photo courtesy of Our State magazine.
The current issue of Our State magazine features an article on our long-time client and friend Thomas Wright and his business, “The Battery Park Book Exchange,” in Asheville, NC. This unique bookstore features 30,000 used books and also offers wines, champagnes and coffee drinks to guests as they browse the shelves.
You can read more about this unique spot in the article.
If you are in the Asheville area, stop in, say Hello to Mr. Wright, have a cup of coffee and browse the selection of books!
by Greg Miller
Our oldest son is finishing up his sophomore year at NC State. Like most parents with kids in college, I check his checking account balance on a regular basis as his funding source.
Last Thursday, I went online to transfer another $100 to his account to get him through the balance of the semester. When I opened up our personal account, I thought the balance was low. In the pending transactions were two ATM withdrawals from the night before, one for $402 and one for $202, both of them two minutes apart at an ATM machine in WEST PALM BEACH FLORIDA AT A PUBLIX PHARMACY.
Here is what was on my computer screen.
I immediately knew my account had been hacked in some manner but did not know how. I called my local bank and we quickly discovered that my DEBIT card had been used at an ATM machine. We could not figure out how both my card number and my PIN had been scammed. The banker immediately “hotcarded” my debit card , making it inactive. He instructed me to report this to the Bank’s fraud department which I did.
I googled the address and found that the card had been used at the ATM in the Publix Pharmacy in West Palm Beach, Florida. Nobody in my family has been anywhere near this location. In fact, I only use my debit card locally for cash withdrawals at the bank and for local purchases as a check card at the grocery store, hardware store, dry cleaners, etc. I never use the debit card to order anything online or over the phone.
I still do not know how my debit card number and the PIN were scammed.
Several rules to take from this:
• Use online banking and check all your accounts, including credit card accounts, at least once a week
• Review your bank statement every month as soon as you get it. You only have a set time to dispute any items with the bank.
• Never use a debit card for online purchases or purchases outside of your local area. Use a credit card instead for these purchases.
• Know your bank’s policies on stolen or misused debit and credit cards. The rules differ between debit and credit cards.
The Affordable Care Act, a comprehensive health care reform, was signed into law in March 2010. Portions of this law will take effect in 2014 and the best time for planning is now! It will be to your benefit to take 2013 to focus on your personal situation and examine how this law may affect your family’s health coverage. It is also imperative for employers to review the new guidelines with regard to offering health insurance to employees under this Act and to educate themselves on the penalties that may result from not offering employer health insurance coverage plans, should the requirement apply in their specific case.
We are providing two printer friendly references to help individuals and employers better understand sections of the reform and how it may directly affect them, courtesy of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This section covers penalties for individuals
This section covers penalties for employers
The Kaiser Family Foundation also features a Health Reform Subsidy Calculator to help determine premium and tax credits depending on individual circumstances.
On Friday, January 18, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia halted the IRS from regulating and enforcing requirements for registered tax return preparers. As a result, competency testing and continuing education guidelines are no longer mandatory for these individuals. However, this ruling does not affect the requirements set forth for CPAs, attorneys, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents or enrolled actuaries.
In light of these new circumstances, it is a matter of prime importance to carefully consider the agency/preparer to whom you trust to prepare your tax returns. In an environment of constant change, not requiring continuing education may imply that many registered tax preparers will not be aware of tax codes that can greatly affect a taxpayer’s deductions as well as compliance with current tax laws.
Our firm is proud to have Certified Public Accountants who meet all of the competency and continuing education requirements. We view these guidelines not just as “requirements” but as beneficial assets to help us better serve our business and individual clients.
A new law has been passed that will combine motor vehicle renewal with property tax collection.
For renewals after June 2013, The DMV will send combined notices that will include vehicle registration and vehicle tax, and will be due at the time of renewal.
For more information on this, please consult the DMV website.
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Part II of our “Inherit cash, not chaos” blog series will cover Identity Theft.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Identity theft continues to be the fastest growing crime in the nation affecting more than 11 million people last year! Clearly an identity thief wants access to two things- your current cash and credit and/or your future cash and credit.
Protect your Social Security Number
The start of a new year is a great time to clean out your wallet. Here are some tips:
• Don’t carry your Social Security card or your children’s Social Security Card in your wallet. Keep your original Social Security cards in the Permanent Binder you have created with all your other important documents.
o Only give your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary, ask why the number is needed and who has access to it and how they will keep it confidential.
o Don’t print your SSN on your check. You can just use the last four digits of the SSN, if needed.
• Don’t carry PINs and passwords in your wallet.
• Photocopy all your debit and credit cards, back and front and keep the copy in your Permanent Binder. The back usually has the customer service number you will need to call if your card or wallet is stolen and it also have the three digit security code. Be careful- all copiers have a hard drive that should be erased when the copier is disposed of. If you would like to come by our Wilmington office, we would be happy to make copies for you. We will properly dispose of our copier hard drive.
• Be sure to copy your health insurance cards and any other important information you may need if you wallet is stolen.
Watch your Credit Report
One of the best ways to protect yourself against Identity theft is to check your credit reports. If you discover a credit card you don’t have or a purchase you did not make, you may be a victim of ID theft.
• You are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. To get your free credit reports, go to Annual Report.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you are interested in monitoring your credit year-round, request a free credit report from a different bureau every four months. I will try to remember to remind you in the May and September blog!
A “security freeze” is a consumer right provided by North Carolina law, enacted as part of the Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005. Placing a security freeze on your credit reports blocks access to your credit unless you have given permission. This can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. A security freeze can be lifted (or “thawed”) temporarily when you are applying for credit, or removed permanently. You will still be able to get a free copy of your credit report annually from each credit bureau.
• If you are a parent or guardian, check to see if your child has a credit report. Contact the credit bureaus with proof of the child’s identity and your relationship to the child. If a credit report exists, consider placing a freeze on it.
Destroy Documents You Don’t Need
Your records often contain confidential information- paper or electronic.
• Shred or erase hard drives from old copiers, printers, cell phones and computers that might hold private information. The NC Department of Justice sponsors a free shred-a-thon near you. We are planning a shred-a-thon at our Wilmington office after tax season in April.
• If you are not sure what documents to keep, we have developed a handy resource to help you. Just call our office at 452-5260 and we will be glad to mail you one.