FINANCE

Medical and Dental Deductions

Home Buying Saving Tips Careers in IT for Vets Spending For Classroom Supplies Better Telephone Service Gaining Clients Improving Earnings Cash Prizes for Ideas Avoiding Elder Financial Abuse

Maximize Your Medical And Dental Tax Deductions

(NAPSI)—While paying for medical and dental care has become challenging for an increasing number of Americans, even for those with good health insurance coverage, there could be a silver lining: a tax advantage.

Family health care premiums have increased 113 percent since 2001, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2011 Employer Health Benefits Survey. The average worker contributed more than $4,100 toward employer-provided family health coverage in 2011, an amount that doesn't include out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. If you've spent a significant amount of money on health care, financial relief may be available in an unlikely place—as an itemized deduction on your federal income tax return.

"You can deduct unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income," explains TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. "That includes expenses paid for you, your spouse and dependents in 2012. Even if the service was provided in 2011, you can count the expense if it was paid for in 2012."

Care includes the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease and treatments affecting any structure or function of the body. Qualified expenses paid for you, your spouse and dependents may include:

• Premiums paid on health insurance for medical care and long-term care insurance policies covering qualified long-term care services.

• Fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nontraditional medical practitioners.

• Inpatient hospital care or nursing home services.

• Drugs that require a prescription and insulin.

• Smoking-cessation programs and prescription drugs to alleviate nicotine withdrawal.

• Weight-loss program for specific disease(s), including obesity, diagnosed by a physician but not ordinarily, payments for diet food items, or the payment of health club dues.

• Acupuncture treatments or inpatient treatment at a center for alcohol or drug addiction.

• Admission and transportation to a medical conference about a chronic disease (costs must be primarily for and essential to medical care).

• Lactation supplies.

• False teeth, reading or prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and guide dogs for the blind or deaf.

• Transportation costs primarily for and essential to medical care such as fare for a taxi, bus, train or ambulance. If you're using your personal car, you can deduct either your out-of-pocket expenses for gas and oil or the standard medical mileage rate of 23 cents per mile.

When preparing your 2012 income tax return (due in April 2013), you should figure your deduction on Schedule A. "Solutions like TaxACT make claiming medical and dental deductions on your tax return easy," says Dolmage. "The program helps you determine which health care expenses qualify and then calculates your deduction and fills out Schedule A for you."

Between now and tax time, keep documentation of expenses organized. "Save receipts, keep detailed notes and save all information in one place," Dolmage adds. "That'll save time when you do your taxes and you'll have all the information you'll need to substantiate your expenses in the unlikely event of an audit."

Starting in 2013, the adjusted gross income threshold for deductible medical and dental expenses increases to 10 percent.

Learn more about deductible medical and dental expenses in IRS Publication 502 at www.irs.gov.

TaxACT Free Federal Edition provides step-by-step guidance through deductible health care expenses and other complex tax situations. You can do your federal tax return free and get unlimited free e-mail help at www.taxact.com.

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Buying And Saving Tips

(NAPSI)—It may come as a surprise to some, but real estate experts report that in many places it can be less expensive to buy a home than to rent one. Despite record affordability conditions, however, some people still face certain obstacles in their path to homeownership.

Explains National Association of Realtors® President Moe Veissi, "To achieve the dream, it's important to be prepared for certain challenges in the marketplace."

Five tips may help:

• Get your credit in order and collect all financial paperwork. Securing a mortgage remains one of the biggest hurdles in home buying.

• Prepare for the possibility of multiple offers, particularly in areas where inventory is tight.

• If you're considering a short sale or foreclosed home, hire a professional who has experience in those areas.

• Work with a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Realtors® can provide the advantage buyers need to succeed in today's market.

• Learn more at www.houselogic.com.

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Program Certifies Veterans For Careers In IT

(NAPSI)—There's good news for veterans looking for a new career-and those who care about them.

There is an information technology (IT) certification program designed to help veterans build on their military experience and make the successful transition to a new career in civilian life.

The program, Troops to Tech Careers, helps returning veterans and their spouses who have an interest in an IT career receive the education, credentialing and job placement resources to be successful in this growing field. The program was created by an IT company called CompTIA.

Training as a Gateway

In the case of Marine Corps veteran Derek LeMay, the training and certification served as a gateway to a position with Symantec Corporation, where he provides phone support to the company's global enterprise IT customers. Said Darrell Adams, a technical manager with the corporation, "Derek, when he sat down, pretty much blew our technical interview away. In fact, he came in on a Thursday and we offered him the job that Friday. It was that quick."

Adams added that the company's engineers were impressed by LeMay's command of networking and multiple operating systems and his ability to easily answer their questions. LeMay believes the certifications he obtained through the training gave him the opportunity to get the job and will continue to help him in the future.

