Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
It looks like Congress and the president have finally made an economic decision which I think will be beneficial to everyone. It appears that a deal has been made to extend the so-called Bush era tax cuts for a period of two years for all taxpayers. In addition to that, there is a reinstitution of the estate tax were states greater than $5 million. It is also my understanding, that this new tax deal will give a 2% reduction in the so security taxes for 2011 for employers. That also is a welcome sign of progress. Finally it appears that this deal will allow all businesses to write off 100% of capital expenditures for 2011. Once I know more about the complete deal I let everyone know.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
We shall see just how much this lame-duck Congress gets accomplished. It will be amazing to me just what they are able to get through, but I bet we will all be shocked by the results. If you're concerned about how these potential tax increases will affect you, call Saggio management group and set up an appointment so we can review your tax situation and plan accordingly.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Beware of a New Fraud Risk!
There is a fraud risk related to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) that you need to be aware of.
Always remember that the IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact by e-mail. Therefore, if you receive an e-mail that appears to be from a tax agency telling you that your federal electronic funds transfer (EFT) payment did not go through, it is part of a phishing scheme and you should not respond to it. The perpetrators of this scheme have duplicated the IRS’s EFTPS logo and other characteristics of that system in an attempt to convince taxpayers that it is an official e-mail from the IRS. It is not!
If you receive a message claiming to be from the IRS or EFTPS, take the following steps:
1. Do not reply to the sender, access links on the site, or submit any information to them.
2. Forward the message as-is immediately to IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Visit the IRS website to find out how to report and identify [http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=179820,00.html] phishing, e-mail scams and bogus IRS websites.
4. If you receive a suspicious e-mail or discover a website posing as the IRS, please forward the e-mail or URL information to the IRS at email@example.com.
5. EFTPS [http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=98005,00.html]is a tax payment system provided free by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Whenever you receive a communication from the IRS, it is generally good practice to contact Saggio Management Group, Inc., for assistance.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Tax Rumors Abound
There are two false tax rumors that have been circulating around and troubling clients. To set the record straight, a brief explanation of both rumors is provided below.
False Rumor #1 – “Employer-paid health insurance benefits will be taxable in 2011.”
Not true! Starting in 2011, the amount of employer-paid healthcare benefits was to be included on the W-2 as an information entry, but is not included in the taxable wages on the W-2. Many sources failed to properly analyze this requirement and reported that the benefits would become taxable in 2011.
False Rumor #2 – “Home sales will be subject to a sales tax.”
Not true! This rumor came about because of a 3.8% surtax, beginning in 2013, on net investment income of higher-income taxpayers - generally those with an AGI in excess of $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly).
Generally, investment income is, as the name implies, income from investments (such as interest, dividends and capital gains). Net investment income is investment income less certain deductible investment expenses.
Gain from the sale of a home is a capital gain and included in net investment income and, as a result, could be subject to the 3.8% surtax on the profit but not the sales price. In addition, for a home used by a taxpayer for 2 of the prior 5 years preceding the sale, the taxpayer can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a qualifying married couple) of the gain from the sale. Thus, only the excess above the home gain exclusion would be subject to the surtax.
Bottom line, you could get hit by this surtax if your home sale profits exceed the exclusion and you are a higher-income taxpayer - but it is not a sales tax based on the sales price of the home.
If you need more specific guidance, please contact Saggio Management Group, Inc. at (866) 874-9936
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Watch out for this provision. Let Saggio Management Group assist you with the creation of these mandatory 1099 forms. Call us today 866-874-9936.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
I still think that everyone should take the time to call or write to your elected representatives and let them know that they need to act now to keep the tax rates lower. If we don't move on this legislation, the effects to the economy will be terrible. I was speaking with a friend at the gym this morning and he asked me how much he should set aside, I told him that I am more concerned about inflation. Keep an eye on the grocery store shelves and be prepared for a ride on the inflation roller coaster. Can't say that I didn't warn you.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
For assistance in looking at your tax situation for 2010 and beyond, call Saggio Management Group, Inc., and takee advantage of our year-end $99 tax check-up. We will look at your particular situation and make some year-end recommendations. Call today!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The latest is that the new entrants are being told 90 to 100 minutes. So let's think about this. If we leave now, go to the grocery store, get back home, cook and eat, will it be less than 90 minutes? But we would miss the fun!
So we wait. I am lucky though because the company is great and keeping me warm even though the air is crisp, my heart is warm. So here's to the Texas Roadhouse.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Last evening I was listening to Glenn Beck and I was driving and he spoke about the "I" and how the great "I AM" is the name of God in the Bible. He is right on. The problem with this country is that the people have switched from the "I" to the "We." Well, guess what, the "We" is broken because the "I" has left the building. It occured to me this morning that the resolution to the problems in this country is that "I" have not done my part. As I said in my blog entry yesterday, it's time for each of us to step-up, speak-up, rise-up, and get-up and get to work. It's time to stop looking to someone else or the government to come to our aid. When this country was founded our fathers were starting a republic that was working to leave the tyranny of Great Britain, a government that was controlling their entire lives. Well, guess where we are today, we're back to where we were before. It's time for a new tea party, it's time to throw the nonsense of government tyranny over board and it's time to take personal responsibility for where our country is going.
I challenge each of us to stand for what is right, stand for what is good, stand for what is Godly and stand for what is not politically correct or what everyone else is doing. Turn off your TV, click off the internet, throw your blackberry in the drawer and sit down with your bible, the US Constitution and your family and think for once. Don't listen to others for a few minutes and just ponder your life, ask for the grace of God to impart you with wisdom and then act on those thoughts instead of the company line. It's when we connect to our inner selves and the God above that we will really find the strength to make the changes we need in this country. Have a blessed weekend and take time to pray for our country and realize that you have the power to inact change because it starts with each of us, it starts with "I."
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Last evening I heard a commercial where Chris Coons said that Christine O'Donnell believes that evolution is false. Well, so do I and so do most people who call themselves Christians. This is just what I am talking about. The average person hears that ad and what are they going to do with the information? The fact is that Chris Coons is a career politician and he realizes that his election to the Senate will ensure him further economic gain and will propel his career forward. Don't think for a moment that he is going to anything for our good. Just look at New Castle County and ask a county worker about their feelings towards him. I am not saying that Christine O'Donnell will not turn into a "normal" politician if she is elected, but at least we can hope that she will do as she says and the reduce the size of government.
