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Attention medical flexible spending account (FSA) shoppers. The good news is that Uncle Sam is making it easier for you hang onto to the pretax money you put into this workplace benefit. The bad news is that if you are now perusing your company's benefits during open enrollment season, the FSA change probably won't affect your spending account in 2014. Yesterday, Oct. 31, the Treasury Department announced that employers now can offer FSA holders the option of rolling over up to $500 left in their spending accounts at the end of the benefit year. That's right. If you have $500... Read more →

As you get older, you end up at the doctor's office a lot more. Most of the time it's for routine things, such as a cold you just can't shake like you did when you were younger. Other times, though, it's for more complex and costly treatments. I've been discovering this inevitable truth over the last few years. Today, in fact, I spent the morning at an out-patient surgery center where my ophthalmologist removed a cataract. My doctor says I'm supposed to be resting my eyes this afternoon, both the just operated on right one as well as the now... Read more →

Just like Sen. Ted Cruz, I'm on my spouse's company health care policy. That and a Texas address are the only thing the Tea Party darling and I share. Because Ted and Heidi Nelson Cruz and the hubby and I have workplace-provided medical insurance, we get a chance in the coming weeks to decide exactly what type of coverage and other related workplace benefits we want for the coming year. Yep, it's annual workplace open enrollment season. Like many employer-provided plans, our options are part of a cafeteria plan, so named because they allow employees to select benefits from a... Read more →

One of the most contentious portions of the Affordable Care Act, also known by its acronym ACA or Obamacare, is the penalty that's to be assessed large employers who don't provide health-insurance coverage to workers. The penalty, which could be a fine of up to $3,000 per employee if a company with 50 or more workers doesn't offer affordable insurance to workers, was to go into effect in 2014. But in a surprise announcement last week, the Obama Administration said it would postpone the penalty provision until 2015. That one-year delay is this week's By the Numbers figure. Heeding business... Read more →

Most companies that offer worker benefits have open season in the fall. During this time, employees can choose from various types of workplace perks, such as health care coverage, that they want or need. Among the most popular benefits are flexible spending accounts, usually referred to as FSAs. These workplace accounts can help you pay for medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance, as well as for some child care costs. They also can save you a few tax dollars And they are this week's Weekly Tax Tip. Pre-tax contributions: Whether you have a child care or medical FSA, the... Read more →

Are you worried about Uncle Sam's involvement in your health care? That concern, which was probably the first argument against health care reform, still worries some folks. And the extent of Internal Revenue Service participation in implementing some provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, has some folks on guard. Not to worry, says the IRS. Yes, the tax agency will get confirmation from insurers about the health care coverage that individuals have. But that's it, swears the IRS. Photo by 123light via iStock "It is important to note that the information that... Read more →

It was a high old time last week at my other tax blog. A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that states with high tax rates generally do better than no-tax states by most economic measurements. Go ahead readers in the nine no-income-tax states of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming and those living in California, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont, the nine states deemed high-tax, sound off. I'm ready to hear why ITEP is right or wrong! Then there are the highly... Read more →

This post updated Friday, May 31, 2019. Part of your hurricane season preparation should be an accurate inventory of your property. This information is critical regardless of which destructive possibility — hurricane, tornado, blizzard, flood, earthquake, wildfire — might be prevalent in your area. It's also good to have even for more run-of-the-mill casualty losses. Both your insurance company and Uncle Sam will appreciate the attention to detail when you file a claim. Keeping a good record of storm-related losses is particularly important now through 2025 because of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes to casualty losses. Tax law... Read more →

The good news is that Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named tropical system of 2012, is a fish. That's weather watcher slang for a storm that heads out to sea to dissipate instead of making landfall. The better news is that everyone who might be affected by future tropical storms and hurricanes this year now has time to get a plan in place. When Alberto popped up on Saturday, I posted some tips on physical and financial planning for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Disaster knows no boundaries: But even if you live smack dab in the center of the... Read more →

Wow! That was quick. The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season popped up this afternoon along the South Carolina coast. Residents of America's Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico coastlines officially go on alert each June 1. But this afternoon the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued its first advisory of the year, announcing the early arrival of Alberto as the first tropical storm of 2012. Yes, it sounds like a baby announcement, which seems fitting since tropical storms and hurricanes have been given human names since 1953. What does it take to get a name? Sustained surface wind speed... Read more →

