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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

5 Tips to Pick the Perfect Paint

September 10, 2015 2:51 am

A number of factors play a role in how color is perceived in a home. While choosing a room color is a deeply personal choice, it's helpful to understand how certain influences can help guide paint color choice, says Noelle Parks, an interior design professional with Dunn-Edwards Paints®.

Parks recommends homeowners follow these guidelines when selecting paint colors.

1. Choose color based on desired mood.

From high-energy red to mellow blue, psychological responses to color inform effective and stimulating home design. Consider the ambience of the room before choosing a color. Will it be a lively dining room? A peaceful study? A luxurious bedroom?

Warm tones like red, orange and yellow evoke energy, playfulness and action – great for spaces for interaction like dining rooms or kitchens. Cool tones including green, blue, indigo and violet shades create tranquil and soothing environments. Try cool tones for places of relaxation and meditation, like the bedroom.

2. Use neutral colors as a base.
Neutral colors pair well with many shades. White, the most neutral of colors, coordinates with almost every other shade. Crisp and elegant, white opens up spaces and provides a clean, well-designed look.

Brown keeps color schemes grounded with its earthy tones and works best with an accent color. Black adds drama and is often used as an accent to embolden other tones.

3. Consider lighting.
Color looks different on a swatch in a store, and on the wall at home at different times of day with different amounts of light. It's imperative to test colors under the lighting conditions at home to see how the paint will truly appear. If there’s a lot of natural sunlight, consider a deeper, richer color.

4. Pay attention to details.
Permanent features like the flooring, architectural trim, moldings and columns will affect how color appears and blends with the rest of the room. Dark flooring, for example, will go well with lighter wall colors as opposition creates interest and visual excitement. Or, the design on a large piece of furniture may inform the color choice of the overall room.

5. Take climate and windows into account.
Typically, warmer colors are more acceptable in cold climates and cooler colors in warmer regions. A south-facing window orientation suggests a cool to neutral color preference, while a north-facing window suggests the use of a warmer color.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Facts on Educational Tax Credits

September 9, 2015 12:51 am

For parents and students, back-to-school season is a good time to review education-related tax benefits. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), taxpayers may qualify for one of either two college tax credits or other benefits when they file their 2015 federal income tax returns.

In general, the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit is available to taxpayers who pay qualifying expenses for an eligible student. Eligible students include the taxpayer, spouse and dependents. The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides a credit for each eligible student, while the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a maximum credit per tax return.

Though a taxpayer often qualifies for both of these credits, he or she can only claim one of them for a particular student in a particular year. To claim these credits on their tax return, the taxpayer must file Form 1040 or 1040A and complete Form 8863, Education Credits.

The credits apply to eligible students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school, including both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. The credits are subject to income limits that could reduce the amount claimed on their tax return.
To help determine eligibility for these benefits, taxpayers should visit IRS.gov.

Normally, a student will receive a Form 1098-T from their institution by January 31 of the following year. (For 2015, the due date is February 1, 2016, because otherwise it would fall on a Sunday.) This form will show information about tuition paid or billed along with other information. However, amounts shown on this form may differ from amounts taxpayers are eligible to claim for these tax credits. Taxpayers should see the instructions to Form 8863 and Publication 970 for details on properly figuring allowable tax benefits.

Many of those eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. Students can claim this credit for qualified education expenses paid during the entire tax year for a certain number of years: the credit is only available for four tax years per eligible student; the credit is available only if the student has not completed the first four years of post-secondary education before 2015. Key features of the credit include:

• Qualified education expenses are amounts paid for tuition, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student. Other expenses, such as room and board, are not qualified expenses.

• The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.

• Forty percent of the American Opportunity Tax Credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each eligible student.

• The full credit can only be claimed by taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $160,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.

The Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 per tax return is available for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the limit on the Lifetime Learning Credit applies to each tax return, rather than to each student. Also, the Lifetime Learning Credit does not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax.

Though the half-time student requirement does not apply to the Lifetime Learning Credit, the course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. Other features of the credit include:

• Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance qualify, as do other fees required for the course. Additional expenses do not.

• The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on eligible expenses across all students on the return. That means the full $2,000 credit is only available to a taxpayer who pays $10,000 or more in qualifying tuition and fees and has sufficient tax liability.

• Income limits are lower than under the American Opportunity Tax Credit. For 2015, the full credit can be claimed by taxpayers whose MAGI is $55,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $110,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $130,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $65,000 or more.

Eligible parents and students can get the benefit of these credits during the year by having less tax taken out of their paychecks. They can do this by filling out a new Form W-4, claiming additional withholding allowances, and giving it to their employer.

There are a variety of other education-related tax benefits that can help many taxpayers. They include:

• Scholarship and fellowship grants, which are generally tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.

• Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.

• Savings bonds used to pay for college. Though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years old.

• Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, used by many families to prepay or save for a child’s college education.
Taxpayers with qualifying children who are students up to age 24 may be able to claim a dependent exemption and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The general comparison table in Publication 970 can be a useful guide to taxpayers in determining eligibility for these benefits. Details can also be found on IRS.gov.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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