Sunday, October 9, 2016

In Rare Cases Zika May Be Passed Through Tears or Sweat

At the Foundation Fighting Blindness where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO, the latest research into eye disease is supported in the hopes of finding cures. Other issues of interest to scientists are the causes of eye diseases, how they are contracted, and how their spread can be minimized or halted altogether.

In this vein it is of interest to investigate what illnesses can be contracted through contact with tears. The Zika virus has recently been in the news as an illness that is transferred through mosquitoes. But in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine there was a discussion of an unusual case of the death, in the United States, of a patient with Zika, and how a second patient may have caught the illness from contact with either the patient’s tears or sweat.

The person who died was a 73-year-old man who was the first known death in the US from Zika. He first began to show symptoms of the illness after returning to the US from a trip to Mexico, a place known to have Zika. The second person is a 38-year-old man who came to visit the first man in the hospital. He reported that while he was visiting the first man he had wiped away his tears and assisted the nurses to move him into a more comfortable position on the bed.

About a week after the first man died the second man developed water, red eyes, a common symptom of Zika. After testing for the virus, it was clear the man did, indeed, have Zika. Luckily he recovered with only mild symptoms developing.

The letter in the NEJM discusses two mysteries: Why did the first man die, since deaths from Zika are quite rare; and how did the second man contract the virus? The letter suggests that perhaps unusually high levels of Zika in the first man’s blood explained both the death and the possibility of infected sweat and/or tears.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Choosing a Professional Financial Guide

Getting your financial house in order can be a big, confusing job. It is no wonder many people seek the services of financial professionals to help them sort out all the details and avoid making mistakes. Choosing a financial planner can also seem a daunting undertaking. Here are some tips on how to pick a financial planner that works best for you.

There is a spectrum of professional which offer services, from those who provide advice to those with little or no savings to professional who help people with savings, who want to play a minimal role in the day-to-day activities of their client’s financial lives. Most people need someone who falls somewhere within these two extremes.


Some people might benefit highly from a ‘financial coach.’ A coach works closely with someone who needs to improve their fundamental financial habits “to change their behaviors around money.” Think of a financial coach as similar to a personal trainer who helps their client get out of debt, understand their emotions about money, and then free them to overcome their obstacles to good financial management.


On the other end of the spectrum are financial advisors who simply provide services which are mostly hands-off and transactional or product-focused.  A broker or somehow who manages a portfolio. They might meet with their clients once per quarter, just to keep them updated about how their assets are performing.


Financial planners’ services fall somewhere in between the services provided by either coaches or advisors. Planners often analyze their clients’ entire financial life from cash and debt management, insurance, investments, tax and estate planning. One expert described financial planning as “a disciplined process to clearly define financial goals, gather information about resources available to meet those goals, and developing a plan to achieve them.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gene Therapy Research Supported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness

Watch this video which describes the important research supported by The Foundation Fighting Blindness, where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO. Through the developing techniques of gene therapy, the hope to cure disease and end blindness can be realized.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Grandparents and Planning for College

Over the past ten years saving for college has become much more of a priority for families, therefore planning for this expense is on the rise. In addition, as the price of a college education continues to soar, so does the need to plan accordingly.

Today about 72 percent of American families are saving for their children’s education. That is an increase of 24 percent since back in 2007, the first time Fidelity Investments published its College Savings Indicator Study. Also, about 41 percent of families save in a dedicated college savings account like a 529 plan. That is over a 62 percent increase over the last ten years ago.

The strong desire to see children go to college has not been supported by grandparents who are high net-worth individuals. According to Fidelity’s 2016 study, only about 40 percent of high net-worth grandparents are contributing to the college savings plan of their grandchildren, even though they have stated that they are willing to support the endeavor when the time arrives.

When high net-worth grandparents help out with their grandchildren’s college education it can mean the grandchildren can graduate with less debt, and/or start saving for retirement sooner.

“It’s not surprising to learn that the majority of grandparents have yet to discuss college gifting with their children or grandchildren, despite both a strong desire and the financial ability to assist with higher education,” said Chris McDermott, senior vice president, Private Wealth Management at Fidelity Investments. “These conversations can be challenging on a number of levels, both from a relationship perspective as well as a financial and tax planning perspective.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Research on the Effect of Internal Astigmatism

Chart courtesy of BruceBlaus
In those people who have myopia (are nearsighted), their lens does not compensate for growth of the eye, or other changes in the eye’s structure. That is the determination of a long-term follow-up study which appeared in the September issue of Optometry and Vision Science.

