Easier Tax Return Tips For Seniors

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‘Nothing is certain but death and taxes’, according to Benjamin Franklin, but in saying that he was perhaps too pessimistic, particularly for seniors.  Although taxes can be a major burden for the young, seniors often benefit from the breaks that society wants to give them.  However to so benefit it is important to complete a tax return. Even for that, help is often available to elders.
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The Senior Home Office For Financial Success

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This is a guest post by Lloyd Burrell of officedeskreviews.com, an office desk website that reveals the secrets of home office organization.


From my time as company auditor I observed that very often companies that had the best financial systems and internal organization in place were very often also the most successful. Well it is my firm belief that in the realm of personal finance the same applies.

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s not because you’re a senior that all of a sudden the paperwork stops. For many of you being a senior could mean quite the contrary, it could mean a second lease of life with a home office business.

Whether you are running a home office business or just wanting to get your domestic paperwork under control you can make your home office perfectly meet your needs with the following simple strategies.

The Home Office Circle of Influence

contemporary desk

Start by focusing on the physical area within arms’ reach.

At a minimum, this will include your desk, your chair and your computer. This is your immediate circle of influence, and the way that you organize and furnish this space will go a long way toward determining how productive you will be in your home office.

First, you must be comfortable. Simply put, you will be more likely to actually get things done when you are ergonomically able to work for long, focused periods of time without discomfort.

Make sure that your desktop is at a good height, and that the placement of your computer allows you to reach the keyboard and view the screen without hunching down. To avoid back pain, your chin should be level or even angled slightly upward while you type.

Whether you use a laptop or desktop computer, you’ll find a variety of desk designs exist to accommodate your specific needs. Look at Bush Furniture desks for a good example of the options available, including desks with ample leg room and raised monitor shelves to help you achieve a comfortable position while you work.

Your choice of office chair also influences your ability to stay focused while working. Whether it’s a simple task chair or a leather executive style seat, be sure that it offers the back support and height adjustment that you need. If you choose an office chair with arms, be sure to consider its fit with your desk: can you sit close enough to your desktop when the chair is adjusted to the necessary height, or do the arms interfere with your ability to pull close to the desk?

Access To Your Home Office Productivity Tools

Next, what do you need to have on hand?

Depending on the type of work you do at home, you may need frequent access to files, reference material, pens, paperclips, a phone, or more specialized office equipment. Whatever the answer is for you, make sure that you organize your home office so that the necessary items are readily available.

Many items may be stored in or on your desk, but do look for a desk and other office furniture that will allow you to store most items off of your actual desktop. Maintaining an open, clutter-free work space will be a practical and psychological aid to getting things done in your home office.

In addition to the desk itself, you can set up easy access to the items you need with file cabinets, supply caddies and bookshelves placed either under the desk or within reach of it. Don’t overlook wall space when designing your home office layout: shelving, file pockets and even mountable trays can be installed for easy access.

Your Home Office Space

contemporary office desk

The actual layout you choose for your home office will depend in large part on the space available. Whether you’re able to dedicate an entire room or need to carve out space from a shared living area, with a little research you’ll be able to find the office accessories you need to set up a focused work space.

When a separate room is available for your home office you’ll have the luxury of choosing whichever office furniture suits your style, needs and budget. However, there are space saving solutions that still make it very possible to work at home even when your “home office” is simply the corner of your kitchen, or half of the master bedroom.

Armoire style desks provide a dedicated work area that includes storage for office supplies. When not in use, just closing the doors allows them to seamlessly blend into the decor of a shared-use room. From compact and efficient computer desks to corner fitting L-shaped desks, you’ll find that even a limited amount of floor space can provide plenty of room to set up an organized home office.

If you’ll be meeting with clients, think about the impression that visitors will have of your business when they see where you work. Whether it’s elegant and traditional or modern and high-tech, look for a desk and matching office furniture that say what you intend about who you are. It’s easy to find quality office furniture at an affordable price by doing a bit of research online before you buy.

Whether you work at home or you just need to stay on top of your paperwork, the key to successful home office organization lies (literally) within your reach. Be sure that you invest the time to assess your needs, then do your research to find the furniture and accessories that will be the best fit.

About the author

First as an auditor and then as a holiday rental specialist, Lloyd Burrell spent many years working behind all sorts of different desks. Now he sits in front of a cherry computer desk where he edits the internet’s leading office desk website. To contact Lloyd and find your ideal desk visit officedeskreviews.com.

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Seven Steps To Take When Late Paying Bills

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Forbes suggests Seven Steps To Take If You’re Late Paying Bills. As they suggest, acting now may help you down the road.

