Owe Money to the IRS? 4 Steps to Lower Your Debt

Are you one of the millions of Americans who owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?  Whether you are behind because you have been overwhelmed and have not had time to get your taxes done, or you fear that you simply do not have enough money to pay, it is important to get a handle on your personal tax situation as soon as possible.

Once the IRS realizes that you have not paid your taxes, they will begin to reach out to you. First by email, then communication will get more serious the longer your taxes remain unpaid.  The most serious consequences are wage garnishments, levies on your bank account and liens on your property. These consequences should be avoided at all costs as they can lead to serious financial hardship. There are several important steps you can investigate today to lower your tax debt and get back on the road to financial freedom:

How to Help Lower Your Tax Debt

  1. Installment Agreement: An installment agreement is a monthly payment plan that you establish with the IRS so that you can pay your debt over time, rather than in one lump sum.  It’s essentially like a credit card payment and you will pay over a period of months (or years) your debt as well as interest and fees that have accrued.  In some cases, individuals qualify for a partial payment installment agreement, which allows you to make monthly payments on a reduced dollar amount.
  2. Offer In Compromise: An offer in compromise gives you the opportunity to settle your debt for less than you actually owe.  This is particularly useful when you owe the IRS more money than you can afford.  An offer in compromise requires much paperwork and is not always granted, but can save you thousands of dollars if you qualify.
  3. Bankruptcy: There are instances in which your tax debt may be eligible to be waived under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. Doing so requires some intricate knowledge of tax law and bankruptcy law so you may want to consult with a professional if you are considering this route.
  4. Seek Professional Tax Support: Getting out from under tax debt with the IRS is not easy and there is no magic way to make your back taxes go away.  Working with a professional and experienced tax firm can help you determine the best possible course of action for your situation.  Beware of companies promising to get rid of your tax debt, you may want to continue looking.

Reach Out Tax Relief Today for More Information

yourinsurancesearch Tax Relief has extensive experience working directly with the IRS to help thousands of Americans find their way out of tax debt.  Our team understands complex tax law and can review your tax returns and income documentation while being open and honest about the strategy that has the best chance of success.  Our team can help you with the detailed paperwork required should you decide to move forward with an Offer in Compromise or installment agreement request.  You can make progress and get rid of your tax debt once and for all.  Our team will work hard for you.

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Why Do I Need to Sign the Medicare Scope of Appointment Form?



The Medicare Scope of Appointment is a form which Medicare beneficiaries must complete to designate, prior to their appointment with an agent, exactly which items they wish to discuss. In other words, this form is how you tell your agent which things he or she can present to you.

The form serves to protect you from unwanted solicitation. The background of the form is kind of interesting.

Here’s the deal:

When Part D was rolled out in 2006, it was the first retail drug coverage offered to people on Medicare. Prior to that, for over 40 years, Medicare provided no significant coverage for people to fill their ordinary prescriptions. So over 20 million people got the opportunity to join a drug plan for the first time.

Anytime you have that kind of massive enrollment, there will be dishonest people out there who will do just about anything to make a quick sale. For example, they might show up to talk about your Medicare needs, and then try to sell life insurance too. This is not allowed.

(This, incidentally, is why I advise you to never, never, never invite a stranger into your home to discuss any Medicare insurance products with you. It’s not safe these days. It’s also not necessary when there are honest agencies like Boomer Benefits who can explain all of this to you easily over the phone. PLEASE do not risk your safety or comfort by inviting a stranger to your house who might then try to pressure you into enrolling in a specific policy).

20+ Million Medicare Beneficiaries (Oh My!)

During this mass enrollment of people into Part D, there were complaints from beneficiaries who had invited an agent into their home to discuss drug coverage. Some individuals reported they felt intimidated into enrolling in a plan. Others said they had intended to enroll in a drug plan and then found themselves enrolled into a Medicare Advantage plan that they didn’t want and that their doctor wasn’t in the network for. Medicare Advantage plans have lock-in periods so they were stuck in these plans for as much as a year.

