Blog

  • 02 May 2016 3:09 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    Statement from NAHB Chairman Ed Brady on DOL's Overtime Threshold Plan

    WASHINGTON, April 29 - Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., issued the following statement regarding a report that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing to lower its new overtime threshold from $50,440 to $47,000.

    "The Department of Labor is considering a plan to reduce the cap on its proposed overtime salary threshold rate hike from $50,440 to $47,000 that is a token effort at best. This drastic hike would still wreak havoc on the residential housing sector, the nation's small businesses and the economy. This minimal reduction would still amount to a 99 percent increase from the current overtime salary limit of $23,660. This proposal is clearly not serious and is unacceptable to America's small businesses.

    "The unintended consequences of this aggressive regulatory overreach would hurt job and economic growth, as well as many of the workers the plan is trying to help. There is no reasonable approach or road map on how this would be phased in without resulting in severe economic repercussions. If the $47,000 overtime threshold were to become law, it would hurt millions of small business owners, including home building firms, by forcing them to scale back on pay and benefits, as well as cutting workers' hours to avoid overtime requirements. Indeed, it would be particularly harmful to the housing community, as the vast majority of home building firms have fewer than 10 employees.

    "The Department of Labor must scrap this unworkable proposal and go back to the drawing board. We stand ready to work with DOL to craft a practical plan that would gradually ramp up the current overtime threshold so that it does not result in real hardship for small businesses. The rule should also take into account regional variations in wages and cost of living when determining its formula. Such a measured response would help small business, workers and the economy."

  • 20 Apr 2016 12:56 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON - The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) urged Congress to take action to keep the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) new silica standards from taking effect.

    Testifying before the House Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., said that "our members are deeply committed to taking meaningful action to provide a safe work and construction environment, including reducing exposure to silica. However, we believe the new rule will not only fail to achieve these aims, but it will also do great harm to businesses, consumers and the economy."

    Brady, who also appeared before the House panel as a representative of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a group of 25 trade associations representing members from all facets of the construction industry, called the final regulation:

    • Technologically impracticable. In order to meet the new standards, the rule would require construction firms to develop and install engineering and work practice controls to mitigate or remove silica dust that are beyond current technology.
    • Economically infeasible. OSHA's Preliminary Economic Analysis failed to recognize the distinction between new construction and remodeling, or the relationship between a general contractor and its subcontractors. The agency's out-of-date economic data drastically underestimates the economic costs to the construction industry, which could run $4.9 billion per year, an amount nearly eight times larger than OSHA's estimates.
    • The cost of this most significant health and safety rule ever issued for the construction sector will be passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices. As the cost of housing increases and the access to credit remains tight, home buyers and renters will have fewer safe, decent and affordable housing options.
    • Unworkable in terms of requiring medical surveillance of construction industry workers. The rule offers no guidance to determine if employees may reasonably be expected to be exposed to silica dust. In the absence of such guidance, the employer's only option is to perform health screening at a cost of $377.77 per employee as estimated by OSHA. Virtually all of the nation's 3.2 million construction workers will cut and drill and grind during the course of their work without knowing the silica content of the material they are working on. If each construction employee required only one health screening per year at a cost of $377.77, the total tally would be roughly $1.2 billion.
    • The wrong solution to make the workplace safer. Though the intent of the rule is to protect workers from toxic dust particles, the final provisions display a fundamental misunderstanding of the real world of construction. This one-size-fits-all rule places restrictions on certain construction site work practices, which contradict existing safety procedures.

    "We strongly urge OSHA to re-examine and reassess how its final rule will negatively harm the construction industry, job growth, consumers and the economy while doing little to improve the health and safety of industry workers," said Brady. "Given that it is unlikely the agency will change course, Congress must take the lead and act swiftly to craft legislation that will keep this fundamentally flawed rule from taking effect."

    #####

    ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 140,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for this year.


  • 20 Apr 2016 10:39 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by NAHB Economics

    WASHINGTON, April 18 -- Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged in April at a level of 58 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

    "Builder confidence has held firm at 58 for three consecutive months, showing that the single-family housing sector continues to recover at a slow but consistent pace," said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill.  "As we enter the spring home buying season, we should see the market move forward."