It’s a situation all too familiar to millions of Americans these days. After years of hard work, a sudden job loss, pay cut, furlough or simple over-reliance on debt has left too little cash on hand to pay the monthly bills. More than 13 million people are currently in hock to collections agencies or are seriously considering bankruptcy, according to a recent report by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

If you find yourself falling behind on your bills, there are several steps you can take to help reduce the amount of money you owe and help preserve the assets you still have. The seven steps are not rocket science, but one or more are often forgotten. Here are what is suggested:

  1. Know where you stand.
  2. Negotiate with creditors.
  3. Know who you’re talking with.
  4. Only do deals you can live with.
  5. Make sure your information is accurate.
  6. Know your rights.
  7. Avoid desperate measures.

For unbiased advice, turn to an organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which offers free advice from trained credit counselors.

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Consumer Protection

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Consumer Protection Resources

Particularly in these hard times, it is even more important than ever that consumers know their rights and are protected from aggressive or even illegal business practices.  There are a number of resources that suggest they would be of assistance.  Here are some of them:

The list in the last portal has one resource where the link to the website is missing, somewhat surprisingly, at the time we write this.  That is the reference to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia.  The website does exist and there you can learn that

The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) is a not-for-profit corporation that delivers consumer protection services throughout British Columbia.  BC’s consumer protection laws provide the framework to help the BPCPA protect consumers and encourage a fair marketplace in the province.

There is even a Consumer Corner  and in the past, there have been some useful tips:

Buyer Beware

The interesting aspect of the above resources, almost without exception, is that they usually have two objectives.

  • To set out good business practices, which in some cases may have associated legislation.
  • To provide consumers with advice on how to take care of themselves.  In some cases, there is also a Complaints process.

What is rarely provided is a list of companies whose practices are questionable, or even the subject of complaints. This seems to be a field left to private individuals.  However via the Internet and through the social media such as Twitter such information is becoming more available.

Freedom of Information

Thankfully there is increasing openness in society and governments and their agencies must respond, even if it takes legislation to enforce this.  For example, Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun through freedom-of-information legislation learned that Collection agencies, retail outlets and travel agents easily led the top-10 list of consumer complaints received last year by the Business Practices & Consumer Protection Authority of B.C.

Collection agencies were the source of 2,591 phone and mail complaints/inquiries, followed by retail sales at 1,861, and travel agents at 1,008 (136 of whom involved unlicensed agents).

Other sectors on the dubious top-10 list: automotive sales, 551; funeral service, 447; telecommunications, 436; credit/financing 440; credit reporting, 390; contractors, 371; and telemarketing, 367.

You should consult the article for names if you are interested. The BPCPA defends this lack of communication and prefers to work directly with companies to ensure better behavior.  However in this age of Twitter, many ways of communicating what is known are having to be rethought and this area of consumer protection may well be one of them.  Nothing can ensure better business consumer practices faster than by the perpetrators knowing that everyone is watching.

Perhaps the new watchword should be Seller Beware rather than Buyer Beware. It is not something that is difficult to accept since satisfied consumers are the key to better sales growth.

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Jobs For Seniors Information Websites

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The world is changing for all and particularly for seniors.  With the global recession, some seniors are seeing their retirement funds dwindling alarmingly.  At the same time, with improved health services, seniors can look forward to much longer lives than in the past.  Accordingly, seniors looking for jobs can be grouped in three categories:

  • There are those who are retired and would like to do something active that would give them monetary rewards.
  • There are those who would like to retire but must continue to work because it is tough taking ends meet in these recessionary times, and
  • There are those who do not consider themselves seniors but are healthy and looking for a second career as they pass fifty.

There are a number of information resources on the Web and here we will highlight four of them.

Retired Worker (Canada)
Retired Worker connects 50+ job-seekers to employers who are looking for the experience, broad skill base and value such workers deliver. It was launched in 2003 by Sarah Welstead and Max Stocker in Toronto and is now the largest employment website in Canada for 50+ job-seekers.
SeniorsForJobs.com (Canada)
SeniorsForJobs.com serves talented job seekers who wish to remain in the workforce and astute employers who are looking for skilled, experienced and reliable employees. Membership is free for job seekers who can access the jobs database and apply for jobs. There are also employment resources and career management tools that are tailored to mature and experienced workers.
Jobs For Seniors ( Canada)
Job4seniors.ca will help seniors meet the challenges of re-entering the workplace and find the right position either in a part-time or full-time environment. In hiring a senior, an employer can look forward to the benefit of a productive and reliable person with many years of experience and knowledge.
Seniors Info (Canada)
This website in Ontario is part of a national project, the Collaborative Seniors’ Portal Network, and provides important information. for seniors, their families, and service providers. It has been developed through and by all three orders of government, and numerous seniors groups and service providers. Information about Federal and Provincial services is now readily available and in the future a wealth of local information of particular interest to seniors will be added.

