Give These New Hobbies a Try in 2017 

Are you looking for something new to try this year? You better get going because the year is practically half over. If you’re tired of all the old, run-of-the-mill hobbies and you want a new adventure to pass some time, then there are several options you should give a try. Make some time to try more than one and see which one you like best. You might end up finding a new hobby that you will enjoy for many years to come.

If you like to get crafty then give embroidery a try. You can unleash your creative side and come up with some new décor for your home at the same time. Along those same lines, why not try cross-stitching as well? Another hobby you might like if you enjoying being crafty is making paper flowers. They won’t rot and they add more beauty to the world.

Have you ever wanted to learn an instrument? Why not give the ukulele a try? It’s usually much easier to learn than a guitar and it will come in handy on your next trip to an island paradise or on a rainy day when you’re stuck inside.

Yoga is another great new hobby to experience. Learn to master the practice of this ancient form of meditation and exercise. You’ll feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically!

Perhaps you like art but don’t give it much time. You could always take an art class, or just make more time to visit art galleries and museums to appreciate some of the finer things in life. There are endless new hobbies to try this year. Pick something and see if you can discover your new favorite pastime!

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Simple Ways to Build a Better Tax Plan

Does it seem possible that more than two months have already passed since the 2017 tax season ended? That means the 2018 tax season is not that far away, and now is a good time to make your tax plan for this year’s return.

Tax plans come in all shapes and sizes because no two taxpayers have the exact same situation. However, there are a few common tips that can help any taxpayer prepare his or her next tax return, especially if they want to save a little more on taxes.

  • Tax Harvesting – We’ve discussed tax harvesting before, but it never hurts to repeat sound advice. This is a great way to reduce your tax hit by selling off investments that have a loss. This will help offset any gains you have and ease your tax burden.
  • IRA Contributions – While you can wait all the way util April of next year to contribute to your IRA, you don’t have to. Plus, whatever you add to your Roth IRA will be tax-free income when it comes time to withdraw it.
  • Maximize Long-Term Gains – If you happen to be in the 15 percent tax bracket, you get to enjoy your long-term investment gains tax-free. Therefore, take the time to study and estimate your future investment taxes and look for chances to save each year.

These are just a few of the tips you can implement in your 2107 tax plan, or any other year, to help get prepared and save some money. Please feel free to speak with our tax experts at GROCO for more help.

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Will One of Trump’s Top Tax Breaks Get the Axe?

As the new president and his administration continue to tout their big plans for a major tax overhaul in the U.S., it remains to be seen if the proposals will get passed in the House and Senate. While both branches of government are all for tax code reform, there are still differences that must be overcome. For example, House Republicans are currently weighing the possibility of killing one of President Trumps’ personal favorite tax deductions.

This tax provision has been around for hundreds of years and it has been a huge boost to the president’s real estate fortune. However, it could become one of the biggest tax fights in Washington in the coming months. According to reports, in order to offset the proposed reduction in the nation’s corporate tax rate, the House would like to use the $1 trillion that would be raised by ending a deduction for businesses’ interest expenses.

While doing so would help fund the government and its programs, there are several industries that are already clamoring for the deduction to be retained as is, including private equity companies, real estate moguls, and even farmers – all of which claim that they have to borrow money in order to operate. They fear huge tax increases if the deduction is removed.

So far, Republicans are divided on the issue, while the president himself has long supported the deduction for obvious reasons. His Treasury Secretary has said that they prefer to keep it in place but that all options are still open. Stay tuned, because this could end up being a big fight in the nation’s capitol.

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The Best Dining Experiences Around the Globe

Looking for some of the best dining experiences from around the world? Obviously, this list will not include any of your standard chain restaurants that serve burgers and chicken wings, not that there’s anything wrong with those options. However, for those with a more distinguished food palate and the ability to dine in locations around the globe, these are some of the best restaurants in the world. You can try any of them for what promises to be an extraordinary experience.