    "Builders remain cautiously optimistic about construction growth in 2016," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Solid job creation and low mortgage interest rates will sustain continued gains in the single-family housing market in the months ahead." 

    Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

    The HMI components measuring sales expectations in the next six months rose one point to 62, and the index gauging buyer traffic also increased a single point to 44. Meanwhile, the component charting current sales conditions fell two points to 63.

    Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, all four regions registered slight declines. The Northeast and West each fell two points to 44 and 67, respectively. Meanwhile, the Midwest and South each posted respective one-point losses to 57 and 58. 

    Editor's Note: The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is strictly the product of NAHB Economics, and is not seen or influenced by any outside party prior to being released to the public. HMI tables can be found at nahb.org/hmi. More information on housing statistics is also available at housingeconomics.com.



  • 19 Apr 2016 3:05 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D.,

    Despite all the news to the contrary, the US econmy is in pretty good shape, better than the financial pundits think.  Sure, the stock market has taken a battering of late, exploration and production activity in the oil patch has been declining, and exports are performing poorly, but the rest of the economy is fine.  The service sector continues to grow nicely and construction activity continues to increase.  Let’s take a closer look at the facts.

    The recent tumble in equity prices has nothing to do with a slowing economy and is not the precursor of a recession.  Rather, the declines are the result of three quite independent factors.  First, as the Fed raises interest rates, the value of financial assets must decline.  Remember, the Fed initially lowered rates to boost asset prices and stimulate spending.  As this process slowly unwinds, the value of equities must decline.  Second, corporate profits have been flat for several quarters, and third, even at today’s somewhat lower equity values, P/E ratios remain high by historic standards. 

    As for exports, the US is much less dependent on them than most nations.  Exports of goods to China total less than one percent of GDP, while exports of goods to Europe are about 1.5% of GDP.  While exports of services such as movies, music and intellectual property add to these totals, they do not vary much with economic conditions.  As a result, while a 10% decline in exports certainly hurts manufacturers and their employees and reduces GDP by about 0.2%, it is far from catastrophic in an economy growing by a healthy 2.5%.

    Regarding falling oil and gas prices, the benefits to the economy are just beginning.  Until now, the price declines have resulted in large cutbacks in exploration and production (E&P) activity, as well as related manufacturing, construction and oil services activity that supports oil and gas E&P.  The key here is that cheaper energy prices have boosted household incomes by about $130 billion or $1,000/household.  While to date most of this money has been socked away, I expect that to change and to see increased consumer spending this year and next as households perceive the recent price declines as somewhat permanent.

    Most importantly, the rest of the economy is already doing well.  Unemployment is at 4.9% and will decline further as the year progresses, and at 4.9%, unemployment is already at one of the lowest levels in decades.  Moreover, home sales and prices are up, as is loan demand.  In addition, tight labor markets are finally leading to sizable increases in hourly earnings, which will boost household spending further, and inflation, which has been completely dormant for several years, appears to be rising.  This is a particularly welcome development given that Japan and Europe continue to fight deflation.  

    Lastly, services, which account for roughly 84% of GDP, and construction activity, which accounts for about 6% of GDP, both of which are almost entirely domestically focused, are in fine shape and growing nicely.  During the past 12 months, construction activity increased by 10.4% and services grew by 3%.  In short, the parts of the economy that are inwardly-centered are doing well, and the negative impacts of softer growth from abroad are not nearly strong enough to derail our economy. As for the upcoming election, let’s fervently hope that the threats to dramatically raise taxes or increase the deficit do not come to pass.                  

    Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D. is President of GraphsandLaughs, LLC and can be reached at Elliot@graphsandlaughs.net.  His daily 70 word economics and policy blog can be seen at www.econ70.com.

  • 07 Apr 2016 3:27 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    NFIB and NAHB among several groups calling Obama administration's new reporting rule unconstitutional

    WASHINGTON - The Department of Labor's new union persuader rule violates business owners' First Amendment rights, making it nearly impossible to consult with legal counsel when facing union organizing, said the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). 

    "Once again, the administration is rigging the game in favor of workplace unionization," said NFIB Small Business Legal Center Executive Director Karen Harned. "The DOL is putting small employers at a profound disadvantage.

