Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Helping or Hurting

A person loosely connected with our business brought up something yesterday.  They said that due to evolving tax laws and health care costs, this year our company would need to declare health care benefits for employees as income for them, potentially costing them additional taxes or decreased take-home pay.

My first response was that most of our employees would probably prefer health care, though the numbers still sounded scary.  Have to declare our healthcare deductions as income?  Potentially hundreds of dollars of "swing".

This morning, I woke at 4am, brain going overdrive and worrying.  Among the things I decided to do during the darkness of the "pre-morning" was research on this tax issue.  I put some combination of the words "health", "tax", and "benefits" into Google.  The return page was *crammed* with articles saying that -- despite spam emails indicating otherwise -- health care benefits are not taxable.  One of the article titles was even "No, health benefits aren't taxable".

One would think that would be enough for anybody.

I visited several, cross checked their references, and even found the portion of the current tax code that governs this area.  Health benefits are considered a fringe benefit, and some fringe benefits are taxable.  But health benefits are specifically on the TAX EXEMPT list.

And while employers will list our total health benefits on W-2 forms starting for tax year 2011, that's for informational purposes only and WILL NOT be taxable in almost all cases.  It's mainly to demonstrate that you have insurance ahead of the mandatory coverage in 2014 or so.

So I sent off an email to my boss and now I'm trying to get back to sleep.  I think it's really irksome that I (who don't have any training is business or tax law) should need to go around correcting the harmful misinformation spread by people who do business for a living and are much older and more experienced than I am.

If I ever start dressing in Spandex and calling myself "Factual Accuracy Man", I think I'm going to need to start charging for my services.

Because Spandex suits are expensive.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friendly Permutations

It struck me last Monday -- I was looking over social network updates -- that two certain friends of mine are very similar in essentials.  The thought came to me as I was reading a status update and became momentarily confused as to which person was actually delivering it.  Ordinarily there is no such confusion, because each status update has the writer's name and chosen picture RIGHT THERE, next to it.

However in this case, I must have skipped along or thought I knew who was "speaking".  Sometimes I do get confused who is who; similar color palettes or poses have thrown me off, as well as people who put in pictures of people other than themselves.  (N.B. to people with children: all kids look similar when condensed to smartphone resolution.)

Stop me if you've heard this one... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Youth Band Kickoff

Today is the event that starts the season of the Fountain City Youth Band Academy, which is the educational outreach initiative of the brass band.  We're expecting more than 100 kids from middle school through high school, usually with a smattering of adults and college students looking to dust off their playing chops.

It's always a good time, giving us guys the opportunity to teach younger people -- what many from the group do for a living anyway.  I would have loved the opportunity to play with such a group when I was younger.  I don't know if it would have increased my love for music: that was pretty strong already.  But I bet it would have been a better use of my times (and my lungs) than playing in the community band that forced everyone to spend hours working at a smoky bingo center as a fundraiser.  Seldom have I been in a place that was so soggy with despair and the hope of $50.

The youth band is gradually building towards a British tour in 2012, the exchange of a similar tour with the Bolton Youth Band who came to Kansas City a few years ago.  Now THERE'S an opportunity worth refilling drink cups of snappy old ladies who don't want you to pour from "the clockwise side" else it will interfere with their system.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

December's Last Release

ROSALIND:  They say you are a melancholy fellow.

JACQUES:  I am so.  I do love it better than laughing.

R: Those that are in extremity of either are abominable fellows, and betray
themselves to every modern censure worse than drunkards.

J:  Why, 'tis good to be sad and say nothing.

R: Why then, 'tis good to be a post.


--As You Like It, Act IV scene i


I enjoyed the holiday period, as I always do.  As always, it was too short -- it's the one time of year that I can never get enough of.  Even the fact that I had a radio in my house permanently on and playing Christmas music since the first of November didn't phase me.  I did get sick of it, but only because the station's selection was so limited.  My own CD collection and a little help from Pandora to the rescue!