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Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019 (H.J.Res. 46) – This resolution was an effort to block the national emergency declared by President Trump to redirect funds to build a wall at the Mexico border. It was introduced on Feb. 22 by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), passed in both the House and Senate but was then vetoed by the president on March 15. An attempt to override the president’s veto failed in the House on March 26.

A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress (S.J.Res. 7) – This joint resolution was designed to prevent the United States from fighting in or assisting in Yemen’s civil war, starting 30 days after the legislation passes. The resolution was introduced on Jan. 30 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The bill was passed by both chambers of Congress in identical form. The president then vetoed the bill on April 16, and there has been no congressional attempt to override the bill since then.

A resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Safe Digging Month. (S.Res. 136) – The Senate passed a resolution in recognition of National Safe Digging Month (April). The oddly named moniker refers to excavating on personal property, and the need to call at least 72 hours before digging for help locating utility lines. The resolution was introduced on April 2 by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). It was agreed to by the Senate on April 11. Note that a simple resolution is not voted on in the other chamber and is not backed by the force of law.

Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act (H.R. 276) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) on Jan. 8. It authorizes the Secretary of Education to establish an award program (Recognizing Inspiring School Employees – RISE) that recognizes the merits of classified K-12 school employees. Classified refers to workers who are not required to be licensed or certified to hold their job. The bill was enacted on April 12.

Medicaid Services Investment and Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 1839) – This bill authorizes several enhancements to the Medicaid program, including the following:

  • Temporarily extends Medicaid eligibility criteria that protects the spouses of home- and community-based service beneficiaries from living in poverty.
  • Establishes a state Medicaid option to provide for home health medical assistance for children with medically complex conditions.
  • Drug manufacturers with Medicaid rebate agreements must disclose drug product information or face penalties for knowingly misclassifying drugs.
  • Drug manufacturers also must compensate for rebates that were previously underpaid due to misclassification regardless of whether they knowingly did so.

This legislation was introduced on March 21 by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA). It was passed in the House and the Senate on April 2 and signed into law by the president on April 18.

Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act (H.R. 2030) – In March, the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming presented a plan to Congress for operating their applicable Colorado River System reservoirs. This Act mandates that the Department of the Interior implement the plan. The bill, which was introduced on April 2 by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), passed in both the House and Senate and was signed into law on April 16.

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When it comes to smartphones, speed and connectivity is generally referenced by generation. For example, the industry is currently focused on creating 5G networks.

However, in the cable industry the G refers to gigabits. Over the past two years, this industry has expanded the availability of 1 gigabit broadband Internet from 4 percent to 80 percent of U.S. households. Now that the foundation for gigabit expansion exists, the cable industry is looking to increase speeds by tenfold and make it accessible to more homes and businesses globally.

The new focus is on 10G technology, which also is expected to reduce transfer latency, provide greater security and enhance the ability to host a wide range of immersive skills and applications – even those that haven’t been conceived yet. Internet service providers (ISP) are currently preparing the infrastructure necessary to enable a seamless and secure 10G online experience for computers.

A Bit Versus a Byte

What might not be clear to consumers is the difference between a gigabit and gigabyte, also known as a bit and a byte. A bit refers to the rate of transferring data: 1 gigabit transmits 1 billion bits per second. Even 1 gigabit represents extremely fast bandwidth that, for user purposes, means no log time when streaming video, downloading music or playing video and virtual reality games,

For example, 1 gigabit can download an entire two-hour HD movie in less than 60 seconds. It also offers the bandwidth to enable multiple downloads simultaneously and allow multiple users to surf and interact on the internet at the same time on various devices.

In contrast, a byte is the measurement for storage available on a computing device. The data itself is measured in bytes, and bytes are delivered in single bits at a time. For reference, 1 gigabyte of memory holds about 312 MP3 songs or 535 e-books.

Therefore, to maximize both storage and speed, it’s important to have a high capacity to store data (bytes) and impressive speed (bits) so that vast amounts of data can transmit quickly.

Small Business Benefits

While larger companies have dozens to hundreds of employees with a wide range of job responsibilities, many small businesses tend to be focused on a just a few. And those few can be significantly impacted by a lagging network. For this reason, deploying faster computer speed can make a big difference in the time it takes to search data, retrieve records, run point-of-sale systems and transmit financial transactions. Even the most basic mom and pop shops will benefit from this enhancement of speed and storage capacity.

For professional services firms, where time is indeed measured by money, 10G has the potential to revolutionize their business model by reducing expenses, enhancing the customer service experience and maximizing staff productivity.

10G, which has been described as the next great leap for broadband, is not an insular achievement. It is part of a larger cable broadband technology platform designed to process exponentially more data from more devices at 10 times the speed of what we expect today. Combined with enhanced reliability and security features, 10G is projected to launch a myriad of new immersive technologies and digital experiences that will revolutionize the way businesses are run.

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Yes, tax season is officially over. And you might be kicking back and relaxing, putting off thinking about next year’s taxes as long as you can. However, smart taxpayers know that the more you plan ahead, the better chance you have of reducing the amount you pay next time around. Here are a few easy ways to get a handle on your financial future – aka next year’s taxes.