This study helps to clarify whether and/or how the lens, or other eye structures change as a response to focusing abnormalities, particularly abnormalities caused by the irregular shape of the eye, known as astigmatism.

The study, reported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO, examined 367 people with myopia over 14 years. During that time the subjects’ eye structures were carefully measured and assessed for focusing error. This data was compared to one-time measurements in a matched group of 204 subjects without myopia.

The researchers were looking for any changes in the “internal astigmatism” of the eye over time.
"Clarity of vision is determined by the precise shape of the eye and coordination of several optical components that must all be perfectly balanced to provide proper focus. A longstanding question is how the eye adapts and controls its shape to deliver correct focus as it grows from birth to adult dimensions," explained the editor-in-chief of Optometry and Vision Science, Michael Twa, OD, PhD.
Although the new study does not explain the sources of internal astigmatism, the data does not support the theory that the lens plays any active role in compensating for astigmatic defocus of the eye.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Estate Planning Basics: A Will and Updated Beneficiaries

The last Will and Testament of C.F.Beyer 1872/1876:Courtesy of Bradshaw79
The most important part of estate planning is having a will, say experts like Louis Kreisberg, Principal, Pioneer Wealth Partners. Unfortunately, over 50 percent of Americans die without one, resulting in leaving it up to a state court to decide how to distribute any assets you may have accumulated over your lifetime. If you have children, who cares for them will also be left up to the state courts.

If you have a desire to leave your assets to someone who is not your closest blood relative, or to an organization you support, the courts will not know, and your will not be done.
"Everyone should have a will," says one expert. "It allows assets to go to beneficiaries you name. And if you have children who are minors, it names a guardian, which is extremely important."
Another key aspect of estate planning is keeping the beneficiaries on your individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and life insurance policies up to date. Your bank accounts should also have a designated beneficiary.
"As people go through different milestones in life, they need to change their beneficiaries. If you had your parents listed and then you get married, those assets go to your parents. The beneficiary trumps any other estate planning you do."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Research Links Eye Color with Rare Form of Cancer

Every year in the United States about 2,500 people are diagnosed with uveal melanoma, which arises
A Blue Human Iris: Photo courtesy of 8thstar at Enblish Wikipedia
from the pigment cells in the eyes which determine their color. Clinical data in the past pointed to a correlation between this disease and Caucasians and those with light eye color, but the genetic path for this phenomenon has not been studied previously.

A new study conducted by doctors from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Perlmutter Cancer Center of the NYU School of Medicine, and reported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness with Louis Kreisberg, CEO, showed a strong association between genes connected to eye color and the onset of uveal melanoma.

"This is a very important discovery that will guide future research efforts to explore the interactions of these pigmentary genes with other genetic and environmental risk factors in cancers not linked to sun exposure, such as eye melanoma. This could provide a paradigm shift in the field. Our study suggests that in eye melanoma the pigmentation difference may play a direct cancer-driving role, not related to sunlight protection," says Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, MD, one of the scientists exploring the issue.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Estate Planning and Prenuptial Agreements

When people with children from previous marriages decide to wed, special issues arise when considering inheritance.  Parents are concerned that the rights of their children be protected, and pre-nuptial agreements can be the vehicle through which those inheritance rights are protected.

What is a prenuptial agreement? Basically, it is just a contract which goes into effect at the time of the marriage. The agreement should be executed well in advance of the actual wedding, and should include details about spousal support and/or the distribution of assets should there be a death or divorce.

The key value of having a prenuptial agreement is that the rights to support and inheritance are respected according to the agreed upon requirements in the event of divorce or death. The agreement is able to protect children from the previous marriage and also to protect any separate assets which were brought into the new relationship or earned during it.

In addition, owners of businesses can protect their business from coming under the control of an estranged ex-spouse. People who are the recipients of inherited wealth frequently want to protect those assets to remain in the family for their heirs.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sedentary Lifestyle Can Increase Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy Says New Study

Proliferative retinopathy
The Foundation Fighting Blindness, where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO, helps fund research in all areas delving into the causes and treatments of a large variety of vision-threatening illnesses. One such study showed a connection between a sedentary lifestyle and diabetic retinopathy.

