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Blog Posts

The Force Awakens, Can Energy?

On December 17, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in theatres nationwide.  The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm Ltd., the creator of the Star Wars franchise in 2012, with high expectations it would produce significant, positive financial returns.  The soon to be released film, the first “Star Wars” movie in 10 years, will feature characters not seen in 32 years and is expected to rival the opening weekend record of $209 million for June’s “Jurassic World”.   In addition to the theme parks we know so well, Disney owns a large stable of media and studio entertainment companies that help to diversify the sometimes hit and miss nature of the block buster movie business.  These include among others, ABC Television Network, The Disney Channel, ESPN, Disney Publishing Worldwide, Disney (retail) Store, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, and Marvel Studios.   Earlier this year, concerns over subscriber losses at ESPN resulted in a drop of just over 10% in Disney’s stock price.  This precipitated a review of the firm’s holdings in Disney and a decision to purchase additional Read on! →

Beware of scam artists impersonating the IRS!

  A recent warning from the Internal Revenue Service, IR-2015-99 warns consumers about scammers’ attempts to impersonate the IRS and demand both money and information.  Be especially vigilant during the holidays to recognize scammers using fear tactics with the goal of separating you from your money.   WASHINGTON — Following the emergence of new variations of widespread tax scams, the Internal Revenue Service today issued another warning to taxpayers to remain on high alert and protect themselves against the ever-evolving array of deceitful tactics scammers use to trick people.   These schemes – which can occur over the phone, in e-mails or through letters with authentic looking letterhead – try to trick taxpayers into providing personal financial information or scare people into making a false tax payment that ends up with the criminal. It is important to remember the official IRS website is IRS.gov. Taxpayers are urged not to be confused or misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.  Taxpayers should never provide personal information, financial or otherwise, to Read on! →

FAFSA Changes for College-Bound Students

If you are the parent of a high school junior who is preparing to attend college in the fall of 2017, the filing process for financial aid just got easier!  President Obama’s recently signed executive order changes the rules for completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning October 2016 for the 2017-2018 academic school year.  For this and subsequent academic school years, the FAFSA application process will start in October 1st of the year prior to the child starting college and it will rely on prior-prior year income. October Start Date Traditionally, the FAFSA opened on January 1st and utilized income figures from the previous year to determine how much aid a child or family might be eligible to receive at the start of the school year in September of the same year.  This may seem reasonable but colleges often want to provide student aid estimates by mid-March.  Since tax related documents are sometimes not available until mid-February, with K-1s from partnerships, LLC, S-Corporations or Trusts often not arriving until March, the window for completing Read on! →

2016 Tax and Plan Limits Announced

Based on recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers, the IRS and Social Security Administration have announced their 2016 limits. Social Security Social Security benefits will not see a cost-of-living increase for 2016. For those individuals receiving Social Security benefits prior to Full Retirement Age (FRA) for Social Security, the earnings limit remains at $15,720. For every $2 in earnings above the limit, $1 in SS benefits will be withheld. For new Medicare recipients, the cost of Medicare Part B is likely to be significantly higher. Because of the lack of a Cost-of-Living increase in existing SS benefits, many of those already on Medicare will not see an increase in their Part B premiums due to a long-standing hold harmless rule.   Therefore, the increase in Medicare costs will have to be shouldered primarily by new Medicare recipients and high income recipients, unless Congress takes additional action to control these increases. For employees, Social Security and Medicare tax withholding are as follows: Social Security taxes will be withheld at a rate of 6.2% for employees up to a wage base of $118,500, Read on! →

Planning For College – Choices and Payment

Part 1 of this series addressed how parents and family members can sometimes influence a child’s choice of schools through words and actions. Part 2 focused on the myriad of choices and how to assist a child in narrowing the selection to those best suited to help achieve vocation goals. The final segment of this 3 part series will attempt to outline options to think about when paying for a college education. While it may be possible to cover the entire cost of a child and their siblings’ education, it might be worth considering other options that involve the child. If possible, shifting the responsibility of paying for college to a child and the accompanying debt burden should be avoided. However, requiring the child to share in paying for some of the cost by working or securing grants and loans may increase the student’s motivation to do well and finish on time or early. It might also improve their awareness of what an education costs and reinforce positive views on the responsibility that comes with participating in and repaying some Read on! →