Monday, March 31, 2014

Breeze and Buttons

Hours after his birth, Breeze was found stumbling around by a farmer.  The newborn foal had been abandoned by his mother so the farmer took him to the Devon-based Mare and Foal Sanctuary where they cared for him. What happened next is  heartwarming.  One of the staff put a four-foot giant Teddy Bear called Buttons  into the stall with Breeze.



   The foal was instantly attracted to him.  He had found a comforting replacement for his mother.  The two are inseparable. The carer’s  expect Breeze to be fine, thanks to the rescuers and to those who cared enough to take this little Cutie in.    Special thanks to Buttons. 












Sunday, March 30, 2014

When God sends you help, don't ask questions


 She hurried to the pharmacy to get medication, got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys inside.   The woman found an old rusty coat hanger left on the ground.  She looked at it and said, "I don't know how to use this." 


She bowed her head and asked God to send her some HELP.  Within 5 minutes a beat-up old motorcycle pulled up, driven by a bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag. He got off of his cycle and asked if he could help. 
        

She said: "Yes, my daughter is sick.  I've locked my keys in my car.  I must get home. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?" 


He said, "Sure."  He walked over to the car, and in less than
a minute the car was open.    She hugged the man and through tears said, "Thank You God for sending me such a very nice man." 


The man heard her little prayer and replied, "Lady, I am NOT a nice man. I just got out of PRISON yesterday; I was in prison for car theft."  

The woman hugged the man again sobbing, "Oh, thank you, God!   You even sent me a Professional!" 


Is GOD great or what!?


Life is Not Fair

May I gently but firmly remind you of something you know but may have forgotten?  Life is not fair. That’s not pessimism, it’s a fact.  It’s not a complaint, it’s just the way things are. I don’t like it. Neither do you. Ever since the kid down the block got a bike and we didn’t, we’ve been saying the same thing, “That’s not fair!”


At some point someone needs to say to us, “Who ever told you life was going to be fair?” God didn’t. In James 1:2, he didn’t say, “If you have many kinds of troubles,” he said, “When you have many kinds of troubles.” Troubles are part of the package.


Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. My kingdom is from another place (John 18:36).”


When all of earth turns against you, all of heaven turns toward you.  To keep your balance in this crooked world, think of home!


From And the Angels Were Silent


Saturday, March 29, 2014

IRS Reveals Dirty Dozen Scams For 2014



Each year, the Internal Revenue Service issues a list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams that can affect taxpayers. This year, the list again runs the gamut from schemes involving taxpayer participation (hiding offshore income) to schemes that taxpayers may know nothing about (identity theft).

While taxpayers can be targeted by scams throughout the year, the IRS often sees a peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns. In particular, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warns taxpayers to be extra vigilant, noting, “These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.”


For 2014, the IRS has identified these “Dirty Dozen” tax schemes as the ones to watch:


1. Identity Theft. Identity theft which results in tax fraud tops the IRS Dirty Dozen list again. Identity theft, when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, without your permission, is often used by scammers to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.

The IRS considers combating identity theft and refund fraud a top priority and has been taking steps to boost fraud prevention, early detection and victim assistance.

If you believe you are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 or visit the IRS’ special identity protection page.


2. Pervasive Telephone Scams. It’s no surprise to see phone scams near the top of the list. The IRS has reported an increase in phone scams across the country, with callers pretending to be from the agents or other IRS representatives in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims. There are a number of variations on a theme ranging from instances from where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund to calls which threaten arrest. Callers may be targeting immigrants or calling after hours or during times when it might be inconvenient to contact the IRS for verification (as happened during the shutdown). The IRS has noted a few patterns in these calls such as:

Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
Scammers “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
After threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you’re not sure and you have a legitimate tax issue outstanding, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know you don’t owe taxes, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484.


