Fewer IRS audits doesn’t mean you’re home free

For the fifth year in a row, IRS audits of individual tax returns have declined. In 2010, the chances of having your return selected for audit was one in 90. In 2016, that fell to one in 143, the lowest since 2003.  Audits have tumbled even for higher-income taxpayers. Last year the IRS audited just 5.8 percent of the returns that included income over $1 million, down from 9.6 percent in 2015.   The reason for shrinkage in audits -- a primary IRS enforcement tool -- is that the agency is too short-staffed. Over the past several years, Congress has been freezing and cutting the IRS’s budget in the wake of the agency’s abusive targeting of political groups. This occurred at a time when the agency’s workload climbed due to tax code changes and a surge in fraud and identity theft. The result has been a perfect storm of controversy, external attacks and increased workload, so something had to give. Incoming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced his concern about the decline in resources at the IRS and said he’ll make a case to President Trump that increased spending on tax enforcement could yield more in taxes collected. Past estimates have shown that for every dollar the IRS spends on audits, it collects $4 to $6 in tax revenue.   So while the chances of having your tax return audited may be low now, it could go back up as the problem gets more attention. And as always, the chances of an audit can increase substantially depending on your income level, types of income, amount of deductions, your income-earning activities and changes you’ve made since your last tax return. One of the newer areas getting closer IRS scrutiny is tax returns that include income from a business that accepts credit and debit card payments. Gross and monthly totals received from these cards are reported to the IRS by banks and other settlement entities that process the transactions. So it’s important to make sure these amounts are reported Continue Reading

Home-school group hosts project fair tonight

The Christian Home Educators Association of Collier County welcomes the public to its 25th annual Project Fair today (Monday, February 19) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Center Point Community Church, 6590 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples.Home educated students from preschool to high school will present projects on a variety of topics, from technology to art. Project titles this year include “Battery Life Comparison Project,” “What is Involved in a Political Campaign” and “Buildable Cranes.”The event is free.“The Project Fair gives people a glimpse of one of the most powerful advantages of home-schooling — allowing a child to explore their passion. Not being confined for most of the day in a classroom where everyone must follow the same curriculum allows for specialization. This means the child with an aptitude for art can allocate more time during the day on drawing, painting and learning art history, while a child with a passion for STEM can concentrate on learning programming or delving into higher level mathematics, “says Michelle Estes, coordinator for the Project Fair.  “Come out to the Project Fair and you will see children motivated by the love of learning, who are eager to share their knowledge with you. These are tomorrow’s leaders, and we are proud to sponsor this event for them each year.”CHEACC offers parents support in their home-schooling efforts via monthly meetings and an interactive website where families can connect with other home-school families. The organization also offers social and academic opportunities for home-educated children. Read the February 2018 issue of SWFL Parent & Child magazine and get more from P&C at swflparentchild.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also available on Issuu. Continue Reading

GARDEN: Inland plant exchange group grows seeds of kindness

Lorrie Cadena, 62, of Riverside, left, shows off her cactus to Barty Robarge, 47, of Lake Elsinore, founder of the Plant Traders Inland Empire Ca Garden Trading Community, get together at Louie's Nursery in Menifee. Barty Robarge of Lake Elsinore, founder/coordinator of the group, checks out an aloe plant with Larry Dodson. Debi Wilson gets a closeup look at a plant. Dawn Champion of Norco, carries an umbrella and totes her 16-month-old daughter Dakota as she tows in a wagonload of plants. A closeup of an aloe plant held by Larry Dodson at the Plant Traders Inland Empire Ca Garden Trading Community meetup at Louie's Nursery in Menifee. A closeup of a spiny cactus. Show Caption of Expand By Laurie Lucas | [email protected] | The Press-Enterprise September 19, 2015 at 12:05 am When Robert “Barty” Robarge, a legally blind man, started an online meetup of plant lovers in March, he never envisioned how he would come to see the beauty of kindness. His mission has far surpassed his original goal of spreading the joy of gardening while socializing. Instead, he’s sowing the seeds of love, friendship, generosity and compassion in an Inland area-based group that’s grown from 30 to more than 1,650 members. Through his lifeline, a Samsung Galaxy tablet, Robarge has grown a green exchange called Plant Traders Inland Empire Ca Garden Trading Community. Members meet to swap whole plants, seeds, bulbs, cuttings, trees, pots, planters, gardening tools and decorations, eggs, chickens, fruits, vegetables, homemade baked goods and bottled water. There’s no need to bring credit cards, because nothing is sold, but eagerly traded or given away. “So many of them, like myself, were in a dark place,” said Robarge, 47, who lives in Lake Elsinore with his sister. “The group has brought them back to the light.” He’s heard their stories. One member’s 8-year-old granddaughter was Continue Reading

