Feelin’ the Irish


We’ve found some Irish in our ancestry research - more so the Damsel than I, but we’re inclined to celebrate our ethnicity today. It will be the traditional Irish dinner with a special toast with an Irish cocktail recipe that Damsel found.

May you and yours, Irish or not, find the blessings of a good day today.


Native Cacti

Compass Cactus Christmas Cactus Fishhook Barrel Cactus

I am still taking it easy and relaxing after surgery last Friday, but I wanted to get outside since it is a nice spring-like Arizona day. I took my Canon SL1 up the hill behind the house and took some photos of “stuff” I could see up there.

Once you’re behind the retention walls out back, it is all natural desert. The vegetation and wildlife are typical of the Sonoran Desert. Other than having moved a hedgehog cactus to the lower lot, nothing up there is managed.

The three cacti pictured above are all located in the natural part of the lot. Left to right, they are Compass Cactus, Christmas Cactus and Fishhook Barrel Cactus. I don’t know (or can’t remember) the binomial botanical names for these three. Click on the images to enlarge.

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IRS Withholding Calculator is Back Online

irs-logo.pngI mentioned in my two Federal Income Tax posts about filing and tweaking withholding that the IRS Calculator was offline due to the GOP Tax Reform Bill being enacted this year. I went back to the link to check the status of the calculator and it was back online. Today, I decided to check the numbers I calculated from IRS Notice 1036 and my withholding spreadsheet last month.

The calculator requires some accurate estimates of our 2018 income and deductions, so I gathered up our 2017 Tax Return and my spreadsheet before starting to input numbers. There is a list of things you will need to have handy on the calculator main page.

First, the calculator asks about filing status and whether someone else can claim you as a dependent. Then, it asks about income sources and if you and your spouse are over 65 years old as of January 1, 2019. There is also some child and dependent care credit questions, none of which are applicable to us. Finally, the user inputs income and adjustments before submission.

When I got my result report, the bottom line is that we are over withholding by about $785. We decided not to change anything at this time until we see how our expenses and deductions start to play out for the year. I made a note in the electronic calendar to check things out again in the fall.

The IRS withholding calculator may be found at this link.

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Bishop’s Cap Flowers

Bishop’s Cap Flowers

We have had this cactus for a very long time. We originally bought it at a garden shop near Chandler, AZ way back in the late 1990’s. It lived with us in California and then moved with us to Arizona. It gave us lots of flowers over the years. Then, a couple of years ago, It started growing another barrel on top of the crown. Lately, the flower buds have come out on the new growth.

Click on the image to enlarge.

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Tweaking the IRS Withholding Amounts

bucks.pngSince the IRS Withholding Calculator is still unavailable as of this writing, I bypassed it and went directly to IRS Notice 1036 (pdf) which is intended to guide employers as to how much to withhold from employee pay. This notice is a typical IRS offering which is both confusing and difficult to understand. I did manage, however, to get the info I needed to proceed with our 2018 withholding “tweaking.”

The financial entity which manages our two pension distributions treats each one as if it were your entire income, thus complicating the final calculation because we actually have several sources of retirement income. Since they are virtually complicating things, I opted out of withholding altogether from the two pensions.

We do, however, have control over the rollover IRA and its exact (to the integer percentage amount) withholding. I figured out what we are paid in each month, cross referenced it to the IRS notice above and determined what we should be sending to the IRS each month.

I have a spreadsheet that I have used in the past for withholding and modified it to determine (to the closest percentage point) what the number should be. I used the “effective tax rate” method based on the numbers I derived to allow me to adjust the withholding from the IRA. This way, I only have one place that I need to be tweaking.

I should have done this last year instead of effectively loaning the .gov interest-free $$$! :(

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The 2017 Tax Returns Filed

taxes.jpgOur Investment Consolidated 1099 forms were finally available today, so since the returns were 99.9% complete, we filed both Arizona and Federal Tax Returns online this afternoon. We were somewhat aggravated that it took so long to officially get the numbers on the proper forms, but now it’s done and we can start waiting for our refunds.

The 2017 withholding rate we used underestimated the effect of upgrading our motorhome for which larger amounts of Vehicle License Fees and 2nd home loan interest would work to our benefit. As a consequence, we overpaid into the Federal and State coffers all year.

Now, we can start to calculate and adjust the amounts to be withheld for the remainder of 2018. We have a spreadsheet that we used in the past to figure the proper withholding and will resort to it again this year. There are a couple of complications involved, however, due to the effects of the GOP Tax Reform and an increase in the IRA distribution.

Our Arizona withholding will be zero this year because we contribute to the Arizona Private Education Scholarship Fund which completely offsets our state income tax obligation. For Federal Tax, we will use an assumed effective tax rate to determine withholding. As an aside, the IRS withholding calculator is not available because of the recent tax reform bill.

Bottom line, we’re glad to have 2017 tax behind us. Now to figure out how to spend the refund!

UPDATE: 02/26/2018 Both State and Federal refunds were in the bank by the 22nd of this month. That is the fastest (approx. 10 days) that they have ever refunded the money.

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Weekend Activities

A Humorous Quilt At the Craft Fair

In a rare departure from our tendency to remain home during winter weekends, we broke with that and went to the Town Library and Civic Center to attend two functions happening simultaneously. It was a very nice spring-like day, so we opted to venture out among ‘em.

In the town auditorium, there was a showing of quilts from a local quilting society where there were hundreds of beautiful items on display. All of them looked that they had a lot of labor hours going into them, some taking the quilter years to complete. Damsel took the photo upper left of me being amused at a quilt commemorating the “Christmas Story” with Ralphie and the Leg Lamp.

The other activity was a craft fair presented by “Friends of the Wickenburg Library.” It was the usual display of art, jewelry, woodwork, soap, pottery and you name it. The displays were on the grounds of the library and it seemed to be well attended, now that the town population is over 20K with our winter visitors here for the beautiful weather.

While we were out, we decided to stop at the supermarket in that part of town and pick up a couple of sale items and some things we missed from shopping on Thursday. We noted that shopping on the weekends seemed to be a competition in that the parking lot and aisles were crowded. We resolved to avoid weekend shopping in the future during the winter season.

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