This government is out of control and we need to take back the reigns of control. I personally ask everyone to vote for change, vote for someone is not afraid to speak the truth about God and vote for someone who is not going to just add another political feather to their cap. People of faith need to put their faith before their pocketbooks and elect representatives who share their views. This country was not intended to be a country separate from our faith, so don't be fooled by the political correct crowd. The founders of this country recognized the presence of God and our entire government is founded on those principles. I pray that God will make a change in this country and I pray that all of us will hold strong to our core beliefs and step out in support of our faith.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I want to be able to tell my clients that it's going to improve, but we all need to take some responsibility and pull ourselves out of the ditch. We need a tax structure which rewards innovation and persistence and a tax structure which does not penalize the top performers. As a father of two young boys, I don't want my children to grow up in a bankrupt country, but if we don't make some changes soon, we are going to be out of luck.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
We Worship the God of Security
By Henry G. Brinton
We live in a culture of fear, and since 9/11 we have grown increasingly anxious about terrorism, pandemics, environmental disasters and nuclear annihilation — anything that can injure or kill us. Our method of coping is to make an idol out of any activity, agency or technology that will promise us security.
Sociologist Robert Wuthnow has written a new book Be Very Afraid that examines how we respond to the constant threats we see around us. His conclusion: Instead of freezing when they face a threat, Americans get busy and buy duct tape. Nothing frustrates us more than terrorism alerts such as the one recently issued by the U.S. State Department for travel to Europe. It warns us of potential danger but gives no specific guidance.
I believe that this idolatry of safety is a very unfaithful response. Whether one is Christian, Jewish or Muslim, the challenge of faith is to put trust in God, not in security precautions. Nor is it a sensible response. Atheists realize — right along with people of faith — that we cannot control every aspect of the world around us. Security is a false god.
On May 4, the front doors of the Supreme Court were closed to the public permanently. The reason: security concerns. "In one swift, final fiat," wrote Washington Post culture critic Philip Kennicott, "the architectural logic of Cass Gilbert's magnificent 1935 neoclassical structure, which dramatizes the open access to justice, has been rescinded."
We are turning into a society in which access to so many public places is being controlled by metal detectors and security guards, and we tend to go along with these precautions. Few people ask questions about checkpoints and closings, and most seem to accept full-body scans, metal detectors and restricted access to public buildings.
Why? Because we worship the god of security.
The alternative is to accept that life is fragile, and to realize that we cannot eliminate all threats to our physical well-being. Over the course of my 24 years in the ministry, I have seen children die of cancer, young men perish in traffic accidents, and healthy women lose their lives during routine surgery. Tragic deaths, every one of them. But religion teaches that death is not optional, and that no amount of duct tape, metal detectors and advanced medical technology will grant us immortality.
Every Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a season of spiritual preparation for Easter, I put ashes on the foreheads of my church members and say to them, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." One longtime member of the church cherished this service and always responded by saying, "Yes, I remember." Her funeral was last fall, and I told this story at her graveside.
One of the goals of religious faith is to fashion a life that is not consumed by fear of death. This can be done by looking for eternal value in each day on earth, eternal salvation in heaven, or some combination of the two. But these approaches are difficult to sustain in our advanced liberal society, where there is little consensus on eternal life, or even on what makes for a good life on earth. "But we can agree on things that we ought to fear," says Thomas Hibbs, professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University. The result is that "the pursuit of happiness gets transformed into the pursuit of freedom from unhappiness."
When we can agree only on what we ought to fear, the stage is set for the idolatry of security. After 9/11, we established a Department of Homeland Security, and borrowed billions from our grandchildren to fight two overseas wars in the name of national security. "We say, on our money, 'In God we trust,' " observes William H. Willimon, bishop of the United Methodist Church in North Alabama, "but our military budget suggests that this is a lie." Our trust is in the federal agencies, military campaigns and cutting-edge technologies that promise to protect us.
Faithful, but ready
Such an investment in national security is to be expected in a country that prizes separation of church and state, and does not use religious principles as the foundation of its defense budget. We are not a nation of pacifists, and our spirituality has long followed the practical wisdom of the saying, "Trust in God and keep your powder dry."
But if the vast majority of us claim to trust in God, then we need to be prepared to put our money where our faith is. In 2008, we Americans put far more money into the Department of Defense and war on terrorism ($623 billion) than we voluntarily gave to all of the churches and charities across the United States ($308 billion). Based on spending patterns alone, the message is that we value national security more than spiritual security.
No amount of money can buy us complete safety, however, because we cannot achieve it by human efforts alone. "We live in an insecure world, and for Americans no other event has brought home that fact as has 9/11," says Miroslav Volf, professor of theology at Yale Divinity School. "Anything could happen, any time. Our lives could change, our way of life disappear. Ground Zero is the scar on the wound of our vulnerability."
Does this mean that we should abandon all screenings at airports? Of course not. Sensible precautions make us all safer, and deter those who want to perform evil, violent acts. But unless we, as a nation, want to descend ever deeper into debt and fear, we need to manage our risks instead of constantly attempting to eliminate them, and accept the fact that being vulnerable is a condition of human life. Remember, we are dust, and to dust we shall return. No further wars on terror or increasingly intrusive high-tech checkpoints are going to change this fundamental fact of life.
We also need to assess what our worship of the false god of security is doing to our souls. If we could somehow achieve invulnerability as a nation, what would this do to our national character?
"We would likely walk through the world with a John Wayne swagger," predicts Volf, as the nation becomes oblivious to the interests of others and comfortable with the prejudices about them. "Living in a secure but unreal world," he concludes, "we would be a danger to others."
National security is an expensive religion to practice, and it tends to increase our insecurity as we become more zealous about it, whether we are people of faith or atheists. We will never eliminate every threat to our personal and national well-being, and our efforts may strain our relations with neighbors as we make our barriers ever more impenetrable.
I believe that it is better to put our trust in God than in metal detectors, and to accept that our greatest security is always found in a power much higher than any branch of the federal government.
Henry G. Brinton is pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church in Virginia and author of an upcoming book on Christian hospitality.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Daily Rituals of Successful Entrepreneurs
Oct 21, 2010 2:16 PM EDT
Managing the daily grind of a small business while remembering to keep an eye on the big picture is a challenge for any entrepreneur. Experts say that's why it's important to establish daily rituals -- something you decide to do every single day that will move the business closer to your ultimate vision.
