|The rise in natural disaster-related damage has many insurers reassessing their exposures, raising rates, and reducing coverage. In some cases, insurers have shifted greater financial burdens to home owners and even refused to pay claims. Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute (III) says, “Last year (2011) was an extraordinary year for natural disasters. Insurers have taken a step back to assess whether or not they can absorb severe losses.” Some insurers have pulled out of weather-challenged states, which means they will not write new home owners’ insurance policies or renew contracts with current policyholders.
Meanwhile, other insurers are not abandoning states, but dropping coverage for individual homes and customers who are prone to filing claims. President, Dr. Robert Hartwig says… “If you tell an insurance company that they can’t raise rates despite nine hurricanes in two years, obviously insurers are going to have to reduce exposure.” Source: U.S. Insurers Rethink Coverage After Weather Disaster Payouts, Reuters (04/10/12)
Commentary: SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS!!!We pay huge $$$ every month for protection, and when an accident or disaster occurs, insurers wonder if they have to/want to/can/ or will continue to pay a claim. What did you do with all my money? Vacations? Bonuses? I say, more of us need to self insure, and let the insurance companies go bankrupt paying their operating expenses.
The deadline to file taxes is next week, and if you’re still scrambling to find deductions, you should look no further than your own home. Your home is filled with potential tax breaks — if you know where to find them. So before you put the finishing touches on your tax return, check out these write-offs around the home that could save you money.
“@Obama2012: Vice President Biden: “When the middle class grows, the wealthy get wealthier, the poor get less poor, and the economy gets stronger.””
For the 2012 tax year, you can take a tax deduction on medically necessary home improvements — like installing a wheelchair ramp and other projects that make life easier for an ill or injured family member — if you: Itemize deductions, Spend more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income on the upgrades (10% of AGI if you’re subject to alternative minimum tax).
Starting in 2013, if you’re under age 65, you can’t take the tax deduction on medical expenses until you spend 10% of your AGI. But if you’re 65 or older in 2013, you can stick with the 7.5% AGI tax deduction threshold through the end of 2016. The rules for tax deductions on medical home improvements are tricky: 1.) Start with what it costs to modify your home. 2.) Subtract the value the upgrades add to your home. 3.) What’s leftover is your tax deduction — if you meet your AGI threshold. How it works: Say you’re 45 years old and spend $20,000 to put a bathroom on the first floor of your home because your husband can’t climb stairs anymore. Your AGI is $100,000 and the bathroom adds $10,000 to the value of your house. 1.) Start with the cost of the improvements: $20,000 2.) Subtract your added home value: $10,000 3.) Of that $10,000 difference, you can only take a deduction for expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI or $7,500.
So if you itemize, you can take a $2,500 deduction for the 2012 tax year. Wait until 2013 and you get no deduction because your threshold rises to 10%. If you’re over age 65, though, you can claim a $2,500 deduction. Some of the improvements that you can claim a tax deduction for, according to IRS Publication 502, “Medical and Dental Expenses”: Entrance ramps for your home; Grading the yard before building a ramp, or to make it easier to get in your home; Widening exterior or interior doorways; Widening or removing hallways; Installing railings, support bars, or other bathroom improvements, Lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets and equipment; Moving or modifying electrical outlets and fixtures; Installing porch lifts and other forms of lifts (but elevators generally add value to the house); Modifying fire alarms, smoke detectors, and other warning systems, Modifying stairways, Lead-based paint removal, Adding handrails, Changing door knobs; upkeep of medically necessary upgrades, like elevators, and operating costs; Lead-based paint removal if your child has lead poisoning; and renovating an existing bathroom to make it handicap accessible or adding a new accessible bath. (Houselogic 4/10/12).
Nearly four decades after the United States government mandated the use of the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to categorize Americans who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, a new nationwide survey of Hispanic adults finds that these terms still haven’t been fully embraced by Hispanics themselves. A majority (51%) say they most often identify themselves by their family’s country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label. Click here to read the entire article.
April 17, Tax Day, is fast approaching. So, if you itemize, remember to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction, one of the many benefits of home ownership. The MID saves the average home owner about $3,000 per year. In addition, as mortgage rates bottom out and the rental costs exceed those of home ownership, this spring may be the most vibrant for real estate in years. Climbing rents for apartments are combining with a continued decline in home prices to push once-reluctant home buyers into finally taking the plunge.
Home owners and home buyers still waiting for mortgage rates to reach bottom may have already missed it. The average rate for 30-year mortgages, which hit record lows in February, briefly rose above 4% last month. Many economists predict rates will continue to rise gradually as the economy and housing market recover. Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage company, forecasts 30-year rates will hit 4.5% by the end of 2012 and 5% by late next year, up from an average of just under 4% last week. What are you waiting for.
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Nearly one-quarter of all millionaires (about 55,000 individuals) pay a lower tax rate than millions of middle-class families. To reform our tax system, which is currently tilted in favor of very high-income households, President Obama has proposed a basic principle of tax fairness called the Buffett Rule.
- The average tax rate paid by the very highest-income Americans has fallen to nearly the lowest rate in over 50 years. The wealthiest 1-in-1,000 taxpayers pay barely a quarter of their income in Federal income and payroll taxes today—half of what they would have contributed in 1960. And, the top 400 richest Americans—all making over $110 million—paid only 18 percent of their income in income taxes in 2008.
- Average tax rates for the highest income Americans have plummeted even as their incomes have skyrocketed. Since 1979 the average after-tax income of the very wealthiest Americans – the top 1 percent – has risen nearly four-fold. Over the same period, the middle sixty percent of Americans saw their incomes rise just 40 percent. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more.
- Some of the richest Americans pay extraordinarily low tax rates—as they hire lawyers and accountants to take particular advantage of loopholes and tax expenditures. The average tax rate masks the fact that some high-income Americans pay near their statutory tax rate, while others take advantage of tax expenditures and loopholes to pay extraordinarily low rates—and it is these high-income taxpayers that the Buffett rule is meant to address .
- Of millionaires in 2009, a full 22,000 households making more than $1 million annually paid less than 15 percent of their income in income taxes — and 1,470 managed to paid no federal income taxes on their million-plus-dollar incomes, according to IRS data.
- Of the 400 highest income Americans, one out of every three in this group of the most financially fortunate Americans paid less than 15 percent of their income in income taxes in 2008.
- Many high-income Americans are paying less in taxes than middle class Americans in taxes. Nearly one-quarter of all millionaires (about 55,000 taxpayers) face a tax rate that is lower than more than millions of middle-income taxpayers. This is fundamentally unfair.