Monday, August 1, 2016

News Flash: An Ex-Husband Can File for Social Security Based on His Ex-Wife’s Salary

Once upon a time, happily ever after wasn’t just an adage you read about in the pages of a romantic fairy tale.  Marriage at one time lasted till the proverbial death do us part.  But in today’s world, divorce is probably just as a commonplace phenomenon as the marriage ceremony itself.  Divorce admittedly is a painful experience and can have a detrimental impact on us in these spheres—psychologically, emotionally, physically and financially. Consultation with a professional health provider is recommended for the first three spheres, consultation with the Social Security Administration (SSA) is all that is necessary for the last sphere since it is possible for an ex-spouse to tap into their ex-spouse’s social security benefit is according to But alas, this is unbeknownst to the population of the divorced out there. In this article the focus is going to be on ex-husbands. First let’s discuss the rules and regulations, as delineated by the SSA.
If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:
•You are unmarried;
•You are age 62 or older;
•Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and
•The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work, is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.

Note: Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse's full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. The benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse may receive.
•If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
•If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record and divorced spouse’s benefits, we will pay the retirement benefit first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount on your ex-spouse’s record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
Note: If you were born before January 2, 1954, and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the divorced spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefits until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists.  If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits
  •If you continue to work while receiving benefits, the retirement benefit earnings limit still applies. If you are eligible for benefits this year and are still working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect your benefit payments.
•If you will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government work, your Social Security benefit on your ex-spouse's record may be affected.
Note: The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or his or her current spouse may receive.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

8 Things the IRS Looks for on Your Tax Returns

By Brian Figeroux

We are all confronted with a myriad of unsettling issues in the daily management of our lives. Two words in the English language strike absolute terror in the bosoms of us all. What are these two dreaded words? Tax audit. Who exactly is the IRS hunting for in their quest to locate the perfect candidate for an audit?  First let us define our vocabulary. An audit is simply the IRS double checking your numbers to ascertain that you don’t have any discrepancies on your tax return. According to the Motley Fool, the modus operandi of the IRS is as follows:  they send a letter about particular items on your tax return, request supporting documents or ask about a math error it thinks it has found.  The audit letter will contain a comprehensive explanation of the questionable part of your return accompanied by an explanation of the pertinent tax rules.  What are some of the things the IRS looks for in all of those tax returns that reach them by the 15th of April?
1.    Charitable donations. According to Nerdwallet, you should not claim too many charitable donations. If you did in fact make generous contributions to a philanthropic organization you will certain be eligible for some well-deserved deductions but be forewarned—don’t report false donations.  It’s mandatory that you maintain meticulous records-you must have proper documentation to prove the validity of your contribution.

2.    Schedule C.  Do not report too many losses on Schedule C which is a form that is required for the self-employed who can take deductions that will lower their taxable income.  Being your own boss, you might be tempted to conceal income by filing personal expenses as business losses.  The IRS scrutinizes Section C with a very watchful eye.

3.    Home deductions. Claiming a home deduction is narrowly defined by the IRS. It is reserved for people who utilize a designated section of their home exclusively for a business. Only claim a home office deduction if you have set aside a section of your home for your business.
4.    Higher than average income. According to Quick books Intuit, having a higher than average income will possibly lead to increased odds of an audit. You will need to keep meticulous financial records. Large deductions that reduce the amount of your taxable income may cause a red flag at a desk at the IRS if they are out of proportion with your income. IRS uses tables to determine how much is too much.

5.    Numbers that have been averaged.  Rounding up or averaging numbers in our everyday life might be an acceptable practice but when it comes to your tax return it can trigger an audit.

6.    Claiming business losses. Claiming business losses year after year will cause the IRS to take a second look.  If you run a legitimate business that continually reports a loss the IRS might just assume that you are taking deductions that you are not entitled to. Why would you do that? They might think you are trying to avoid paying taxes.

7.    Business entertainment. If a particular tax return includes higher than average entertainment expenses be careful.  If you are going to deduct these types of expenses you must keep records where and when it occurred, who was in attendance and the purpose as it relates to your business.

8.    Claiming your vehicle. If you claim your vehicle, be it your car or van or truck, as 100% business, you will have to choose between the IRS standard mileage rates and actual expenses.   Do not deduct both of these on your tax return. You will need to provide precise records that include mileage logs, dates and the purpose of each and every trip.