3. Phishing. Phishing is a scam where criminals attempt to steal your financial information through the use of email or a fake website. In many cases, the bogus emails ask for specific personal information or install spyware or other malware on your computer for the purpose of stealing your financial and personal information.

Remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information, so don’t click on or respond to these kinds of emails. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), you can report it by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov.


4. False Promises of “Free Money” from Inflated Refunds. From the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” files, scam artists routinely pose as tax preparers during tax time and promise free money in the form of inflated refunds. They do this by making claims for fictitious rebates, benefits or tax credits.

As with the phone scams, there are a number of variations on these refund scams but there are also a number of similarities. Tops of the list are refunds based on fictitious Social Security benefits and false claims for education credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Those are targets because they are refundable credits.

Remember that you are legally responsible for your tax return even if it was prepared by someone else. So be smart. In addition to the agita – and large fees paid to the scammers – you could be penalized for filing false claims or receiving fraudulent refunds. Intentional mistakes of this kind can result in a $5,000 penalty.


5. Return Preparer Fraud. The IRS reports that about 60% of taxpayers will use tax professionals this tax season to prepare their tax returns, down a few points from last year. The majority of tax preparers are good people but some may try to encourage taxpayers to claim improper credits, deductions or exemptions in hopes of boosting refunds. Use care when choosing a preparer and remember that taxpayers should use only preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs). This is an IRS requirement.


Again, remember that taxpayers are legally responsible for the information on their tax return even if it is prepared by a professional. You cannot hide behind a tax professional’s signature if you took an inappropriate position on your tax return.

If you have concerns about an abusive tax preparer, you can report him or her to the IRS on using a federal form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer (downloads as a pdf).


6. Hiding Income Offshore. It is not illegal to have cash, brokerage accounts or other investments in foreign countries. It is, however, illegal to use those accounts to evade U.S. taxes by hiding that income. There are significant reporting requirements for offshore assets, including FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) filings. Those taxpayers who do not properly report and disclose those accounts are breaking the law and could face civil and criminal penalties and fines.

Why the requirements? Over the years, tax evaders have hidden income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or nominee entities and used a variety of methods to access the funds. Some have also created foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans in order to hide income. Hiding income and assets from the IRS is illegal. You could be subject to civil and criminal penalties for not reporting assets and income if you are required to do so.

For the past few years, the IRS has opened voluntary disclosure programs to encourage taxpayers to come forward to report foreign accounts and come into compliance. At the beginning of 2012, the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). Qualifying taxpayers who come in through the program can catch up on their filing and payment requirements and avoid heavy fines and criminal prosecution.


7. Impersonation of Charitable Organizations. In the wake of tragedies like the tornado disasters in Oklahoma and the Boston Marathon bombings, people often come together. Sadly, scam artists use these disasters as opportunities to cash in, either by operating bogus charities to solicit money or financial information or claiming to be affiliated with existing charitable organizations. They do this by soliciting funds by phone or email or using fake web sites.

To avoid being taken advantage of, donate to recognized charitiesusing check or credit card where possible. If you’re not sure about the charity, you can search the IRS charitable organization database or use a respected charity database like Charity Navigator. Find more tips for donating to charity here.


Remember that you don’t need to give out personal information, like your Social Security number, for the purpose of obtaining a receipt for your charitable donation. The best documentation on your end is a canceled check or credit card receipt so donate using those means on secure sites whenever possible.

Finally, if you are the victim of a disaster and you have tax questions, you can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (1-866-562-5227).


8. False Income, Expenses or Exemptions. Refundable tax credits are credits that are refunded to you even if you did not owe a tax liability. Taxpayers may be encouraged to bump income amounts in order to those maximize refundable credits (like the Earned Income Tax Credit). These scams are prohibited and making false statements could result in having to repay those refunds plus interest and penalties; in some cases, you may be criminal prosecuted.

Specifically, the IRS is also seeing an uptick in taxpayers filing excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Generally, this credit is available to farmers and other taxpayers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes; it is not available for trucks driven on highways. As a result, most taxpayers are not eligible for this credit (don’t be fooled). Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.