It gets worse:

Sometimes they fraudulently signed people’s names. They even enrolled dead people using old data. (Seriously if these con artists would just get a REAL job!)

Of course, all of this led to a series of Congressional hearings. Some new rules were created to help clarify the allowed process. So today, when you meet with an agent to discuss either Part D or Medicare Advantage products, that agent is required to document your permission at least 48 hours in advance on the Scope of Appointment form. On your form, you will check the items that you want to discuss with your agent. If you don’t check something, then the agent cannot discuss that type of policy when meeting with you.

The Medicare Scope of Appointment was originally designed just for in-person meetings. However, here at Boomer Benefits we have collected this form for years even though our appointments with Medicare beneficiaries are often by phone.

We feel it is respectful to you as the beneficiary. You get to designate what you would like us to help you with.

Bad Apples

We know you hate extra paperwork. So do we!! As a business owner who runs an honest agency, it disappoints me that just a few bad apples out there have created so much more work for both you and us. Like anything else, there are always some bad guys out there willing to bend the rules.

The bottom line though is that these people DO exist. You should always read online reviews about anyone you are choosing to do business with.

An ethical agent will send you a Scope of Appointment form at least 48 hours prior to the appointment in which we go over the Summary of Benefits for the plans you are interested in. You can then feel comfortable that we have your best interests in mind and will only be discussing products which interest you.

Your Options When Completing the Scope Form

The Medicare Scope of Appointment form lists several products that you can give your agent permission to talk with you about. These include:

  • Stand-alone Part D Drug plans
  • Medicare Advantage plans (Part C)
  • Dental/Vision and Hearing Plans
  • Hospital Indemnity products
  • Medicare supplement plans.

You will place your initials in the box next to the items you give permission to discuss. Then you’ll sign below where it says Beneficiary Signature. (You are the Medicare beneficiary).

Medicare scope form

Put your initials in the boxes next to the Medicare products you want help with. Sign where it says Beneficiary because you are the Medicare beneficiary.

Your agent must turn this form in along with any enrollment form you complete for a Part D or Part C plan.

What If I Don’t Know What I Need?

If you aren’t sure which products you need to know about, it’s okay to mark them all or ask us for help. I have 1000% confidence in my team to share with you only the products that best suit you based on what you have indicated to us is most important to you. We are the good apples here, and our 500+ online five-star reviews speak for themselves.

Please note that this form is only required if the appointment will include discussion of Part D or Medicare Advantage products. If you wish to speak about only dental or Medigap, we don’t need to collect one.

How do you feel about the Scope of sales Appointment form? Are there any other items you think should be included on the form? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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What Should You Know About Home Warranties When Flipping a Home?

With foreclosures and short sales being offered for far less than their market price in many parts of the country, buying and flipping these homes can provide local investors with a unique opportunity to earn a large profit over a fairly short renovation period.

However, those who have financed this real estate through high-interest means may need to make a sale before a balloon payment comes due. Having a home sitting on the market for weeks or months at a time can be a costly prospect.

In some cases, offering potential homeowners the promise of hassle-free ownership through a home warranty can be the difference between a home that’s snatched up quickly and one that languishes on the market for months.

Read on to learn more about the coverage afforded by a home warranty, as well as some of the factors you’ll want to consider when deciding to purchase a warranty for a home you’re planning to flip.

What a Home Warranty Covers

A home warranty is a type of insurance policy designed to protect home buyers from any sudden and unexpected costs upon the purchase of a new home. After spending money on a down payment, moving expenses, and the other costs inherent in moving a household, the last thing a home buyer wants to deal with is an expensive HVAC repair or leaking dishwasher.

By offering a home warranty as part of the sale, sellers can provide buyers with peace of mind, which is especially important when selling a recently renovated home.

