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Tips for Taxpayers to Gain Relief During the Summer

August 29, 2012 3:12 am

Throughout its many years of existence, the IRS has earned its stripes as the most rigorous, relentless and ruthless collection agency in America. While most taxpayers and tax preparers focus on the mid-April deadline for filing income tax returns, the IRS doesn't take a holiday for the rest of the calendar year. In fact, summertime is a prime time for taxpayers to remain financially diligent to maximize tax-debt relief in the short and long term—particularly for those who still owe back taxes to the IRS.

For taxpayers looking to make progress on their IRS tax debt during the summer, the number one priority is to pay the tax debt by basically any means necessary—even if it means getting a loan or paying with a credit card. Owing a loan agency or a bank is a far lesser evil than owing the IRS. If paying taxes now is not an option, ask for additional time to make a full payment, or request a payment plan or an installment agreement, which allows taxpayers to make partial payments over time. To apply for an installment agreement, taxpayers must fill out and submit IRS Form 9465; taxpayers can apply online. (Before beginning the installment agreement process to alleviate tax debt, understand that while it may seem like a simple application process, the IRS is looking for taxpayers to meet certain qualifications to participate.)

In addition to double-checking their withholding on W-4 forms, taxpayers can rectify their IRS tax debt by pursuing programs including the Offer in Compromise, which allows qualifying taxpayers to settle their debt for less than the full obligation, as well as the Fresh Start initiative, which allows individuals and small businesses the opportunity to pay delinquent taxes without paying additional penalties. However, proceed with extreme caution before applying to any of these IRS programs or accepting an agreement. Perhaps the best way taxpayers can accomplish this goal is to seek the assistance of a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist who is a CPA, tax attorney, or enrolled agent specifically trained in tax problem resolution.

For more information, visit www.taxresolution.com/blog.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Simple Steps to Healthy Eyes

August 28, 2012 3:12 am

Whether a person is suffering from vision ailments or has 20/20 eye sight, there are plenty of things one can do to ensure a set of healthy eyes. Regardless of age or gender, patients can maintain healthy eyes and severely lower risk of disease or declining vision with just a little precaution. Broken down into seven simple steps, here is what you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy set of eyes:

1) Wear sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses blocks out UV radiation. UV radiation due to sunlight exposure is a known culprit for both macular degeneration and pterygium.

2) The 20/20/20 rule. After every 20 minutes of computer or other close work, look beyond 20 feet, for at least 20 seconds. This will relax the eye muscles and prevent a spasm. This will also allow blinking, which spreads tears and avoids dryness. According to NPR, more than two-thirds of working Americans use a computer at work, and 84% of them say it is essential for their jobs. By following this simple step Americans can help maintain quality eyesight and avoid dryness.

3) Wash your eyes. At the end of the day, take a clean cup and fill it with cool water, then begin to wash your eyes with it. This washes away allergens from the eyes.

4) Do not rub eyes. Rubbing can cause astigmatism, dryness and scratches to the retina. This may also lead to a release of chemical mediators which will cause continual and more intensive itching. This step is especially stressed after undergoing any sort of eye procedure.

5) A Vitamin A rich diet. This includes; almonds and yellow fruit such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and liver (pate). Doing so will help promote quality vision through an individual’s lifetime.

6) Wear eye protection. Before participating in yard work, drilling, welding, or other metal work, make sure to wear clear protective glasses. A growing number of on-site job accidents occur due to lack of proper eye ware. Make sure you have adequate protection before partaking in any hazardous, dusty, or intensive activity.

7) Exercise regularly. There is nothing quite like getting oxygen to the eye, and exercise stimulates all muscles, including the eye muscles.

Following these tips will help patients maintain healthy eyes, lower the risk of disease, and help prolong quality vision for a lifetime.