"By having a specific ritual that's in line with your long-term goals, you're much productive," said Laura Waage, founder of Morphos Business Solutions, a Marietta, Ga.-based small business consulting firm. "A lot of entrepreneurs say they check voicemail and e-mail first thing in the morning, but it doesn't necessarily take them closer to their goals."
To create the most effective daily ritual, consider what will truly improve your business. "For some companies it may be a sales goal, so the ritual may be based more around the number of prospecting or follow-up calls they'll make every day," Waage said. Whatever you decide, be specific, write it down, and schedule it. You have to be clear about what you want to achieve.
Need more guidance? Consider the daily rituals that are driving the success of these three entrepreneurs.
Daily Ritual: Spread one snippet of success
Although Matt Lauzon just launched his company in February, he already has 40 employees. One of his goals: never be too far removed from his team.
"Even though I can't interact with everybody as much as I used to, I always want to give them a snippet of what's in my mind and what I'm excited about," said Lauzon, founder of Gemvara, an online custom design jewelry startup backed by $12 million in venture capital.
Whether it's through Twitter or an internal e-mail to all employees, Lauzon makes a point of sharing at least one of the company's successes every day. "Most of our employees, go on my twitter page and read it several times a day, so it's been an unbelievable way to generate momentum," said Lauzon, 25. The positive blasts range from record-setting sales to new hires to inspirational customer stories.
How it helps: "It keeps our employees motivated, even in the face of challenges and crazy hours we're working; they feel like they're part of something big. The buzz also attracts new employees and increases exposure in the investment community."
Daily Ritual: Walk through the parking lot
When Jeff Brown drives into work every morning, he always parks in the last spot, the one farthest away from the office. But it's not to squeeze in exercise.
"It forces me to walk by every single employee's car and reminds me every day that our company is about creating a rewarding culture and environment for the employees that drive our business," said Brown, the 46-year-old founder of Blue Cod Technologies, which has 230 employees and revenue topping $20 million.
"During the day, I face [all sorts of] challenges and it's easy to lose focus on what's important." But Brown says this simple daily ritual always brings it back.
How it helps: "That morning walk through the parking lot guides my daily business decisions and keeps me true to our belief that people and relationships come first, above all else. Hiring and retaining great people creates more loyal customers and that's what has made us prosper, regardless of the market environment."
Daily Ritual: Stand-Up Meetings
Entrepreneur Zach Kaplan is always looking for ways to improve the functionality of his company Web site, which sells small quantities of materials to research and development firms.
About two and a half years ago, he started the ritual of daily stand-up meetings, where everyone literally stands and "shares the most important thing they did yesterday and the one thing they're going to accomplish today," said Kaplan, founder of six-employee Inventables, a venture-backed company.
The idea is to break down a project -- or in this case, software development -- into manageable pieces that take a day or less to finish.
"Everyone also has an opportunity to chime in if there's ambiguity or they can help," he said. "The whole meeting takes about 10 minutes." Kaplan, 36, says the stand-up meetings are part of the Agile software development philosophy, which he read about and quickly implemented to ramp up the pace of company projects.
Why he does it: "By breaking down a project into bite-sized chunks, there's a sense of accomplishment every single day. It's a way to help focus and it builds momentum."
Tips for Avoiding a Holiday Spending Hangover
Oct 21, 2010 1:22 PM EDT
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, which means holiday shopping season is just around the corner.
When it comes to holiday shopping, the earlier you start, the better off your budget.
"Don't procrastinate financial planning," said Brandon Corso, a director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Services. "Too many people overspend and end the holiday season with credit card debt."
Here are four rules to get everything on your holiday wish list and still ring in the New Year debt free.
Evaluate Your Finances
According to the experts, starting your holiday spending now allows you to skip the use of credit cards and save more compared to waiting until the last minute.
Financial planner Lou Scatigna says if you're on a bi-weekly paycheck schedule, starting now will allow you to have at least five paychecks between now and the holidays.
"Realistically, you have to evaluate your financial situation," says Scatigna. "It's imperative to set a budget."
Make a List
Create a list of who you need to buy gifts for and your total budget for the holiday season.
Look at your holiday shopping list with a frugal eye, says Kay, and mark each person with gift, card or baked good.
Once you start spending, write down what and how much you spend. Seeing your purchases on paper will keep you from breaking your budget.
Be sure to take into account costs like taxes, shipping and wrapping each gift, which can really add up, recommends Corso.
Do Your Homework Online
The Internet opens up a whole new world of cutting costs and comparing prices.
"Become a researcher this holiday season," says Scatigna. "Be familiar with search engines and sites like eBay, Amazon and Google to compare prices, good deals and discounts."
Don't Miss Key Sales
It might seem odd to see Christmas displays alongside Halloween decorations, but consumers should take advantage of eager retailers.
"Holiday sales start earlier each year, and Black Friday can be a gold mind for shoppers," Kay says. "Make it a fun event for the whole family by strategizing and planning out your shopping. Be purposeful, and you can save at least half of what you would normally spend."
Kay said you can cut costs further by asking merchants if they honor competitors' ads.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
FTC Bans Upfront Debt Settlement Fees
Oct 20, 2010 1:37 PM EDT
A new federal government rule will offer additional protections to consumers who are overburdened by debt; however, caution is advised since two limitations could undermine the rule's effectiveness.
The rule, which bans certain upfront fees for debt settlement services, is intended to ensure consumers won't have to pay for services that are promised, but never delivered, according to Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C.
"The new rules will ensure they don't pay anything until and unless a mutually agreeable settlement has actually been reached," she says.
The catch is that the new protections come only as part of the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule, or TSR, which applies only to for-profit companies and services that are sold over the telephone.
Ban on upfront debt relief fees
The rule contains five main protections:
Debt settlement companies cannot charge a fee until three conditions are met: The company must renegotiate, settle, reduce or otherwise alter the terms of at least one of the consumer's debts. The consumer must agree to at least one written debt settlement or debt management plan or other agreement between the consumer and a creditor, and the consumer must have made at least one payment to the creditor as a result of the agreement.
If those conditions have been met, a fee can be collected, but the amount must be proportional to what would be charged if all the debts were similarly settled. That means the company can't front-load its fees if the consumer has enrolled multiple debts in the program.
Debt settlement companies are prohibited from making certain common misrepresentations about their services.
Debt settlement companies may require set-aside accounts, but must comply with new restrictions on access to the funds.
Debt settlement companies must disclose how long it will take to get results, how much the service will cost, what the negative consequences could be and how the debt settlement account will be managed.
