Finance

HVAC System Saves Money

Retirement Money-Saving Tips for Small Businesses Homeownership Help Safer Online Shopping Healthcare Reform Tax Tips Disability.gov Helpful Information

Tips On Saving Money With An HVAC System

(NAPSI)—There’s good news for homeowners who want to reduce their energy costs. With a little bit of homework, savings are possible.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most Americans are paying more for electricity and natural gas than they did four years ago, with the average household utility bill now about $1,900 each year. And, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), heating and cooling accounts for about 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.

To reduce these costs, the experts at the Luxaire® brand of heating and air conditioning recommend the following:

• Adjust your thermostat. By raising your thermostat just a few degrees in mild temperatures and lowering it in cooler temperatures, you can help your heating and cooling system work less to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Programming your thermostat to accommodate your family’s time away from home and sleeping schedules will also help to ensure that your system is operating only when you need it.

• Install a dehumidifier. Humidity can make the air feel hotter and heavier in warm weather. By removing the humidity, the air will feel drier and cooler and you will be able to rely less heavily on your heating and cooling system to make the air comfortable.

• Perform regular maintenance. Clean air filters, seal any duct leaks and make sure the areas around your system are clear of obstructions. According to the EPA, improper insulation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent.

• Have your existing home comfort system inspected and serviced by a qualified technician. The technician will make sure your system is working properly and at peak efficiency. A knowledgeable technician will also be able to recommend a new, more efficient replacement system, such as ENERGY STAR®-qualified equipment that can help you save money on energy bills.

• Learn more. To learn more about efficient products that can help you save money and energy, or to find a heating and cooling contractor, visit www.luxaire.com.

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Online Talk Show Explores Retirement

(NAPSI)—There is good news for adults who are about to retire. There is a new Web-based talk show designed to give them fresh perspectives on aging and creative ways to approach their lives in retirement.

In partnership with Lutheran Social Services of New York, the Ammerman Center for Creative Aging has launched an initiative called “Ignite Your LIFE.” The mission of this initiative is to serve, educate, support and engage individuals and the wider community in celebrating the aging process.

The initiative’s “Ignite Your Life Talk Show” is streaming live from Valparaiso University on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 1 p.m. Central Time.

With the help of the University and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ sponsorship, the show will highlight newly developed research related to aging, and engage and inspire participants by redefining what it means to be 50 and beyond.

To learn more, visit www.igniteyourlife.info.

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Money-Saving Tips For Small Businesses

(NAPSI)—Finding ways to save and turn problems into profits is a key quality that’s shared by successful small businesses that have found a way to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

To help you and your business do the same, here are some tips.

• Shine a light on savings by making sure to turn out the lights in areas of the office that are not being used. Another option is to install motion sensor lights that will automatically turn lights on and off when people enter or leave a room. The savings in your utility bill will soon be visible.

• Cut back on waste and save on mailings by cleaning up your mailing list. Start by making sure that the materials you are sending out are being sent to active accounts. Get rid of bad addresses, inactive customers and undeliverable mail.

• Print it yourself. One way some businesses maintain control over printing costs—and their brand—is to do their printing in-house whenever possible.

For example, thanks to a new app, iClickn’Print, a growing number of businesses are finding they can now maintain more control over the look of their stationery and business materials by doing their own printing.

That’s the word from Mafcote, the company that created iClickn’Print. The app is designed to let business owners design their own branded business materials, such as stationery, business cards, envelopes, letterhead, and posters and signage, from their own computers, then print them from their own printer.

To make the process even easier, businesses can purchase printing paper and templates that are compatible with the app made by Geographics or Royal Brites branded paper.

In addition to saving money, the app also gives a business more control over where and when the printing gets done. Plus, the application works from your computer’s Internet browser. That means there’s no need to install the program onto your computer.

• When it comes to communicating what your brand is and what your business is about, do all that you can to stay focused on your message. Keep your statements, both verbal and written, simple and consistent, and make sure they reflect your key messages.

One way to do that is to make sure your name, logo and graphics—including signage—communicate your brand.

That means you need a logo and color scheme that complement your verbal message and create a cohesive presentation for all your materials and website. This can help to create savings by cutting back on printing excess materials that don’t reflect the brand.

• Savvy small businesses know how to save by knowing where and when to spend. For example, many small businesses see money spent on marketing and promotions for the holidays as an investment, whether it’s to attract new customers or to reward existing customers for their loyalty.