The study, published in the online version of JAMA Ophthalmology by Paul D. Loprinzi, Ph.D of the University of Mississippi, examined the association of sedentary behavior (SB) with diabetic retinopathy (DR). The researcher used data from 2005 to 2006 found in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study included 282 participants who had diabetes. The average age of the subjects was 62, and 29 percent had at least a mild form of DR. The participants engaged on average in 522 minutes per day of SB. Sedentary behavior was assessed with an accelerometer and measured while participants were awake.

The author of the study found that those with a 60-minute per day increase in SB had a 16 percent increased risk of having mild or worse DR. Total physical activity was not associated with DR.

"The plausibility of this positive association between SB and DR may in part be a result of the increased cardiovascular disease risks associated with SB, which in turn may increase the risk of DR. This association does not prove a cause and effect of SB and increased chance of worsening DR. To know whether this observed association had a cause-and-effect relationship, intervention trials would be needed in which individuals were assigned randomly to increase PA and decreased prolonged SB had a decreased chance of worsening DR," writes Dr. Loprinzi.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Blended Families Face Unique Issues for Estate Planning

Most of life’s milestones require planning in order to get the most benefit from them. Estate planning is no different. This goes for traditional families as well as for blended families, which are growing in number.

If you are about to become the head of a blended, or step-family, then pay attention to some of the decisions which need to be made when planning the distribution of your assets.

1.      Keep your documents up to date. A new marriage could invalidate a previous will, so check and make sure. Whether you are about to enter a step-family or not, it is always a good idea to have your will updated whenever something new is added to the mix. If not, you could end up leaving your assets to your ex, even if you would rather not.

2.      Who will be the executor of you will? It can be anyone you trust with the job, including spouse, children, or children from a previous marriage. It can even be a friend or colleague. Don’t forget to pick a third-party mediator, like an accountant or lawyer, which can help avoid confusion and awkwardness.

3.      You can create a trust which will help to pass on your assets to children of a previous marriage, while still allowing you to provide for your present spouse. The trust can help insure the correct division of assets.

4.      Life insurance can help those inheriting from you, creating an additional source of funds. You can designate your new children from a more recent marriage as beneficiaries of the insurance, while the rest of your estate can go to your older children from a past marriage.

5.      Even though it might seem awkward, singing a marriage contract can keep things clear and straightforward.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Embryonic Stem Cells Show Promise in Helping Eye Diseases in Certain Patients

The Foundation for Fighting Blindness, with CEO Louis Kreisberg
Diagram to show how embryonic stem cells are differentiated
, reported on the advancements recently made in the use of stem cells as a therapy for certain eye diseases.

Human stem cells were first isolated in 1998, and since that time researchers have been investigating how these special embryonic cells can be used to treat a variety of illnesses.

Recently scientists have seen encouraging results with a group of 18 patients who were followed for a median time of 22 months, and two for over three years.
“This is a promising study, and it provides a lot of hope for regenerative medicine,” said Dr. Steven D. Schwartz, a retina specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the lead author of the paper. “However, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
The study followed patients who were the recipients of Advanced Cell Technology, which changes embryonic stem cells into retinal pigment epithelium cells, which are the supporting cells for the light-sensing cells of the eye.

In eight of the 18 eyes that were treated, vision improved considerably. That is compared to no improvement at all in the untreated eyes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Face the Future with Well Thought-Out Estate Planning

Nobody wants to consider the reality that they will no longer be among the living, but that day comes to all of us. There are a few simple steps all of us can take which will make that day easier on our loved ones to settle our affairs at a time of emotional trauma.

Here is a list of a few helpful actions to ease the path for those who will inherit you:

 1. Create a file and name it “My Estate Plan” and put it in an easily accessible place in your house. Be sure to keep all the papers together in this one file. This file should include a copy of your will, living trusts, end-of-life instructions, real estate records, and more.

 2. Name your executor. This person will be in charge of your estate. Most people name their spouses as their executors, but if this isn’t possible it is usually a child, other close relative, or trusted friend. 

3. Make your executor a co-signer on your financial accounts. Choose a secondary executor just in case something should happen to the primary.

 4. Rent a safe deposit box and keep copies of your estate planning file in it. Make sure that your primary executor is a co-signer for the safe deposit box, and give him/her the key.

 5. Specify what you would like your funeral to look like. Tell your executor what you decided, as well as family and friends.