Face-to-face sales are exempt
The new rule applies to inbound as well as outbound telephone calls. That means a consumer who receives a call from a debt settlement company or calls such a company in response to the company's advertising will be protected by the new rules, according to Allison Brown, a senior attorney at the FTC in Washington, D.C.
"There is a broad definition of telemarketing," she says. "If the consumer sees a billboard or a radio ad or a website with a toll-free number, and the consumer makes that call, and then the service is sold over the telephone, that qualifies as telemarketing."
A Web-based chat function that used some telephone technology would be essentially equivalent to a telephone call, Brown says. But if a consumer responded and signed up entirely through a website, the protections of the new rule likely wouldn't apply.
In-person solicitations also are exempt.
"There is an explicit exemption for face-to-face transactions in the TSR, so if they get together with the consumer face-to-face and give a sales presentation, that takes it out of the rule," Brown says.
The face-to-face exemption is useful for attorneys who may get clients through referrals and negotiate with credit card companies on the client's behalf, but don't use telemarketing to solicit business. There is no exemption for companies that arrange a partnership with an attorney and then use telemarketing to obtain customers.
"To the extent that attorneys are doing telemarketing covered by the rule, there is no attorney exemption," Brown says.
Consumers should be cautious
The rule took effect Sept. 27, except for the ban on upfront fees, which will be delayed until Oct. 27.
State laws that are stricter than the federal rule will still apply, according to Brown. For instance, some 20 states have a cap on the fees that debt settlement companies can charge. Those fee caps and other restrictions aren't affected by the new FTC rule.
Despite the new protections, Grant nonetheless offers a "bottom-line warning" that consumers should avoid any debt settlement company that charges upfront fees.
"Regardless of whether the company's business methods come under the telemarketing sales rule or not, I would suggest that consumers don't do business with any debt relief service that asks them to pay a fee in advance before the debt relief is actually achieved," she says. "Until and unless your debt problems are actually resolved, what are you paying for?"
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Repeat Refinance Could Ding Credit
Oct 19, 2010 1:35 PM EDT
Dear Dr. Don,
I recently refinanced my home mortgage for 15 years at 4.5 percent with zero points. I now see that the 15-year refinance rate is 3.75 percent and seems to be dropping. Would refinancing again, within three months from the first refinance, affect my credit score?
The loan application will trigger a "hard pull," or credit inquiry, on your credit report. Credit inquiries initiated by the consumer stay on a credit report for two years, but only impact the credit score in the first year.
You can comparison shop mortgage lenders in a relatively short (two weeks) time period, and that will only count as one inquiry on your credit score because it's clear you're shopping for a mortgage.
I'd worry less about the credit score and more about the cost of serial refinancings. The reason you want a good credit score is to be able to take advantage of a great rate. Your score, all else held constant, will bounce back from any short-term dip caused by the refinancing.
Saving 0.75 percent isn't inconsequential, but you'll pay several thousand dollars in closing costs to capture that lower interest rate. The closing costs on the existing mortgage are a sunk cost and aren't relevant to the refinancing analysis.
A mortgage calculator can help you estimate the monthly payment. In this case, use Bankrate's refinance mortgage calculators to see if refinancing makes sense given how long you plan to be in the house.
There can't be much room left for improvement for fixed-rate mortgages, despite the possibility that rates will trend a little lower if the Federal Reserve starts buying long-term Treasury securities in a much-discussed quantitative easing program.
You can keep your finger on the pulse of the mortgage market by reading Bankrate's Mortgage Rate Trend Index every Thursday. I do, and even have it delivered to me as an e-mail alert along with the Weekly National Mortgage Survey.
Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
How Expiring Bush Tax Cuts Will Affect You
Oct 18, 2010 2:38 PM EDT
When Congress left Washington, D.C., in September to campaign for the November election, it also left taxpayers in limbo about what income tax rates they will face next year.
The current tax rates are set to expire on Jan. 1, 2011. The consensus on Capitol Hill is that most of the tax cuts should be left in place. Extending the tax cuts, however, has been stymied by continuing Congressional debate over what changes, if any, should be made to the laws that affect higher-income taxpayers.
But if lawmakers can't reach an agreement and let the Bush-era tax cuts expire on Jan. 1, 2011, all taxpayers -- regardless of income -- will face higher IRS tax bills.
Representatives and Senators have focused on the rich and what the tax cuts mean to them. But here at Bankrate, we thought it worthwhile to give the rest of the taxpaying public some attention.
Here's a look at what folks in lower-income brackets might face if the current tax cuts disappear.
5% tax hike
Taxes currently are collected based on five income tax brackets. Every taxpayer would face a tax increase because the current 10% tax rate would disappear.
That would mean that the first chunk of money earned -- up to $8,375 under 2010's tax brackets -- would be taxed at 15%.
A bit higher on the income scale, covering what most tax policy analysts consider middle-income levels, the existing 25 percent tax rate would go to 28% and the 28% tax rate would become 31%.
While the amount of income that would fall into each of these brackets next year is not finalized -- the IRS must wait for inflation numbers, as well as a Congressional decision on the tax rates themselves -- several tax policy groups have done their own calculations.
These analyses use historical tax data, pending tax proposals and predicted inflation adjustments to evaluate what could happen if the existing tax rates expire.
Higher taxes for hypothetical families
Number crunching by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax LLP shows that if the current tax rates expire, a typical family of four with annual household income of $50,000 would pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011.
A single taxpayer earning $50,000 per year would, according to the Deloitte analysis, pay $1,100 more in taxes next year if the current tax laws lapse.
Potential tax bill scenarios by CCH, a tax software and publishing company in Riverwoods, Ill., come up with slightly different tax bill amounts, but reveal the same trend.
CCH analysis says that expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts would cause a married couple with two dependent children to owe $2,143 more next year.
Children worth less at tax time
Almost half of the hypothetical CCH family's bigger tax bill comes not from the increased tax rates, but from the disappearance of a popular family-friendly tax break: the child tax credit.
Currently, taxpayers can claim a credit of $1,000 per eligible child on their tax returns. Since this is a credit, it reduces a filer's tax bill dollar for dollar. A $2,500 tax bill, for example, would be cut to $1,500, thanks to a $1,000 child tax credit claim.
In 2011, however, if the Bush-era tax laws expire, each qualifying child will be worth a credit of just $500 at tax-filing time.
Marriage's tax cost increases
Some taxpayers' filing status also could be more costly next year.
