we can do to show them how much we care about them.
It only takes a minute to send a card. Just choose a design, choose ont of the prepared
messages, or create one of your own, click "Submit", and you are done! No personal
information is required from you.

Send a card today - and tell others!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Preparing Home for Sale - First Impressions

First impressions make a significant impact on a buyer's decision-making process! Once your home goes on the market, it becomes a product. Home Styling or Staging simply allows you to highlight the best of your home and de-emphasize its flaws. It's not about decorating, but actually turning your home into a model, to appeal to the broadest range of prospective buyers. The goal is to make people feel like they could live there, and the best way to do this is to "neutralize" the surroundings.

Try out these helpful styling tips taken from Setting the Stage - REALTOR® Magazine Online. They've compiled the best tips from stagers and real estate pros—things you can do for little or no expense—to put a home in prime showing shape.

* Clear out closets and clutter—sellers can give away or pack up toys, linens, and
small kitchen appliances to store offsite. Buyers are also forgiving of storage
boxes neatly tucked away in a garage or basement.
* Focus most on the most visible areas—the foyer, kitchen, living room, master
bedroom, and family room.
* De-personalize the home by removing photos, mementos, and dated items.
* Use plants in colorful pots or inexpensive wicker baskets to fill in empty spaces.
* Look to home catalogs for little details on beautifying the home. For instance,
group books, pictures, and objets d’art appealingly on bookcases.
* Try angling one or two pieces of furniture slightly and move furniture 4 inches to
6 inches from the wall to create more interesting room spaces.
* Put away large collections— porcelains, plates, and so on.
* Remove valuables, prescription medicine, collectibles, and breakables.
* Trim trees, prune shrubs, and make sure the lawn is mowed and watered regularly.
* In summer, turn on the sprinklers for five minutes, 30 minutes before the open
house. It makes the lawn and driveway sparkle.
* Refrain from cooking anything that leaves a distinctive odor, such as fish,
garlic, or cabbage.
* Hire a professional service to clean the home, including the carpets and the
* Set the dining room table with attractive linens, dishes, and stemware.
* Arrange fresh or silk flowers (choose those good quality) throughout the home.
* Light a fire in the fireplace in fall and winter.
* A mirror in a pretty frame can make a small room feel more open.
* Use as much natural light as possible. Add extra lamps in dark rooms or corners.
* Place candles with nice smell, like vanilla or pumpkin spice
* Make functional repairs—fix dripping faucets, sticking doors, and broken fences.
* Bring in another pair of eyes—even if it’s not a professional stylist. The person
may see problems you have missed.

IRS Owes You Money on Your 2006 Federal Tax Refund

I'm not sure if all of us are aware that on 2006 Tax Return we will be eligible for the refund of federal excise tax paid on long distance telephone bills.

The excise tax on telephone services was first imposed in 1898 to fund the Spanish American war. Back then only the wealthy had telephones, the U.S. had no income tax and we relied on excise taxes to fund the war. You see this tax on every local, long distance and cell phone bill you paid or are paying and it is clearly marked EXCISE TAX. The current rate is 3% of the charges billed for these services.

Taxpayers will be eligible to file for refunds of all excise tax they have paid on long-distance service billed to them after Feb. 28, 2003 and before August 01, 2006.

You can claim the refund of actual amount of the excise tax you paid, or standard amount. The standard amount (safe harbour amount) includes interest. In order to qualify for the standard amount refund you aren't required to submit or keep any documentation to support your refund request. To use the safe harbor amount, you must (1) have paid all taxes billed by your long distance telephone service provider after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006; (2) have not received a credit or refund of these taxes from this service provider, and (3) either have not requested a credit or refund from the service provider or have withdrawn any such request but you have to make sure that you paid Federal Excise Tax after February 28, 2003 and before August 01,2006. IRS announces that the standard amounts for telephone excise tax refunds will range from $30 to $60 and will include interest rate. The standard amounts, which are based on the total number of exemptions claimed on the taxpayer's 2006 federal income tax return, are:

* $30 for a person filing a return with one exemption
* $40 for a person filing a return with two exemptions
* $50 for a person filing a return with three exemptions
* $60 for a person filing a return with four or more exemptions

It is up to you whether to use the standard amount or the amount of tax you actually paid. To take the standard amount, you don’t need to do anything now, but you have to make sure that you did pay excise tax. You can figure it when you fill out your 2006 return. If you decide to claim the actual amount of the excise tax you paid, you need to have copies of your phone bills showing this tax charged for each month and receipts, canceled checks, or other evidence that the tax was actually paid. The refund will be treated as a one-time payment on a taxpayer's 2006 return. It will reduce the amount that a taxpayer otherwise owes on his return or increase the amount of his refund. As explained in "Telephone Tax Refund Questions and Answers" on IRS's web page "taxes paid on local-only service are not eligible for the refund. In general, federal excise taxes paid on other types of service qualify". "It is available to anyone who paid long-distance taxes on landline, cell phone or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service".
The Government estimates the amount refunded to individuals will be about $10 billion.

Businesses and nonprofits must fill out the new Form 8913 and base their refund requests on the actual amount of tax they paid. The IRS is considering an estimation method that businesses and nonprofits could use for figuring the tax paid and is asking for public suggestions on potential methodologies that are both accurate and relatively easy for taxpayers to use. Comments should be e-mailed to Telephone.Tax@irs.gov and must be received by Sept. 15, 2006.

As always, consultation with a tax advisor is recommended.

You can click on the links below to get more information regarding the above matter:

Friday, September 08, 2006

How to make your home secure, outside and in.

Your property should be secure at all times, whether you're home or not.
Adequate security can prevent thieves from being tempted to target your house.
Follow these few easy tips so your house becomes a bad choice for a burglar:

* Remove any plants or shrubs that obscure the front of your property

* Plant thorny bushes such as roses, bougainvillea etc., under windows and
along fences

* If you have a fence on theside of the house that leads to the rear of the
property, make sure there is a secure latch on the gate door. For night
protection or added security, place a padlock on the inside of the gate latch.

* Do not leave ladders or tools next to the house. A ladder leaning against
the house or a tool left by a window is quite helpful to the burglar trying to
enter your home.

* Install sensor lights around the perimeter of the reisdence.

* Install 1 inch deadbolts on all entrance doors.

* Put locks on all windows.

* Have some type of covering on all windows.

* Designate and fully equip a "safe room".

* If you don't have a dog in the house, get a tape recording of a really loud,
scary bark that can be played if an unwanted solicitor comes to your door.

* Install an alarm system in the house.