 6. Be sure to keep your estate plan up-to-date. Revise your will whenever something changes in your life.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Retinal Research Entering a Golden Era

Enjoy this video, produced by The Foundation Fighting Blindness where Louis Kreisberg is the CEO. The video depicts a young woman whose eyesight was restored through gene therapy through the support of the Foundation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The New Focus on Estate Planning

According to the Wall Street Journal, many families are moving their estate planning focus away from avoiding estate taxes, to minimizing their capital gains tax burdens. Nowadays the federal estate tax is not the biggest worry for affluent people who would like to avoid paying taxes when their heirs inherit their wealth.

This is in contrast to how it was during the past ten years. Back in 2004, those with over $1.5 million in assets wishing to pass on their wealth after death, or who made gifts above that limit during their lifetimes, had to pay taxes at the top rate which was close to 50 percent. Married couples were forced to set up trust funds in order to benefit from the full $3 million exemption they were entitled to.

Adding to the complexity of planning was the fact that the tax burden kept changing every year. In fact, in 2010 the tax was completely gone, making it extremely difficult to plan for the future.

Last year Congress changed the estate tax law. Today the top estate-and-gift tax rate is set at a maximum of 40 percent and the exemption was changed to $5 million, with adjustments to take into account inflation, so that today’s exemption comes to $5.34 million. In addition, couples do not need to set up trusts to get the full benefit they are entitled to.

Now that individuals do not have to be so concerned with estate taxes, they can reap meaningful tax savings on capital gains by choosing smartly which assets to hold until death.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Stem Cell Therapy

Louis Kreisberg is the CEO of The Foundation Fighting Blindness, which funds pioneering research into the causes and cures of illnesses which result in blindness.

One example of up-to-the-minute research funded by the FFB is stem cell transplantation therapy. Many people engaged in finding a cure for blindness have called the transplantation of photo-receptors in order to restore sight as the “holy grail” of possible therapies to cure blindness. The reason is that this therapy has the potential to help people who are living with blindness, but for many difference reasons.

It has already been shown to work in the laboratory where lost photo-receptors have been replaced by injecting stem-cell-derived photo-receptors into the eye. Yet, although much progress has been made with this line of research, there are still many obstacles standing in the way of a cure.

One such hurdle is the inability to distinguish between the newly injected cone photo-receptors from the cone receptors that are already in the eye and not functioning properly. One researcher, Dr. Valerie Wallace, has made a breakthrough towards solving this problem.

“There is considerable work being done on exploring rod cell transplantation in the eye, which has formed the basis for much of the field to this point. Although this work is of significant value to understanding photo-receptor transplantation, replacing a cell type that is responsible for low-light (night) vision in one’s periphery is not an end-point goal of this field,” explained Dr. Phil Nickerson, a collaborator on the project.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tips to Save on Insurance Premiums

Between car, health, life and other forms of insurance that we pay for each month, the premiums quickly add up. Here are a few tips to keep the costs of having insurance to a minimum.

If there is something that you want, ask for it. This might mean using a broker for your insurance needs instead of signing up on-line, but the potential for savings makes it worthwhile.

Want to lower your premiums? Start with making some life changes that make you look less risky on paper, (and in real life, too.) Dare I say it? Lose some weight, quit smoking, take a defensive driving class. These actions can not only help you save money on your insurance, but save your life, too.

Never stop comparing prices. Comparing prices does not mean making endless phone calls, either. The internet and sites like make is simple and fast to get the best price for your insurance.

Bundled plans are not always the cheapest. Consider looking at each service you are getting separately and see if you are really saving money in the bundle.

Your credit history can be used by insurance companies to determine your rates, so keep an eagle eye on it. Knowing your credit score is an important part of taking charge of your finances anyway, and should be checked yearly. Checking regularly also helps avoid identity theft and fraud.

Many organizations such as companies or schools offer discounted rates for members or alumni. Check and see if your alma mater or company offers such savings on insurance.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Confronting the Truth About Estate Planning

There are many goals of estate planning; one of which is to leave those you love in a better position than perhaps you began your life with. It means coming to the realization that one day you will no longer be alive. For many people this is a difficult realization to confront in all its ramifications.

When planning for your eventual death, the following issues will most likely arise:

You will have mixed emotions about confronting the reality of inevitable death. When you understand that avoiding developing an estate plan will lead to your assets going to unintended beneficiaries and loss of money for your loved ones in unnecessary taxes and liabilities, perhaps that will charge you to action.

Be sure to clearly communicate your wishes. Be sure to involve your loved ones and financial advisors. The more you clarify before your demise, the less likely there will be misunderstandings and disputes after.

The way to communicate your wishes legally is through a will. Be sure to write one, the sooner the better. And keep it up to date whenever some change your status, or your children’s status, or any other relevant event, takes place.