    "Unions pay people whose full-time job is to organize workers," she continued. "Small employers have businesses to run. They don't have in-house lawyers or compliance officers to guide them through the process or navigate the complicated rules governing union organizing."

    Ed Brady, chairman of NAHB and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., said that the rule is fundamentally unfair because it requires employers to report to the DOL whether and when they consult with a lawyer to discuss union organizing. The unions, on the other hand, aren't encumbered by any such requirement.

    "DOL's final persuader rule is another example of regulatory overreach that will impose far-reaching reporting requirements on employers and their consultants and result in significant monetary and legal implications for home building firms," said Brady."This lawsuit is necessary to maintain long standing policy on what union-related communications between employers and attorneys remain confidential."

    NFIB and NAHB joined the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Association of Builders and the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce late yesterday in filing a lawsuit against the DOL in the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division. The business groups maintain that the rule violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech and right of association. Also, according to the plaintiffs, the rule violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA).

    Previously, owners were only required to report when outside counsel directly communicated with employees.  Under the new rule business owners will have to report any communication with legal counsel even if the matter ends there. The persuader rule will take effect on July 1, 2016. 

    For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.


  • 28 Mar 2016 2:35 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    EPA Makes Changes to Lead-Safe Re-certification Process

    NAHBNow Posted February 11, 2016

    Remodelers who are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work on homes that may contain lead paint under the Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule now have the option to complete refresher training online, according to an EPA announcement.

    However, EPA re-certifications obtained via an online refresher course will be valid for only three years – versus five years for hands-on training courses – and can only be exercised every other re-certification cycle.

    Additionally, certified renovators who were grandfathered in under a HUD or EPA lead-based paint training course before the RRP rule was adopted must attend a refresher course with a hands-on component. The rule also made several streamlining and clarifying changes to RRP provisions that apply to training providers.

    EPA’s changes only apply to Minnesota and other states where EPA administers the program. The 14 states that administer their own programs will have to take legislative or regulatory action to adopt the online refresher course option.

    The White House Office of Management and Budget released the final rule to EPA on Jan. 21.

    For online or in-person refresher training, remodelers should contact their local home builders association, or they can find a course on EPA’s website

    EPA Information below

    When is renovator refresher training required?

    EPA extended the training expiration date for many certified renovators. To determine when a renovator's training has expired take a look at the table below. Expiration dates are based on when the previous course was taken. Please note that certifications begin to expire on March 31, 2016; renovators in that group must take refresher training by that date in order to have valid certification.

    Note: The extensions do not apply to firm certifications

    Renovator Training Expiration Information

    Date course completed followed by Expiration 

    On or before March 31, 2010  Exp. March 31, 2016

    From April 1, 2010 - March 31, 2011  Exp. 6 years from the date of course completion

    On or after April 1, 2011 - No extension provided.  

    • Initial courses and refresher courses with hands-on.  The expiration is 5 years from the date of course completion.
    • Refresher courses without hands-on (done entirely online).  The expiration is 3 years from the date of course completion.

    Firm application, update, certificate replacement

    All firm applications (certification and recertification), payments, updates and certificate replacement requests are done online.  Acceptable methods for payments online include credit card, debit card, or electronic check.

    Use EPA's "Look for the Logo" campaign to promote your business!

    As you know, EPA's RRP requires firms working in older homes and child care facilities to be certified, train their employees, and follow lead-safe work practices. To ensure that your potential customers hire a Lead-Safe Certified firm, help spread the word by using EPA's outreach materials to remind everyone to "Look for the Logo"! For more information or to download the materials for free, click here.

    Help us encourage your potential customers to "Look for the Logo". Feel free to place the widget on your webpage and highlight the print ad in an upcoming customer newsletter or email.