Source: Dr. Rajesh Khanna

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Preserve Locally-Grown Produce for Year-Round Dining

August 28, 2012 3:12 am

The abundance of locally-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs can be overwhelming in late summer. To truly take advantage, here are some practical tips to make the most of summer’s bounty by eating some and preserving the rest for delicious dining throughout the year.

Cooking with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs:

Many Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, so late summer is a good time to add more plant-based foods to our meals. Make fruit cobblers, crisps or pies with stone fruits such as the peaches, apricots and plums that are in season now. Grilling heightens the sweetness of these fruits, making a light, but nutritious dessert. Fruit that is past its prime, but still edible is perfect for no-cook jams and morning smoothies.

Certain vegetables are over-abundant in late summer, especially tomatoes, so serve many tomato-based dishes such as the bread-tomato salad Panzanella, Mexican salsa, gazpacho, and marinara sauce for pasta.

Fresh herbs are usually used in main dishes and vegetables, but they can also be used for chimichurri (an Argentian sauce of herbs, olive oil, garlic and vinegar) or flavored oil by pureeing a fresh herb with olive oil in a blender, then straining it to remove the solids. Served on top of grilled meats or vegetables, chimichurri and herb oil jazz up even the simplest dishes.

Drying:

Vegetables, especially tomatoes, are easily dried in a convection oven (or a food dehydrator). Although any size tomato can be dried, the smaller plum, grape, and cherry varieties work best because they have fewer seeds and dry more quickly. Sliced in half, tossed with olive oil and salt, bake them on parchment-lined baking sheets at 200°F until completely shriveled and dry. Throughout the winter they go into soups and casseroles or dips and sauces where their concentrated flavor lends a taste of summer.

Fruits can also be dried, but work best when sliced fairly thin. Smaller fruits such as blueberries and cherries dry quickly while stone fruits and pears take longer. Vegetables such as carrots and zucchini can be dried into chips for snacking but work best when sliced very thin with a mandolin.

To combat the fleeting shelf life of herbs, use what you need within a day or two, then dry them in the microwave (layered on a paper towel). Depending on the moisture in the herb, they dry in about 2 to 3 minutes and can be stored in jars for use throughout the winter.

Freezing:

Both freezing and canning are time-honored methods for preserving, but canning is more time-consuming and requires special equipment. Instead, one can freeze produce in resealable freezer bags. Herbs―especially soft herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint and parsley―freeze well in small freezer bags for six months. They will look a little bruised when thawed, but their flavor is still intact.

Fruits can be frozen, but take the time to freeze the fruits in a single layer on a baking sheet before transferring them to a resealable freezer bag. The fruits freeze faster this way and don’t clump together, helping to maintain their quality after thawing.

Marinara sauces freeze exceptionally well in Mason jars or resealable freezer bags. Transfer sauce to clean containers and refrigerates it for a day to meld the flavors. Sauce can be frozen for up to six months and thaws easily in the refrigerator overnight.

Taking the time in late summer to preserve fruits, vegetables and herbs will bring a Summery taste to your foods, even in the dead of winter.

Source: Carol Fenster, author

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips on Returning Home After the Hurricane

August 28, 2012 3:12 am

Once a storm has come and gone, it's necessary to continue showing caution even when returning to one's home. With some dangerous storms on the bound, here are a few tips to think about this season following a severe storm such as a hurricane.

Once residents have evacuated, it is important to remain in those secure locations until thestorm has passed, and even then, an immediate return is discouraged. Many areas will be severely damaged and actively dangerous to enter. It is recommended that residents and business owners wait until the all-clear has been given by emergency management officials before any attempt is made to return to the property.

Once back, it is imperative to take note of the structure and the condition it is in, as well as the condition of the surrounding buildings and land. In many cases, a home or business may have been severely weakened from wind and water damage, making the structure prone to collapse. Under no circumstances should any building be entered until structural integrity has been verified.

