Gunning Daily News

How to Get New Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans

February 17, 2012 5:38 pm

You may have heard about General Electric's plan to hire 5,000 veterans in the next five years. While the move may be motivated by moral responsibility, the company has a financial incentive, too. There are new tax credits for hiring veterans.

The VOW to Hire Heroes Act, signed into law in November, extended up to $9,600 in tax credits to employers who hire unemployed veterans. The rates are per-employee and apply to qualified veterans who begin work before January 1, 2013.

The law added two categories of veterans to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Under the changes, employers may be able to deduct up to the following amounts:
• $2,400 for a veteran that had been unemployed for more than 4 weeks;
• $5,600 for a veteran who had been out of work for more than 6 months; and
• $9,600 for a veteran who had been out of work for more than 6 months and has a service-related disability.

Whether or not a veteran qualifies depends on a variety of factors. This includes when they were last on active duty; whether they receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and how many hours they work. Employers must therefore obtain certification before claiming a tax credit for hiring a veteran.

Because the law is so new, the IRS is continually releasing updated instructions and guidance on the rules. If you think you have an employee who qualifies under the new regulations, talk to a tax attorney or your accountant about how you can get a tax credit for hiring a veteran.

Source: www.findlaw.com

Word of the Day

February 17, 2012 5:38 pm

Annual percentage rate (APR). Combines the interest rate with other loan costs, such as points and loan fees, into a single figure that shows the true annual cost of borrowing.

Question of the Day

February 17, 2012 5:38 pm

Q: How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?

A: According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following:

- Only accept cash payments;
- Pressure you for an immediate decision;
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front;
- Solicit door-to-door;
- Offer exceptionally long guarantees;
- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job;
- Ask you to get the required building permits;
- Not list a business number in the local telephone directory;
- Offer you discounts for finding other customers;
- Suggest that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home.

Homeowners Use the Sun to Save on Winter Heating Costs

February 17, 2012 4:36 pm

Fluctuating energy costs can make it difficult for homeowners to budget their heating bills during the cold winter months. That is why many are looking into alternative sources of energy for water heating. One source that is gaining popularity is solar thermal energy, a system that uses energy from the sun to heat a water "tank" that then distributes the warmed water throughout the home. A solar thermal energy system can save money over the long run, and there are government programs that can help reduce installation costs in the short run.

"Solar thermal utilizes the sun's energy to create heat, so the operating price remains steady over time compared to conventional heat sources," says Nigel Cotton, Solar Water Heating Global Leader of the International Copper Association (ICA) and founder of Solarthermalworld.org, a Web portal for solar thermal professionals.

Cotton went on to explain that most solar thermal hot water heating systems in the home reduce dependence on conventional energy sources over the long-run, but there is an upfront installation cost which needs to be recognized. That is why it pays to learn about the variety of governmental programs that homebuyers can take advantage of to reduce the cost of installation.

The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) currently offers homeowners installing a solar thermal system a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of their system. Locally, one common incentive is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which allows municipalities to finance installations through property taxes.

"Installing a solar thermal system is attractive to many people because it utilizes a renewable natural resource—the sun—to provide warmth," concludes Bärbel Epp, Solarthermalworld.org newsletter editor. "Assuming that energy prices continue to rise, solar heating systems create a lasting financial benefit for families."

Source: Solarthermalworld.org

Thinking of Ditching Your Landline?

February 17, 2012 4:36 pm

Many consumers are currently ditching their land and business lines in favor of cellphone only call options. In fact, as many as one in six American households have given up their landline and are using only their cellphone, according to Steven Blumberg, a senior scientist at the Center for Disease Control’s Statistics department. Before you ditch your landline, make sure you think of all the pros and cons surrounding the matter.

Pros:
Cost – In most areas, the cost of a cellphone plan is lower than the cost of a landline, especially when you count the cost of a long distance calling plan. However, the “per month” cost that many carriers quote can be misleading. Be sure to investigate all the hidden fees first.
Lifestyle – Those who prefer cellphones over home phones are often on-the-go, and have very different lifestyles than people who prefer landlines. If you’re constantly on-the-go and need to be reached at a variety of hours, a cellphone is probably your best bet.
Emergencies – A cellphone will be useful during emergencies that arise when you’re away from home, such as a car accident.

Cons:
Emergencies – Although a cellphone may be useful in some emergencies, your address is not visible to the emergency operator when you call from a cellphone. While they can locate you, it’s not as fast as calling from a landline. Depending on the service you use, your telephone number might not be visible to the operator, either.
Power – What will happen if your power goes out? Your cellphone will continue to operate as long as it has a battery, but what if the power outage lasts for an extended period of time?
Listing – Do you want to be listed in the phone book? If so, you will need a landline.