Uncle Sam estimates that 70 percent of older Americans will need long-term care services at some point. This isn't for medical care. Rather, long-term care includes services and support to help meet basic personal tasks of everyday life, such as doing housework, shopping for groceries or clothes, preparing and cleaning up after meals, obtaining and taking medications, completing personal hygiene tasks and managing money. To hire someone to help out with these daily duties is expensive and will only get more so. That's why many people buy long-term care insurance. These policies also can take a bite out of a... Read more →

It's the season of good will, peace, joy and happiness. Then the creeps show up. Burglars broke into a friend's house yesterday. The good news is that neither she nor her husband were home and the crooks didn't get much of value. Photo of daytime break-in courtesy But having been a victim of a break-in myself many years ago, I can tell you it's a horrible experience that changes you forever. Crime prevention tips: The scumbags apparently got in through my friend's garage door. The police said they've had reports of criminals crusing neighborhoods this holiday season looking for... Read more →

When our water heater let go a couple of years ago, our homeowners' insurance paid for almost all of our home's very extensive repairs. I was sure that when our policy came up for renewal, we'd face a huge premium increase. We didn't. Now, however, after hundreds of homes across Texas have been destroyed or damaged by wildfires, I'm again thinking that insurance companies might bump up their prices. If our renewal is more next summer, so be it. Even if our mortgage company didn't demand it, we'd still get a homeowners' hazard insurance policy. We have to have it.... Read more →

Health care reform: The law's effective dates and repeal prospects

In the closing days of the 111th Congress, lame duck lawmakers finally passed major tax legislation. Now some newly-elected Representatives say they plan to repeal another huge bill, the health care reform act. House Republicans have scheduled a vote to roll back the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature legislative piece that he signed into law on March 30, 2010, and which is still being phased in. The first vote, a procedural one, is likely to be held on Friday. The meat of the measure will come before the House, now under Republican control, next week. The drafted... Read more →

If you have a flexible spending account, or plan to sign up for one in the workplace benefits enrollment season that will soon be here, remember that medical flexible spending accounts face a change in 2011. With such an account, usually referred to as an FSA, you can contribute money directly from your paycheck and then use the FSA funds later to pay for eligible medical expenses that aren't covered by your insurance. These also save you some tax money, since your paycheck contributions are made before your payroll taxes are calculated. In 2003, the IRS made FSAs even more... Read more →

Prepare for the crash tax

The taxing possibilities from jurisdictions scrambling for every possible dollar just keep coming. LiveShots reports that in Central California, a number of smaller cities collect emergency responder fees, or as they are popularly called, crash taxes. The crash tax isn't a new idea. It's been around for years. But in these tough economic times, more city and county officials are revisiting the possibility of charging accident-related fees. This reminds me of the fees that law enforcement agencies assess when they dispatch a until to answer a mistakenly triggered residential burglary alarm. But in the case of wrecks, the need for... Read more →

My mother lived for decades in western Oklahoma, a region that always seems to be a target in tornado season. More distressing was that she lived in a mobile home. So I was thrilled when she recently moved into an apartment in the metro Oklahoma City area. And what happened last week? OKC was ground zero for a series of deadly twisters. Mum's fine. So is her new home. But my brief sense of maternal well-being has been shattered by the realization that there is no place completely safe from some sort of disaster. Constant disaster calendar: The official spring... Read more →

Severe storm victims get filing reprieve

The federal tax filing deadline is less than two weeks away, but some taxpayers who have other things on their minds, such as coping with recent storm damage, are getting a bit of a break from the IRS. The tax agency has decided to give some victims of March's severe storms and flooding in West Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts more time to get their taxes done. This video of storm damage in the Constitution and Bay States underscores why Uncle Sam made the call. The IRS made the decision after Obama on Monday declared major disasters in portions of... Read more →

AIG has announced it is restructuring its incentive pay program. The insurance giant, which we taxpayers technically control thanks to our $90 billion investment, says it will use a a "forced distribution" system. Thousands of AIG employees now will be ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 based on their performance relative to their peers. Then their annual variable compensation, which may include bonuses, will be determined by their rank. Gone are the old retention awards that are based on just sticking around. Welcome to the brave new world of pay for performance. Under the plan, only 10 percent... Read more →

Finished your holiday shopping yet? That's OK. Some of the best gifts and the most fun searching for them comes from the last-minute excitement. But you shouldn't handle your finances that way. To help you get your money management, if not your money itself, in better order, we wrap up our 2009 Year-end Money Moves series with a look at details. Taking care of these fiscal housekeeping tasks now and updating them at least annually will help you stay on top of your money. And knowing what you have will help you maximize it. Get organized This year I converted... Read more →