Residents should also beware of any downed power lines in the immediate vicinity and report all such lines to the authorities. Do not attempt to touch or move these power lines as any such attempt may result in serious injury or death due to electric shock. Even using nonconductive materials, such as wooden sticks, may pose the risk of injury if the stick is wet.

Power may also be knocked out as a result of the storm. If the power was not already shut off in the structure, it should be shut off at this time. The power will eventually come back on, and the homeowner does not want that to happen if they or any other people are standing in or working in standing water. Gas supplies should similarly be shut off, and all utilities should remain shut down until approved by their respective technicians.

Source: Restoration Local

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips to Curb Excessive Spending for American Consumers

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. consumers owe a collective $870 in debt and a lot of the money owed comes from credit card debt. Especially at a time where the economy is on the way to recovery, Americans are currently deeper in credit card debt than just one year ago—although delinquent accounts are down, a good sign for consumers’ credit reports and their personal finances. Although millions of personal finance books are sold each year to help curb overspending, many times it comes down to the consumer actually being in the aisle of a store and not being able to say no.

In fact, it’s often impulse buys that add up and tend to go on credit cards. Many are surprised when they discover how much they spend on eating out on the run, or racking up expensive bills when they just wanted to buy one thing. One of the biggest questions consumers should ask themselves when shopping is whether or not they can afford the purchase. Just because there is money in a bank account doesn’t mean it is free for spending. You might have a nice bank balance, but if all of your money is obligated to other bills, it doesn’t mean that you can necessarily afford to make a purchase. Live on a budget and know how much you can afford to spend on a given category in a given month.

Consumers are strongly urged to keep a monthly budget to track income and spending habits. This budget is probably the single best tool to manage personal finances. Track your spending habits for one month and you will see some spending that will shock you. It may bring other spending habits to light and cause you to make some big changes to your monthly expenses. You won’t know how much you’ve got to play with or save if you’re not keeping track of where it’s all going, and how much is left.
Other tips include asking yourself if you’re getting the best deal, and what would you be giving up by spending this money. For instance, if a sum of money has been set aside for something special, such as a down payment on a new car or a luxury vacation, one may be less likely to dip into that pot and spend frivolously.

Source: RoadFish.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hurricane and Tropical Storm Preparedness Tips

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

The 2012 hurricane season has already seen significant storm activity. So far this year we have already encountered eight named storms. Even now, more formations are occurring which may fully develop into storms before the season’s end.

One of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history occurred in late August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Katrina spanned approximately 200 miles with wind speeds topping out at nearly 150 miles per hour. By the time Hurricane Katrina made landfall it had lost some of its intensity and was downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 Hurricane, but the storm still produced catastrophic levels of torrential rain, severe weather and a 25-foot plus storm surge that devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast.

Experts describe a hurricane as a severe tropical storm with a circular motion that forms in the warmth of the southernmost waters such as the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes can cause massive amounts of damage with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour, storm surges, tornadoes and flooding due to heavy rainfall.

Here are some tips that can help individuals and families prepare for dangerous hurricanes and other types of severe weather:

• Be prepared: Formulating an emergency plan now is of utmost importance. Waiting for an emergency or the threat of dangerous weather to decide a course of action is a serious mistake.
• Find the best local sources of important information: Maintaining access to radio, news, and websites is important to stay informed throughout any severe weather event.
• Be aware of one’s surroundings and intimately familiar with property, neighborhood, any flood-prone areas, damns, levees, etc. A community can potentially be devastated by severe weather to the degree where even a longtime resident may not recognize or be able to navigate through it without the usual landmarks.
• Having a plan and providing enough time to secure all property is important. This should include securing items such as patio furniture, barbeque grills, garbage cans, decorative lawn ornaments and other items.
• Keeping trees trimmed to lower the risk of wind damage is a good idea.
• Keeping gutters and downspouts clear and maintained to keep water flowing through the proper channels can help avoid wall and ceiling water damage.
• Covering all windows to prevent the glass from shattering is important. The recommended method includes use of storm shutters or 5/8” marine grade plywood.
• Knowing the local Coastal Evacuation Route and/or designated escape plan for the local community should be a focus before the storm hits. In the event of a hurried evacuation, avoiding flood-prone roads and bridges is important.
• Identifying important documents, heirlooms and personal belongings is a smart precaution. Placing them in a safe, easily accessible area inside a protective container for transportation in the event of an evacuation will help save crucial time.
• Ensuring that appropriate insurance coverage has been purchased in the event of future disasters is always something to seriously consider for those in storm prone areas.

