Archive for February 18th, 2011

Mortgage Calculator

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Uncategorized |

Looking to buy a new home? Refinance? Find your rate by clicking the link below.

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Where is Your Tax Refund?

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Uncategorized, . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , |

If you are lucky enough to get a refund this year, click on the picture below or use this link to track down your IRS refund:

To access the information, you’ll need to provide the following information from your tax return:

  • Your Social Security Number (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
  • Your Filing Status
  • The exact whole dollar amount of your refund

IMPORTANT: You can usually get information about your refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return or in three to four weeks if you filed a paper return.  “Where’s my Refund?” is updated weekly, every Wednesday.  Please check back after Wednesday for updated information.

If you don’t have a computer to access this information, no problem. You can get the information you need from the telephone.

A special automated toll-free line is dedicated to refund status reports. When you call (800) 829-1954, you’ll need the same information the online system requires.

Don’t forget though, that this year, there’s also the issue of delayed tax return processing. Because tax law changes affecting 2010 returns weren’t enacted until Dec. 17, 2010, the IRS had to update forms and its computer systems before it could process many returns. The IRS started working on those delayed filings on Feb. 14, 2011.

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7 Tips for Negotiating With The IRS

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Top 10..., . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |

Do you owe the IRS money? Or will you owe them money after this April? If so, here are 7 tips that I found helpful, posted on

From time to time every taxpayer will have to go head to toe with the IRS. Whether you are setting up an installment agreement, facing the auditor from hell, resolving a misunderstanding, or dealing with collectors on the phone or worse yet, on your doorstep, you would be well advised to heed the following suggestions.

1. You get more flies with honey. Dealing with bureaucracy can be very frustrating, but park your bad attitude and anger at the door. Take a deep breath, demonstrate a cooperative attitude, and proceed in an orderly fashion to resolving your issue. In my 28 years of dealing with the IRS, I have found that most IRS personnel are compassionate humans that bend over backward to find ways to resolve issues and help taxpayers. Of course you are going to run into that power-hungry, condescending, surly agent from time to time, but if you do, you can always trade up to a more understanding and respectful model by asking for the manager.

2.Use IRS lingo. When you use IRS lingo the agent you are speaking with will find you knowledgeable and may treat you with a little more respect. Here is some verbiage you may find useful:

  1. Ask for penalties to be “abated” rather than removed.
  2. Tell them, if it’s the case, that your failure to (pay or file or comply with a document request) was due to “reasonable cause.” Use this term if you didn’t just flake and have a good reason, which could include such things as unemployment, losing your records, losing your home, health problems, etc.
  3. If you can’t pay a tax bill because you are suffering financial reversals, you can ask to be deemed “currently not collectible.” If you are granted this status, they will leave you alone for an entire year while you get it together.
  4. If you feel a spouse or former spouse should be responsible for a tax matter, ask to be treated as an “innocent spouse.” There are certain criteria to this status; do some research or discuss the issues with your tax pro.
  5. If defending business deductions during an audit, the term “ordinary and necessary” business expense will help–but only if that’s really the case.

3. Don’t talk too much. IRS agents are trained to draw as much information from you as possible. Answer questions truthfully, but keep your answers short, succinct and to the point. There is no need to elaborate or discuss your personal life or disclose too much. This will only lead to misunderstandings and maybe even investigations.

4. Always tell the truth. Lies have a way of uncovering themselves. Once you are caught in a lie, you will always be suspect. And when you are suspect, you lose the cooperation you would normally receive. Don’t hide assets, don’t run for cover. There are many ways to resolve tax problems using a straightforward and honest approach. Lies may lead to jail time.

5. Only make promises you can keep. This is especially true when it comes to paying your liability. If an IRS agent asks you if you can pay $200 per month on a tax balance and you know you can only afford $100, tell him so. Indicate that you will try to pay extra when you can, but you are not going to set yourself up for failure by promising more than you are able. Throw that in with the fact, (if it’s the case), that you have always timely filed and paid liabilities in the past and now you need a break. Note that this will not work if their analysis of your financial situation indicates you can pay more.

6. Go to them before they come at you. If you are unable to keep a promise you make, tell the IRS immediately. The agency is usually so happy with the cooperation it will likely grant you the extensions you need. The collections department notes your file whenever you or your representative calls.

7. Stop the Interview. If at any time during an audit or a phone conversation you feel intimidated, disrespected, or out of your depth, simply say so and end the interview. Tell the IRS that you will be seeking representation and will get back with them soon. This will give you a chance to take a deep breath and discuss the matter with your tax pro. If you felt disrespected, you can always request a different auditor. Or if it was a matter of a surly customer service rep you were speaking with on the phone, you can hang up and call again in hopes of getting someone kinder or a little more understanding.

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City of Austin Offers $40,000 in “Carbon Offset Challenge” Grants. Boom, That’s a Lot of Green!

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- Energy/Being GREEN, Conservation, Texas | Tags: , , , , |

I received this email update (below)  from the Austin Climate Protection Group and thought I’d share the details with you. I hope you find it helpful and hopefully you can even cash in on the grant. Best of luck!!


$40,000 in Carbon Offset Challenge Grants now available

The City of Austin’s new Carbon Offset Challenge Grants are designed to highlight local projects doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. $40,000 will be be divided among up to 16 projects, and up to $10,000 can be awarded to one project. Solicitation information is posted on the City of Austin Purchasing website, and the closing date is March 1, 2011.

Austin Carbon Footprint CalculatorLast fall, Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced the creation of the Carbon Offsets Support Challenge. A City of Austin team will review proposals for the grants, selecting projects that demonstrate a clear methodology for delivering verifiable local carbon reductions. Austin Energy will then give Austinites and visitors the opportunity to purchase offsets that result using the Austin Climate Protection Program Carbon Calculator.

The Carbon Offsets Support Challenge will identify visible greenhouse gas reduction or sequestration projects within Travis County. Examples of projects that may be considered under the Support Challenge might include the use of grant funding to:

  • Grow food on site to feed school children, reducing GHG emissions associated with importing the same amount of food from out-of-state.
  • Support the installation of solar panels on low income housing units, reducing GHG emissions associated with energy used from non-renewable sources.
  • Install a digester to capture methane produced during manure storage that converts the methane into energy, reducing GHG emissions associated with energy created by non-renewable sources.
  • Support the conversion of vehicles to lower emission fuel sources.

The City of Austin Purchasing website offers more information on this opportunity, including instructions on how to prepare your proposal. Once at the Purchasing website, here’s how to find it:

  1. Click on “Vendor Self Service (VSS)”
  2. Click on “Public Access”
  3. Click on “Business Opportunities”
  4. Click on “Search for Solicitations”
  5. Click on “RFINT-1100-TVN0100”
  6. Click on “Attachments” to download the details 
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