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June 16, 2018

ARE YOU 'TAX HEALTHY'?

 

Cole HolderCole HolderThe Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 has thrown most Americans for a loop. While there are changes and revisions to the tax code practically every year, this law is the largest overhaul in years.

For those here in our area, there are several key points that will, undoubtedly, affect far more of us than we would think. Now that we're headed into the second half of the year, we should all be taking a look at our financial situation to see where we stand.

Do you remember filling out a W-4 when you first started your job? This is the form where you write your number of 'allowances'. Now, a very common misconception about the W-4 is that it is the same number of dependents you will claim on your return. While your allowances is loosely based on dependents, there are definitely some differences. The W-4 is huge because it is what will, hopefully, ensure you have paid enough in federal withholding so you don't owe taxes at the end of the year. The TCJA made some major changes to tax brackets and, if you've been on the line in previous years, it's definitely time to reevaluate this form. Along with these changes, the IRS released a revised version of the W-4, which you can find by visiting www.irs.gov. The site even has a calculator that can be used to make adjustments if you've started a new job or are just now getting around to changing your W-4.

One group of workers that are likely to be affected in a big way are coal miners, pipeliners, and other workers who routinely work out-of-town and/or have large expenses related to their job.

Higher wage earners who must buy special equipment (such as helmets or steel-toe boots) were likely to have filed a Schedule A, or itemized their deductions. The TCJA has, basically, doubled the standard deduction, however, meaning many who have itemized in the past will not benefit from doing so now. Further, there were changes to what can be itemized. For instance, if your employer does not reimburse you for those steel-toe boots or your gas to the job site 4 hours away, you can no longer claim these expenses on your tax return.

This, however, is not to be confused with those who will file a Schedule C. Lawrence County and surrounding areas have seen a major influx of small business owners, specifically with companies such as Paparazzi, Lula Roe, and other similar franchises. These entrepreneurs can still claim all their legitimate business expenses as deductions. Further, even if you didn't make much more than pocket change, you may still be required to claim these earnings on your return. There is no absolute definition that distinguishes between hobby income and self-employment income so it's highly recommended to seek professional advice in determining whether or not you need to claim this income. There are also many expenses that you may not even realize you can deduct, such as a portion of your personal cell phone bill if you also used it for business.

You may also reap the benefits when it comes to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by claiming this income on your return. This would especially hold true, for instance, with stay-at-home moms who don't typically hold a regular 9-5 job. Another major issue affecting those who own their own businesses is the self-employment tax. We often think of our tax system as one where you just 'settle up' at the end of the tax year, but this isn't the case. We are actually a 'pay-as-you-go' tax system and the IRS absolutely expects quarterly estimated payments.

For those who earn enough, you may also be entitled to the Child Tax Credit. In prior years, this credit was refundable (meaning you get back money you may not have actually put in) up to $1,000. This year, however, some will see this credit refunded up to $1,400 per qualifying child.

The simple truth of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is that it will affect each and every taxpayer. Some will benefit and some will be hurt by it. Our best advice is to go ahead and check-in with your tax professional now. There's still time to make sure you're paying enough in to not pay it later and reputable tax preparers will gladly walk you through it now, before it's too late.

 

 

June 6, 2018

Father's Day in America

By Dr. Glenn Mollette

It's time to once again celebrate Father's day in America.

I like Father's day. It's always interesting to see if my children or anyone remembers. Maybe I will get a text, an email or even a telephone call. Father's day is kind of like your birthday you don't really think about it until the day comes. You then can't help but notice who forgot or who simply does not care.

I was always busy as a young adult and probably didn't pay attention to Father's day like I should have until later in life. I got a little closer to my dad in his later years simply because my mother had died and he had to talk to me when I called. My father was a good dad in that he took care of us. He kept food on the table and a roof over our heads. I never had to face living with a single parent or in a blended family. All I knew was my mom and dad and I never worried about being hungry or being homeless. Millions of Americans cannot say this. This is not a negative about single parenting or being homeless or blended families. I'm simply saying that Mom and dad hung in there and my sisters and brothers and I have a lot for which to be thankful.

My grandfather was a good dad. He raised ten children. He was a blessing to a multitude of grandchildren. He worked until he was 83. I never saw him smile a lot but how could he smile when there were dozens of grandchildren around all the time? Plus, he worked six days a week until he was 83. He managed it pretty well.

My son is a good dad. I can believe it because he was a good son. Yet, it's always amazing when you see your child in action. He spends so much time with my little grandson and they have a beautiful bond. I love to watch their interaction and I am so happy for both of them.