‘Sex and the City’ star Kim Cattrall demands M.A.D.D. prevent ‘violating assaults’ after joyriding teen plows SUV into her home

More like “Wrecks and the City.” Kim Cattrall called on Mothers Against Drunk Driving to end “violating assaults” Thursday after a 16-year-old joyriding with friends allegedly plowed an SUV into her Vancouver Island home. No one was hurt during the late-night incident, the “Sex and the City” star wrote, but the crash “has shaken the whole neighborhood.” “People cld have been killed. U should b ashamed,” Cattrall scolded the “senseless” teen on Twitter Tuesday, sharing dramatic photos of her smashed door and windows alongside the battered white Suzuki Grand Vitara. “A 16 year old girl could have been responsible for 4 peoples deaths,” the blonde fumed. “She’s home free to drive around today!” The Liverpool-born actress later pleaded with M.A.D.D. to stop the madness. “@ 1am Tuesday a 16 yr old driver smashed into my home. How can we prevent these violating assaults?” she wrote. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS ENTERTAINMENT: ON FACEBOOK | ON TWITTER “So sorry to hear this. #DrunkDriving is an epidemic we must end,” the advocacy group replied. “#NoMoreVictims DM us your email to see if we can help.” The Courtenay, Comox Valley, police department wouldn't confirm the identity or age of the driver; only that it was investigating an incident involving a car crashing into a house, reports the Irish Independent. It's unclear whether the driver was actually intoxicated. Dozens of concerned fans, including Irish TV host Graham Norton, lent their sympathy to the 59-year-old actress, who repeatedly told wellwishers she was “shaken up” but otherwise fine. She even indulged a lighthearted “Sex and the City” rib. “You can be SUCH a Miranda sometimes,” one person joked, Continue Reading

Tour the swankiest home theaters in New Jersey

In his 32 years of building home theaters, Pat Gagliano says no two are ever the same."We'll go into a new development and they'll put up the same house 30 times in a row but that doesn't make a difference to me," Gagliano said. "I'll do 10 of those basements in that development all with home theaters and I'll make sure none of them are even remotely the same to the other."Every home theater should suit the individual because everyone's different."Gagliano, the owner of Finished Basements New Jersey, said his clients will spend on average $25,000 to create a high-end custom home theater set up. However, the price can range depending on the client's wishes — he's currently working on a home theater in Toms River where the client is spending $200,000."I do this for a living, and it still blows my mind," he said.Gagliano will get clients who want to replicate the old, traditional theater vibe: He'll add a concession stand, a popcorn maker and hang up traditional movie theaters with lights around the edges in an enclosed sound-proof space.Today, however, Gagliano said the majority of his clients are opting for the open concept theater plan."A lot of people with smaller homes who in the past might not have been able to have a home theater are going with the open home theater concept, which is something that I came up with 10 years ago, and now it's really starting to catch on," Gagliano said.In an open theater plan, the home theater will have a traditional row of seating, which then might open up to a bar area or pool table area."No matter where you're at in the basement you're kind of in the theater even if you're outside the comfortable seats area. It makes for a really good Super Bowl party."He added that some clients prefer to mix up the seating arrangements in the theater."What we do now is place a little couch or love seat with a coffee table in the first row and in the second row there will be home theater seats. Now, Continue Reading

Daily News photographer, whose Breezy Point home was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, says Mayor Bloomberg’s so-called rapid response is anything but