To learn more, visit www.iclicknprint.com.

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Homeownership Help

(NAPSI)—According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 75 percent of military families believe that owning a home is one of the most important things to service members upon returning from active duty. The reasons include a desire to have their own residence (73 percent), establishing a household (43 percent), and financial security (36 percent). In addition, the majority of veterans (88 percent) said that owning a home makes them feel safer.

While one roadblock that veterans face in the pursuit of homeownership is securing steady employment, they display a generally positive attitude in regard to potential employers and positions.

• More than two-thirds believe that employers appreciate their unique skills learned in the military, while the same 67 percent believe employers are eager to hire veterans.

• It’s important to note, however, that nearly half agree that their skill set does not match the requirements for many available positions.

• Only one in five considered opening their own business when they returned home from the military.

All totaled, finding a suitable home and employment and assimilating back into civilian life are challenges many veterans and their families face. Fortunately, services for veterans, including employment, mental health programs, housing and other special care services, are available.

For example, Easter Seals provides direct services to the new and unmet needs of tens of thousands of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and “Recruiting America’s Heroes,” offered by Century 21 Real Estate LLC, the franchisor of the world’s largest residential real estate sales organization, provides returning veterans who are interested in becoming real estate agents with specific benefits to make a smooth transition. Former military personnel get special training programs and continuing education courses, discounts, and waived annual global conference registration fees.

Anyone interested in learning more about the resources available to active and retired service members can call the Easter Seals Community One Source Hotline, (866) 423-4981, e-mail veterans@easterseals.com or visit www.century21.com/aboutus/.

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Tips For Safer Online Shopping

(NAPSI)—There’s good news for online shoppers who want more security when shopping at an unfamiliar website.

By taking a few practical steps, it’s possible to have a shopping experience that is safer and more satisfying.

Here are a few tips to help determine if a company can be considered a trusted Internet shopping source:

• Ask family and friends if anyone has shopped from the store. Post similar questions on any social networks you belong to.

• Look for a clearly stated return policy, refund policy, warranty or guarantee before shopping.

• Also, see if the site supports “SSL” or Secure Checkout. The site should show a locked icon in your browser when you check out.

• Stores that accept credit cards are typically more reliable than ones that only accept PayPal.

For additional tips, visit www.buyvia.com.

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Health Care Reform And Your Taxes

(NAPSI)—The health of your wealth may depend on how well you understand the Affordable Care Act and the changes it creates for federal taxes.

New Rules

Whether these changes affect you is largely a matter of your household’s gross income minus certain deductions—your adjusted gross income (AGI)—and whether you have health insurance.

While most Americans will see little to no change when filing taxes due April 15, 2014, the experts at TaxACT point out that higher income taxpayers are more likely to be affected, particularly those with investment income.

Anyone whose modified AGI is $200,000 or more ($250,000 if filing jointly or $125,000 if married filing separately) will pay an additional 3.8 percent tax on 2013 investment income, including interest, dividends, capital gains, and rental and royalty income. It’ll be added to tax already paid on investment income. For example, if you pay 20 percent tax on a long-term capital gain, your total tax on the gain will be 23.8 percent.

Fortunately, you can reduce your investment income by expenses that can be allocated to it, such as investment interest expense, advisory and brokerage fees, and rental and royalty expenses. You can also reduce it by state and local income taxes that can be allocated to investment income items.

If you pay the additional net investment income tax, you may also pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages and compensation in excess of $200,000. Since the tax is automatically withheld from employee wages, you simply report the amount in Boxes 5 and 6 of your Form W-2 on your tax return. The tax is calculated using figures on Schedule SE for business owners and the self-employed.

If you deduct unreimbursed medical expenses, the threshold has increased to 10 percent of your AGI. For example, if your 2013 adjusted gross income is $50,000, you can deduct only unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed $5,000. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for taxpayers age 65 or older.

“Let affordable, do-it-yourself tax software navigate these tax law changes for you,” suggests TaxACT’s Jessi Dolmage.

“The programs ask easy questions to help minimize your tax liability and maximize your deductions and credits.”

Tax Credits And Penalties

If you get your 2014 health insurance through a state or federal marketplace, you may qualify for the advanced premium tax credit. Most often, it’s paid directly to your insurance company, resulting in lower monthly premium costs.