The aforementioned list is just the tip of the iceberg concerning what items on your tax return the IRS is looking for before they send, seal and mail that letter inviting you for an audit.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Walking down the aisle to a divorce – 6 issues facing newly-weds

By Brian Figeroux

The marriage ceremony, historically, represents a celebration of a blessed union between two people in love—a memorable and romantic and special day with vows to be faithful till death, do us part.  This is a day when the ecstatic couple envision a happy life together spanning many generations to come. Rings have been exchanged; vows have been exchanged; the bridal bouquet has been tossed and eagerly grasped by a hopeful new bride –to-be.  The honeymoon is over. The couple are now officially and legally wed. Harsh reality steps in as a plethora of irritating and heartbreaking problems now plague the couple. Let’s address some of the most common problems facing that young now disillusioned couple.

1.     Money. Arguments develop and escalate over financial issues, e.g., bills, debts and spending habits. It’s no longer who is going to pick up the check in the restaurant on that third date. There are bigger issues to deal with. According to Jason Carroll, Brigham Young University, “Financial problems are as much a result of how we think about money as how we spend it.” For those couples who want to buy into the dream of home ownership, they face the stress of costly expenditures—mortgages, property taxes, and monthly maintenance costs.  According to, quite conceivably, couples incorporate opposing value systems—one spends money freely; the other is more frugal.  Ranjan Shaw, a marriage counselor and clinical psychologist, observes that most partners are indeed surprised by each other’s spending habits and debts which apparently they did not know about when they were just in the dating mode of their relationship.   

2.     Household responsibilities.  Now that they are living under one roof, disagreements will inevitably arise over the equitable distribution of household chores—taking out the garbage, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. etc. etc. The to-do list is endless. This is particularly problematic in the very early days of the marriage when the honeymoon phase is over and both partners are employed outside the home. Once upon a time household chores fell into the domain of the woman—no longer a truism in the 21st century.

3.     Addiction.  According to Tim Lanigan, formerly with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drug abusers, to satiate their addiction desires, make withdrawals from the family’s bank account, money that would ordinarily be used for such necessary expenditures as food, shelter and clothing . Witnessing an empty refrigerator, empty closets and the specter of eviction, will most certainly introduce an excessive amount of stress.

4.     Children.  Marriage counselor, Sonali Raisingh, observed that couples differ on what day they plan to check into the maternity ward to have that first child.  Biological considerations dictate when women want to become mothers, whereas fathers prefer to be financially and emotionally prepared to enter into fatherhood. According to Directed Path Ministries, the subject of children involves when to have children, how many to have, how to discipline them and how to educate them.  The issue significantly   escalates when the parents inherit children from previous relationships or marriages.

5.     Sex. Invariably, in most marriages men feel that they are in essence not getting enough love in the bedroom. Couples Counseling Center states that initiating a meaningful dialogue is often difficult due to embarrassment. Periodically, an infrequent occurrence of sexual relations will ensue due to such contributing factors as resentment, exhaustion, or stress. All the glasses of wine and candle-lit rooms will not inspire affection during such stressful times. Stephanie Mane, relationship therapist, observes from her own experience in her practice that, “More than money, kids…the most common issue with married couples…is a struggle with sexual intimacy. “

6.     Technology. A new phenomenon has invaded the marriage counselor’s office as technology increasingly becomes a fact of life for us all. For marriage counselor Amy Morin, “People are texting while they’re at dinner, surfing the Internet in the evening, and using their smartphones.  Sitting next to your partner and using separate laptops doesn’t constitute quality time.”

The aforementioned list is just the tip of the iceberg concerning what disrupts domestic tranquility and disrupts the happily ever after scenario.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dr. Jill Stein on Gun Violence

“Gun violence is really the second cause of deaths for young people in this country after automobile accidents and we need to do what needs to be done here; this is not rocket
science…we need background checks so that people who do not need to have guns in their hands, do not get them. We need to take automatic and semi-automatic weapons off the shelves.
Automatic weapons are not for hunting; they are for killing people… communities have a right to make rules to create safety; communities have a right to deal with the dangers that they are facing, so while we support banning automatic weapons and background checks, that is a
national policy that is the mere minimum. We will allow communities to go beyond that and ban hand guns.
 There are other parts to this problem that needs to be addressed but we need to start
with the weapons to get it under control and the community ban on hand guns is a way to start.

Gun violence or any kind of violence does not exists in a vacuum; it exists because people are
desperate, because people are stressed, because poverty drives people to do desperate things, and
poverty drives conflict, which is why we have to make jobs a part of this, make good schools and
education a part of this, which is why we have to deal with homelessness, and when the political
establishments say that they do not have enough money they are saying that they do not have
enough money for you, and this is what a part of the “Green New Deal” will address; it
guarantees the right to a living wage job; it guarantees the right to affordable housing and the
right to healthcare and this is the basis for reducing gun violence in our communities. We can fix
this and we have the power to fix this. I just want to implore you to go to our website and sign up to make the change. It’s time to build a people’s movement to end
unemployment and poverty; avert climate catastrophe, build a sustainable, just economy and recognize the dignity and human rights of every person. The power to create this new world is not in our hopes, it’s not in our dreams-it’s in our hands.”