9. Frivolous Arguments. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. They often publish books, post websites and send out emails advising that they know something that you don’t because it’s usually (shhh) a secret. But the reason that you likely don’t know the details about these schemes is because they’re bogus.

The IRS has a pretty extensive section on its website dedicated to putting the kibosh on these arguments. You’ve heard many of them before – like the argument that the 16th amendment was never ratified or that only wages from federal employees are subject to tax (as if Congress would ever allow the rest of us to get away without paying tax while they did!). If you claim what is considered to be a frivolous position on your tax return, you could be subject to substantial fines and penalties, including an immediate assessment of a $5,000 penalty – even if there is no understatement of liability – in addition to any other penalty.


Chasing these frivolous arguments and schemes can result in criminal prosecution. Additionally, those who promote frivolous arguments and those who assist taxpayers in claiming tax benefits based on frivolous arguments may be also be prosecuted for a criminal felony.


10. Falsely Claiming Zero Wages or Using False Form 1099. Filing a phony information return, like a form 4852 or 1099, is one way to lower your tax bill. It’s also illegal. You can’t generate your own information forms to support your tax position. And yet, there are a number of schemes that purport to let you do this.

Here’s how one variation of the scheme works: the scammers file a series of false tax forms in an effort to garner large fraudulent tax refunds. Promoters tell customers that the federal government maintains “secret” accounts of money for its citizens and advise that taxpayers can gain access to the funds – and discharge their debts – by issuing forms 1099-OID to their creditors. It’s like magic!

In another variation, a federal form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” federal form 1099 is submitted to the IRS to reduce income to zero. Sometimes, the forms even include an explanation about the “real” definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation.

Filing fake forms can get you in a lot of trouble, including huge penalties or criminal prosecution.


11. Abusive Tax Structures. Abusive tax schemes involving increasingly complex tax structures are on the rise. The idea is, apparently, that if you can create enough entities, mix in a debit card or two and park funds offshore, you’ll be sheltered from paying taxes. Only, it doesn’t quite work that way.

IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) has made these kinds of schemes a target and has developed the Abusive Tax Schemes program to combat them. Not only does CI investigate the tax scheme promoters but also those who have a “substantial or integral role in facilitating, aiding, assisting, or furthering the abusive tax scheme” (you know, the bankers and lawyers) but also those who knowingly participate in the tax schemes.


Tax crimes are serious business as are money laundering and other financial crimes. Hiding income or assets in an attempt to evade paying tax or making certain disclosures can result criminal prosecution.


12. Misuse of Trusts. There are many legitimate uses for trusts, which range from asset protection to estate planning to management of assets in the event of incapacity. I should know: it’s part of my job to draft many of them.

However, creating trusts for the purpose of tax evasion (as opposed to tax planning), including hiding income or generating bogus deductions, is not an appropriate use of trusts. You should exercise special caution when creating foreign trusts, irrevocable trusts or any trusts that have, as their main purpose, the significant reduction or elimination of tax especially if those trusts involve shifting or hiding assets. The IRS has also advised that it has seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses, as well as to avoid estate transfer taxes.

Again, there are some legitimate trusts – like marital deduction trusts or irrevocable life insurance trusts – that can have significant tax advantages. Be sure to consult with a trusted advisor before entering into any trust agreements for the purpose of tax and/or estate planning.

As always, avoiding trouble at tax time involves using common sense. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Some REALLY handy tips here....


