RE/MAX 440
John F. O'Hara

John F. O'Hara
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422
Phone:  610-277-4060
Office:  215-643-3200
Cell:  267-481-1786
Fax:  267-354-6973

My Blog

3 Tax Concerns to Be Aware of This Year

April 6, 2016 2:03 am

We’re in the throes of tax season, and this year, three distinct tax-related factors have presented challenges for many: the sharing economy, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and anti-fraud measures, reports H&R Block.

With more taxpayers relying on the sharing economy, their tax obligations and benefits have become more complex. Taxpayers who gig are generally subject to a 15.3 percent self-employment tax and must file quarterly estimated payments, unless they have sufficient tax withheld from another job where they earn wages.

The increased tax complexity also means new tax benefits in the form of deductible expenses, which could include health insurance premiums, retirement plan contributions, one-half of self employment taxes, the cost of advertising, licensing, insurance, repairs and supplies.

"Keeping a business-only bank account usually makes it easier to keep good records and file accurate tax returns, but in the sharing economy, it isn't always possible to keep separate business and personal accounts,” explains Kathy Pickering, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. “For example, a driver will probably use the same car for both business and personal use. This makes good record-keeping all the more important, and, unfortunately, the tax-filing process all the more complicated for those participating in the sharing economy. We have seen clients who rent out their home through a website who now are accidental landlords and are seeing their tax situation change dramatically.”

The ACA is also a point of confusion for taxpayers, who are concerned both about avoiding the penalty—which has more than doubled since last year—or how to qualify for an exemption if they were without insurance.

Like last year, taxpayers enrolled in marketplace insurance need to use information on the 1095-A to reconcile their advance premium tax credit and file a complete tax return. More than one million taxpayers put their tax credit at risk by either not filing or reconciling the credit appropriately last tax season.

“Even those who have received the Advance Premium Tax Credit for a second year are still asking questions about how it impacts their tax returns,” Pickering says. “Add in additional forms for millions more taxpayers and we are hearing more questions than in the past regarding ACA.”

Additionally, taxpayers have expressed confusion over anti-fraud efforts, albeit tempered by understanding. Some states have increased their review processes to validate returns, and some have delayed distributing refunds until March 1 or later. Taxpayers may have to verify their return online or by submitting documentation before they can receive their refund. States are issuing checks in lieu of direct depositing the refund into bank accounts in some circumstances.

“Tax identity theft can take victims several months or even years to resolve,” Pickering says. “Taxpayers understand the importance of reversing the growth of tax identity theft and a majority are willing to wait a little longer for their refund if it helps combat tax fraud.”

Source: H&R Block

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Has the 'ecobee' Found a Fertile Flower in Amazon's Echo?

April 6, 2016 2:03 am

Once in a while, we hear about a logical pairing of home efficiency systems that can’t 'bee' ignored. A recent announcement from the manufacturers of the innovative HVAC controller ecobee heralded an exciting new relationship—with Amazon and its Echo device.

The ecobee3 smarter Wi-Fi thermostat with room sensors is the first thermostat to be directly compatible with Amazon Echo, offering homeowners added convenience and comfort in their everyday lives through Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa.

The Toronto-based company says Alexa, the brain behind Amazon Echo, will be able to facilitate requests from across the room. For example, users can say, “Alexa, set my thermostat to 72,” or, “Alexa, increase the temperature in my house,” to control their ecobee3.

As the one of the top-selling Wi-Fi thermostats in North America, the ecobee3 is the only thermostat that uses sensors to deliver comfort in preferred rooms. And its unique design resolves what its creators say is a basic flaw in traditional thermostat design: only measuring temperature in one location, which contributes to hot and cold spots throughout the home.

The ecobee3 saves homeowners an average of 23 percent on their heating and cooling bills (based on an October 2013 analysis), and is touted to be compatible with 95 percent of residential homes in North America.

Creating further environmental benefit, the ecobee3 does not rely on batteries that must be tossed when they are exhausted. Its innovators say ecobee3 receives power through a C-wire or its Power Extender Kit (PEK).

Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Echo and Alexa, says using only your voice to control the temperature in your house is another great way to create smarter homes. The ecobee3 is available for $249 on/at Amazon, Apple, Best Buy and Home Depot.

The kit comes with one free wireless room sensor and supports up to 32 sensors. Additional room sensors can be purchased in a package of two for $79 each.

Not an Echo user yet? The ecobee3 is also compatible with Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and Wink. Visit to catch more buzz about this pairing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.