Most home warranties offer coverage that complements a homeowners’ insurance policy. While homeowners’ insurance can pay to replace appliances that are damaged in a fire or when a tree crashes through a window, a home warranty will pay to replace appliances that malfunction or stop working entirely, even paying to replace the damage that can result from a leaking refrigerator or clogged dishwasher.

Home warranties can cover larger home systems like the furnace, air conditioner, and water heater as well. During the time period for which the home warranty is in effect (usually a year or two after purchase), any problems with these systems should be covered unless subject to a specific policy exclusion.

Although home warranties are meant to benefit the buyer by protecting from unforeseen expenses, they can provide benefits to the home seller as well. In today’s litigious environment, many home buyers won’t hesitate to file a breach of contract lawsuit if they run into problems with their new home that arguably should have been disclosed prior to sale.

Lawsuits are particularly a problem when it comes to home flipping, as the quick renovation and sale process often doesn’t provide enough time to see whether any plumbing, insulation, or other problems develop.

What to Consider When Flipping a Home

There are a few factors you’ll want to take into account when deciding whether to offer a home warranty on a flipped home that you’re hoping to sell. Although home warranties can be a low-cost way to offer peace of mind to a buyer, they’re not right for every sale transaction.

Local Market Conditions

In some hot markets, like San Francisco and Seattle, homes are being snapped up at well above listing price hours after they hit the market. If you live in one of these areas, or another part of the country experiencing a real estate boom, you may not need to worry about a home warranty as a selling point; it’s likely your home will quickly sell regardless.

On the other hand, those who are in slower-moving real estate markets may want to consider offering a home warranty to provide a bit of an edge over similar homes in the area. The longer a home sits on the market without any “bites,” the more it may become a turnoff to prospective buyers, so doing all you can to make your home marketable before it hits the market can be the key to a quick sale.

Manufacturer Warranty Coverage

If your flip included replacement of your home’s HVAC system or appliances, it’s likely these items are covered by their own manufacturers’ warranty; offering a home warranty to cover these items could be redundant, costing you extra without providing any added benefit.

Instead, if you choose to offer a home warranty, you may want to exempt appliances and other items that are already covered in favor of adding renovations that aren’t subject to their own separate warranty.

By keeping these factors (and the ebb and flow of your own local real estate market) in mind when flipping a home, you’ll be in a prime position to gain as much profit as possible from your recent foreclosure or short sale purchase.

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Valuable Lessons for First-Time Home Buyers


But you live and you learn. And in the end, that’s all anyone can do. With that said, I wanted to share some of our mistakes and other things we’ve learned since we bought our house, in case they might prove helpful to someone else going through the home buying process. Looking back on my own experience, here are some tips I’d recommend to any first-time home buyer:

1. Start Saving Right Away

The earlier you start saving for that down payment, the easier it gets. We didn’t start worrying about it until it was too late, and we had to get a mortgage for more than 80% of our home’s value. If we had been on the ball even two years earlier, we wouldn’t have had to do that.

 

2. Don’t Rush Things

Because of the timing of my wife’s pregnancy, we felt rushed into our home purchase. With a baby on the way, we knew our apartment would soon be exploding at the seams. Although I’m happy with our home purchase, I wish we hadn’t rushed it so much.

 

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

When you’re a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to be shocked by the many “extras” that appear in your monthly budget. Things that didn’t exist before–like larger utility bills, home repairs, and lawn maintenance–start adding up and making a huge difference in your bottom line.

 

If you want to be as prepared as possible, build your emergency fund for several months–or even years–before you commit to the home buying process. The money will be there when you need it that way, which will make the entire purchase a lot less stressful.

4. Price-Shop for a Mortgage

The easiest way to get the best mortgage rates is to shop around as much as you can. When we were going through the home buying process, I was surprised at how much lower (and higher) mortgage rates from different firms could be.

 

We ultimately chose the lowest rate out of three and went with our credit union. However, I really wish we would have taken the time to explore different loan options, as well as rates from at least a few more mortgage brokers. Saving just a half a percentage point on an average-priced home could lead to tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the years.