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President

Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President
Question: The issue of gun violence seems to be getting out of control across New York City, innocent people are losing their lives, for example Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Aide, what do you thing is responsible for this problem and how can it be curbed?

BP Eric Adams: I think that it’s important that we look at the mind set of society where guns are easily accessible and readily available, we really have to focus on that, and when you match that with people believing that the answer to their dispute is to quickly pick up a hand gun that’s readily accessible it only adds to the problem. The name of the game we believe is to look at the underground organizations. The police can only take the battle of gun violence so far. Now we have to go to the crevices of our communities and allow those on the ground organizations like Man Up, SOS, Gangsters Alive in the Hood, Fight For Life, SNUG, all of these organizations that are made up of young people who are on the ground and would like to participate in saving their communities, and saving the lives of young people who are carrying guns and who are the victims of guns. What we are finding is that many of these organizations need the proper funding to go and expand their catchment areas and my call is to the Mayor to allocate an additional 10 million dollars of emergency funding to these organizations so we can focus on the pockets of violence that we have. We’ve done a great job over the years with the over proliferation of hand guns in many parts of the community, but there’s still residue of problem areas, particular around public housing that we really need to focus on and the police are not going to be able to do it on their own, they need the assistance of these on the ground organizations.

Question: What can be done to prevent young people from engaging in Gangs?

BP Eric Adams: I think that it is a combined effort, I don’t think that one group or one person can resolved this problem for our children and the goal I think is, number 1, to encourage our parents to be extremely proactive in identifying when their child or children is participating in the wrong activities or is in the wrong environment. I don’t believe the answer is merely incarceration, I believe it is giving young people opportunities and finding safe spaces for them. One of the most important initiative is, I am in negotiation with City Hall with is to open our school buildings because it is extreme unfortunate that at the end of the school day, we close our school buildings when we can clearly use these structures to allow our young people to have a safe space, and when we did this in Inwood housing with Councilmember Laurie Combo, we were able to see a substantial decrease in violence in the area with young people because they had a safe space, and there was a location where they were able to involve themselves in activities that were healthy for their development and we want to continue to see this done throughout the entire city. Then we want to look at how we can find ways to occupy our young people who are either victims of crime or are participating in crime, particularly during those hours when parents are not home and are at work trying to make ends meet? It is our responsibility to be the safety net and find the right program to have our children do something constructive instead of becoming a victim of crime or participating in crime. We have made Borough Hall available to thousands of people as a safe space since I’ve been in office and we want to continue to do that. Then we want to expand our internship program throughout the borough. You will find that one of the well-kept secret, particularly in the inner-city is how young people can move ahead and getting a head start on other groups is by being an intern, learning some of the proper mannerisms of being in the corporate or business environment is part of the development of our children is putting them in places where they are in safe spaces instead of harmful spaces.

Something that I found in my first year and a half in office is that we are leaving too much free resources on the table because people are not aware of how to go about getting access to many of the resources that they can get access to. We just rolled out a book called: Free Services That are Available to Brooklynites, the goal is that we can be able to connect people with the resources that are available. I also want to say this, that Governor Cuomo cut the funding of a program we called SNUG and it was the wrong thing to do and he needs to refocus his attention to gang violence, to street violence and to hand guns. When I was in the senate there was a mass shooting using automatic assault weapons, the governor push through in days a law that impacted the use of automatic assault riffiles and high speed ammunitions, that law would not have had a direct effect on the problems that exists in our communities because in our communities we have a hand gun problem we don’t have an automatic weapon problem. And so the same level of urgency that the governor displayed in dealing with assault weapons that is a problem in other communities, he needs to deal with the hand gun issue that is a problem in our community.

Question: Is there a solution to this problem?

BP Eric Adams: We need stronger gun laws. There are many commonsense gun laws that we can implement to really make an impact on gun violence. The second is to educate parents. Some of you might remember a video that I put up and is still on line that shows parents how to go through their own homes and look for guns. We have to take an active role and make that our homes are gun free. Before guns get to the streets it is in somebody’s book bag, or under somebody’s mattress, and so we have to take responsibility. I tell my son all the time that there is no constitutional rights inside my house, I must protect him and all my other family members, and we must be active in that our children do not find themselves in harm’s way. Third, we have to find on the ground operation, non-profit groups, community based groups that are really doing an unbelievable job of volunteering their time, we need to give them at lease the minimum resources and they can do so much more and I believe that we can make a complete dent into the problem.