Happy $3 a gallon motoring
Happy Tax Freedom Day

Nothing to sneeze at

My husband is the master of the TV remote when commercials come on the screen. He zaps them so quickly that you rarely get more than a split second of product pitching.

Personally, I don't really mind commercials. In fact, some are more entertaining that the programs they interrupt, although that's usually because of unintentionally idiotic and laughable comments, premises, etc., on the part of the ad creators.

Last night started out normally enough, with the hubby happily flipping through channels at the mere hint of a commercial. Then suddenly he started cursing and frantically pushing remote buttons and almost yelling, "Go back! Go back!"

I looked up from the newspaper I was thumbing through, glancing first at the madman to my right shaking the TV remote and then at the television itself. "What is it?" I asked.

"There," he said, pointing at the TV, which finally had returned to the channel he wanted. I was stunned. It was an actual advertisement. Who was this commercial-seeking pod person on my couch who had replaced my husband?

"That's Bruce!" the hubby proclaimed, almost triumphantly.

Nose_and_tissues He was right. (I can't believe I just typed that; I'll never quit hearing about it.) Bruce Robison and his wife, singer Kelly Willis, were there on our TV, in a prime time commercial for Claritin-D.

According to a Reuters/Billboard story, both artists use the allergy medication. The story also reports that Robison was surprised by the ad offer, but had no qualms accepting it: "I mean, it's so hard to get face time with anyone these days. For me and Kelly, this is like a free marketing and promotion plan."

And the icing on the commercial cake: Robison wrote the ad's jingle.

The TV spot explains a couple of things.

First, at Bruce's show we attended about a week ago (and blogged here), he asked how we audience members were doing, whether our allergies were acting up. He's a sly one, that Bruce! We just thought he was being a solicitous host since it was an outdoor venue and Austin's got more than its share of pollen-producing flora.

And secondly, a TV commercial and royalties from the jingle give Bruce a little more leeway to keep entertaining his fans at places with such small cover charges (also mentioned in my previous Bruce blog).

I should have known that any time I think the IRS might be out of luck because it wouldn't have much of a taxpayer's income to collect on, the tax man finds a way to get a decent cut!

Today's Tax Tip: While over-the-counter allergy treatments like Claritin can't be used to help you reach the income threshold necessary to deduct them as itemized medical costs, they are useful if you have a flexible spending account at work.

These company-provided benefit plans let you put money in an account before your boss calculates your withholding taxes. That means the federal taxes taken from your check will be a tad lower each pay period.

Then when you have eligible medical expenses, you submit them to the spending account administrator and are reimbursed for your out-of-pocket payments. This includes insurance co-pays and deductible requirements, treatments not covered by your insurance (such as vision care or chiropractor visits) and many OTC medications.

The only bad thing about FSAs is that if you don't use all of the money in the account during a benefit year, you lose it. That's why the addition of OTC drugs to the reimbursement list a couple years ago was so welcome. A year-end run to the corner drugstore can help you take full advantage of your tax-saving account.

For more on spending accounts and how they work, check out this story. And when your company's benefit open season comes around, if you're offered an FSA option, think about enrolling.


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