Money Matters by Susan Hirshman

It’s beginning to look a lot like tax day and our finance expert Susan Hirshman tackles a topic many couples can relate to…File Denial
If you are married, should you always file your tax returns jointly with your spouse? Most people will answer yes because they think that’s the best way minimize your tax bill. Often, times the that is the right answer – because married filing jointly gets you the most favorable tax rates.
But, should lower tax rates be your only criteria? NO! with a capital N and a capital O.
I say this because of the following three words “joint & several liability.” Joint liability means you and your spouse are both liable; several liability means you’re each liable for the entire amount not just your own share. In other words, if you file a joint return and the information is false or wrong, the IRS can go after either of you because you both signed the return. This typically happens when one spouse knows more about the couple’s finances and files the tax return. Often, the other spouse simply signs the return without really understanding what’s in it.
To make this come alive, let me tell you the story of Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill are married and file their tax returns jointly. Jack owns his business and doesn’t report all his income on their tax returns. A few years later they are audited by the IRS and it is determined that they owe an additional $100,000 of taxes plus interest and penalties.
Who do you think the IRS will go after to collect on Jack’s tax bill? (a) Jack? (b) Jill? (c) Anyone they can? If you picked answer ©, you are correct, even if they are now divorced.
Jill can’t believe that she is liable for the taxes on the income her husband under-reported. But she is – unless she qualifies as an innocent spouse or under the equitable relief rules as defined by the IRS. Not everyone qualifies, so never assume you would be. Instead, before you sign on the dotted line make sure the numbers on the return make sense; if not- ask questions. Bottom line – don’t be a victim. Protect Yourself.
picture.jpgSusan Hirshman is president of SHE LTD, a consulting firm focused on enhancing the financial literacy of women globally. She is the author of- Does this Make My Assets Look Fat? – a women’s guide to finding financial empowerment and success. Formerly, she was a Managing Director, Wealth Manager with one of the world’s top financial services organization.

Mouse Droppings: Return to Sender

white-mouse-on-skate-board.jpegI am saddened to report the news that Milford the Mouse has officially been evicted from the Feldman household. I can’t say the decision to oust the smelly rodent was an easy one. You see, my incredibly responsible and kind son reminded me that once you name a pet, you’re not supposed to send him back. The only problem was, if you name a pet that then emits a foul smelling odor that starts creeping through your mudroom and into your garage one week before your mom is supposed to arrive for Passover, it’s time to send the mouse packing.
And so, after my son did an incredibly wonderful thing yesterday – he sang at a nursing home on behalf of our synagogue, I broke the news to him as gently as I could.
“Dylan I have to tell you that we’ve got to send Milford back to Petco. But I’m going to make a deal with you. If you let us return him, I’ll get you two pets for the price of one.”
While Dylan was upset at first, he took the bait and agreed to check out his options. We then raced home and Dylan found a shoebox, placed his friend inside along with a piece of lettuce and we hopped in the car. Of course, the ride over to Petco had a bit of drama – Milford managed to find the one hole in the shoebox where he could slither out and escape. I over-reacted and grabbed the rodent and Dylan started crying – thinking I was crushing his poor defenseless pet. Thankfully, Milford was just fine and I instructed the kids that if the mouse were to seek refuge in my car, it would not end well for him.
Once we arrived at Petco, my husband attempted to find someone who would help us return Milford. What we discovered is that Petco is like Home Depot. If you’re a pet owner, you should know where you’re going and don’t expect anyone to help you. Just like when you’re in Home Depot and you need to buy some nails and no one is there to assist you with your purchase. We finally found a guy in the reptile section who thought we were nuts returning the mouse and even asked us for a receipt. We told him we didn’t have one but he could just keep the mouse – we didn’t want our money back. And so, he shrugged his shoulders, said “Okay” and walked away with Milford – toward the reptile section and not toward the mouse tank. Let’s hope that Milford made a great escape before he became an appetizer for a snake or that the guy cleaned him up and put him back in the pen with his friends. Either way, we bid adieu to Milford and went on a search for a new pet.
Since no one at Petco was helping us, we left the store and hit PetSmart – which incidentally, is like the Lowes of pet centers. People are eager to help you and are even knowledgeable if you ask them which rodent really doesn’t smell bad. When we explained our plight to one of the Petsmart employees he instantly knew where we went wrong and even let us sniff all the tanks to show us what they smelled like before their bedding was changed. Incidentally, the prize for the worst smelling tank was awarded to a rat.
After rounding a corner and taking a look at all the different options in front of us, my kids set their sites on two dwarf hamsters. And while the argued briefly about where they would put the tank (it’s now in the guest room), they scooped them up, put them in a box and we were on our merry way.
I am happy to report that Millie (named for Milford) and Munchkin are doing quite well in their new home. No foul smells are coming from their tank and they’re having the time of their lives. As for Milford, I don’t know what happened to that little white mouse – I only hope that he got the chance to re-join his family so they could all live smell-ily ever after.