Spring is one the way . . . and so is baseball and summer. Before you know it, we’ll be sitting under the mango tree.
Tips from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau on hiring a tax preparer:
Check the preparer’s qualifications – All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. Ask preparers if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.
Ask about service fees – Request an estimate of the cost of preparation and whether any additional fees may apply.
Request eFile and direct deposit – Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and that any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Do not allow a refund to be deposited into a preparer’s bank account.
Check availability – Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
Verify your return before signing – Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
Steer clear of any tax preparer who promises you an inflated refund, or charges fees based on the size of your refund, and ensure that all documents are enclosed
You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The damage totals from the Target data breach are in: The Consumer Bankers Association says its members have spent $172 million. The Credit Union National Association says credit unions have paid $30.6 million.
We know where the time has gone, so stop asking. Where has the money gone?
Let’s try to minimize regret, and maximize assets, in 2014 with some basic guidance from Don Taylor, a financial columnist for Bankrate.com who is also a financial planner with a doctorate in finance.
You’ll find financial truth in the numbers.
Q: Should I start pre-paying the mortgage on our house or invest savings?
Mortgage rates moved incrementally higher for the second straight week, with 30-year fixed-rate loans averaging 4.33 percent nationally, according to data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.
A week ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.28 percent. Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.35 percent in the past week, up from 3.33 percent.
The numbers in New England:
30-year: 4.33 percent
15-year: 3.35 percent
30-year: 4.28 percent
15-year: 3.33 percent
A year ago:
30-year: 3.58 percent
15-year: 2.81 percent
The U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is warning soldiers and their families about a website scam that attempts collect personal information.
The Connecticut Better Business Bureau says the same site, identified as My Army Benefits at usmilitarybenefit.org is fraudulent, is not affiliated with the U.S. Army and should be avoided.
The site, say investigators, also claims “the U.S. military has granted access to unclaimed and accumulated benefits for active duty soldiers, and that benefits not claimed within the stipulated period will be available for claims after 60 months.”
The Criminal Investigation Command’s advice:
>> Do not log in to the website
>> Do not respond to any emails
>> Stop all contact if you have previously responded to any emails
>> Immediately contact your local information assurance office if you accessed the website from a government computer or system.
The program that allows consumers to chose electricity suppliers has been a disaster. If you’ve experienced dramatic increases in your supply charges or feel you’ve been the victim of unfair billing practices, let the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) know at one of these public hearings:
>> Today (Feb.20) at 6:30 p.m. at the Farmington Community Senior Center, 321 New Britain Avenue, Unionville.
>> Monday (Feb. 24) at 6:30 p.m. in Room 135, Brookfield Town Hall, 100 Pocono Road, Brookfield.
>> Tuesday (Feb. 25) 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in the Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway, Norwich, Connecticut
>> Thursday (Feb. 27) at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Building, Veterans Memorial Hall – 2nd Floor, 235 Grand Street, Waterbury.
The snow’s not deep enough, the temperature’s not low enough to stop Roshawn Finn from thinking about her through-the-wall air conditioner.
Finn says the General Electric model she bought at P.C. Richard & Son last July never worked properly. Neither did the replacement that came two weeks later.
“Same issue,” says Finn. “No cold air.”
This week’s tech column, courtesy of Tribune Newspapers:
Play it again, SACD. The ill-fated high-resolution audio disc is back, or at least its technology, as music downloads requiring special playback equipment.
Technology. DSD, or Direct Stream Digital, was developed by Sony (with Philips) to archive the company’s music catalog, then introduced to the consumer in 1999 as the Super Audio CD format that promised higher resolution and greater storage capacity than the CD.
A CD stores audio information using Pulse Code Modulation encoding in 16-bit samples taken 44,100 times per second. DSD, meanwhile, takes a continuous 1-bit stream at 2.8 million samples per second — 64 times the CD’s rate.
Just as more pixels produce a higher-resolution HDTV picture, more audio samples produce a higher-resolution sound.