It's been billed as a savior for superstorm Sandy victims, a program that will rapidly restore electricity, heat and hot water to damaged homes free of charge. But I’ve learned that there’s nothing rapid about Mayor Bloomberg’s so-called Rapid Repairs program. My neighbors and I joke that it should be renamed Three-Month Repairs. Since last November, I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to get the city to start emergency work on my devastated Breezy Point home. I’ve made at least two dozen phone calls to the city, trekked countless times to a recovery center and even chased down contractors on my block in search of answers. After all that, I’m right back where I started. PHOTOS: HURRICANE SANDY - BEFORE AND AFTER And every time I return to my shattered neighborhood, I’m faced with a cruel reality: I’m far from alone. Thousands of my neighbors, some of whom are elderly and sickly, are still waiting for help. Their stories are heartbreaking. My ordeal began at 5 p.m. on that terrible Monday last October. My single-story bungalow shrugged off Hurricane Irene, so my husband and I didn’t think twice about riding out Sandy with our two kids — Melina, 13, and Daniel, 18. It was a decision I quickly came to regret. At 6:30 p.m., my brother Mark, who lives next door, knocked on our door. He was frantic. “Get out now!” he hollered. “The ocean is in front of the house.” The water was already knee high — and rising fast. As I raced to the car with our kids, I glanced toward the beach and saw waves marching up the block. We spent the night with my sister-in-law’s sister, Ronnie, in Bay Ridge. When we returned the next morning, we were initially overcome with relief. Unlike the houses of hundreds of our neighbors, ours was still standing. And the massive fire that ravaged our idyllic community never reached our block. GALLERY: Continue Reading

Update: Sandy-affected, mold-infested home free of spores thanks to Staten Island Rebuilds Foundation

Queens homeowner Nichole Harper got some good news Thursday — the creeping mold that’s lingered in her basement since Hurricane Sandy has been wiped out. Festering spores in the cellar apartment of her Far Rockaway home had survived an initial gutting and “cleaning.” After the Daily News spotlighted her home Sunday, a local charity that fixes up properties wrecked by the storm came to the rescue. The Staten Island Rebuilds Foundation paid a mold-abatement expert to eradicate the scourge in Harper’s home Thursday. “He’s a life saver,” Harper’s husband, David Baboolal, said afterward. “It’s like brand-new. When I get the money, I can start putting up Sheetrock.” Homeowners in hard-hit areas like the Rockaways, Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach are increasingly finding mold returns after houses are supposedly cleaned of soaked wallboard and scoured with bleach. Experts like Bill Sothern of CUNY’s School of Public Health say the problem is getting worse. At the News’ request, Sothern checked out Harper’s one-family wood-frame home a block from the ocean. The surge flooded the entire area, filling Harper’s fully furnished basement apartment to near waist level. After The News’ story on Sunday, Fred Forgione of SI Rebuilds agreed to pay for mold remediation there. Workers from Pure Mold Remediation of Staten Island hit all the wooden studs, some concrete and the wall behind the kitchen cabinets with a dry ice blast to kill the mold. “Pretty much now, from what we’re looking at, as soon as we’re finished cleaning they’ll be good to go for putting up new walls,” Forgione said. The nonprofit organization has funded mold abatement at 38 homes in Sandy-affected areas and plans to help homeowners who have no flood insurance and received only minimum aid from FEMA to begin reconstruction of gutted units. The Continue Reading

State Fair free stage entertainment

MidAmerican Energy Stage38 Special (Aug. 13): Southern rockers known for hits like "Hold On Loosely" and "Caught Up in You."Vocal Trash (Aug. 13-23): Vocal harmonies combined with music made with buckets, trash cans and hubcaps.The Nadas (Aug. 14): Iowa-based group that has been performing together for more than 20 years.Bonne Finken (Aug. 15): Des Moines singer-songwriter who released her breakthrough album "Fairytales/LoveAffairs" last year.Home Free (Aug. 16-17): A country a capella band that won the fourth season of "The Sing-Off."Village People (Aug. 18): Disco greats known for hits like "YMCA," "Macho Man" and "In the Navy."Kentucky HeadHunters (Aug. 19): Grammy-winning country rockers best known for the hit "Oh Lonesome Me." FACEBOOK: Register's state fair pageSir Mix-A-Lot (Aug. 20): Rear-end obsessed rapper known for "Baby Got Back" and ... mostly just "Baby Got Back." Still, this may be the biggest free show of the fair.Fran Cosmo (Aug. 21): A former lead singer of Boston who worked with the band on the albums "Walk On" and "Corporate America."The Blue Band (Aug. 21): An Iowa Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame band, fronted by Iowa Public Radio host Bob Dorr.Here Come the Mummies (Aug. 23): A funk group comprised of musicians who hide their identities behind mummy costumes.==== Anne and Bill Riley StageNathan Osmond (Aug. 13-14): A country singer known for songs like "Stars & Stripes" and "There's a Whole Lot of a Woman."Redhead Express (Aug. 16-17): A country music group comprised of four sisters from Alaska.Matt Maher (Aug. 23): A contemporary Christian musician from Canada whose hits include "Your Grace is Enough" and "All The People Said Amen."==== Guide to the Fair + Complete Coverage during the Fair: DesMoinesRegister.com/IowaStateFair Complete calendar of events: DesMoinesRegister.com/StateFairEvents ==== Bud Light StageLita Ford (Aug. 13): A founding member of Runaways whose solo hits include "Close Your Eyes Forever" and "What Do You Continue Reading