Understand Claiming Dependents. When you know the rules, it can be a game changer. Let’s start with the basics. You can take a $4,000 exemption for each dependent. You also can claim their related expenses such as child care and medical costs, along with tuition payments. However, if you share custody with someone, support an elderly parent or if a relative lives with you, things can be a bit complex. Sometimes, if you plan how much money you’re going to spend on the dependent and/or how many days the dependent lives with you, this can make a major difference in the tax benefits you reap.

Try a Tax Calculator. This handy tool helps you anticipate the upcoming year. You can set up a variety of What If scenarios. If you have an income that’s variable, like a seasonal business or freelancing, you might set up high, medium and low-income situations and see how these affect your tax bottom line.

Consider Bunching Deductibles. Paying a major expense over a long period of time has its advantages, but you might get little or no tax benefit. With bunching, you pay more of one type of deductible expense in one year. For example, your child needs braces. The rule is that you can only deduct medical expenses after they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI; 7.5 percent if you and your spouse are over 65. If you pay the braces off over a couple of years, you may never reach your AGI ceiling. However, if pay for them in one year, you are more likely to get a tax break.

Put Money Into Retirement All Year Long. While you can wait until right before you file next April to sock your money away into your IRA, let’s be honest: do you think, right now, you’ll have it ready to go? Rather than scramble at the last minute, contribute to your IRA every month, or whenever you can all year long. The amount will have longer to compound interest, plus you’ll be ahead when it comes to your retirement.

Think Before You Sell the Big Stuff. Let’s say you want to sell your house, but you’ve lived in it for only 18 months. If you wait until the two-year mark, you might qualify to exclude the capital gains on the sale from your taxable income. Better still, if you meet certain exceptions, such as being transferred to another city for your job, you could still avoid paying taxes on the sale of your home. The same principle applies to shares of stock and other capital assets: consider keeping them longer than a year. Why? You’ll pay much lower capital gains tax rates.

When you prepare all year for the April deadline, taxes can be a lot less stressful and save you money. And when you think about it, who wouldn’t want that?


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While employers have cut back on pensions and their 401(k) plans do not offer the same level of retirement income security, they have stepped up in the area of life insurance. The majority of Americans (68 percent) have a life insurance policy through their employer. In fact, more people get it through work rather than purchasing a policy on the market for the first time in history.

Most employers offer term life insurance typically at a coverage rate of anywhere from one to three times a worker’s annual salary. Term life policies lock in a fixed rate for a specific period of time, usually from 10 to 30 years. One of the biggest perks of getting life insurance through work is that it is generally a guaranteed issue. Purchasing life insurance on the individual market often requires loads of forms, a physical and medical underwriting. Medical underwriting can trigger a higher premium or cause your application to be rejected altogether.

Employers also might offer workers the opportunity to augment their insurance coverage for an additional fee. Some of the perks that come with this type of policy include:

  • Lower premiums than policies purchased on the individual market
  • Portability – the ability to retain the policy if you change jobs
  • Enhanced plan options, such as an additional income payout if you suffer a severe or catastrophic disability and/or premium waivers

Even a small life insurance policy can cover initial expenses after a breadwinner’s death, such as paying for the funeral, mortgage/rent, car payments, loans and everyday bills. Life insurance also can provide income until the beneficiary finds a way to replace the deceased’s salary.

For the worker, there are no tax consequences for an employer-sponsored life insurance policy with up to $50,000 worth of coverage. For amounts over that, the worker is liable for the portion of premium paid for by the employer that represents the coverage amount above $50,000. In other words, the premium for additional coverage is considered taxable income.

For workers who believe they need more coverage than the standard amount provided through their benefits package, there are a couple of options. The first is to buy extra coverage through the employer’s Voluntary Benefit program, if available. Note that this is usually limited to additional term coverage.

Or an employee can buy coverage on the individual market, which gives him more options. Specifically, he can supplement standard term life coverage with a whole life policy. Whole life coverage remains in effect throughout the policyholder’s lifetime – as long as he continues making premium payments. Whole life can offer a variety of additional features, such as investment options and a cash value account, from which money can be borrowed if needed.

The policyowner can get back some of the money he paid into the policy if at some point he decides he no longer wants or needs the policy. Be aware, however, that whole life coverage may cost as much as three to five times more than a term life policy on the individual market.

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With the price of lettuce increasing by 15 percent over the past 12 months at the end of February, and television prices dropping 17 percent during the same period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these statistics show the dynamism of consumer goods.

Since consumer spending continues to make up approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy, according to the St. Louis Fed, understanding how it impacts company earnings and future stock market movements is essential.

Surveying Consumer Spending

Based on the March 29 Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) release, consumers are facing more financial pressure. For the month of January, individual income fell by one-tenth of 1 percent, or $22.9 billion. The same month saw disposable personal income, or what’s left after taxes, fall by two-tenths of 1 percent or $34.9 billion. Personal consumption expenditures, or simply consumer spending as the BEA puts it, grew by one-tenth of 1 percent to $8.6 billion. 

