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Getting Ahead
1st Quarter 2017

In this issue:

Who Will Prepare Your Tax Return?

Auto Technology Rolls On - Is It Worth Buying?

Get Your Lawn Off to a Good Start

Who Will Prepare Your Tax Return?

As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers to start thinking about who will prepare their 2016 federal tax return. The IRS began processing tax returns on Monday, January 23.

In 2016, more than 131 million individual and family tax returns were e-filed, the most accurate, safest and easiest way to file. The rest of the returns received by the IRS, numbering over 19 million, were either prepared on a computer and printed or prepared by hand then mailed.

TaxesThe IRS stresses that no matter who prepares it, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included.

Free Tax Preparation

Each year, millions of tax returns are prepared for free by taxpayers using IRS Free File or by volunteers at community organization sites nationwide.

IRS Free File lets taxpayers who earned less than $64,000 prepare and e-file a return for free. Go to and click on the "Filing" tab for options on using commercial tax software. Those who earned more than $64,000 are still eligible for Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. This more basic Free File option is best for people who are comfortable preparing their own tax returns.

IRS trained and certified volunteers at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA and TCE) sites nationwide offer free tax preparation and e-filing. VITA offers free tax return preparation to taxpayers who earn $54,000 or less. The TCE program is mainly for people age 60 or older and focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program and helps taxpayers with low to moderate incomes.

  • To find the closest VITA site, visit and search the word “VITA.” Or  download the IRS2Go app on a smart phone. Site information is also available by calling the IRS at 800-906-9887.
  • To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, visit, or call 888-227-7669. There are also VITA and TCE sites that provide bilingual help for taxpayers who have limited English skills.

Many taxpayers pay for tax return preparation. By law, all paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign the return and include their PTIN.  The IRS offers tips to help taxpayers choose a tax return preparer wisely. The Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers in your locality by type of credential or qualification.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid fly-by-night preparers who may not be available after this year’s April 18 due date or base fees on a percentage of the refund. The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a new law requires all refunds on returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) be held until Feb. 15. This change helps the IRS detect and prevent fraud.

Article courtesy U.S. Internal Revenue Service

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Auto Technology Rolls On - Is It Worth Buying?

As you've probably already realized, automotive technology has continued to get more and more advanced in recent years. This year, shoppers interested in buying a new car should expect a lot of cool new gadgets and features in their vehicle, even if they aren't spending a fortune or buying a high-end luxury car. To help you figure out what to get and what to expect when buying a new car, we've rounded up some of our favorite must-have technology features for 2017 - items that are increasing in popularity and starting to find their way into a growing number of new cars.

Advanced Self-Driving Capabilities
These days, systems like forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control aren't enough. Automakers like Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Volvo are rolling out self-driving systems that can put it all together in one far more advanced package.

Auto technology

Is it worth the money?
That depends. If you don't spend much time commuting or traveling by car for work, it probably isn't. But if you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day, a car with autonomous capabilities could help keep you sane.

Adaptive Suspension
Formerly restricted to ultra-high-end sports cars, adaptive suspension systems are starting to find their way into other models. These systems allow you to custom-tailor your car's suspension based on the experience you want to have, with modes like "comfort" and "sport."

In the past, if your car's ride was too harsh or too soft, you had to live with it - or choose a different car. Now, you just flip a switch in the center console and dial in the suspension to your liking.

Is it worth the money? For drivers who often find themselves critiquing a car's ride or spend a lot of time navigating rough roads and managing tight corners, adaptive suspension is definitely worth the money. It can allow you to change your driving experience with the push of a button.

Autonomous Safety Features
Autonomous safety features are no longer restricted to high-end luxury cars. Many vehicles now offer a suite of autonomous safety tech, including lane-keep assist, automatic forward-collision braking and adaptive cruise control. Nissan even has a feature called Predictive Forward Collision Warning, which allows your car to respond to a perceived incident two cars ahead.

Is it worth the money? Almost always. Not only are these systems increasingly cheap, they're also commonly grouped together, as is the case with models from Subaru, Honda and several other automakers. The result is that this autonomous technology is getting cheaper and, of course, better - and it could help prevent you from getting in an accident.

Car Care Apps
Gone are the days when you needed to have the date and mileage of your next oil change stuck to your windshield. Many cars now deliver this information in an app, making it easier to keep track of everything. A feature like the Hyundai Assurance Car Care App, for instance, tells you when your vehicle needs its next service and can even schedule it for you.

Is it worth the money? Car care apps are appearing rapidly, and most are available at little or no cost. They're certainly worth the money - and they're worth using, too.

Larger Screens, More Screens

These days, simply having an infotainment screen isn't enough. The most advanced cars have big screens - huge screens, really - that take virtually all functions away from gauges and buttons.

Is it worth the money? We (along with the apparent majority of drivers) generally believe that bigger is better and more is better when it comes to screens in cars. While we sometimes worry about the future reliability of a giant screen instead of simple buttons, today's touchscreens have cleaned up their formerly complex automotive controls - and an easy-to- use infotainment system is often better than many small, difficult-to-decipher buttons.

Article courtesy

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Get Your Lawn Off to a Good Start

Like so many maintenance jobs, everything goes smoother - and you'll get better results - with proper preparation. Early spring is the time to get ready for lawn-growing and mowing season.

Sharpen mower blades to ensure clean cuts. A dull blade tears the grass, leaving jagged edges that discolor the lawn and invite pathogens.

Sharpen mower blades once each month during grass-cutting season. Have a backup blade (about $20) so that a sharp one is always on hand.

LawnTune up your mower with a new sparkplug ($3 to $5) and air filter ($5 to $10). Your mower might not need a new sparkplug every season, but changing it is a simple job, and doing it every year ensures you won't forget the last time you replaced your sparkplug.

Buy fresh gas. Gas that's been left to sit over the winter can accumulate moisture that harms small engines. This is especially true for fuel containing ethanol, so use regular grades of gasoline.

If you need to dump old gasoline, ask your city or county for local disposal sites that take old fuel.

Clean up your lawn. Time to get out the leaf rakes and remove any twigs and leaves that have accumulated over the winter. A thick layer of wet leaves can smother a lawn if not immediately removed in early spring. Cleaning up old debris clears the way for applying fertilizer and herbicides.

Article courtesy of

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