    Firm certification/re-certification

    Firms that disturb painted surfaces in homes and child care facilities built before 1978 are subject to EPA's renovation regulation and likely require firm certification. These firm certifications expire every five years.  Firms must apply for recertification to extend their certification an additional 5 years. Firms are encouraged to apply early, at least 90 days before their expiration, to ensure their application is processed before they expire. You won’t be penalized for applying early, just be sure to select “re-certification” and your new 5-year certification won’t begin until your current certification expires. Click here for information about applying for re-certification. FYI, check your certificate for your firm's expiration date (see example firm certificate below, the expiration date is circled in red), you can also check your expiration date using our online firm search tool. If necessary, you can order a copy of your certificate online.

     example firm certificate

    Once submitted to EPA your application will be processed in 2 to 3 weeks.  Once finished you will receive an email from flpp.notify@epa.gov that includes your approval letter, certificate, and customized logo. Please check your email settings to ensure you'll receive this message. You can also check the status of your application and download a copy of your certificate once issued by going to EPA's E-Enterprise website.  Use your CDX user name and password for access.  Your application information appears under the "progress tracker" section.

    Amending your application

    A firm must amend their certification within 90 days of the date a change occurs to information included in their most recent application. If the firm fails to amend their certification within that period, the firm may not perform renovations or dust sampling until their certification is amended

     Authorized states

    To date, EPA has authorized 14 states to run their own renovation programs. Renovators and firms that only work within an authorized state(s) must be certified by each authorized state in which they do work, and would not be required to be certified by EPA.  The authorized states are ALDEGAIAKSMA, MS, NC, OK, OR, RI, UT, WA and WI.

    If an individual renovator is certified by an authorized state they are also qualified to work in EPA administered states, with no additional training. EPA certified renovators wishing to work in an authorized state should contact the state to determine if additional training/certification is necessary. Regardless of whether a firm is certified by an authorized state, if they do work in an EPA administered state they must be certified by EPA. Click here to see the FQ’s related to this topic.

    Frequent question database (FQ database)

    EPA maintains a list online of Frequent Questions regarding the Agency's Lead Program. It is regularly updated to ensure that you have access to the very latest information. When questions come up we recommend you first review the Frequent Questions, then if you cannot find the answer you're looking for call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

    Here's an example from the FQ database.  Can the required records and documentation be stored electronically rather than as paper copies? The answer is “yes, the records can be stored electronically”. Take a look at FQ 23002-32220 for more details!

  • 23 Mar 2016 3:44 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by Bonnie Moeller, Exec. Director

    Booths

    2016 – 286 booths/162 Vendors
    2012 - 243 booths / 157 vendors


    Admission
    o   2016 - 4,153 admission counted (Kids 12 and under free, not counted)
    o   2015 - 4,972 
    o   2014 – 4340
    o   2013 – 4169
    ·        If you add the Chamber Connection attendees 180, 879 vendors, and those coming to the show the last hour after ticket sales were closed, we had approximately 5,300 walk the HomeShow this year

    • o   20 CMBA members /staff attended the Builder Day at the Capitol on March 15 and met with 7 area legislators on building related issues.   250 Minnesota building industry professionals attended the day.  
    • o   Joined area legislators and community leaders during the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Session Priorities Dinner
    • o   Publisher of the Tour of Homes – HomeShow magazine, 30,000 distribution, through SC Times and at Holiday Stations. 

    2015 – 283 booths/175 vendors

    2014 – 271 booths/165 vendors (income down due to less non-members)

    2013 - 268 booths / 167 vendors

    o   Fish Fry,

    o   175 sold 2016

    o   237 – 2015

    o   133 - 2014

    o   257 - 2013;

    2016 – Fri 1,179, Sat 1,539, Sun 1,435  total 4,153

    Chamber 180, Vendors 879, Last hour 30 = 5,242

    2015 – Fri 1,313; Sat 2,551. Sun 1,294,  total 4,972

    Chamber 120. Vendors 928, Last hour 30 = 6,050

    2014 – Fri 1,025; Sat 2, 259; Sun 1,056 total 4,340

    Chamber 136; Vendors 880; Last hour 30 = 5,356

    2013 – Fri 1,220; Sat 1, 892; Sun 1,084 total 4,196

    Chamber 150; Vendors 908; Last hour 30 = 5,284

    2016 NA 

    2015 Adults – 3,019                Seniors 2015 - 1,953 

    2014 Adults – 3,002                Seniors 2014 – 1,338

    2013 Adults – 2,615                Seniors 2013 – 1,581

    o   1, 071 admission passes were used (HomeShow passes mailed to members) 2016

    o   1,160 in 2015

    o   1,023 in 2014

    o   196 Value Connection passes returned in 2016

    o   141 in 2015

    o   90 in 2014

    o   461  $1 off coupons in 2016 (allowed printed and digital on phone)

    o   725 in 2015

    o   539 $1 off coupons in 2014

    There were 4 - 3 day passes sold in 2016.