5. Pay Attention During the Home Inspection

During the home inspection process, we thought we did everything right. We followed the home inspector through every room. We asked questions. We took notes. One thing we didn’t do, however, was check things out for ourselves.

 

6. Get a Second (or Third) Opinion

When you’ve fallen in love with a house, it’s easy to overlook things that may not be quite right. Unfortunately, those “love blinders” can cause expensive mistakes if you fail to notice something wrong with the property.

 

That’s why it’s important to bring a family friend or relative along. Since they aren’t buying the property themselves, they’re more likely to see it for what it is. So get a second or third opinion from someone who isn’t blinded by love goggles. Different eyes spot different things, and friendly eyes will tell you the problems they see.

7. Shop Around for Homeowners Insurance

It can really pay off to shop around for the best homeowner’s insurance policyyou can find. And don’t be afraid to move your other insurance policies and bundle them together—most insurers offer a generous discount if you package both your auto and homeowners policies, for instance.

 

But your search shouldn’t just be for the cheapest policy you can find; this is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so you want a high-quality policy that will serve its purpose if you should ever need it. So don’t shop just on price alone–consider the quality of the policy and its coverage options. If you ever need to file a claim, you’ll be glad you did.

Another way to save some money on your homeowners insurance is to evaluate the actual value of your house’s contents, and insure them accordingly. At first, we went with a default amount suggested by our insurance agent, simply because we didn’t know any better. Later, having actually calculated the value of everything in the house, we adjusted that figure downward quite a bit. Remember, don’t count irreplaceable items–you wouldn’t replace them anyway, and they have no real replacement value.

8. Don’t Go Furniture Shopping the Day After You Move In

When you’re a first-time home buyer, it’s easy to forget that your new home will bring with it a whole new set of expenses you’ve never had to worry about before. So before you go on a furniture-shopping spree, take some time to figure out what your new budget might look like, and what you actually need for your new home.

 

If you take some time and shop around enough, you might even find an awesome furniture sale or liquidation, or discover some used furniture on Craigslist that suits your needs perfectly. Don’t rush into a furniture purchase. You have plenty of time, so use it.

We had a bunch of cheap furniture from our college days at our old apartment that we didn’t bring with us. By pure luck, we happened to stumble upon a liquidation sale at a furniture shop and outfitted our living room very cheaply, but it was really a mistake to decide that we needed new furniture for our new house. Upgrade it later on–you can have a few empty rooms for a while. Save up until you can afford what you actually want instead of buying furniture just to fill a room.

9. Offer to Help Others Move for Years in Advance

How does this help you? Well, imagine over a three-year period that you help 10 different families move. When you move, you can call any of these people to help you move—and five families can unload a truck and unpack boxes at an astounding rate.

 

Our big mistake wasn’t the help we received, but how I managed it. Don’t have everyone come and help you at once. Ask two friends to come one day and two friends to come another day instead of having them all come at once—you’ll be far more productive that way.

10. Know What You Can Change, and What You Can’t

When you buy your first home, the whole process feels daunting. The idea of spending thousands of dollars to replace or update old or unsafe systems or outdated appliances is especially unsettling and can seem like an insurmountable obstacle.

 

But every home has some issues. Some of them are things you can live with, while some are things you can’t; some are things you can change, and some are permanent features.

The number-one thing you can’t change about a house is its location, so remember: When you buy a home, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying the neighborhood. Explore the surrounding area before you submit an offer and fully commit to the purchase.

Meanwhile, other problems can be fixed, or at least endured until you are able to fix them. For example, that problematic hot water heater was something we could change about the house. But if we had let that issue scare us away from buying it, we might have missed out on the chance to live in a family-oriented community with great neighbors.

More Tips to Improve the Home Buying Process

Your home will probably be the most expensive purchase you ever make. That’s why it’s important to research every aspect of the home buying process–and make sure you do things right from the start.