The real personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inched up by one-tenth of 1 percent. The BEA defines PCE as a way to determine the prices that those residing in America spend on goods and services. It’s a way to calculate consumer behavior, along with determining if there is an increase in prices through inflation or if there’s a deflation in prices through deflation, for many consumer expenditures.

Additionally, the PCE price index fell by one-tenth of 1 percent. However, if energy and food are not calculated for January’s PCE price index, this figure increased by one-tenth of 1 percent. When it comes to consumer-related price indices, as the BEA explains, it removes factoring in food and energy to give a picture of consumables that are traditionally more price stable because these two categories are subject to extreme fluctuations.

Looking at Variations in Personal Income

When it comes to Americans and their sources of income, things are varied. The BEA report determined that personal income declined due to individuals receiving less dividend income, less interest income, along with farm owners’ income decreasing. However, government programs, primarily including assistance programs such as Social Security benefits and tax credits available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Child Tax Credit, slowed the decline in personal income.

Increases and Decreases in Prices Over Time

Different consumer goods, especially those needed on a regular basis, have increased on average by 1.5 percent over the 12 months ending February. Examples include accounting and tax return preparation costs increasing by 13.8 percent, health insurance increasing by 7.7 percent, seafood increasing by 9.1 percent and fresh vegetables up by 5.8 percent.             

In contrast to the above price increases, items traditionally considered luxuries have, on average, fallen in price. Examples include audio and video products declining by 8.9 percent, watches by 5.8 percent, recorded music and music subscriptions by 5 percent.

While this category includes all types of gasoline dropping by 9.1 percent, it’s worth noting because the price of gas can change rapidly. This is why the PCE is calculated with and without food and energy – to show how CPI can change from month to month.

While there’s no way to predict the future of consumer spending and its impacts on publicly traded companies’ stock performance, it shows that consumer spending is a big part of the U.S. economy.

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According to a March 22 Internal Revenue Service News Release, 2018 federal tax filers might be able to have any penalties for an underpayment of estimated tax removed. This could be possible if they’ve paid at least 80 percent of their 2018 tax obligations through either quarterly estimated payments, income tax withholdings or a combination of both during the 2018 calendar year.

This new level was established after the 90 percent payment requirement was reduced to 85 percent of estimated tax obligations on Jan. 16. With paying estimated taxes a legal requirement for many taxpayers, let’s examine how this works for individuals and business entities.

Individuals and Organizations Responsible to Pay Estimated Taxes

For the most part, corporations are required to pay estimated taxes if they project owing taxes of at least $500 as part of their tax return filing.

When it comes to other entities, including sole proprietors, partners, shareholders of S-corps and individuals, estimated tax payments are required if there is an expected tax obligation of at least $1,000 with their yearly filing.

Obligations for Estimated Payments

As income is earned, so must taxes be paid through either estimated or withholding tax remittances to the IRS.

Estimated tax payments might be necessary for workers who have not had enough withholdings taken from a variety of earnings. It can come from salaries or pension payments, or from interest or dividend payments, alimony, capital gains or sweepstakes winnings. Self-employed individuals are required to pay estimated taxes to help cover any applicable alternative minimum tax obligations, along with self-employment taxes and income taxes.

If there’s not enough tax paid via withholding and/or estimated taxes, or if they are paid late, there could be a penalty assessed. This is regardless of if a refund is due the taxpayer when a tax return is filed.

When Estimated Tax Payments May Not Be Required

For those who receive compensation in the form of wages or a salary, employers can work with their employees to withhold the appropriate amount to lessen the chances of estimated tax obligations. Other scenarios that can provide an exemption of paying estimated taxes are when no taxes were due the previous year (or not legally required to file a return), and the applicant was a resident or American citizen for the entire year and the past tax year consisted of 12 months.

Making Estimated Tax Payments

Required four times every calendar year, estimated taxes can be paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. It doesn’t matter the frequency of payments, as long as the estimated taxes are remitted by the due date.

While there are different requirements for workers in certain industries, such as fishermen and farmers, for those filers who fail to pay what’s required of their taxes, be it estimated or withholding, the IRS can assess a penalty. However, if the taxpayer meets one of the following criteria – based on the lowest figure – they can expect to avoid a penalty:

  • Has a tax obligation of less than $1,000 (after factoring in credits and withholdings)
  • Has already satisfied 90 percent of tax obligations for the existing tax year
  • Has already paid the same amount in taxes owed the previous tax year

However, with the recent IRS news release, for 2018 at least, the 80 percent threshold has been established. Other ways filers might be able to get amnesty from this penalty include if the person becomes deceased; retires once they turn 62 years old; or develops a disability within the tax year when the estimated tax payments are due. The under-payment of estimated taxes must be “due to reasonable cause” and not purposely trying to avoid payment. 

Determining and paying estimated taxes is not a one-size-fits-all requirement by the IRS, but it’s a legal requirement for millions of Americans and those living and working in the United States.



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