  • 04 Mar 2016 11:46 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    2016 CMBA HomeShow Events You Don't Want to Miss!

    It’s time again for the largest home building show in Central Minnesota, CMBA’s 44th annual HomeShow! The event will be taking place March 11-13 at St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center. There will be many activities taking place throughout the weekend - kids activities, food and beer sampling, auctions, seminars, and so much more.

    Friday:

    What would an event be without music? Classic country singer Alan Godage will be here Friday from 2 pm to 7 pm. So, put on your boots and come enjoy great music and company! While you listen to Alan, celebrate fish fry season with the HomeShow’s fish fry, from 4 until 8 pm. The HomeShow is open 12 pm to 8 pm on Friday.

    Saturday:

    Chris Grundy’s two shows Cool Tool and Blog Cabin will be featured during this special appearance. He knows everything about creating spectacular renovations - you will not want to miss this opportunity to learn from the best! You can see him on Saturday at 11 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm on the American Door Works Stage.

    Also on Saturday, come get some gardening tips from Joel Karsten. As the author of Straw Bale Gardening, Joel has great advice for your gardening needs. His unique style of gardening features beautiful vegetables grown without soil. You can catch him on Saturday at 10 am, 1 pm and 4 pm.

    A highlight of this year’s show you won’t want to miss is the enchanted garden built by area landscapers. A plant sale will also take place on Sunday at 3 pm.

    There is always time to gain more knowledge! We will have four Premier Real Estate classes available on Saturday.

    ·        10 am: Preparing Your Home To Sell - Learn tips to increase the value of your home.

    ·        11 am: First Time Homebuyers - Learn everything you need to know about the home buying process.

    ·        1 pm: Make Your Home Smart - Learn about all the newest devices and apps to transform your home.

    ·        2 pm: Making Money In Real Estate - Learn about short term and long term investing, how to pick out good properties, and the smartest ways to invest your money in real estate.

    On Saturday and Sunday at 11 am, bring your kids to make and take home their own framed wipe off-board.  Plus, win a playhouse donated by Gulfeagle Supply!

    Sunday:

    Organic Gardening is on the rise! Bobby Jensen has all the advice you need to start organic gardening from your kitchen cabinet. As the co-host of the Grow With KARE segment on Kare 11, he’ll be able to answer your burning gardening questions. You can catch his appearance on Sunday at 12 pm and 2 pm.

    Also hear from Nick Olsen on Beekeeping, 11 am and 1 pm.  A $200 Garden Apiary will be given away after his 1 pm seminar.

    For more details on all the seminars, go to www.cmbaonline.org


    Along with these great events going on at the HomeShow, don’t forget there is beer and food sampling on Saturday from 1-5 pm. You won’t want to miss the Central Minnesota Builders Association’s HomeShow weekend. Cost is just $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 55+, and kids under 12 get in free. (Get your $1 off coupon for an even better deal!)


  • 25 Feb 2016 4:34 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)


    ►UPCOMING WEBINARS

    See Webinars for Small Businesses for upcoming National and Local Webinars.

    • The Internal Revenue Service is sponsoring a Spanish Webinar on Recordkeeping, How to find a Tax Return Preparer and IRS Resources that are available in Spanish.
    • Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 11:00 a.m. to noon, Central time
    • Register to attend this important informational event!

    ·        https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/1153/13108

    Español:

    •  El Servicio de Impuestos Internos está patrocinando un Webinar en español. Venga a escuchar cómo mantener registros, cómo encontrar un preparador de impuestos y los recursos del IRS que están disponibles en español.
    • martes, 23 de febrero de 201611:00 a.m. to noon, Central time
    • ¡Regístrese abajo para asistir a este importante evento informativo!
    •  https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/1153/13108

    ►NEWS

    Who Can Represent You Before the IRS?