Hurricanes are very real threats that have the potential to cause catastrophic damage not only to home and property, but to entire communities. The importance of preparedness cannot be overstated.
Remember that no belongings are important enough to take unnecessary risks for and always follow the instructions of emergency management officials in order to optimize the chances of staying safe.

Source: All Hands Fire Equipment

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Save on Utility Bills, Increase Home Value by Winterizing Windows

August 27, 2012 3:12 am

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, winterizing home windows can save up to 10 percent on energy bills right away, and replacing those inefficient windows can save up to 25 percent.

Most heat escapes through gaps around windows. Failed sealant, gaps between the trim and the window, and bad window seals are the most likely culprits. With cracked caulk and missing sealant, a home becomes inefficient and may provide an entrance for bugs.

After finding the gaps, temporarily fix the leaks with caulk or weather stripping. For older windows that remain unopened, weather stripping can prevent leaks. (Hint: Be sure to measure the perimeter of the window and add at least 10 percent to account for overlap.)

For windows that open, do-it-yourselfers can replace the caulk themselves. Caulk does not completely seal the window, but it restricts air flow until the homeowner invests in a more permanent solution. After replacing the caulk, paint over it to complete the seal and protect the caulk. Caulking should be done annually.

Permanently fix drafts and increase home value with replacement windows. The most energy-efficient replacement window is made of insulated glass. Insulated glass units are multiple-pane windows with insulating gas between the panes. Thanks to the added insulation, insulated glass units reduce heat gain in the summer, and in the winter reduce heat loss. Plus, the energy savings pay for the windows over time.

For homes already equipped with insulated glass units, check for condensation between the panes. The “foggy” look of the windows indicates an insulation problem. Full-service glass shops can repair or replace bad units to restore your home’s energy efficiency.

Source: Glass Doctor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Time-Saving Cleaning Tips for Busy Moms

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

It's no surprise that mothers make compromises every day. A recent survey of 1,000 American moms by Green Works naturally derived cleaners revealed that 57 percent admit to turning down bedroom time with their mate to clean the house. This number soars to 74 percent for new moms.

In addition, the survey found that moms don't get to take breaks for special occasions. In fact, half of all moms reported cleaning the kitchen after a special meal on their own birthday and even Mother's Day. Thirty-six percent of new moms reported cleaning up the mess on their first Mother's Day.

When it comes to keeping a clean home, moms will also compromise plans with friends. Half of the moms surveyed admitted to turning down time with pals to do laundry, and 64 percent responded that they have cancelled fun activities in order to clean. Even with all of these cleaning compromises, 90 percent still admit to feeling guilty for taking time for themselves.

To help busy moms keep the house cleaning manageable, while making time for the people and activities they most enjoy, Amanda Mahan, creative director for Green Works, offers the following tips:

Five minutes to clean laundry


• Take a few seconds to spot treat tough stains.
• Don't sort laundry before throwing it into the washer. Simply leave out garments that are likely to bleed and use the coldest water setting on the rest.
• Use the shortest wash cycle, then treat your load to an extra spin cycle. This will wick away extra moisture and cut down on drying time.
• If you have kids old enough to hit the mall, it's time for them to start pitching in. Assign specific tasks, such as sorting or folding.

