Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Week Off

Not too long a post this week (all right, all right. Keep the applause to a minimum).

I've been home all week and decided to "detox".  I've paid little attention to the news this past week.  Hell, I didn't even watch FoxNews, O'Reilly, Hannity or listen to Rush.  You know how it gets.  Sometimes it's just too much to take and you need a break, thus the self-imposed detox.

As I'm writing this, here in Vermont we're beginning to dig out from winter storm "Nemo".  Really?  I know that they decided to begin naming significant winter storms the same as they do hurricanes (presumably out of a perceived need for drama to make people take their pronouncements of  "Snowmaggedon" seriously), but Nemo?  I guess nothing makes you take severe weather seriously as much as naming the storm after a cartoon fish.


Under the heading of "The Left Never Gives Up":  Apparently the smart meter proponents here have continued to quietly pursue their cause of getting the meters installed statewide.  My mother recently received notice in the mail from our utility that installation would begin soon in our area.  She does have the option of continuing with the current meter with the payment of a small monthly fee, but she seems to be inclined to let them install the smart meter and "save" the $10 fee.

Of course, I offered to cover the cost, but she seems to have decided to go ahead with the installation, under the belief that she "can always change her mind later" and go back to the old meter.  I've tried to tell her that once the meter has been changed, she will not have the option of going back to the old meter.   They will say that it would be too costly to have to pay to send out a tech just to read one meter.  Once these have been installed, there's no going back.  Homeowners are barred by law from removing or otherwise "tampering with" any utility meters.  They are the property of the utility and the utilities are all for property rights when it involves their property.


Tax Time:  It's that time of year when we try to remember where we put all those receipts and get ready to calculate the exact burden of government over the previous year, using all the legal tricks available to us to mitigate it's impact on our bank balances.  I've got one tip that may make things easier for those who frequently travel away from home on business.

If you itemize, it may not be necessary for you to keep all of your receipts for meal expenses.  The IRS has a schedule of standard "per diem" allowances available to taxpayers that can be taken without the need for actual receipts.  All you need is to establish proof that you were away from home overnight on business.  Depending on the area you travel to, you can take a set amount that replaces the meals allowance.  For example, in the northeastern sector of the country the IRS per diem allowance is $59/day.  It's likely that the per diem is higher than what you would actually have spent on meals, so you potentially can get a bigger deduction without the hassle of having to keep track of your receipts.  Check with your tax preparer, it could make a big difference.  [Disclaimer:  I am not a tax professional and am not qualified to give specific tax advice.  Look into this and make your own decision, based on your individual situation.]

That's all for this week (told you it'd be a short post).  I'll start paying attention next week and I'm sure I'll see or hear something that'll get my knickers in a twist and provide fodder for a new rant.  Until then, be safe and be well.

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