Before 2001, some married couples who filed a joint return on their combined incomes paid more taxes than did two individuals who each earned the same amounts as the husband and wife but filed separate 1040s as single taxpayers.
This filing phenomenon was known as the marriage tax penalty.
The Bush tax cuts helped ease this inequity. "As part of the 2001 act, the 15% tax bracket was made larger to eliminate the marriage penalty," says Mark Luscombe, principal tax analyst for CCH.
In 2011, though, that could change. "The size of the 15% bracket for joint filers would shrink," says Luscombe.
The bottom line: The marriage tax would be back.
Investors would owe more
Dabbling in the stock market typically is considered a practice of wealthier individuals.
Thanks to the 2003 tax law changes, the capital gains tax on profits from sold assets were cut from 20% to 15% for higher earners, and 10% to 5% for investors in the two lowest tax brackets.
Further cuts made investing, or rather selling investments, even more appealing for individuals in the 10% and 15% tax brackets. They don't owe any tax on their adjusted net capital gains.
This 0% capital gains tax rate is a great benefit not only for workers with lower incomes, but also for retirees and semiretirees, as well as for young investors.
But that no-tax rate, as well as the 15% levy for wealthier investors, will jump back to 10% and 20%, respectively, unless Congress acts.
Certain dividend payments also receive favorable tax treatment under current law, being taxed at the taxpayer's applicable capital gains rate. That, too, will change in 2011.
Taxes on qualified dividend earnings will once again be taxed at the individual's ordinary income tax rate which, absent Congressional changes, will range from 15% to 39.6%.
A temporary tax increase?
Although Congress decided not to act on the Bush tax cuts before the Nov. 2 midterm elections, conventional wisdom holds that the House and Senate will take some action later this year to keep at least some of the lower tax rates in place.
But if legislators don't make any changes in early November, all taxpayers could end up paying higher taxes for at least a while in 2011.
The IRS says it must finalize next year's payroll withholding tables in November so that employers will have sufficient time to incorporate the information into paycheck withholding systems. And those withholding tables will be based on law at the time the IRS guidance is issued.
So even if Congress eventually retains most or all of the current lower tax rates, if lawmakers dawdle in doing so, some early 2011 paychecks could be smaller since the payroll withholding will be based on the higher 2011 tax rates.
Taxpayers might have to adjust their withholding or wait until they file their 2011 returns in 2012 to get back any paycheck overpayments.
Monday, October 18, 2010
New efforts under way to aid small businesses
By ERIC RUTH The News Journal
October 18, 2010 06:10 AM
For small businesses, it sure seems like a backward sort of economic recovery.
Even as the big banks wade in bailout money and boost executive bonuses, small businesses are feeling the same old recessionary blues -- credit lines are still being cut, new health care costs are possibly on the way, and many have been scrambling to survive as business slowly revives.
Now, three years after the tough times began, small businesses are no closer to seeing a handout, but they are starting to get more of a hand-up.
Government efforts to ease financial pressures on small business are coming together as the year winds down. A new tax credit for health-care costs is now in place. And money to help businesses secure financing is flowing to the states like never before -- Delaware businesses now have potential access to an extra $13 million in loan-guarantee money that could eventually be leveraged into $131 million in new lending.
Officials say these funds are a critical component of a larger effort to boost opportunities through the Small Business Jobs Act, signed into law by President Obama last month. The Jobs Act also goes beyond financing, enacting eight new small-business tax cuts that aim to give owners greater incentive for new investments and expansion. The bill also includes capital designed to encourage lenders to expand credit offerings.
Jayne Armstrong, director of the Delaware District Office of the Small Business Administration, said the bill is the most important legislation small businesses have gotten in a long time.
"It's going to be huge," she said. "We've been waiting on that."
More hope in a depressed climate
The programs come at a time when businesses are seeing more hope, but still facing formidable challenges. In September, a three-month slide in small-business confidence finally subsided, as fewer owners reported cash flow issues, according to the Discover Small Business Watch. At the same time, the survey found that 46 percent of small business owners were still having cash-flow issues, and a record 68 percent rated the economy poor, up from 62 percent in August.
Other results seem to indicate there may be weak demand for the financing: A record-low 16 percent of owners polled by Discover said they plan to increase spending, and 57 percent intend to cut spending, the highest in the history of the survey. More than 70 percent said they are waiting for the economy to improve before they do any hiring.
When asked if a loan was crucial to growing their businesses, 71 percent said it wasn't; and 20 percent said it was.
Yet for some businesses, access to new credit has become a crucial element in efforts to resolve potentially disastrous cash-flow issues. At Excel Business Systems near Newark, the credit crunch prompted a major supplier of office machines to shut down its in-house financing arm, sinking Excel's $400,000 line of credit with just 60 days' notice. That in turn upended Excel's ability to help customers finance equipment leasing, even as demand was already on the decline.
"It was kind of like a perfect storm in many ways. Business was off for us for the first time ever," said Frank Montisano, co-owner of the 23-year-old company. "'08 and '09 were nightmares. ... Every which way we looked, somebody was tightening down."
Turning to the Delaware District Office of the Small Business Administration, Montisano and co-owner Joseph DiMarco sought a loan guarantee, and found more than they expected.
Not only did the assurance of government backing ease the bank's concerns, a beefed-up Recovery Act made made it possible for the SBA to provide other crucial elements of relief -- increasing its guarantee to 90 percent of the loan; and eliminating all loan fees, which can run from 2 percent to 4 percent of the loan.
Last month, Excel closed the books on its best fiscal year ever.
"I've always kind of scoffed when I heard about politicians saving jobs," Montisano said, "but in this case it did."
Loan sizes increased
The Jobs Bill is allowing the SBA to offer even greater help than higher guarantees and fee elimination. Maximum loan sizes have been permanently increased -- from $2 million to $5 million for so-called 7(a) guaranteed loan program and 504 loans (the SBA's top programs); and from $4 million to $5.5 million for 504 manufacturing-related loans. SBA "Microloans" have been permanently increased from $35,000 to $50,000; and Express loan limits have gotten a temporary increase from $350,000 to $1 million -- increasing access to the working capital that firms can use to buy new inventory and take on their next order.
At the same time, the government is also making more capital available to small banks and boosting their incentives to lend.
On the other end of their finances, small businesses also have new tax benefits to take advantage of. The Jobs Bill includes eight new small-business tax cuts:
*Small businesses that buy new equipment can immediately write off the first $500,000 of investments.