Five minutes to a clean bathroom

• Stash stray items in cupboard organizers for easy sorting.
• Use a gentle cleaning wipe that is naturally derived, yet packs a punch, such as the compostable Green Works wipes, to quickly give the mirror, countertop, faucet and sink a good once-over.
• Shake out the bathmat and use a few squares of toilet paper to wipe the floor.
• Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the toilet seat. Spray the inside with cleaner, and flush.
• Lastly, throw out the trash.

Five minutes to a clean kitchen


• Stow away bulky appliances, pots and pans.
• Recycle old newspapers and take out smelly trash.
• Stick dirty dishes in the dishwasher or fill the sink with soapy water and submerge dishes into hiding.
• Hit hot spots with an old T-shirt and all-purpose cleaner, wiping down fridge door, counter, stove top and sink.
• Do a quick sweep of the floor.

Source: www.GreenWorksCleaners.com/blog

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Insulating Water Lines: Preventive Maintenance

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

Insulating water lines does not stop them from freezing, though it will delay the inevitable. The logic of insulating water lines is based on the hope that you can out wait the cold long enough for warmer temperatures to prevail–for example–when temperatures fall below freezing at night, but rise above freezing during the day when the sun comes out.

There are two materials that can be used to insulate water lines. Wrap them with fiberglass insulation or snap on split-foam insulation. Those serious about insulating water lines, the snap-on foam, the thicker the better, should be used. Some varieties come with a peel-off backing that exposes a self-adhesive strip on the edges, sticking the edges together. Absent the self-adhesive, duct tape must be used on the edges at intervals along its entire length.

Here are a few tips to help you get started on insulating your water lines:

Tip #1: To start, cut the foam insulation to length and slip it onto the pipe.

Tip #2: Close the seam by peeling off the protective adhesive strip and pressing the edges together, or by taping the seam.

Tip #3: To hand an insulated water line, use pipe hanger strapping or plastic J-hooks.

Tip #4: To insulate an elbow, either cut out a triangular section of the insulation and slide the cutout to fit around the elbow, or, cut a rectangle out of a section and slide it on the elbow. Use whatever method makes it easiest to push the insulation around the elbow.

Source: Mr. Rooter Plumbing

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Common Misconceptions about Long-Term Care Insurance

August 24, 2012 3:06 am

The time to research long term care insurance is before physical and mental conditions prevent being able to bathe, eat or dress independently. When these complications arise due to disability or chronic illness, one may need long-term care insurance. With all the misconceptions surrounding it though, what's a person to believe? Here are five of the most common misconceptions about long-term care insurance:

1) "My health insurance covers the costs."

Normally, health insurance plans and programs only cover costs related to illness or injury, hospital and doctor visits, and prescriptions. Even the most comprehensive plans don't pay for assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, eating and dressing. The only private coverage available that guarantees coverage is a long-term care insurance policy.

2) "Disability insurance and long-term care are the same."

While disability insurance only compensates income when someone gets hurt or ill, long-term care insurance covers home care, assisted living or nursing home expenses.

3) "Only nursing homes/facilities are covered."

Long-term care insurance gives recipients the choice of where they would like their care provided. They can choose from adult daycare centers, assisted living facilities, hospice care, nursing facilities, home healthcare agencies and in the home. Seventy percent of recipients still live at home with friends and family.

4) "I'm too young."

Even though it's usually associated with aging, 40 percent of people receiving long-term care are working adults under the age of 64. Since accidents, chronic illnesses and disabilities can occur at any age, the need for long-term care insurance can occur at any time.

5) "My family will take care of me when I'm older."

Current trends show that children are now more likely to move away from their parents' homes. Many older children are also now working longer hours and taking less vacation time. Without the proper assistance, caring for a family member is time-consuming, physically and mentally draining, and extremely pricey. Care giving has been linked to the descent of the caregiver's health and negatively affects their family life.

For more information regarding long-term care insurance policies, please visit http://www.padvocacy.net.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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