According to this year’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, published by William Reed Business Media, these are the top 10 spots along with their ranking last year in parenthesis. Click here to see the entire list.

  1. Eleven Madison Park, New York (3)
  2. OsteriaFrancescana, Modena, Italy (1)
  3. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain (2)
  4. Mirazur, Menton, France (6)
  5. Central, Lima (4)
  6. AsadorEtxebarri, Axpe, Spain (10)
  7. Gaggan, Bangkok (23)
  8. Maido, Lima (13)
  9. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain (7)
  10. Steirereck, Vienna (9)

If you like to mix your passion for food with a passion for travel, then get out and explore some of these amazing places located all over the world. Be sure to call ahead though, because they don’t take walk-ins.

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Accountability in Four Easy Steps

Source: Partner Insights

The following includes excerpts, reproduced with permission, from an article by Marty Stanley, president of Dynamic Dialog, Inc.

Accountability hasn’t been considered the “next big idea” because it’s not “flashy.” There are no “bragging rights” about implementing an accountability process. After all, accountability means people would need to change, rather than a system or process that needs to change. And who wants to be accountable if it means having to personally change?

On the other hand we’ve seen what happens when there’s no accountability for leading people or processes: The dot-com bust, Enron, Katrina, FEMA…Scandals everywhere: Politics, religion, sports…Bernie Madoff, bailouts and industries collapsing…Product recalls, contaminated foods, greed, waste and excess.

Here are four easy steps to holding people accountable:

  1. Use job descriptions as the basis for hiring or promoting people into a position.
  2. Share the job description with incumbents so they know their accountabilities and let them know this will be used for training, coaching, and performance feedback.
  3. Have objective ways to measure and monitor performance and communicate those methods to the people performing the jobs. Follow through by providing feedback about performance.
  4. Provide training and coaching opportunities to enhance performance.
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Is There Still Time to File My 2016 Taxes?

The tax deadline this year has obviously passed, and most people have pushed the subject of taxes to the furthest part of their minds. However, for those who still haven’t filed a return, the tax season continues. That begs the question: is there still time to file your 2016 taxes? The answer is definitely yes. For those who filed for an extension, this comes as no surprise. However, for those who missed the deadline without filing for an extension, this may come as a surprise.

First off, if you filed for an extension, then you know you have six more months (until October 18) to file your tax return. However, you shouldn’t wait to file because even though that extension allows you more time, it does not give you more time to pay off your tax bill. Therefore, if you owe money to the IRS, you will be paying interest on the unpaid amount every month it is late.

Furthermore, whether you filed an extension or not, you should still file your return as soon as possible. The penalty for not filing is much greater than it is for filing late. Plus, when you don’t file, you not only get charged with additional interest, but the IRS also charges penalties, which are much higher than the interest rates.

One more thing to keep in mind is if you have a legitimate excuse for being late, the IRS may pardon the penalties, although you will still be responsible for any interest accrued. However, it must be a good excuse, and not having sufficient funds is not considered a good excuse.


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Top Careers for Working Parents

Let’s face it, being a parent is a tough job. Long hours, no holidays or vacation days, and the pay is anything but spectacular. Of course, parenting has some great rewards, and most parents wouldn’t trade those intangible benefits for anything. However, the reality is most parents struggle to figure out how to be good full-time parents while fitting in a full-time job. Often, it’s the parenting duties that get left on the back burner.

Parents have to support their families, but hopefully not at the cost of never being there for their families. With that backdrop in mind, which careers are the best suited for working parents? Keep in mind that these jobs might not always pay the best, but they do offer more flexibility, which enables parents to be there when their kids need them most.

These positions include call center representatives, school bus drivers, teacher’s aids, tax accountants, and web writers. All of these positions are typically quite flexible. On the other hand, some of the higher paying jobs that are good for working parents include dietitian, physician assistant, public relations specialist, speech-language pathologist, and web developer. These not only allow for greater flexibility, but they also offer a better quality of life.

