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I Owe WHAT? The hidden tax costs of the Affordable Care Act

$20 dollar bills, stethoscope and bills.You’re sitting with your accountant filing all the necessary paperwork for your 2014 taxes, already daydreaming about how you’re going to spend your big refund check. All of a sudden you see the grand total of your return and suddenly those daydreams turn into nightmares.


One Way the Affordable Care Act Can Affect Your Taxes

As you’ve probably heard (I mean really, who hasn’t?), the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, meaning health insurance is now mandatory in the United States.


Many unsuspecting taxpayers, including you possibly, chose a plan from the Accordable Care Act Marketplace, which provides millions of Americans who don’t have employer-supplemented heath care with various coverage options.


However, to help curb the costs of these sometimes expensive plans, the U.S. government provided advance premium tax credits to many Marketplace purchasers. The credit amounts were based on annual household income with the goal to alleviate the financial burden of expensive monthly health coverage for Americans that qualified.


According to tax leader H&R Block, this leaves an estimated 3.4 million Americans in debt to the U.S. government since they unknowingly underestimated their annual household income and therefore received assistance they technically didn’t qualify for.


Now it is tax time and the U.S. government is collecting the difference. This hidden tax item could possibly lower your refund or have you owing money instead.

What happens to those that decided not to purchase health insurance despite the new law?


If you don’t already have health insurance and failed to purchase any in 2014 you now must pay tax penalties, unless you qualify for exemptions. In order to even be considered exempt, you would have had to apply for the exemptions. If you failed to do this, you will face penalties.


Penalties range from $47 for a child, $96 for an adult and up to $285 per household, or 1 percent of household income. Many are unaware of the rule that you have to pay the LARGER of the two amounts, which could end up costing middle and upper-class individuals a lot more money than the minimum penalty stipulations.


Penalties are expected to increase each year and could cost you a lot in the long-term, especially if you end up having to pay for expensive unforeseen medical treatment.


How can I avoid tax penalties going forward?


The easiest way to avoid tax penalties if you don’t have insurance is to follow the law. Not only is health insurance a vital safeguard of your health, but you will save yourself money in the long-term by avoiding future penalties.


It is too late to escape 2014 tax penalties, but you can still enroll in the Individual Open Enrollment Period through February 15.


Talk to your trusted Independent Insurance Agent today and we can guide you through your options for a healthier outlook.





Preach It: Cell Phones and Driving Don’t Mix!

text n driveMany of us remember the old Oprah pledge she made celebrities take years ago when her daily talk show was still on the air and she launched a crusade against texting while driving. She took a stand against an activity that many of us indulge in, despite the consequences.

Several states have outlawed the practice and others have taken the additional step and banned the use of cell phones and handheld devices completely while operating a vehicle.

Is it legal?

Texting is illegal in 44 states currently. Using your cell phone or other handheld devices is still allowed in the majority of U.S. States, but this doesn’t mean you should do so.

How bad is it really to use cellphones while driving?

Besides the sensational headlines ranging from multiple deaths caused by bus drivers, subway and train engineers or teens out for a joyride, data shows that texting does impose an increased risk in deadly accidents. According to the National Safety Council, texting causes 1.6 million accidents per year.

The numbers don’t include accidents caused by calls, web surfing and other activities associated with cell phones and its counterparts.

“But how do you convince others NOT to use their cellphones while driving?”

The obvious solution for preventing these accidents is to NOT use cell phones, period, while driving, and to preach the same gospel to others.  However, despite warnings, this is very hard for most people to do.

Whether it is an addiction or just overconfidence in believing you won’t be distracted when replying to a phone call or text, most people think they can multitask while driving a car. Unfortunately, that false sense of confidence often leads to problems.

So, what are realistic solutions?

Turning off your cell phone entirely while driving is the only surefire way to prevent an accident. However, most people don’t obey this rule.

If you have passengers with you, make them answer your phone calls and texts for you. This ensures your eyes and attention remain on the road.

Turning off the cell may seem impossible, so if you must let it ding and ring, be wise. Pull off the side of the road in a legal and safe location before answering calls or responding to texts, especially if you are in a state where it is already prohibited.

It is important to stay connected. Yet, it should not put you in danger. Learning to balance technology and driving privileges should go hand-in-hand. Safe driving practices means you use common sense and don’t get distracted from outside activities.

How do YOU ensure you drive safe?





Homeowners Insurance to the Rescue and It’s Not What You Think . . .

words identity theft

Just this past summer a client had their identity stolen while on an eight-day vacation in the Caribbean. It happened on their second day away, and if hadn’t been for their homeowners insurance, their vacation would have been devastated, to say the least.  The insurance company handled 99% of the legwork to get their credit restored and by the fourth day their credit was restored and the rest of their Caribbean vacation continued without a hitch.

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Do I Really Need to Buy Car Insurance?

airport car rental booths

This is a tricky rhetorical question, because any insurance agent can tell you that every company has different language in their policies. On top of that, different states have different requirements for the insurance company and/or rental company to provide certain coverages. So to answer this rhetorical question you ask each time you travel and rent a car, I will give a response regarding the average situation.

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