*Capital gains taxes on key investments into your own business have been eliminated.
*Entrepreneurs who take a chance on a new idea can now deduct the first $10,000 of start-up costs -- double the previous limit.
*Self-employed workers can now deduct 100 percent of the cost of health insurance for their families and themselves from their taxes.
The new Small Business Health Care Tax Credit also can mean significant savings, financial advisers say:
*For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by small-business employers; and 25 percent of premiums paid by tax-exempt organizations.
*Beginning in 2014, the maximum tax credit will go up to 50 percent of premiums paid by small business-employers and 35 percent for tax-exempt organizations for two years.
The credit also has a provision that allows any unused credit to be applied to all previous years the credit was available -- or carried to future years until the credit is used, according to Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
The maximum credit goes to smaller employers -- those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent employees -- paying annual average wages of $25,000 or less.
"We want small businesses to insure their employees," said Sen. Tom Carper, a strong proponent of the tax break. "But we don't want them to break the bank doing it."
11 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Oct 15, 2010 5:26 PM EDT
There are more than 175 million credit card holders in the U.S., and more than 10 million of them have been victims of some type of identity theft.
"It's the fastest-growing crime in America," says Mike Bush, the director of PR for Affinion Security Center, a company that has been focusing on identity-theft protection for almost 40 years.
The ways in which thieves can steal your credit card numbers--or even your name--can be alarming, says Bush, and not always so obvious.
"I'm a personal finance reporter and my credit card has been misused," says Erica Sandberg, a personal finance expert and online writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. "Nobody is immune."
That being said, there are ways to make yourself less likely to be a victim. Here's what you need to know:
1. Be Selective Where You Use Your Credit Card
Every year we become more and more accustomed to using plastic for everyday expenses. But there is no reason to use your credit card for small purchases. "Just be more cautious and prudent when using plastic," says Sandberg.
2. Check Your Checking Account Religiously and Monitor Your Credit Report
"You must look at every statement and every charge. You can do this for free by going to annualcreditreport.com," recommends Bush. "Just look to make sure that everything makes sense on it and if it doesn't, contact your bank and the credit report site."
Annualcreditreport.com offers to check your credit with the three big credit agencies all at the same time. Bush recommends checking with one site every four months so you're covered the whole year.
3. Maintain a Credit Freeze on Your Account at All Times
Having a freeze on your credit account prevents lenders from issuing new credit without checking with the cardholder. This is a smart way to make sure nobody opens new lines of credit under your name.
"So if someone tries to apply for a credit card in your name, the bank attendant will see there is a freeze on your account and will have to call and verify with you before any new lines of credit are given out," says Sandberg.
But remember, this will not safeguard you against fraudulent claims on your existing lines of credit.
4. Have a Good Bank
Do research on banks and see which have the best fraud monitoring. You can find this type of information by going to the Better Business Bureau.
5. Be Smart With Your Password
It might be hard to keep track of different passwords, but having the same password for everything is just asking for trouble.
And never share your password. Ever.
"It might seem obvious but often times we've seen people do this," says Bush.
6. Be Judicious on Where You Purchase Items Online
Sometimes you have to use a credit card to make online purchases, but make sure the site is safe.
"Don't think you're immune, because even if you use a legitimate Web site, you never know," stressed Sandberg.
7. Don't Discount Family Members
Think about everyone and anyone who could be using your card.
"You must look inward. Could it be your older child or estranged spouse? Think about who has access to your information and credit cards," says Sandberg.
8. Don't Open E-mails From Unknown Sources
Make sure your computer is equipped with anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-key logging software.
"Getting these kind of viruses is as easy as opening an e-mail with an attachment," explains Bush. "A key logging virus records movements on all the keyboards. So if you go to your Gmail and enter a password, thieves will be able to see it."
9. Shred Your Information
Few of us actually shred all of the mail we receive, but the experts say it's a good idea.
"Don't just throw it away. A thief with some time on their hands can pick up a piece of your mail with your address on it, and just with that information, steal a big chunk of your identity," Bush says. An enterprising thief is a very scary concept.
10. Don't do Financial Transactions Over Public WiFi
People often think it's lucky when their computer picks up a free wireless signal. Maybe not.
"There is technology that intercepts a public wireless signal," explains Bush. "So a thief can be a couple of feet away from you on another computer looking at all the information you're looking at."
11. Beware of Shoulder Surfing
It doesn't matter if the ATM is in a well-known store or even in a bank.
"Thieves can put small cameras above the ATM and watch the pin being entered, so watch out for anything that looks suspicious," said Bush. He stressed that this is doubly as important when you are at an unfamiliar gas station or deli. So to stay safe, when in doubt, don't use the machine.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
"While individuals ultimately make decisions, organizations influence and shape the decision-making process. In fact, an organization can boost its employees' capacity for good judgment and improve the chances they will make sound decisions. Here are three ways how:
1. Examine decisions made. Upon completion of a project, ask teams to discuss which five things they would do again and which five they wouldn't. By reflecting on the decisions that went into the project, and their results, people can prepare to make better ones the next time around.
2. Be okay with restarting. When bad decisions happen, don't make everyone suffer the consequences. Start the project over so that people can learn from their mistakes.
3. Give people autonomy. People need space to make well-grounded decisions. When they are in control of the decisions, and responsible for the consequences, they are more likely to exercise good judgment."
Friday, October 15, 2010
IRA Withdrawals For College, Home Purchase
Oct 14, 2010 12:37 PM EDT
Dear Tax Talk,
Is it wise to withdraw money from an IRA before age 59½ for education purposes or buying a home? Should I get a loan instead? What are the rules for IRA withdrawals?
Generally, an IRA withdrawal before age 59½ incurs a penalty of 10% in addition to income tax. For some people this can be as much as 50%, so it doesn't make a lot of sense. One of the advantages of the tax code is that for general rules, there are exceptions. Exceptions exist to encourage some sort of economic behavior, two of which, in this case, are purchasing a home and facilitating higher education.
In the case of a first-time home purchase, you can withdraw up to $10,000 penalty-free from your IRA. Certain criteria exist as to timing and eligible expenses. You can review these details in IRS Publication 590 on page 53.
Similarly, you can withdraw from your IRA penalty-free to pay qualified higher-education expenses not otherwise covered by grants. The expenses can be for yourself, your wife, children or grandchildren. See page 52 of Publication 590 to determine what are considered eligible expenses.
