March 15, 2015

Computer problems?

Have you ever had a computer problem and gone to your IT specialist or a friend who knows about computers? When I have a computer problem, I do everything I can think of before taking a deep breath and asking for help because I know what's about to happen.

I will not only feel like I caused the problem but also be subjected to a long dissertation about the history of computers, and why I, a word person, could never truly understand what I've done.

The first thing the computer guru will ask is, "Did you reboot your computer?" What I want to say is, "What's that mean? How do you do it?" Of course I have. Instead I say — on the verge of tears — "I don't know what happened. I've rebooted twice."

The laptop is whisked away for a computer physical. When it comes back, held lovingly and gently by its savior, I'm told in detail what is wrong, what has been done to fix it, and what to do and not do in the future.

Shortly into this conversation, my mind starts to wander. Gee, I never noticed that picture is a little crooked. There's a little dust ball in the corner. I think I'll have a turkey burger for dinner.

Now it's time for a favorite expression at our company, "So I should save my work to a separate file?" This means I have no idea what you are talking about; I don't care; and I've stopped listening.

Computer people: Ya gotta love 'em! And what would we do without them?!

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I'll have a debit card on rye, hold the mayo

The IRS has released their list of Top Ten Identity Theft Cases that were prosecuted in 2014. Here is a sampling of fraudsters on that list, and their not-so-tasty schemes.

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They can't even do nothing on time

Byrd, Byrd, Byrd. Byrd is the word. We have extenders because of the Byrd Amendment.

In 1998 we saw our first extenders — two of them. On New Year's Day, 2013, Congress approved 141 extenders. In mid-December 2014, there were 55 extenders up for grabs.

The Byrd Amendment required the government to do a 10-year budget. Thus, if a certain deduction saves taxpayers $1 billion per year and that provision is permanent, it costs the government $10 billion over that 10-year budget. But, if that deduction is good for only two years, it only costs $2 billion.

To draw an analogy, let's say I decide I'm not saving enough money and I need to get serious about it. So, I'm going to do a 10-year savings plan, and I open a fresh Excel spreadsheet and create 10 columns, one for each year. After entering all my projected income and expense numbers, I find that I'm not saving a dime.

What to do? Here's a thought. How about eliminating my housing expenses for years 3-10? So, I enter zeroes in those cells and when Excel recalculates, I find, lo and behold, that I've hit my savings goal. This is perfect. I've achieved my savings goal, and I don't have to worry about living under a bridge for two years.

But, what do I do when those two years are up? Simple! I do a new 10-year budget, and I extend my housing allowance for two years. And when those two years are up, I do it again. Thus, I'm always on track to meet my savings goal, and I always have a roof over my head.

Obviously, I'm accomplishing nothing, and that's exactly what Congress is accomplishing with extenders. The difference between me and Congress is that I'm accomplishing nothing on time.

It really seems like you ought to be able to accomplish nothing on time just like it seems like taxpayers should know the tax consequences of their actions when they're making their decisions. Yet we didn't know the 2012 tax law until New Years Day, 2013, the very day it became too late to do anything about it. We didn't know the 2014 law until the year was almost over, and it's now 2015 and we don't know the current law.

So, when you hear someone say "do-nothing Congress," point out that it's even worse than that. They can't even do nothing on time.


Here's a special tip for our Tribune readers. On March 17, for one day only, we have a special $49* price on The Big Blue Answer Book™. That's half off the original price, and we will pick up the shipping! Call (714) 776-7850 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, March 17, to get your book. Our friendly customer service reps will be waiting to help you!

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A few fun facts about this week's writers:

Lynn Freer, EALynn Freer, EA, loves to travel and loves Starbucks. Here she is at Starbucks on the Champs-Élysées.

Kathryn Zdan, EAKathryn Zdan, EA, is not only director of the editorial department, she also "rocks the house" as a regular in curling bonspiels around the country.

Tim Hilger, CPATim Hilger, CPA, is busily preparing taxes today. Tim is a golf nut who has played courses in all 50 states and often reminisces about his younger days shredding on his bass guitar.

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