New Careers in Tech

LeMay is among the many veterans Symantec has hired for its engineering and technical support positions. It promotes job openings to veterans through military.com, military transition assistance programs, and career fairs targeting veterans with security clearance.

Said Ellen McLatchey, director of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Symantec, "We know that veterans participating in Troops to Tech are eager to contribute and have the skills and competencies needed to succeed at Symantec."

A Three-Step Model

The Troops to Tech Careers program is founded on the "Learn-Certify-Work" model, which is designed to create a clear pathway for veterans who want to start a career in IT. Benefit programs that veterans have used to cover the program costs include the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, and the Workforce Investment Act.

To learn more, visit the site at www.troopstotechcareers.org.

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Paper Supplies Top Teacher Wish Lists

(NAPSI)—When composing your list for school supplies this year, don't get the teacher an apple. According to research done by School Family Media, the most- requested items on teacher's wish lists this year aren't pens and pencils—but tissues and paper towels.

The study found that when it comes to items that help create an ideal learning environment, teachers place paper towels and tissues at the top of the list. In fact, facial tissues have become the second-most-required item on school supply lists for every teacher and classroom.

It makes sense. Classrooms are high-traffic areas with lots of hands-on activities, so products that promote health and wellness (such as facial tissues and paper towels) can help teachers keep messes and germs at bay.

"Families will spend an average of $641 per school year on supplies and teacher requests influence more than 77 percent of those purchases," said Tim Sullivan, School Family Media founder and president. "Parents want to know that they are spending money on items that will truly benefit the classroom and their child's education."

When shopping for school supplies, parents tend to purchase the same brands they trust at home. For example, they turn to the same Bounty paper towels that mop up their messes at home to clean up spills in the classroom. Plus, the Puffs facial tissues that help ward off germs and errant sneezes can also make a desirable donation to a room full of students.

If you're not sure what to bring to school, there's a list for that. TeacherLists.com offers an easy solution for getting school supplies for kids and classrooms.

Teachers or school volunteers can simply load their school supply lists, as well as their wish lists, into the TeacherLists.com interface, allowing parents easy viewing and printing access from their home computer or mobile device. What's more, through the site's social media channels, parents and school districts can easily alert teachers when classroom purchases have been made and broadcast supply requests.

For more information, visit www.TeacherLists.com.

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Answering A Call For Better Service

(NAPSI)—A problem of bells not ringing has been taking its toll on many Americans—but the nation's rural telephone cooperatives are seeking a solution.

The Problem

Many rural telephone customers have reported not receiving calls they should and experiencing poor quality when it came to the calls they did get. Frustrated consumers often blame their local telephone companies, but rural telecommunications companies are not at fault.

It is believed that most rural call completion problems stem from a practice called least-cost routing (LCR), in which long-distance carriers send calls destined for rural consumers to LCR providers to reduce expenses. In many cases, they are not properly routing the call to its destination and, as a result, some calls have poor call quality and many calls are not connecting at all. This means rural consumers may be missing important phone calls, and they may not even know it.

Seeking a Solution

The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and its rural allies are leading efforts to find a solution to the problem. The group, which helped run the test, recently presented its findings to a task force set up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which can impose penalties of up to $150,000 on carriers that fail to correct the problem.

The rural group's study found that call failure rates were 13 times higher in rural areas compared to those in nonrural areas. The occurrence of poor voice quality was also significantly higher in rural areas.

"The results of this project clearly show that much more needs to be done to resolve rural call completion issues," said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. "Consumers in rural communities need to know that their local phone companies are not to blame and that rural carriers are leading efforts to find a permanent solution to this epidemic. We recognize that rural Americans deserve reliable telephone service for their personal safety and financial well-being just as much as urban consumers deserve it, and we'll continue to speak out on their behalf until this problem is solved."

The NTCA is the premier association representing independent telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America .

Learn More

For more information, go to www.ntca.org and (703) 351-2000 or www.fcc.gov and (888) 225-5322.

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On Track For Success

(NAPSI)—If you're looking for a profession that's growing in demand, consider professional coaching. There are currently almost 50,000 professional coaches worldwide and—as the demand grows—that number continues to increase.

According to a recent ICF Global Coaching Study by the International Coach Federation (ICF), there's a diverse distribution of coaches across the globe, with areas of rapid expansion and growth potential. The yearlong study, which covered 117 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia , Europe and North America, found that the total worldwide revenue generated by coaching nears $2 billion.