While the penalty is forgiven, income tax is due on the withdrawal. However, since home mortgage interest and taxes as well as higher-education expenses are tax-favored deductions or credits, part, if not all of the tax on the withdrawal can be offset.
Consult a CPA for assistance in proper planning to minimize or eliminate the income tax consequences of the IRA withdrawal.
Judge Says Florida Lawsuit Against Federal Health Care Law Can Go Forward
Oct 14, 2010 4:33 PM EDT
A Florida federal judge rejected a request on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice to dismiss in its entirety a lawsuit challenging the federal government's health care law, paving the way for a legal battle involving 20 states, Fox News Channel reported.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson declared that he would allow parts of the lawsuit to move forward, while others do not merit a day in court.
Opening arguments have been scheduled for mid-December, Fox News Channel reported.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
How to Act on Your Big Idea
Oct 13, 2010 11:32 AM EDT
Even Fortune 500 corporations haven't been able to sustain franchises in the restaurant delivery service industry. It turns out, this business requires an involved local owner-operator who knows the community, has the skill and knowledge to maintain relationships with restaurants, and can make quick decisions when needed.
I expanded Eat Out In to San Antonio in 2009 because it's only 90 miles away and I already had good relationships with many restaurants there. I have no plans to expand the business geographically because I couldn't devote the time necessary to maintaining those relationships.
If I had pursued my dream of becoming the next McDonald's, I might not be in business today, and I certainly wouldn't have such a close relationship with my daughter.
I often run into people who tell me they thought up the idea for a restaurant delivery service but didn't do anything with it. If I hadn't started Eat Out In, someone else eventually would have taken the plunge, and I'd be sitting here today saying: "If only . . ." My big idea didn't turn out exactly as I expected, but it did turn out pretty well.
New ideas are hard to come by. If you have one, act on it and don't wait for someone else to make it work. Here are some lessons I've learned over the past 25 years:
Be persistent. When I started Eat Out In, my brother-in-law told me I was ahead of my time, and he was right. It took awhile for the idea to catch on. Meanwhile, I learned to hang in there, develop my concept, and not get discouraged that it wasn't an overnight success. That experience has helped me get through lots of rough spots.
Know your business. Even though I started a new concept, I knew a lot about the restaurant and delivery industries. Restaurants would never have signed up with me if I hadn't understood their business. Knowing your business builds credibility, which is essential for long-term success.
Trust your instincts. There was no road map for running a multi-restaurant delivery service, so I had to trust my instincts about many decisions. If I made a wrong choice, I learned from it and did things differently the next time. Have confidence in your instincts and the ability to learn as you go along.
Extend your skill set. I provide hands-on management of our advertising and marketing and employ freelance designers and copywriters rather than an ad agency. I feel comfortable in this arena because of my experience in sales, marketing and communications. We have saved huge amounts of money for investment in other parts of the business. On the other hand, I know my limitations and always hire professionals to do what I can't.
How to Act on That Big Idea Go Ahead: Hire an Assistant Looking for Funding? Investors Are Out There Generations of Difference How Networking Online Leads to Real Profits
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Beware of Car Donation Scams
Oct 12, 2010 1:42 PM EDT
Have you ever wanted to donate a car to a charity? Your intentions may be worthy, but you may encounter unscrupulous people whose intentions are not to help the needy -- but to scam you. Here are some tips on how to avoid the car donation scam.
Be aware of the car donation process, says Sarah Lee Marks, author of "The Complete Internet Car Buying Guide" and owner of the car-shopping website MyCarlady.com.
"Understand how the donation cycle works for tax purposes. You can no longer deduct the Kelley Blue Book value of your car as if you sold it privately or traded it in," she says. "You are only allowed to take the donation value of the amount the charity will get for selling it at auction."
According to Marks, most charitable organizations asking for vehicles use third-party vendors to handle the pickup and disposal at the auction. "Make sure they come with preprinted forms, uniforms and a branded tow vehicle before you sign over the title," she says.
Make sure the charity is legitimate
To make certain you are investing in a worthy charity, start by researching the organization, says S.E. Day, author of "How to Legally Steal Your Next Vehicle and Save $1,000s."
To avoid the car donation scam, Day says, consumers can start by requesting several forms from the organization -- the charity's 501(c)(3) letter granted by the IRS, the incorporation document from the secretary of state's office in the state where the nonprofit is operating and the corporation bylaws for accepting vehicles as donations.
"Visit the charity, contact the IRS to inquire about the charity's viability, request its IRS Form 990 (nonprofit tax return) and make sure the title is signed by the company receiving the vehicle," he says.
Also, review the charity's financial reports to see how much of its money is used for charitable programs and administrative costs.
Stick with local 501(c)(3) nonprofits as well. If your charity is not a 501(c)(3) organization, your contribution will not be tax deductible, according to CharitiesNYS.com, a website for the New York Attorney General's Office. The IRS lists 501(c)(3) organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions in Publication 78. Depending on the size of your deduction, attach Form 8283 to your tax return.
Sign the title before donating the car
The IRS recommends car donors make sure to transfer the title of the donated car.
"It is not illegal for a charity to have an open title for a vehicle, but the ad valorem tax, registration and licensing fees remain the responsibility of the owner until the title has been properly closed with the charity being the recipient," says Day.
According to Day, the car donation scam occurs when the fraudster convinces the victim to turn over the car, without signing the title.
"The individual will advise the victim that he or she is not authorized to sign the title," he says. "He or she will inform the victim that the title has to be signed by the authorized personnel at the office."
With an open car title, the individual can sell the car to another person or to a used-car dealer for cash, Day says.
If you don't have a copy of the title papers, contact your state's department of motor vehicles, or DMV, to get them. And don't leave your license plates on the car. Return them to DMV or transfer them to another car.
"Make a copy of the front and back of the title after signing it over. Remove all plates and personal papers from the car and wipe out all garage door links (and information in) telephones and navigation computers, and cancel any remaining extended warranty insurance," Marks says.
To good to be true?
If you've managed to sidestep the car donation scam, you may be in line for some nice perks when you donate a used car to charity: tax deductions and incentives like vacation packages and gift certificates.
Steven J. Weisman, author of "The Truth About Avoiding Scams," says, "When charities offer these perks, it is important to note that the value of your donation for income tax deduction purposes is reduced by the value of the perk you receive."
If you donate a car valued at $5,000, and you receive from the charity a voucher for a vacation worth $1,000, you must reduce the amount of the tax deduction you claim by $1,000, making the deduction $4,000, he says.