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The simplest way to slice a bunch of cherry tomatoes is to sandwich them between two plastic lids and run a long knife through all of them at once!
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Keep brown sugar soft by storing with a couple of marshmallows
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Install a regular coat rack low down the wall to store shoes safely off the floor
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Use a magnetic strip to store bobby pins on inside of a cupboard.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mkEoCUyDA1Y/UTFJe0q1JmI/AAAAAAAAEs8/U8CfYbZYxTA/s1600/6.jpg
...Or store them in an empty Tic-Tac dispenser!
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Use a Post-It note when drilling to catch the dust
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Organize jewellery on a corkboard for easy viewing when deciding how to accessorize an outfit
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Fill an old box with skewers to make an all-purpose knife block
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Hang onions in cut-up tights or old stockings to make them last for months!
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Create a thrifty watering can by puncturing holes in the top of a used milk bottle.
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Remove pet hair from furniture and carpets with a squeegee.
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Cover paint trays with aluminium foil to make cleaning up afterwards a breeze.
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Flip a toaster on its side to make grill cheese
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Water straight from the tap becomes cloudy when frozen. To make ice cubes crystal clear, allow a kettle of boiled water to cool slightly and use this to fill your ice cube trays.
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Use a large muffin tin to cook stuffed peppers in the oven - it will help keep them upright.
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To prevent potatoes budding, add an apple in the bag.
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Add half a teaspoon of baking soda to the water when hard-boiling eggs to make the shells incredibly easy to peel off.
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Use bread tags to label power cords.
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Use non-stick cooking spray in votive holders to prevent wax from sticking to the sides.
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WD40 can be used to remove crayon marks from any surface!


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When hanging a picture frame, put a dab of toothpaste on the frame where you need the nails to be. Then simply press against the wall to leave marks (which can later be wiped) as guides for hammering in.
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Put a dry towel in with a wet load to reduce the drying time (this really works, I've been doing it for years!)
Via eHow
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To tell if eggs are fresh, immerse them in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will lie on the bottom, while stale eggs will float to the surface.
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Sprinkle salt in the spaces between patio slabs and at the bottom of walls to get rid of pesky weeds(but be careful NOT to get salt near plants you want to keep as salt will kill them!)
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To clean a wooden chopping board, sprinkle on a handful of Kosher salt and rub with half a lemon. Rinse with clean water and dry to ensure it is clean and germ-free.
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Use ice-cubes to lift out indentations made by furniture on your carpets.
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Prevent soil from escaping through the holes in the base of flowerpots by lining with large coffee filters


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To stop the annoying sound of a dripping tap, tie a piece of string around the faucet which is long enough to reach down to the sink.
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To sharpen scissors, simply cut through sandpaper.
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A very simple solution to get rid of furniture scratches!
Via Obrienkr18 (Uploaded to Pinterest)
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Use rubber bands to help open a jar easily: place one around the jar lid and another around the middle of the glass. The rubber provides friction to prevent your hands from slipping.
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To prevent your eyes watering while chopping onions, wipe the chopping board with white vinegar (which won't affect the taste of the onions)
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Store bed sheets inside their pillowcases for easy storage and access
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Drop a couple of denture cleaning tablets into the toilet bowl at night to clean off stubborn stains.

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Use cupcake cases to cover drinks glasses in the summer and prevent flies from dropping in
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Use binder clips to keep stacked bottles in place in the fridge
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Another way to clean a chopping board is to cover liberally with Kosher salt and leave overnight. Scrape off with a cloth in the morning to find the salt has absorbed all moisture to leave your board clean and dry.
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Use egg boxes to store delicate Christmas tree decorations
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This has to be the simplest way to open those annoying blister packs!
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Use a cut potato to easily remove a broken lightbulb
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Use chalk to remove grease stains from clothes. Simply rub white chalk on the affected area and wash as normal - the chalk will absorb the grease and be washed away in the cycle.
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They look pretty too - a great tip for parties!

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Place a wooden spoon over a pan to stop the water from boiling over
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A genius tip to help prevent paint spillage!
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Use a rubber band to rescue a stripped screw
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Wrap rubber bands around the ends of a coat hanger to prevent dresses from slipping off.
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Yet another use for drinks can ringpulls! Use to create a hanging loop for picture frames by screwing into the back.