If you prefer, you can pay your entire premium yourself and get the credit as a refund when you file your income tax return due April 15, 2015. This may be a good idea if your income is unpredictable and you want to ensure you don’t owe taxes when you file.

“TaxACT will reconcile the credit with your actual income,” says Dolmage. “You may receive a bigger credit or have to pay back some or all of the credit if your actual income is more or less than the amount you estimated when purchasing insurance.”

Although the health insurance mandate began January 1, 2014, uninsured taxpayers don’t pay the penalty until 2015. The penalty will be 1 percent of 2014 income or $95 per person, whichever is higher. The penalty for uninsured dependents under the age of 18 is $47.50 per child, up to $285 total per family.

Learn More

For further facts about tax law changes, go to www.irs.gov. Visit www.healthcareact.com for health insurance credit and penalty calculators plus a free year-by-year tax guide. You can file your federal taxes free, at www.taxact.com.

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Tax Tips For Small Business Owners

(NAPSI)—Small businesses play a big role in the U.S. economy. That’s the word from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which reports that the U.S. is home to over 28 million small businesses.

A growing number of small business owners are preparing their own business’ taxes. It makes sense given they know their business better than anyone else and because of the affordable tax products available online and as downloadable software.

What’s your business type?

When choosing an online or downloadable tax solution, remember to select the product appropriate for your business type:

• Partnerships and multi-member LLCs must file tax Form 1065.

• S corporations file Form 1120S.

• C corporations need to file Form 1120.

• Self-employed, sole proprietors and single-member LLCs need to file Form 1040 and Schedule C.

Also, keep in mind that you can generally use online products risk-free because payment isn’t usually required until you file. Remember to compare brands and features carefully, since a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better product.

Tax-savings tips

• If you use your home for your business, you may be able to deduct mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs and depreciation.

Corporations and partnerships can deduct actual expenses for nonpersonal uses of your personal vehicle, as well as reimbursements to employees for business use of their personal vehicles. You can also deduct vehicle depreciation and loan interest.

• You should be able to substantiate any expenses you claim on your tax return. So whenever buying new equipment, technology, software or even furniture for your business, save those receipts and keep detailed records that include purchase price and date placed into service.

The Section 179 deduction limit for new and used assets purchased in 2013 is $500,000. However, your business must be profitable in order to receive this benefit on your tax year 2013 return. In 2014, the dollar limit drops to $25,000 unless Congress extends this tax break.

Bonus depreciation of 50 percent of the cost of new items expires at the end of 2013. Depreciation can be claimed whether or not your business is profitable.

• Company donations of money, supplies and property are deductible expenses. So are bonuses and associated payroll taxes awarded to your employees, partners and officers. If you own an S corporation, keep a close eye on officer compensation to ensure that you meet IRS requirements and thus avoid penalties.

• If you take a class or seminar or attend a convention that helps you maintain or improve skills required for your business, you can generally deduct the costs.

Year-round opportunities

Remember, if you are a small business owner, your business has year-round tax savings opportunities. Doing your own taxes can help you be better informed about deductible expenses, and how moving revenue and expenses forward or back may change your taxes.

Said TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage, “Answer simple questions about business income and expenses and the program will do the rest. It’ll complete your tax forms and cover every deduction and credit to maximize your bottom line.”

Visit www.irs.gov for more business tax tips and www.taxact.com to learn about TaxACT Small Business solutions.

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Let Disability.gov Guide You To Helpful Information

(NAPSI)—Whether you have a disability or are helping a family member get assistance, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of disability programs and services that are available nationwide. There is a solution for you. Simply visit Disability.gov, the federal government’s website for people with disabilities and their families, to find information across 10 topics: Benefits, Civil Rights, Community Life, Education, Emergency Preparedness, Health, Employment, Housing, Technology and Transportation.

Disability.gov’s “Guide Me” tool makes searching on the site easier by walking visitors through four steps:

Step One: Choose an Audience. Do you have a disability or are you helping someone else?

Step Two: Select a Topic. Do you want to learn how to apply for disability benefits or find a job?

Step Three: Pick a State. Do you want to view resources from your community or another state?

Step Four: Review Your Summary. Review your choices from the three previous steps and decide if you want to see your search results or start a new search.

Please share this information and visit www.Disability.gov to get started! You can also subscribe to email alerts and the Disability Connection newsletter or follow the site on Facebook, Twitter and Disability.Blog.

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