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Are There Any Tax Benefits Coming to the Middle Class?

Now that the president and his administration have announced their plans for an overhaul to our nation’s tax system and code, most taxpayers are wondering how it will affect them. While there are many reports that the nation’s wealthiest will get even wealthier, thanks to the tax breaks laid out in the plan, the administration continues to tout the benefits that will be coming to the middle class.

Is it all political rhetoric or do the middle class really have something to look forward to? Generally, it looks like the new proposals could lead to lower tax bills for many people. However, at the same time, many of the most popular tax deductions could also be cut, which might not sit well with a lot of taxpayers.

On the plus side, the president would like to raise the standard deduction for both single filers, as well as joint filers, which would lead to lower tax bills. It would also mean an easier tax return process because most people would not have to itemize their deductions. The downside is that many tax deductions people count on every year would be eliminated, except the mortgage interest deduction and the charitable contributions deduction.

The plan also calls for fewer tax brackets, which would likely lead to a lower tax bill for most taxpayers, but not all. The new tax plan also calls for greater tax breaks for parents, especially those who pay for childcare, as well as possibly increasing the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Business owners would also see lower tax rates under the plan, which would be a huge boost to small businesses.


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Is Your Takeout Habit Dragging You Down?

What’s for lunch today? Did you bring your lunch with you? The business world is busy and professionals are always on the go, which means sometimes they don’t even have time for lunch, let alone to bring a self-made lunch from home. Thus, the delivery and takeout food industry is a huge business.

Eating out, in one form or another, is easy to do, but that extra cash you keep spending every day really starts to add up if you’re not paying attention. So how can you tell if your takeout habit has become a problem? There are some telltale signs.

First off, if you’ve noticed a lot of traffic coming and going from your place on a regular basis, then chances are you call the delivery driver a little too often. If they know how to get to your house without using GPS, then they likely have been there too many times already.

If your house or apartment is starting to be overtaken by takeout containers, then you probably rely on these services too much. A sure sign is the tower your kids built in the living room with all the Styrofoam towers that have been building up.

An easy way to curb this bad habit is through some sort of financial tracking system, such as This type of system is free and will track all expenditures and classify them into categories (car, education, travel, fast food, etc.) for you. This helps you see exactly where you’re spending your money and enable you to budget better. It’s easy to order delivery because it’s convenient, but utilizing a financial tracking system can show you how much you’re spending on takeout over time, and you’ll likely be amazed.

These are just a few examples of some of the signs that your takeout habit has gone too far. If this sounds like you, then perhaps it’s time to rethink your meal planning and sign up for a financial tracking system. Otherwise, you could end up sending your deliveryman’s kids to college instead of your own.

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Trump Administration Proposes Sweeping Tax Cuts

After months of promises, a brutally combative campaign and election, and the first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump and his administration have released their tax plan, which promises to include “the biggest tax cut” in the history of our country, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director, Gary Cohn.

While the proposal does make big promises it did not include many specific details. For example, although the administration is promising to decrease the number of tax brackets to three, it did not reveal the planned income levels of those brackets. The plan also promises to change personal tax rates and eliminate many of the deductions that the nation’s wealthiest individuals use, but it was light on details.

On the other hand, some details were revealed, including the plan to greatly reduce corporate tax rate from the current level of 35 percent to just 15 percent. The plan also calls for allowing a pass-through rate for business owners, which would allow self-employed individuals to be taxed at the corporate tax rate instead of the personal income tax rate.

Meanwhile, even though the income levels for the three proposed tax brackets were not revealed the tax rates were: 35 percent, 25 percent and 10 percent. Some of the other significant proposals include:

  • The elimination of the estate tax
  • A one-time repatriation tax
  • Standard individual tax deduction being doubled
  • All itemized tax deductions being eliminated except mortgage payments and charitable donations
  • Repeal the Net investment income tax of 3.8 percent
  • Eliminate the alternative minimum tax
  • Eliminate state and local tax deduction

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