The other factor that influences job choices is that there are many More Active Seniors than in the past.  Many are using time and money to pursue lifelong interests or to take on a second career, quite unlike the stereotype of grandparents sitting on the porch in rocking chairs.  Retirement can be a time of personal growth and activity. 

That is the thinking behind CARP, Canada’s Association for the 50Plus, which brings a New Vision of Aging for Canada.

As the population ages and the “boomer” generation enters the “seniors” category, the more mature portion of our population become ever more important. Moses Znaimer, executive director of CARP, has coined the term ZOOMER to describe the highly motivated, energetic, well trained and non-retiring senior – a “boomer with ZIP”, as Moses puts it.

As part of that, there is a Canadian website, Seniors For Hire.ca, where progressive employers can connect with mature workers of 50 plus years.  The website is also known as ZoomerJobs.com.

A Job-seeker can browse jobs and post resumes for free. An Employer can have immediate access to hundreds of job-seekers and post job vacancies, which will be accessible to almost 100,000 viewers each month for a small fee.

“Mature workers – employees of 50 + years up to “seniors” (wherever that starts) are a tremendous boon to the workplace”, says Darryl Wall, Vice President of SeniorsForHire.ca . “Progressive employers throughout Canada are hiring seniors to supplement their workforce and provide a positive role model for new employees”.

 

This changed view of the 50+ threshold is also reflected in a similar US website, SeniorJobBank. which is a meeting place for over-50 job seekers and the employers seeking their services. Originally established in 1975, the SeniorJobBank claims to be  the most recognized name on the Internet serving this audience. The average age of visitors to the website is 57.

Such individuals are not ready to be put out to the proverbial pasture. They’re vibrant, dedicated, and knowledgeable. An employer can tap into this valuable and increasing segment of the population and benefit from the talent, experience and work ethic that they bring to any company or organization.

For those who do not think of themselves as seniors at 50, there is a sister website, Workforce50. designed for employers who wish to advertise to more mature job seekers for their job openings.

Many jobs will be better filled by mature workers, with skills, knowledge and experience who are wise in the ways of the world.  A win/win situation is certainly very likely for both employer and employee.

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Tax Tips And Tax Deductions for Seniors

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Tax Return time is upon us and reminders on this are coming up almost every day.  Although the specifics depend on which country you live in, there is often merit in looking over lists to see whether it sparks ideas on tax deductions that may be overlooked. 


One US article that offered Tax Tips for Senior Citizens  pointed out that if anyone needs a little extra tax know how, it’s retired senior citizens, more and more of whom are just trying to make ends meet.  You should not forgo completing your tax returns since there may be benefits to which you are entitled.

Another US post today mentions 25 Easily Overlooked Tax Deductions.  As is pointed out, if you are one of the millions of Americans who throws all their receipts, credit card and bank statements into a box, you are likely to overlook hundreds of dollars in tax deductions when preparing your tax filings. Here is their list of deductible expenses:

  1. Medical transportation expenses including tolls, parking, and mileage for trips to doctor’s, health facilities, laboratories.
  2. Prescribed medical aids such as crutches, canes, and orthopedic shoes
  3. Hearing aids, eye glasses, and contact lenses
  4. The cost of alcohol and drug abuse programs, and certain smoking-cessation treatments
  5. Education expenses you paid to maintain or improve job skills (including professional books)
  6. Professional journals, magazines, and newspapers that are job-related
  7. Cost of safe deposit box used for to store investments or investment information
  8. Required uniforms and work clothes not suitable for street wear
  9. Union dues.
  10. Job-seeking expenses within your present field of employment – from printing resumes to phone charges.
  11. Dues to professional organizations and business gifts up to $25 per customer or client
  12. Cellular phones required for business
  13. If you are self-employed, half of the self-employment tax paid
  14. Self-employed health insurance premiums and long-term care insurance premiums up to the annual limits.
  15. Fees for tax preparation or advice, including software like TurboTax if you meet limits
  16. Services of a housekeeper, maid, or cook needed to run your home for the benefit of a qualifying dependent while you work
  17. Penalties paid on early withdrawal of savings
  18. State income taxes owed from a prior year and paid in the tax year-with your last return
  19. Mileage incurred in performing charitable activities
  20. Gambling losses to the extent of your gambling winnings – but be prepared to document this
  21. The cost of employment agency fees or commissions in certain cases
  22. Home office expenses, if your home is your primary place of business
  23. Cash and non-cash contributions to qualified charities
  24. Reservist and National Guard overnight travel expenses
  25. Worthless stock or securities – but you must follow the prescribed rules.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States Department of the Treasury has a useful tutorial giving Tips for Seniors in Preparing their Taxes.  As it explains:

Current research indicates that individuals are likely to make errors when preparing their tax returns. The tax tips included were developed to help you avoid some of the common errors dealing with the standard deduction for seniors, the taxable amount of Social Security benefits, and the Credit for the Elderly and Disabled. In addition, you’ll find links to helpful publications as well as information on how to obtain free tax assistance.

