It’s Tax Time – Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to File

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You know tax season has begun when your mailbox contains W-2s, 1099s and lots of other tax-related documents needed for filing annual state and federal income tax returns.

While many of us dread preparing our taxes, it’s one of those necessary tasks that we have to get through every year. At least those receiving tax refunds have something to look forward to! But, there is some good tax news this year because the filing deadline has been extended for three days and you have until April 18, 2017 at midnight to get your taxes filed.

We don’t recommend you wait until the last minute, though. Filing early is highly recommended. One of the main reasons is to avoid identity theft. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), identity theft has become a big problem and criminals file fraudulent tax returns and collect refunds in your name leaving you with a mess to clean up. Early filing will prevent this.

Starting early also gives you more time to prepare your returns so you can make sure they are accurate. Plus, you’ll get your refund earlier and if you do have to pay, you’ll have more time to plan for it.

Many wonder whether it’s better to prepare those tax forms themselves or hire a professional. It usually depends on how complicated your finances and returns are. Either way, there is some homework you’ll need to do to keep your stress level down and to complete your filing on time.

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute.
  2. Collect needed documents in advance.
  3. Review your documents to be sure you have everything you need and get what is missing.
  4. Determine if you’ll file online or by mail.
  5. Decide if you’ll prepare your tax returns yourself, use a computer tax program or have a tax preparer do it for you.
  6. Before choosing a professional, interview them over the phone or in person to verify their experience and ask any other questions you may have. Then, make an appointment and check their license and credentials.

According to the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) website, California professionals who can charge a fee to prepare tax returns must be licensed as an attorney or certified public accountant (CPA); or be a CTEC-registered tax preparer or an enrolled agent.

CTEC states that “choosing a tax preparer who is not one of those four professionals may prevent you from legal recourse against fraud. It may also increase your chances for additional taxes, interest and fines.”

Check the license

CPA: If you choose a CPA to prepare your taxes, the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) encourages you to check the status of a CPA’s license on their website. Or call the board at (916) 263-3680.  You can also find any public enforcement documents related to a California CPA here.

Attorney: To verify the license of an attorney, go to the California Bar Association website.

Tax Preparer and Enrolled Agent: To verify that a tax preparer or enrolled agent is certified, go the California Tax Education Council website.

Helpful Information

The CBA’s Consumer Assistance Booklet has helpful tax information and can be viewed here on their website.

If you need more information on your federal taxes, check the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

California tax information can be found  at the California Tax Service Center www.taxes.ca.gov and at the Franchise Tax Board website.

Take some time now to get those tax returns ready and avoid the headaches and stress of waiting until the last minute.

Ticks Don’t Take a Winter Vacation

You may think that in winter you don’t have to worry about tick prevention, but if you live in any of California’s snow-free, temperate regions, adult ticks and emerging nymphs pose a threat all year long. Adult ticks are active from October to May, while younger and smaller nymphal ticks—about the size of a sesame seed—are active from January to October.

The three most common ticks in California (from top to bottom): The Western Black-Legged Tick, the Pacific Coast Tick, and the American Dog Tick.

The three most common ticks in California (from top to bottom): The Western Black-Legged Tick, the Pacific Coast Tick, and the American Dog Tick.

Ticks are nasty parasites, but they serve a purpose in the circle of life. They are food for reptiles, amphibians and birds; they host a variety of other organisms (many of those bad for humans); and because they carry diseases and drain blood, they act as a natural population control for their larger hosts—we just don’t want those “larger hosts” to be ourselves or our pets.

These mini-vampires can transmit a number of diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and erlichiosis. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in California, but luckily, most tick bites don’t transmit disease.

If you’ve been bitten by a tick, the Medical Board of California offers some advice—and an illustration of how to take out the tick—on page 10 of this issue of the Medical Board of California Newsletter.  Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and most patients recover completely without complications if the infection is caught early. But if left untreated, the disease can cause arthritis or nervous system disorders.

Once a tick is discovered, it should be pulled out as quickly as possible.  After you remove the tick, be sure to wash your hands and apply antiseptic to the bite area. Old-fashioned tick removal remedies such as insecticides, lighted matches, gasoline, petroleum jelly or liquid soaps don’t work and may cause injury to you or your pet.

The best way to protect your pets from ticks is through the use of monthly flea and tick preventatives, which are available from your veterinarian. If you are looking for a veterinarian, don’t forget to check the license first with the Veterinary Medical Board of California.

When working with or looking for tick prevention, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you:
  • Discuss the use of preventive products, including over-the-counter products, with your veterinarian to determine the safest and most effective choice for each pet.
  • Always talk to your veterinarian before applying any spot-on products, especially if your dog or cat is very young, old, pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
  • Only purchase EPA-registered pesticides or FDA-approved medicines.
  • Read the entire label before you use/apply the product.
  • Always follow label directions! Apply or give the product as and when directed. Never apply more or less than the recommended dose.
  • Remember, cats are not small dogs. Products labeled for use only for dogs should only be used for dogs, and never for cats.
  • Make sure that the weight range listed on the label is correct for your pet because weight matters. Giving a smaller dog a dose designed for a larger dog could cause the animal harm.

Preventing a tick bite is important and you need to take precautions when you or your pets enter tick habitats such as tall grass and brush in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Below are a few things you can do while outdoors:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks if they are on your clothes.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks when you are walking, hiking, or working in tick areas.
  • Use repellents containing at least 20% DEET.
  • Do tick checks for several days after you or your pets have been in tick habitat. Pay close attention to the hairline, waistline and armpits.
  • Remove attached ticks immediately. This can reduce the risk of transmission of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical attention if you, a family member, or your pet becomes ill after a tick bite.

To see additional photos or find out more information about ticks, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s information page.

 

 

Psychologist Surrenders License Due to Sexual Misconduct

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Southland Psychologist was accused of having sexual relations with a patient

SACRAMENTO – A psychologist has agreed to surrender her license after she was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient while she was a director of two recovery centers where the patient was being treated.

Read the entire news release here.