    • Many people use a tax professional to prepare their taxes. Tax professionals with an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) can prepare a return for a fee. If you choose a tax pro, you should know who can represent you before the IRS. There are new rules this year, so the IRS wants you to know who can represent you and when they can represent you. Choose a tax return preparer wisely.
    • Representation rights, also known as practice rights, fall into two categories:
    • Unlimited Representation
    • Limited Representation
    • Unlimited representation rights allow a credentialed tax practitioner to represent you before the IRS on any tax matter. This is true no matter who prepared your return. Credentialed tax professionals who have unlimited representation rights include:
    • Limited representation rights authorize the tax professional to represent you if, and only if, they prepared and signed the return. They can do this only before IRS revenue agents, customer service representatives and similar IRS employees. They cannot represent clients whose returns they did not prepare. They cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection issues even if they did prepare the return in question. For returns filed after Dec. 31, 2015, the only tax return preparers with limited representation rights are Annual Filing Season Program Participants.

    Scam Calls and Emails Using IRS as Bait Persist.

    Scams using the IRS as a lure continue. They take many different forms. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too.

    Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season.

    The IRS warned taxpayers to watch out for fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. Criminals pose as a person or organization you trust and/or recognize. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait to get the victim’s money, passwords, Social Security number and identity. If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

    Are you making charitable donations?

    Know how to determine the fair market value for non-cash donations. See Determining Fair Market Value in Publication 526 Charitable Contributions. See Publication 561 Determining the Value of Donated Propertyfor more information.

    ►AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

    The Premium Tax Credit – The Basics:

    If you – or anyone on your federal tax return enrolled in health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may be eligible for the premium tax credit.

    The Individual Shared Responsibility Provision – The Basics:

    The individual shared responsibility provision requires that you and each member of your family have qualifying health insurance, a health coverage exemption, or make a payment for any months without coverage or an exemption when you file. If you, your spouse and dependents had health insurance coverage all year, you will indicate this by simply checking a box on your tax return.

    Obtaining and Claiming a Health Coverage Exemption

    • ·        The Affordable Care Act requires you and each member of your family to have minimum essential coverage, qualify for an insurance coverage exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment for months without coverage or an exemption when you file your federal income tax return.
    • ·        You, your spouse or your dependents may be eligible to claim an exemption from the requirement to have coverage and are not required to make a payment. For any month that you do not qualify for a coverage exemption, you will need to have minimum essential coverage or make a shared responsibility payment.
    • ·        You can claim most exemptions when you file your tax return. However, you must apply for certain exemptions in advance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.


    ►ACA for Small Employers

    Averaging Full-time and Full-time Equivalent Employees and Why it Matters:

    For purposes of the Affordable Care Act, employers average their number of employees across the months in the year to see whether they will be an applicable large employer. This is important to do because two provisions of the health care law apply only to Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) and are now in effect. See Determining if an Employer is an Applicable Large Employer for more information.

    ACA and Employers: How Seasonal Workers Affect Your ALE Status

    When determining if your organization is an applicable large employer – which is also known as an ALE – you must measure your workforce by counting all your employees.  However, there is an exception for seasonal workers.

    • If an employer’s workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 who were employed during that period of no more than 120 days were seasonal workers, the employer is not considered an applicable large employer.
    • A seasonal worker for this purpose is an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis. For example, retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons are seasonal workers.

    ►ACA for Applicable Large Employers

    Five ACA Facts for Applicable Large Employers:

    Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act only affect your organization if it’s an applicable large employer. An ALE is generally one with 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees. The vast majority of employers will fall below the ALE threshold number of employees and, therefore, will not be subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions. If you are an ALE, here are five things to know.      

    TAXES. SECURITY. TOGETHER. (Identity Theft)

    IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works

    • The IRS knows identity theft can be frustrating and confusing for victims. When it comes to tax-related identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service wants to resolve cases as quickly as possible. The IRS has worked hard to help victims of identity theft by making improvements and shortening the time it takes to resolve these complex situations.
    • Each taxpayer’s experience will vary, depending on whether they tell the IRS they may be a tax-related identity theft victim or the agency informs them there may be have been a suspicious tax return filed with their name on it. Further, the IRS may not realize the taxpayer is an identity theft victim until their return has been processed or an audit has been initiated.
    • See IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance: How It Works for a general outline of what you can expect.
    o   You tell the IRS you may be a tax-related identity theft victim
    o   The IRS tells you a suspicious return has been received with your name on it
    o   Are there other steps I should take as a tax-related IDT victim?

