What I learned this week ending 12/6/2014

Local issues

I learned that the weapon cache firepower of my South Jersey neighbors greatly exceeds the weapons cache of our local police forces. There was never much cause to think about this issue in the past but with all the talk about riots this week…

It looks increasingly like something is not right with Kildare’s in Manayunk where Shane Montgomery partied before disappearing last week.

Attitude of gratitude in this season of giving

Comments from Philadelphia neighbors posted on an Philly.com article about our lack of a ‘giving attitude’ caught my attention. A local newspaper said Philadelphia area people give less to charity than in other areas. Apparently we are not very generous around here. I may be in the minority who try to follow Luke 6:30 “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back” and Walt Whitman “This is what you shall do…give alms to everyone who asks”.

I am hugely impressed by the many Penn State students who stayed out in the rain yesterday for THON canning. I am inspired!

Online marketing vs. business building

I see that my long-term online strategy of ‘putting relevant, timely and valuable information in front of people who can use it’ actually works for building readership but not for developing business.  Those are separate issues. “Fame” and “fortune” don’t always walk together.

Health care reform implementation

Bankrate wrote that 82% of Americans who recently shopped for health insurance say that it’s just as bad as or even worse than doing your own taxes.

I responded that as a tax accountant who provides health insurance advice, I’m not getting a warm fuzzy feeling! I continued to receive many questions from consumers and professionals. Oddly, some of the questions from CPAs and financial professional seemed to convey less understanding of ACA than the questions from consumers.

I concluded that more than a million small businesses might be using non-compliant employee reimbursement tax accounting for 2014 and then had to explain that position in a separate blog post. It was an educational experience but even that exercise was not exhaustive; there are even more issues yet to consider. Those most at financial risk are companies with 50-99 employees who presumed that the exemption from mandatory employee health coverage for 2015 was automatic and may not actually qualify for the exemption.

The new U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has a problem with quotations and “sound bytes” taken by the press. She is quoted as saying “In one year we saw 10.3 million fewer adult Americans be uninsured”. Besides the grammatical error, the fact seems to be obviously wrong. I saw other quotations with grammatical or syntax errors. I shouldn’t cast stones; I’m even worse in this regard.

Year end tax planning

I am reminded to never trust political analysis reports. After newspapers concluded that the tax extenders for 2014 would not happen, I updated all my year-end tax advice articles under this assumption. Then the House of Representatives did pass a bill. I’ll just wait to see what happens in the Senate. The bigger picture is that these tax extenders are just about a complete waste of money if businesses can’t rely on them in advance to plan for increased expenditures earlier in the year.

I’m a little surprised and disappointed that I’m not getting more calls this year to set up year end pension plans for self-employed individuals. With the economy rebounding, more people are looking for last minute tax shelters.

Other articles I updated with tax news:

“What’s left to help reduce small business health plan costs?”



“Top 10 east tax shelters” at


 I learned that the Internal Revenue Code Section 221 that deals with student loan interest deductions is much more complex than it appears. As a practical matter, few people actually qualify for the student loan interest deduction because of the strict regulations. I suspect that a lot of people take the tax deduction anyway. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/221


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