This Father's day will once again be a good day and a tough day. Father's will count their blessings and also their failures. Father's will wish for another chance to do it again but we only get one chance to be a dad. Many will visit cemeteries to pay respect to a dad now long gone or Father's will mourn over the passing of a child.

Father's day is upon us and the best you can do is to cherish the moment. Make a visit. Make a telephone call. Make the day as personal as possible. Life is about relationships and there is nothing like loving a Father or a child while you have the opportunity. When you look back you'll be so glad you did.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

Books By Glenn Mollette

Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette

June 5, 2018

A BIG HIT FOR EKU!

“Appalachian Mining Town” might center around an abandoned mining town in eastern Kentucky, but the video game recently developed by a team of Eastern Kentucky University students wasn’t forgotten by the E3 College Competition, which selected the product as one of five finalists for the national event.

 

“This is an amazing honor,” said Dr. George Landon, EKU Gaming Institute director. Landon noted that only one game is submitted for consideration from each of approximately 400 schools. It’s not the first national exposure for EKU’s game design program. Each of the last three years, it has ranked among the top 50 such programs worldwide, according to Princeton Review.

Developed by a team of 15 EKU students during a spring of 2018 course, Environment Design for Games, “Appalachian Mining Town” is a “walking simulator” inspired by the landscape, depot and mines of Blue Heron, located in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in McCreary County.

Players assume the role of a historical surveyor investigating the mines to determine why it was abandoned in the late 1800s. The player collects old journal entries to eventually learn that black lung was becoming a huge problem for the miners.

“The student team did research to ensure that the town and props players see are accurate to the time period, though the town and its layout is primarily fictional,” Landon said. “Of course, black lung has been an issue in mining communities.”

The program’s game art faculty member, Jonathan Hale, worked with Landon to develop the special topics course. Students were then tasked with developing their own game world, filling it with landscape, buildings and props, and developing the game mechanics and code to interact with that world. “Mr. Hale pushed students to develop a game utilizing the Unreal Engine that would be visually striking and engaging,” Landon said. “The 15 students worked together to completely design and implement the game. Mr. Hale would help resolve technical issues and served as adviser for the project as well as instructor.”

The result: a “visually appealing game that is also rooted in the culture of Appalachia,” Landon said. “We don’t see many games that give the region a respectful presentation, and it comes across as a very interesting experience. Additionally, the setting makes it unique. You don’t see a lot of games set in Appalachia that explore worker issues such as black lung. The protagonist of the game is also a female POC (person of color), so that makes it unique as well.”

The team incorporated the diverse skills of its members. “We were lucky enough to have both coders and visual artists, which allowed us to work on game mechanics and the visual elements,” Landon said. “We had some students who were very skilled in 3D modeling, programming, audio and level design. There were also students who were just in the process of learning it all. Having all of those different skill sets represented made the game come together effectively, especially on the visual end.”

As a result, Landon said, the final product “speaks to what we can do technically and artistically, but it also speaks to what we can represent. We have the opportunity to shine some light on Appalachia and hopefully show people the issues that affect our communities but also, on a lighter note, we can show how beautiful Appalachia really is.”

The E3 event, to be held in Los Angeles June 12-14, is one of the largest gaming expos in the world, Landon noted. “That our students were chosen out of some 400 schools speaks very highly of our program,” he said. “The expo passes awarded to our students are worth $6,000 alone.”

Seven students will represent the team in Los Angeles. “These students will get to show off a game that they have poured a lot of time into and watch people play it,” Landon said. “The game exhibition booth will be close to Nintendo and Sony and right beside IGN.

“Our students will have a chance to network with some of the top production companies in the world. We will have a booth at E3 and, during that time, insiders will have a chance to play the game. Also, the EKU students will be interviewed by major game journalists. Anyone interested in video games and the video game industry can attend or follow media reports on E3. This is a very strong showing for EKU and will put the program and school on the map for a lot of people who may still not be aware of what we have going on here.”

Members of the EKU team are: John Bentley, Jonathan Danaher, Jonathan Greer, Aaron Roark, Charles Tiemeyer, Lexington; Jonathan Baker, Lawrenceburg; Noah Bush, Winchester; Matthew Davisson, London; Lacey Lanshaw, Eubank; Jacob McNulty, Michael Rawlings, Frankfort; Peyton Kyle Nestmann, Charleston, West Virginia; Quentin Rader, Florence; James Roberts-Broaddus, Tyner; and Christian Smith, Sparta.

The Interactive Multimedia option within the baccalaureate degree in computer science at EKU develops students’ expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems. The Gaming Institute focuses on the design, development and publication of video games within an academic context. Graduates of the program receive a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in interactive media.

For more information about the EKU program, visit gaming.eku.edu.

 

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