Consider establishing a living trust. This completely bypasses the entire probate process, saves on attorney’s fees, court control, contest clauses, unneeded taxes. It is private and entirely controlled by the family.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Procedure for FED Could Reduce Need for Corneal Transplants

Louis Kreisberg is the CEO of The Foundation Fighting Blindness, where the causes, cures and
prevention of eye diseases is the focus of ongoing research.

A minimally invasive procedure to treat one of the more common eye ailments, Fuchs endothelial dystrophy (FED) is proving to be at least as effective as the present standard of care, namely, a cornea transplant.

Researcher Kathryn Colby, MD, PhD, and others found that removing just a few square millimeters fo a single layer of cells on the inside of the cornea stimulated the rejuvenation of the nearby tissue, eliminating the need for a corneal transplant. For every four patients with FED who had the procedure, three experienced the restoration of clear vision. FED is the most frequent cause of corneal transplants in the US.
"It's too soon to call this a cure," Colby said. "We performed the first operation just over two years ago. But when it works, it's a wonderful thing. It's quick, inexpensive and it spares patients from having someone else's cells in their eyes, which requires local immunosuppression."
One patient who had the procedure described his recovery:
"Few things remind you as constantly as deteriorating vision," the patient recalled. "Your world steadily narrows as you lose the ability to see. But mine expanded again at the other end. I remember walking the dog at night right after the operation. Each night, the streetlights would be a little more in focus. You could see the improvement, night after night over the course of a few weeks, like the fog lifting out of London. It was cool. Really cool."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Gene Therapy Helps Sheep Overcome “Day Blindness”

The Foundation Fighting Blindness, where Louis Kreisberg is CEO, supports a blog called “Eye on the Cure,” which explores the latest research in retinal disease. Recently the blog discussed a new therapy which was tried on sheep suffering from achromatopsia, an illness that not only affects sheep but about 100,000 people each year, causing blindness in light conditions.

Sheep with the illness were treated by a research team led by Eyal Banin, MD, PhD of Hadassah Medical Center in Israel. University of Florida’s William Hauswirth, PhD supplied the gene-delivery system, the human-engineered adeno-associated virus, or AAV, which delivered the healthy gene to the sheep retinas.

Sheep with achromatopsia were given the virus loaded with the good gene. Whereas before the treatment they could not successfully navigate through a maze to find their flock, after the treatment they were successful.

The research results were published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

The below video shows the results of the therapy:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Estate Planning Today

According to the Wall Street Journal, many families are moving their estate planning focus away from avoiding estate taxes, to minimizing their capital gains tax burdens. Nowadays the federal estate tax is not the biggest worry for affluent people who would like to avoid paying taxes when their heirs inherit their wealth.

This is in contrast to how it was during the past ten years. Back in 2004, those with over $1.5 million in assets wishing to pass on their wealth after death, or who made gifts above that limit during their lifetimes, had to pay taxes at the top rate which was close to 50 percent. Married couples were forced to set up trust funds in order to benefit from the full $3 million exemption they were entitled to.

Adding to the complexity of planning was the fact that the tax burden kept changing every year. In fact, in 2010 the tax was completely gone, making it extremely difficult to plan for the future.

Last year Congress changed the estate tax law. Today the top estate-and-gift tax rate is set at a maximum of 40 percent and the exemption was changed to $5 million, with adjustments to take into account inflation, so that today’s exemption comes to $5.34 million. In addition, couples do not need to set up trusts to get the full benefit they are entitled to.

Now that individuals do not have to be so concerned with estate taxes, they can reap meaningful tax savings on capital gains by choosing smartly which assets to hold until death.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Louis Kreisberg and the Foundation Fighting Blindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness, with CEO Louis Kreisberg, has taken on the urgent mission of supporting the research into the causes of blindness and its prevention, treatments and also cures.
On the list of causes of blindness are retinitis pigmentosa (RP), macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and other diseases which cause the retina to degenerate.

Here are some facts about retinal degenerative diseases which can lead to blindness:
·       Blinding diseases affect people of all ages and races. Over ten million Americans suffer vision loss from these diseases.
·        Retinitis Pigmentosa and Usher syndrome are genetic diseases which are inherited and usually diagnosed during childhood or young adulthood.
  •   RP is the cause of serious vision loss which leads to legal and/or total blindness.
  •  Children who are born with Usher syndrome are born with varying degrees of deafness. They develop RP later.
  •  Age related macular degeneration has inherited risks. It is characterized by increasing loss of central vision.
  • The foremost cause of blindness in adults over 55 years old in the US is AMD.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Changing New York Tax Laws

Tax laws in America are very complicated.  And they differ from state to state.  And then they change.  Having a tax consultant therefore, makes the process a lot easier.  It is important that that tax expert specializes in the state where one has their money.