One Canadian website, TaxTips.ca, provides Canadian Tax and Financial Information with links to a large number of resources on Income tax information items such as:

  • Pension splitting
  • Attendant care expenses
  • Attendant care expenses paid to a retirement home
  • Disability supports deduction
  • Amount for an eligible dependent – A single person can claim a tax credit for a dependent child, grandchild, sibling, parent or grandparent.
  • Caregiver amount tax credit may be available if (dependent or non-dependent) parent or grandparent (over 65) lives with you, or if a dependent relative lives with you.
  • See non-refundable tax credits on the Filing Your Return page for tax credits available for seniors.
  • Do you qualify for the Service for Seniors Telefile to file your tax return?
  • Access your Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) tax slips online.
  • You might save tax by sharing your CPP retirement pension with your spouse.

The Canada Revenue Agency of the Canadian Government also has a website offering Tax and benefit information for seniors:

As a senior, you may be entitled to claim numerous credits and benefits on your income tax and benefit return. You have specific information needs when it comes to completing your return, and various resources are available to help you file your return accurately and on time. Here you will find much of the information you need to make filing easy, and to get all the tax savings and benefits to which you are entitled.

If you wish to complete your tax returns yourself or are looking for assistance in getting someone else to assist you, then the above links will give you the necessary information. Remember too that the government offers a free IRS efile service that will save you a few more dollars in addition to the deductions listed above. Since you may possibly be receiving a check for tax credits owed to you, it is better to complete your tax return earlier rather than later. We hope you appreciate this additional reminder.

If there are other sources of assistance for seniors on their tax returns that you have found useful, then why not add these in the comments.  You may make someone extremely grateful.

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Scams in Canada

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The monthly newsletter from the Canadian Banking Association is out and is well worth reading.  Unfortunately it does not appear on line so your only way of seeing it is to subscribe to the e-mail version.

The topic of Fraud Prevention Tip – February 2009 is scams.  You may wish to subscribe to see the full content but here we will show you some of the highlights.


According to statistics compiled by PhoneBusters, in 2008 there were more than 17,000 victims of fraudulent scams in Canada, which added up to a total dollar loss of over $36 million.  And as these numbers are based solely on reported cases, there are potentially countless more that have gone unreported.

With so many scams you might feel overwhelmed but the good news is there are many resources available for consumers to help them protect themselves.  The newsletter gives the following:

  • PhoneBusters is a Canadian anti-fraud call centre managed by the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and the Competition Bureau Canada. Its website provides an extensive list of fraudulent scams to watch out for, channels for reporting suspected fraud cases, and links to local fraud prevention groups across the country.
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police website provides practical information to help Canadians protect their personal information and ensure their identity and finances are not compromised.
  • The Competition Bureau of Canada and the Fraud Prevention Forum work to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to “recognize it, report it and stop it”.
  • The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada offers useful information to help Canadians protect their private information and learn about their privacy rights.

The PhoneBusters website is excellent and has a particularly good list of current scams, which you can explore via the following links:

Debit and Credit Card Providers

The newsletter also gives some useful links to credit card companies and the Interac Association, which runs the debit card system since frauds may often involve these. Here are the Visa, MasterCard and Interac fraud prevention web pages for both card holders and merchants.

Visa

MasterCard

Interac

Other Resources

Here are some other resources on scams in Canada you may find helpful.

Let us hope that all the above remains only a somewhat academic source of information for you and that you are never taken in by one of these scams.  Some of these scams are very difficult to spot and can destroy your life so it is important to be ever vigilant.

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Books On Personal Finances and Money

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Given the current economic hard times, there is heightened interest in personal finances and of course, in money.  Not surprisingly books on money are also more popular than usual. If you are searching for a book on personal finances or money, then you have come to the right place.

Senior Money Memos has its own Personal Finances Bookstore.  It is reached via the navigation tab at the right of the menu bar.  If you cannot find your desired book on money there, then perhaps you may find it among some of the money books listed in this post.

For a start, here are five books that have their fans.

If you wish to build a money book collection, then here are some book lists that others have recommended:


Finally if all else fails then you could search for your book at Amazon.  The search box here on the right lists all the books that Amazon has on money and is a convenient way to search for a specific money book title if you remember part of the title.

If you have a particular book on money that you think deserves a wider audience, then why not add a comment about the book.  Your help will be much appreciated.

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