IRS publication 561 provides the latest details on how to determine when and how much of a tax deduction may be taken for charitable donations, says Weisman. The IRS has a tool that helps determine the fair market value of items being donated.
John W. Van Alst, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, suggests donating cars to charities that give them to low-income families for free or at subsidized costs. "It is better for these families and donors who may be eligible for a larger deduction than if they had donated to charities that scrap or resell vehicles," says Van Alst.
Charities that donate directly to low-income families can be found at the Opportunity Cars website.
What if you've been scammed?
If you realize you have fallen for the car donation scam after donating your car, you have options, says Jeannine Fallon, spokeswoman for Edmunds.com. "Report the charity to the attorney general or the consumer fraud investigation division of your state government," she says.
You also should check with your accountant on whether you can still claim a tax deduction for the car, Fallon says.
If you're careful, you can donate your car to charity without a hitch. Just ask Kimbirly Orr, a marketing consultant in Colorado. "Upon our father's death, my sister and I donated a classic 1979 Cadillac Seville to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver. It was effortless and painless for sisters who had a lot more to deal with than parking a car," Orr says.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Higher Taxes Mean Less Work
Oct 11, 2010 5:15 PM EDT
This week at FOX Business we're looking at ways the government burns through your money--money you work long and hard to earn--only to give a large amount back to Uncle Sam.
Add to that, we are only about 81 days away from what could be the largest tax hike in U.S. history.
Former adviser to President George W. Bush, who's now an economics professor at Harvard, outlined exactly why everyone... yes everyone... will be impacted if only the tax cuts for the rich are allowed to expire.
On an op-ed in the New York Times, Gregory Mankiw starts in the middle of the argument making a rational acknowledgment: "The Democrats are right about one thing: I can afford to pay more in taxes."
He's not playing the "woe is me card, " the "I'm rich, but not really rich card."
Mankiw says more taxes would just mean he'd work less.
In an example he gave he showed why:
If he was offered $1,000 to write an article - without taxes at all - he would get a $1,000. And if he invested it at 8% interest he would end up with $10,000 in 30 years.
But then again, that world doesn't exist.
In reality, if the tax cuts expire, he would pay more than 39% in taxes, nearly 4% in Medicare tax thanks to Obamacare and more than 5% in state income taxes which equals $523.
As far as investing it, the corporation whose stock he chose would have to pay 35% tax, so he would only make a little more than 5%. So over 10 years that money would only grow to about $1,700.
But wait there's more!
Once he leaves his children that money in his will, they'll get hit by a 55% estate tax. So instead of $10,000, his kids would get less than $1,000. So why bother in the first place!
And he's not alone - a study by the an economist at Arizona State University found a 10% increase in taxes led to a 10 to 15% decrease in work hours.--especially if those workers felt their money was going to transfer programs like Social Security or welfare.
As Mankiw points out, some of these people being less incentivized to work may include surgeons or lawyers or people vital to your day to day life.
So just because you don't make $250,000 you too will find your life altered-- and not in a good way-- if it's just the "so-called" rich bear the burden!
Monday, October 11, 2010
Government Expected to Nix Cost-of-Living Increase for Social Security Again - FoxNews.com
Oct 10, 2010 3:08 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- As if voters don't have enough to be angry about this election year, the government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million Social Security recipients will go through another year without an increase in their monthly benefits.
It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.
"If you're the ruling party, this is not the sort of thing you want to have happening two weeks before an election," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
"It's not the congressional Democrats' fault, but that's the way politics works," Biggs said. "A lot of people will feel hostile about it."
The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011.
The projection will be made official on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases inflation estimates for September. The timing couldn't be worse for Democrats as they approach an election in which they are in danger of losing their House majority, and possibly their Senate majority as well.
This past Friday, the same bureau delivered another painful blow to Democrats: The U.S. lost 95,000 jobs in September and unemployment remained stubbornly stuck at 9.6 percent.
Democrats have been working hard to make Social Security an election-year issue, running political ads and holding press conferences to accuse Republicans of plotting to privatize the national retirement program
5 Resources to Help Small Businesses Survive the Slowdown
Oct 08, 2010 12:06 PM EDT
New York restaurant owner Karl Williams has been struggling in Harlem.
Since opening gourmet coffee shop Society Café in June 2005, he has seen the recession hit his bottom line hard.
"At the beginning of 2010 it really hit a point of make it or break it," said Williams.
That's when the 35-year-old Yale graduate went looking for small business resources and quickly found there were many programs to choose from.
"I think a lot of entrepreneurs turn their nose up at the idea that someone is going to tell me how to run my business. Or [say] 'I will figure it out myself. I will put my head down and work hard and get it done,'" said Williams.
But he found there is something to getting outside advice.
For Williams, a helping hand came from the Clinton Foundation/ Inc. Magazine mentoring program.
"It pairs highly-successful business leaders and entrepreneurs...with small business owners who are running high-growth potential businesses," explained Parisa Sabeti, the head of Clinton Economic Opportunity Initiative.
Williams said since becoming involved in the program, he has seen many improvements to his businesses that have helped create growth during a difficult time.
Top 5 Resources from the Small Business Administration
In addition to the Clinton Foundation's entrepreneurship program, there are plenty of other free resources out there for small business owners. Pravina Raghavan, the district director of the Small Business Administration, an independent agency of the federal government, gives FoxBusiness her top five:
1. Small Business Development Center
"This is a great resource. You can get high-quality free business training, workshops and counseling. It's partially funded by the SBA and usually can be found at universities in the area."
2. Women's Business Centers
"These centers are not just for women, they were developed for them, but men are also allowed to use all the resources. Similar to the Small Business Development Center, they offer one-on-one counseling. The only difference is they have different funding partners."
"Score is a volunteer organization that counsels entrepreneurs. The counselors are other entrepreneurs and some of them have been volunteering 30 or 40 years. They can teach you how to write a business plan, how to get financing, and it's as easy as signing up online and making an appointment."
4. Government Contracting Assistance - The Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.
"Twenty-three percent of all government contracting needs to go to small businesses, so people should take advantage of these contracts. PTACS provides education on how to get registered, how to get bids. A lot of the procedures are very regimented."
"It's not just an enforcement agency, it also provides education on what tax credits small businesses should be receiving and how to take advantage of it all. It provides information on what small business owners should be asking their accountants, and with $12 billion new tax credits passed as part of the jobs bill last Monday, this is a good place to go."