 

Part of that process involves getting your own financial house in order. Here are some steps you should consider taking as you prepare your finances for the prospect of a mortgage:

Make Sure Your Credit Is in Good Shape

If you want to qualify for the best mortgage rates possible, it’s essential that you get your credit score in tip-top shape. If your credit score needs work, there are plenty of steps you can take to improve it. Some of them include paying down debt, diversifying the types of credit you use, and paying your bills on time, every time.

Pay Down Your Debts

Not only can paying down debt improve your credit score, it can increase your chances of getting qualified for a mortgage—and improve your financial well-being, too. Once you owe less money, you should have more expendable income each month that you could save for your new home’s down payment—or for repairs or upgrades once you move in.

 

Paying down your debts can also help you qualify for a mortgage, since lenders prefer to have your total debt obligations—including your new mortgage—to represent no more than 43% of your income.

Avoid New Debts

Another piece of the puzzle while you’re preparing for a mortgage is staying away from new debts. Remember, any monthly obligations you have could stand in the way of taking out a mortgage for the home you really want to buy. As you prepare to buy a new home, try to stay away from taking out any new loans, including car loans. You’ll be in a much better place to get your ideal mortgage, and ideal mortgage terms, if you are debt-free.

Resist the Urge to Buy All the Home You Can ‘Afford’

This one is really important. When you first apply for a mortgage, the bank may be willing to lend you more than you really need. However, there are a lot of really good arguments in favor of buying less house than you can afford.

 

For example, the lower payments that come with having a smaller mortgage can be beneficial when you’re getting ready to start a family or saving for retirement. Meanwhile, a smaller home can mean less money needed for repairs, utilities, and upkeep.

Regardless, you should only buy as much home as you need and only spend as much as you’re comfortable with. Who cares what the bank says you can afford?

As intimidating as it can be, buying your first home is a wonderful, exciting experience — especially if you educate yourself about the process beforehand. Do the readers have any more suggestions for things they’d do differently with their first home purchase?

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How Important Is Exterior Painting Surface Preparation ?



You could spend $80/gallon on the best lifetime-warranty paint on the market and apply six coats, but if you're not spending the time to do your surface preparation correctly it would all be for naught.  Without a doubt, the amount of prep you do will determine the longevity of your exterior painting job.  

When I used to work for one of the largest coatings manufacturers, part of my job description was resolving paint failure complaints.  And I can tell you from experience, the overwhelming majority of paint failures are the direct result of inadequate surface prep.  Period.

Some people skimp on prep work because it's hard, time-consuming work; some because they don't understand just how important it really is; and some because they don't know how to go about it.  While we can't do much about the difficulty of the job, this week's article will go through each step in the process so at least you'll have the know-how to get it done right.

 

1.)  Clean

Houses get dirty from dust and other environmental contaminants.  If you leave these contaminants on the surface when you paint, your paint will be sticking to the dirt and not to the surface that you want it to stick to.

When I was investigating paint failures it was easy to tell when lack of pre-paint cleaning was the cause of a paint failure.  I could just look at the back of a paint chip that was peeling off of the house and if I could see dirt then I knew that it hadn't been cleaned properly.

I can also tell you that if you begin the warranty claim process with the store where you purchased the paint, they will likely send a representative out to your home and go through the same steps to determine the cause of the failure.  If they find contaminated paint chips they will most-likely refuse to honor the terms of the 20-year, 30-year, or lifetime warranty on the label of the can that you paid so much extra money for.

So do yourself a huge favor and do a thorough pre-paint cleaning of all of the areas to be painted.  You will get far more life out of a mid-grade paint that's been applied over a clean, well-prepared surface than you will out of a top shelf product that's been put on a dirty house.

The only question really is how to do your pre-paint cleaning.  There are a couple of choices when it comes to cleaning -- high pressure washing or hand scrubbing.  There are benefits and drawbacks to both methods, so check out our blog article 'Pre-Paint Cleaning Methods:  Pressure Washing Vs. Hand Scrubbing' for specifics on how to go about doing both of them.

