Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jobs, Doctor's Notes and Modern Reality

I've been sick; real sick.  It started when my wife and I were awoken about 2:30 AM one morning by our 14 year old son who was vomiting.  It is never the morning greeting that starts the day well.  By about 4:00 PM that day, I started my bout.  I had been experiencing a flair up of my diverticulitis a couple days prior and had upped my dosage of fiber.  I believe this may have compounded the impact of this stomach bug as the retching definitely exacerbated the stomach pain of the diverticulitis and I believe the fiber helped to set me up for uncontrollable diarrhea in addition to multiple episodes of vomiting.  I have no doubt that I became severely dehydrated and it was a huge struggle just to make my way from my chair to the bathroom.

Unfortunately, my employer has one of those arcane policies whereby if you are out sick for 3 days, you need to return with a doctor's note.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tax Comments and Saving a Fillable PDF form

It's circus time for the tax business.  This year, I have had a bit more pressure to complete my tax information quickly as I will have 2 children (should I still call them children?) attending college in the fall.

I have always been a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to completing the income tax forms.  In the (not so) old days, I would spend hours laboriously working through these convoluted forms often to find that I needed to call the 1-800 IRS number to request some other obscure and convoluted form with pages of instructions and then wait weeks for it to arrive in the mail.  I'm so glad those days are over; today, I can quickly grab any form or instructions over the internet.  Additionally, there are many electronic filing services that further simplify the process.  I have used Taxslayer for many years.  I started with this provider largely based on cost - it was the cheapest.  Overall, I would say that Taxslayer does an "ok, but not great" job.  Generally, I think the basics are there in Taxslayer, but it isn't always intuitive and it doesn't easily always lead you to forms or credits that you may need to be aware of.  As may be expected, Taxslayer does a much better job with its Federal forms than it does with individual state forms and so it was that upon a review of my first draft of this year's taxes, I spotted a line referring to "College Credit" on the New York State form.  I had done vigorous reading of the federal tax credit for education and I also am familiar with the benefits of a 529 savings account for education, but had never heard of a New York State College Credit.  It would have been nice if the Taxslayer software had picked up that I had submitted a credit for education on my federal return and in turn triggered a prompt... "hey, overwhelmed taxpayer, you might also be eligible for this credit in your state".  But alas, it did not and thus, I am now in the position of filing a "corrected tax form" with New York state.

To my pleasant surprise, filing an amended tax form doesn't appear to be the huge chore that I had envisioned.  I was quickly able to figure out what I needed to do from the on the New York state tax site.  New York provides what are known as "fillable" PDF forms.  Typically, most computer users utilize the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to handle PDF documents; however, while Acrobat Reader will open the "fillable" form and permit you to enter your tax information, this application does NOT permit you to save the form with the completed data (you have to print it out and once you exit, all of the information that you have entered is gone).  Although I was largely typing numbers in from last years state tax form, I estimated my chances of having zero typos in one try was about 0%.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

HIPAA - That bill is private, but pay it anyway!

Over the past several years, I have watched as HIPAA - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, has been rolled out.  It is good to see more emphasis on keeping your health information private.  Many months ago, I first encountered the down side of privacy - that is, lack of information.  I had received a bill and after contacting the health care provider was essentially informed that 1.  No, they could not provide me information about the service (due to HIPAA) and 2. Yes, I was responsible for payment.  I found this provider's conclusion very interesting and their logic flowed something like this:
1.  The family member who had been treated was of legal age, thus they could not disclose medical information without their consent AND
2.  The "guarantor" is the primary holder of the insurance who is ultimately responsible for ensuring payment.
In contrast, my logic flows something like this:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Duped Again - Middle Class Pushed off the Cliff

Wow, what a relief... I'm so glad they were able to work it out in DC.

This post may appear a bit disjointed.  I was cruising in the Civic the other day and the radio stations are so easy to change... landed on an AM station and whoopie a bit of nostalgia; enjoyed a full rendition of "How much is that Dogie in the Window?"

For those who haven't been blessed with all the wonderful changes to their paycheck in the new year let me clue you in... you've been pushed!  Most are already expecting their health insurance to jump (again) this year - no shocker there.  The real kick in pants is the restoration of 2% to Social Security deduction (aka OASDI -  Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance), but let's get real; it's a tax, pure and simple.  Granted I realize that this was intended to be "temporary" as a tax holiday to stimulate the economy; however, with all the talk of ensuring that the wealthy pay their share, this is the one tax that kicks the working middle class the hardest.

Why do I say this?