    See all “IRS Security Awareness Tax Tips” here.

    ►NEWS FROM OTHER AGENCIES

    From Business USA: What better time than tax season to pass along some of our best advice?

    Free ACA webinars:

    ·        The Small Business Administration, the Department of Health Human and Services, and Small Business Majority have teamed up for a free webinar series where small employers can learn the basics of the Affordable Care Act and what it means for their organization and employees.

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    ·        See this page for registration links for winter 2016.

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    ·        This is a question we ask ourselves before any big trip. If you haven't checked your passport's expiration date in a while and are planning a trip overseas, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Passports expiring in 2016 must be renewed as soon as possible.

    ·        Some countries are also now requiring that you have a passport that has been valid for at least 6 months. As spring and summer travel plans come up, passport agencies become even busier.

    ·        So don't put it off and renew your passport today! For more information on overseas travel, visit USA.gov.

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  • 22 Feb 2016 4:44 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    With the economy and housing market still recovering, some potential first ­time home buyers may be hesitant to invest in a new home. There are, however, several reasons why now is a great time for Millennials and other first­ time home buyers to start building their American Dream.

    1. Interest rates are low 

    Today’s historically low interest rates are helping first­ time home buyers find affordable housing options. Average weekly interest rates for a 30­ year fixed mortgage remain under 4.5%. 

    It’s important to keep in mind that interest rates are sensitive to market forces and can change quickly. There’s no indication that rates will suddenly surge upward, but even a slight rate increase can push monthly payments to the point that a buyer might miss out on their first choice for a new home.

    2. Huge down payments are not necessary 

    While lenders are looking more closely at borrowers today than in recent years, there are options for purchasing your first home without a 20% downpayment. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans to first­ time home buyers with down payments as low as 3.5%. However, these loans require mortgage insurance. 

    To ensure that the financing process goes smoothly, buyers should consider pre­-qualifying for a mortgage and having a financing commitment in place before shopping for a new home. Buyers also may find that some home builders have arranged favorable financing for their customers or offer financial incentives.

    3. New homes are built to fit your lifestyle 

    Designed to accommodate today’s busy lifestyles, new homes – including urban condos and single­ family homes – feature open floor plans, flexible spaces, low­-maintenance materials and other amenities that appeal to younger buyers. 

    With energy costs near the top of consumer concerns, it’s good to know that new homes can be more energy efficient than ever. Innovative materials and construction techniques mean that today’s new homes are built to be much more energy efficient than homes constructed a generation ago. Not only can they be more affordable to operate, new homes also are significantly more resource efficient and environmentally friendly.

    4. Technology makes house shopping fun and easy 

    Today’s tech­-savvy home buyers use mobile apps to quickly gather all of the key information on a property and to see extensive photos from their cell phones or tablets. If you’re just beginning your search, Realtor.com is a popular app because it generally contains the most accurate information gathered from more than 800 local MLS’s (multiple listing services).

    If you’re checking out homes in an unfamiliar area, AroundMe helps you get a quick sense of the neighborhood by telling you the location of local restaurants, supermarkets, businesses, and attractions nearby.

    There also are several free mortgage apps to help you determine how much you can afford and to compare real­-time rates from multiple lenders. Popular mortgage calculator apps include Zillow and Trulia.

    5. Owning a home can help young families build wealth and combat rising rents

    For most Americans, homeownership is a primary source of net worth and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term. Although property values have declined in many markets, Americans have more than $10.8 trillion of equity in their homes, and for most families, home equity represents the largest share of net worth. 

    At the same time, rent prices continue to climb – 2.8 percent in 2013 – as rental vacancies dropped to their lowest point since 2000, according to a recent report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. That makes now a great time to start investing in your future instead of your landlord’s. 

    For more information on resources for first­ time home buyers in Central Minnesota, visit nahb.org/forconsumers.


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