Louis Kreisberg – a Principal at Pioneer Wealth Partners – is one such individual who is equipped to offer consultation on this subject matter.  With offices in Seattle, Chicago and New York, Pioneer can offer clients expert consultation on business, estate planning, tax and more.

Last year, as part of the 2015-16 Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo made several changes to the New York State estate tax law. It was pretty complicated.  For example, estate tax exclusion was elevated by the 2014 legislation from $1 million to $2,062,500 for those who passed away between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015; to $3,125,000 for individuals dying between April 1, 2015, and March 31, 2016; to $4,187,500 for individuals dying between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017; and to $5,250,000 for individuals dying between April 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018.

At the beginning of this year, things changed again.  As pointed out in a recent article byconsultants at law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP:

“On January 13, 2016 the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) requiring reporting by title insurance companies and their subsidiaries and agents on certain high-value real estate transactions starting on March 1, 2016. The GTOs require reporting on “all-cash” residential real estate deals made through shell companies in Miami Dade County, Florida and the Borough of Manhattan in New York City. The reporting is temporary, lasting for 180 days beginning March 1, 2016 and continuing until August 27, 2016 (unless extended).”

Clearly the above data from last year and this, shows the law is complex and subject to regular amendments.  Having a tax expert in New York, like Louis Kreisberg, can ease the pressure of keeping up with these laws.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Navigating Tax Laws

Tax laws often concern business people who lack extensive fiscal understanding. Right now, this is particularly worrying since it is tax season again in the US.  According to arecent article in My North West, this fear actually translates into tens of thousands of Americans avoiding tax filing, resulting in an IRS estimated almost $1 billion unclaimed refunds, just for 2012.

So what is the solution?  If there are refunds to be had, and one is not in the tax-know as it were, what should the next step be?  One idea is to contact a tax consultant in their area. In Washington for example, the above article estimated that half of the refunds are for $700+. People such as Louis Kreisberg of Pioneer Wealth Partners, Greg Boots of Anderson Advisors and Thuy Nguyen of H& R Block are just some of the consultants that offer services in this area.  Along with his team at Pioneer Wealth Partners, Kreisberg offers investment advice, tax and estate planning services and more to his clients, helping them navigate an array of fiscal adversities. They can help these people remove the fear of tax return filing for those concerned they owe money to the IRS.

Then of course there are the companies which are avoiding their taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, companies were able to avoid up to $695 billion due to the fact that they are not bringing the profits they earned overseas back home.  This is because America – at a figure of 35 percent – imposes the highest tax rate in the developed world.

So when it comes to individuals potentially getting a tax refund, it is worth consulting those in the know to have this happen.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Update: Getting Ready for Taxes in 2016

Stay ahead of the tax game and learn what will be new in the tax laws for 2016.

Be aware of the Affordable Care Act Penalties for those who choose to opt out of what is popularly known as Obamacare. What are essentially taxes on people who do not purchase health insurance will rise in 2016 to $2,085, which is the premium cost for the national average of the Bronze Plan listed on the federal health exchange. In order to avoid paying this penalty a person must either carry health insurance coverage, or get a plan at the latest during the first two months of 2016.

Personal exemptions will go up by $50 in 2016, to $4,050. This deduction however, has been eliminated for people in the higher income brackets. The standard deduction has gone up a bit for the head of the household.

Head of households with families can add an additional $100 to their Health Savings Account for a total of $6,750 for the year. Individuals, though, can only contribute up to $3,350, the same as in 2015.

Since April 15 this year falls on a Friday and also happens to be a federal holiday, the deadline has been extended to April 18.

The Earned Income Credit is going up in 2016, but don’t get too excited, its not by that much. For three qualified children the increase is $27, to $6,269. With two children the rise is $24, with a maximum of $5,572. Families with just one child can max-out at $3,373, a $14 increase. If you do not have any children, your increase is just $3 and give you a deduction of $506.

There are several tax breaks that are still relevant in 2016. For teachers they can still take a maximum of $250 on expenses for classroom supplies that did not get reimbursed.