Ziese & Associates, Ltd.

Robert J. Ziese, Esq.

Kathryn G. Ziese Financial Services

Client Newsletter - Aug. - Nov. 2003


We Wish You the Happiest of Holidays!

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CONTENTS:

TAX    NEWS

                Rx for Savings: Use Flex - Dollar Accounts

  Black Box in Your Automobile

Tracking the Planet's Citizenry?

  Biometrics Coming to an ATM Near You

 

TAX  NEWS

            Rx for Savings: Use Flex-Dollar Accounts

Generally, with the exception of insulin, only the cost of prescribed drugs is allowed as a medical deduction on your tax return. As a result, the costs of over-the counter medications and drugs are not allowed. Even if they are able to be included as a medical expense, medical expenses are limited to those that exceed 7 ½ % of your gross income, and you must also itemize your deductions.

However, some employers provide flexible spending accounts, which allow an employee to make contributions on a pre-tax salary reduction basis to provide coverage for medical and dental expenses not covered by employee’s health or dental insurance.

In a recent ruling, the IRS announced that over-the-counter drugs can be paid for with pre-tax dollars through healthcare flexible spending accounts and that reimbursements for nonprescription drugs by an employer health plan are excludable from income. As a result, reimbursements by healthcare flexible spending arrangements and other employer health plans for the cost of over-the-counter drugs for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents are not subject to tax if properly substantiated by the employee.

You should inquire if your employer offers such a plan and, if so, take advantage of this new ruling. These plans do have a downside, however. If you do not utilize the amounts you contribute to the plan for qualified expenses, then you will forfeit the difference. So, you will need to carefully plan your contributions to match qualified expenses. Keep in mind that amounts paid by an employee for dietary supplements that are merely beneficial to general health are not qualified expenses. Generally, qualified expenses are only those for treatment or prevention of a specific ailment of disease.

Client Advisor- 2003

 

 


Black Box in Your Automobile

Excerpted from New Jersey Lawyer article written by Earl Ainsworth

The Black Box - once high-tech equipment reserved for commercial airliners - is now standard equipment in 40 million automobiles in the United States. As in the big jets, black boxes, also known as crash data recorders, record performance data moments before and during crashes. In 1992, a 1991 Corvette driven by Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown slammed into a tree, killing Mr. Brown. The black box, one of the first installed by GM, provided evidence that the crash was not caused by vehicle problems.

Today's black boxes record changes of engine and vehicle speed, throttle position, whether the driver has a foot on the brake, seat belt status, and airbag deployment. Expect auto accident investigations to include using this data. 

 

Tracking the Planet's Citizenry?

Excerpted from Law Practice Management article by Mark Tamminga

A supermarket couldn't function today without the Uniform Product Code (UPC), the bar code system refined by IBM in 1973. The first item ever scanned into a UPC checkout system was a 10- pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum on June 26, 1974. The package of gum is now in the Smithsonian. With a push from the Department of Defense and then Wal-Mart, UPC moved into retail on a major basis.

But UPC's 12 digit code system is being used up. Also, managers want more information than the UPC can provide. The potential solution is the Radio Frequency Identification tag (RFID). RFID tags consist of a microchip and an antenna. An RFID reader triggers a stream of data from the tag back to the reader. Although they now cost $ .50 each, experts predict they will drop to below a penny. RFID will be the foundation for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) which has the capability to assign a unique code to everything on the planet. When that happens, each product ( each can of Coke) would carry a chip that could be tracked, telling what and where it is.

Proposals to imbed EPC tags in Michelin tires and the fabric of Benetton clothing have generated protests from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The potential for pervasive monitoring of people's activity has taken another major step.

 

 


Biometrics Coming to an ATM Near You

Excerpted from The ACD Dispatch

Forget passwords, PINs and other easily forgotten - and easily compromised - identifiers. Iris recognition technology is expected to replace all of these in the near future according to banking security experts.

Soon all you will need to do to get money from your bank account at your local, national, or international ATM is eyeball the iris ID scan device built into the ATM console. The iris is the colored ring in the human eye which remains stable from about age one for the rest of your life. No two irises are the same. Your left eye is different than your right eye. Even identical twins and triplets all have different iris patterns. It is the most accurate biometric identification system available - more reliable than fingerprints, voice patterns, facial scans and hand geometry.

The experts who have been evaluating the application of this technology say that consumer acceptance has been excellent, especially with older ATM users. It's hoped that this new application of a proven ID technology will help to combat the growing problem of identity fraud.


 

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