Paranormal investigators hunt for haunted homes

Some people might not mind a bump in the night or harmless haunting. But for a home seller or real-estate broker, a haunted home can be a nightmare. "We were attempting to go into contract with three different buyers," recounts one of the highest-profile Manhattan brokers, who insists on anonymity for fear of bringing controversy to the professional environment. "Each time, they never went to contract. We had to keep putting the apartment back on the market." She had no reason to believe it was a ghost or spirit, but as she says, "The place isn't selling, and I don't know why." RELATED: 20 SCARIEST HORROR MOVIES OF ALL TIMEAt her wit's end, the broker hired a spiritual cleanser. A half hour later, the super called to tell her someone in the building was interested. The home sold right away. In this broker's case, nothing was explained to her — what about the house was making it difficult to sell, how to fix the problem or how a new resident should react if the paranormal energy should return. RELATED: CELEBS' SEXY HALLOWEEN COSTUMESThese questions could have been answered by Paranormal NYC, New York City's only group of paranormal investigators that strives to provide answers as well as solutions when dealing with a paranormal presence in local homes. The group's founder, Brooklyn-born Dom Villella, who says the movie "Ghostbusters" isn't far off from how he operates, explains that our broker got only half the story when she had her townhouses cleansed. "You're bringing people in, and they're just cleaning something out without even the slightest idea of what it is, no evidence of energy or activity," Villella says. "You're just assuming it's something paranormal." Always free and 100% confidential, Paranormal NYC's team (usually three to eight people, depending on the size of the investigation) uses science as a means to explain what might be happening in a potentially haunted home. "We're trying to help people," says Villella, a Continue Reading

Is this pol home free?

I really hated to ruin Mathieu Eugene's postvictory glow. But I just had to call yesterday to inquire when he planned to move into the City Council district voters elected him to represent in Tuesday's special election. The question needed to be asked, thanks to a series of ill-advised court rulings in recent years about where candidates may or may not live.The problem will keep coming up until the state Legislature passes a clear, straightforward political residency law that cures the confusion created by the courts.There's no question that Eugene, the first Haitian-born candidate elected to the Council, was living in Canarsie - miles south of the 40th Council District in Flatbush - during his campaign for the office.But listen to how the state's second-highest court, the Appellate Division, resolved a similar case in 1993 called Clark vs. McCoy, a fight over whether a candidate running for City Council in Queens was required under the Public Officers Law to live in the district at the time she submitted nominating petitions."There is no requirement that a candidate be a resident of the district at the time of the filing of the petition," the court ruled. "The only requirement is that the candidate be a resident at the time of the election."That seems clear enough - but it means that, unless he went apartment hunting on Election Day, Eugene wasn't a resident when voters put him in. And at least one election lawyer with no stake in the race has suggested to me that Eugene might not be eligible to serve in the Council because he didn't meet the legal requirement.Steve Richman, the general counsel for the city Board of Elections, ducked my question on the subject, saying through a spokeswoman that issues of residency get handled by the City Council. City Council staffers said nobody had raised the issue and promised to look into it - but never got back to me.Eugene himself told me he's scheduled to be sworn in at City Hall today at 2 p.m. and declined to talk about Continue Reading