 

2.)  Let It Dry

This may sound a bit ridiculous but it should be said that paint, primer, and caulking do not stick well to damp surfaces.  Pre-paint cleaning will make your siding wet, and if you've used a pressure washer it can stay wet for days.

Always be on the safe side and allow several days for the surface to completely dry-out before you proceed to the next step.  For those of you in a rush to get the project completed, down-time can be frustrating, but at least this step doesn't require any physical labor on your part.

 

3.)  Scrape

By the time most folks get around to painting their home it's because they're starting to see peeling paint.  If that's also true in your case, you'll need to scrape all of the loose coatings until all that's left are sections of well-adhered paint and bare surfaces.  Leaving any peeling or curled edges will definitely result in paint failure.

There are lots of different types of scrapers on the market.  I personally prefer a long-handled pull scraper.  They make quicker work of removing peeling paint, and have replaceable blades for when it becomes dull.  Just be careful with them because they can gouge into the siding if you get aggressive with your work.

It's also helpful to have a painter's multi-tool so you can get into tight areas and corners easier.

 

4.)  Repair Damage & Set Nail Heads

If you have any rotted or damaged sections of siding or trim then you'll want to repair them at this stage of the game.  Check out this recent blog post on Exterior Rotted Wood Repair Tips for more information on how to do it.

Be sure to set any protruding nail heads just slightly below the surface as well, using a hammer or the butt end of your painter's multi-tool.

 

5.) Sand

The next step is to sand all of the surfaces smooth.  This includes sanding down any rough exposed wood as well as feather-sanding the edge of the remaining paint that's still on the siding.  This will reduce the appearance of the transition from the bare surface to the existing coating when you paint over top of it all.

Do yourself a favor and either purchase or rent an electric sander for this job.  A belt sander will work, but can be a bit aggressive at times.  The best choice would probably be a random orbit sander.  Pick up some medium and fine grit sandpaper.  If the surface is rough you'll need to start with the medium grit and finish with the fine grit, if it's not then you can skip straight to the fine.

After you've sanded everything down you need to remove the dust from the surface so the primer and paint will stick.  You can wipe it all down with a rags, blow it off with an air compressor, or give it a rinse with a garden hose or the pressure washer.  If you do use water, make sure you wait until it's completely dry before proceeding.

 

6.) Prime

If you didn't have any peeling paint you should be able to skip this step and go on to the next.  If you did then you'll at least need to do some spot-priming of the bare areas, because paint doesn't always stick well to bare substrates.  Make sure to use a good quality primer that's suitable to being used on the surface you're applying it to.  

There are several multiple-use primers on the market that will work for most applications.  One of my personal favorites is Bullseye 1-2-3 made by Zinsser.

Rarely is there a need for complete stripping of the old coating prior to painting.  However, there are some situations when the old paint will not stop peeling.  Fortunately there is a line of primers that are on the market now that can even solve this problem and save you from a paint stripping nightmare.

Also check out our blog article entitle Primer Before Paint:  When Is It Necessary & When Is It A Waste? for more information on the topic of priming.

 

7.) Caulk

Caulking doesn't just make your paint job look pretty it also keeps water from getting into the structure and causing damage.  Make sure all siding butt joints, as well as gaps where siding meets trim are sealed to prevent water infiltration.  But don't get overzealous and caulk the horizontal laps on clapboard siding as this would prevent it from breathing.

Before applying new caulking be sure to dig out any existing caulking from the joints that has either cracked or pulled away from the joint.  With a little instruction and practice you can apply caulking like a professional painter and your project will turn out looking great.

FYI, there is a huge selection of caulking to choose from along with a wide range of prices.  There is absolutely a big difference in performance in caulking so buy the best that you can afford to use.

 

Once you've completed these steps, you're ready for paint.  There are some important things to consider when choosing an exterior paint so do your research before going shopping.  If you're going to put that much time and effort into prep work you want to make sure that you're picking a coating that will hold-up well for you for several years.

 

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