Landlines and cellphones each have their pros and cons. By considering the matter from all angles, you can decide which type of phone fits your lifestyle.

Source: Relocation.com

Lead Paint Hazards and Older Windows

February 17, 2012 4:36 pm

If your home was built before 1978 and you still have the original windows, it's time to seriously consider replacing them—especially if you have young children or a pregnant person living in the home.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the routine opening and closing of windows in homes built prior to 1978 can disturb lead-based paint around the windows, causing paint dust and chips to be released into the air. These lead particles are so potentially dangerous that the EPA now requires contractors to be trained and certified before they can perform any renovation, repair or painting projects that may have previously applied lead-based paint.

"Research indicates that the everyday activity of opening and closing windows creates friction that then allows invisible lead dust to enter the air," says Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). "Young children, who crawl on the floor where the lead dust has settled, can be especially at risk. Toddlers put their hands in their mouths…and after playing on the floor near a window, they can easily transfer the lead dust into their mouths. The ingested lead travels through the bloodstream to a child's developing brain, causing many types of neurobehavioral damage."

According to Nevin, one of the most important long-term investments a homeowner can make for the overall safety of a family is to replace older windows, using the EPA-approved lead safe renovation guidelines. "Replacing older windows is one of the best ways to reduce lead risks," says Nevin. "Make sure to use only a contractor that is certified in lead-safe work practices and strongly consider the use of ENERGY STAR® qualified windows. These windows are a healthy choice for replacing older single-pane units. They're energy-efficient and a good value for the investment."

Nevin explains that, according to his research funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), homeowners need to understand there are four key steps to completing a "lead-safe window replacement strategy" for the home. "First, they advise replacing all single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR® qualified windows," says Nevin. "Second, stabilize any significantly deteriorated paint. Third, perform specialized cleaning to remove any lead-contaminated dust. And finally, perform dust wipe tests to confirm the absence of lead dust hazards after the clean up."

Research results can be obtained at www.ricknevin.com/windows.html.

Source:  Simonton Windows


Super Fruity: Tart Cherries Are a Nutritional Powerhouse

February 17, 2012 4:36 pm

Now more than ever, Americans are aware of health and nutrition and look to their diets as a means to get nutrients naturally. According to top trend forecasters, antioxidants remain a major indicator of health-promoting foods, with nine out of ten adults aware of antioxidants, and one-third making a strong effort to consume more, according to the study "Mintel 2009; Multi-Sponsor Surveys, 2010."

Known for their powerhouse of antioxidants, tart cherries have emerged as one of today's hottest super fruits. Today there are more than 50 scientific studies specifically on tart cherries, and with the help of leading health expert Dr. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, the cherry industry recently launched "The Red Report," a new scientific look at the power of tart cherries.

 "The power of this super fruit is undeniable," says Dr. Bazilian, author of "The SuperFoodsRx Diet: Lose Weight with the Power of SuperNutrients." Dr. Bazilian explains that what is really amazing is how far tart cherries have come over the last few years. "For example, the fruit has long been anecdotally associated with pain relief benefits. Today, there's a strong and significant body of evidence backing that up."

Beyond their health benefits, tart cherries are shaping key nutrition trends. "A growing body of research suggests that the powerful antioxidants in tart cherries are linked to a broad range of benefits—anti-inflammation, heart health, pain relief, exercise recovery and more. Some of the latest reports call out the tart cherry as 'the' super fruit to watch," says Dr. Bazilian.

Source: www.choosecherries.com.


Word of the Day

February 17, 2012 4:36 pm

Appraisal. A formal estimate of property value conducted by a professional qualified to make such an opinion.

Cloudy with a Chance of File Sharing

February 16, 2012 5:50 pm

Anyone who has even the smallest toe in the technology pool has heard of the cloud, which has been the latest buzz in file sharing and storing. But where did this trend come from, and how did it get so popular?

1. Devices. We now have more gadgets that we want to use to access files. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are all used outside of the home, and a synchronized storing space makes sense.
2. A change in workspace. Now that people have all these high-tech gadgets, they are using them to work outside of the office. This means they will want to access and update files on the go.
3. Speedy networks. Now that networks are faster, and Wi-Fi is available everywhere from your super-market to coffee shop, sharing files is easier and we want them to be accessible.
4. Inexpensive storage. Now that storage is cheaper, cloud-based services make sense to consumers financially.

Word of the Day

February 16, 2012 5:50 pm

Amortize. Pay a debt in monthly or other periodic installments until the total amount, along with the interest, if any, is paid.