Why is the need for coaches growing? People always seek ways to maximize their personal and professional potential, but in tough economic times, the need to succeed can be even more acute. "Achieving an unprecedented level of response, this wide-reaching industry study reveals the global scale of the profession of coaching as well as amazing growth in the number of practicing coaches," said Janet M. Harvey, a master certified coach and global president of ICF, a leading global organization for coaches.

In general, coaches who responded to the study viewed their prospects over the next year in a positive light. Almost six in 10 coaches said they experienced an increase in clients and 55 percent reported an increase in revenues.

Earning credentials remains an important step in gaining clients and is reflected in earning potential. On average, credentialed coaches earn 41 percent more per year ($65,318) than do coaches who are not ($46,399).

ICF is dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. To learn more about the Global Coaching Study, or for more information aboutĘcoaching and credentialing programs, visit www.coachfederation.org.

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Entrepreneurs Can Overcome An Uncertain Economy

(NAPSI)—Even in one of the toughest economies since the Great Depression, there is still good reason for Millennials to be optimistic about their future.

Consider this: Out of the Depression came an assortment of innovations, from the electric dry razor to the car radio, proving that even tough economic times provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to shine.

Now, oftentimes, the days of relying solely on traditional tactics to help students land their dream jobs are gone. Instead, it may be time for students to take matters into their own hands—and start a business.

Recent examples of young people who have brought their ideas to life include:

• Lauren Berger, founder and CEO of InternQueen.com;

• Scott Goodin, Johnathon Wright, Kevin Scott and Zach Wilson from SM7;

• Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, creators of Soccket;

• Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger, creators of KMel Robotics;

• Jon Moeller, creator of ZeroTouch;

• Meredith Perry, founder of uBeam.

A Place for the Next Big Ideas

To help, there are companies that are encouraging innovation and providing funding for startups. For example, there's the newly launched Best Buy College Innovator Fund. It's a national call to action to find, mentor and advance the next big ideas in technology, sustainability, education or a related field.

How it Works

Anyone 18 years of age or older who has created a product, service or piece of software that may change the way people interact with the world can submit a two-minute video describing the innovation. Best Buy launched the Fund, which will award four cash prizes totaling $100,000 to help bring the winning ideas to life.

A select panel of judges will narrow the entries down to 10 finalists. On August 17, the finalists move on to consumer voting for a chance to win the Fan Favorite spot. Voting ends on September 7. There will be one grand prize of $50,000 cash plus mentorship opportunity with Best Buy, two $20,000 cash prizes and one $10,000 cash prize for the Fan Favorite winner.

To Apply

Videos can be submitted by visiting http://apps.facebook.com/collegeinnovatorfund.

To Learn More

For further information on the Fund and for the Official Rules, visit http://apps.facebook.com/collegeinnovatorfund. For Best Buy's hottest deals on the must-have technology for back-to-school, visit www.bestbuy.com/studentdeals.

 

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How To Avoid Elder Financial Abuse

(NAPSI)—While elder financial abuse decimates incomes, affects the health of its victims and fractures families, the MetLife Mature Market Institute offers free resources and tools, including steps you can take to protect yourself and those you care for:

• Know the Facts and Stats. According to "The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse," most elder financial abuse is committed by strangers but about a third is by family, friends or neighbors.

• Stay Active. Socialize with family members and friends. Get involved in activities you enjoy. Isolation can leave you more vulnerable to exploitation.

• Monitor Your Affairs. Take your time and consult with people you trust before making important financial decisions. Check credit card and bank statements and bills for accuracy. Use direct deposit to prevent mail theft. Sign your own checks when possible.

• Be Organized. Keep important papers and legal documents in a secure place. Review them at least annually.

• Be Cautious. Be careful when responding to solicitations. Don't let anyone pressure you into making an immediate decision. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Speak with a family member or trusted friend before sending money or providing bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers.

• Protect Your Passwords. Don't share passwords. Change them if you feel they've been seen or used by someone else. Immediately notify the company or bank if, when reviewing your financial statements, you see charges or transactions you didn't make.

• Beware of Telephone Solicitations. Planning Tips: Preventing Elder Abuse, produced by the Mature Market Institute, notes that billions of dollars are lost each year to fraudulent telemarketers. Consider using an answering machine or caller ID to screen calls. You can add your name and phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry at (888) 382-1222.

• Know What to Do if You're a Victim. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to discuss your concerns with someone you trust-relative, clergyman, bank manager, attorney. Knowing the resources you can turn to, including the police, your bank and Adult Protective Services, can be the first steps in addressing the problem.

• Learn More. Excellent resources include "The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse"; "The Essentials: Preventing Elder Abuse"; "Planning Tips: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Older Adults"; and "Planning Tips: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Family Caregivers." Created by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, MetLife's center of expertise in aging, longevity and the generations, they may be downloaded from www.MatureMarketInstitute.com.

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