Monthly Archives: January 2018

[Adulting 101] Tax Season 2018

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Seasons here in Los Angeles are an undependable and drastically different monster than anywhere else, Summer can last half the year, while Winter might only last a few days; but the good news is that Tax Season typically comes pretty standard.  Now that we’re almost a month through the new year and you’re working on removing the last one from your lexicon, your finances can finally do the same now as the IRS has begun to accept tax returns for 2017.  Last year, I dolled out the 411 on all things tax season – but this year there are some updates, some new tips and tricks as well as the latest changes to the new tax codes that have rolled out for the year. As the world turns and as your personal world turns, so does your financial world – children, new employment, marriage, and legislation can put a world of change onto your tax returns. With a few life adjustments under my sleeves and a whole lot of personal growth, I have ample new information to share.

Before we dive down the rabbit hole, let’s back up for a second.  Every time we get near April I tend to ask myself why the hell we even pay taxes anyways – but there are ample reasons that it’s a necessity.  At the most basic level, a government and a governed society can only work properly if everyone is participating – money is one of those forms of participation, as are things like voting, working with your local city council and so on.  Social and community functions like hospitals, national parks, schools, roads and the salaries of certain city employees and officials are derived directly from the taxes we pay – whether the money comes directly out of your paycheck, as with a W-2, or as an annual residual if you’re an independent contractor and go by 1099.

Documents on Documents.

Last week, many business and companies began to roll out both their electronic and paper versions of your W2 or 1099, depending on your type of employment. In addition, fiscal firms have also sent out a 1099-DIV form with instructions on investments.  The easiest way to keep yourself organized is either an analog filing cabinet, or a secure digital folder.  As soon as you have the basics, you can begin the filing process – and if you acquire more documents after you’ve filed, never fear: there’s a very simple process to amend your Tax Return, however that must be mailed in.

2018 tax brackets

Filing

When I was a kid, my parents would assist with my taxes – and by kid, I mean 20 year old. Now that I’m old enough to figure out my own way, I defer to e-filing Intuit’s Turbo Tax, but H&R Block also offers a comparable service if you’re looking into other options. For those of you that need a lot of itemizations, deductions and or exemptions – your best bet is turning to a tax professional.  With the advent of the internet they don’t necessarily need to be local, however you will want someone that understands the state laws for where you lived in 2017.

 

Fast Facts

A few tax basics for your lexicon: a dependent is a person that you’re not married to that fiscally depends on you, and only you. Most adults, whether single or married, only claim 1 – but more on that later. Depending on your gross income for the past year and the federal assistance received for health insurance or social security, you might not need to file taxes at all.

Married with Taxes

Now, this to me was – and still slightly is – the tricky part. Just hitched last August, this is the first time I’ll be able to file my taxes as a married lady and I had a lot of questions, but rightfully so.  When you’re married, there are two ways of filing – you can file ‘Married and Jointly’ or ‘Married and Separately’.

So let’s break this down.  Filing ‘Married and Separately’ is exactly how it sounds, you submit your spouses name and social security number along with yours but the only taxes you will file are your own. On the other hand, filing ‘Married and Jointly’ combines your gross income as a couple into one umbrella group, if you notice in the chart above – the income intervals for ‘M & J’ are double the intervals of ‘M & S’, and coming with that is also a fairly nice tax break.  When does each one make sense? Now, that’s the trick – and each year, it could be different depending on types of employment and each partner’s salary.  For us cats over here, I computed both – the Married and Separately as well as Married and Jointly, and compared the results to myself before I believed what I read – but now I can indeed verify: filing Married and Separately makes the most sense for partners that make nearly the same amount within the same tax bracket, while Married and Jointly seems to be the most beneficial when there is an exponential disparity in income.

Filing Deadline

Officially kicking off Tax Season yesterday, you can file your taxes any time you’d like between now and the April 17th (yes, 17th) deadline.  I’ve discovered a little trick, where the sooner you submit your tax return the sooner you can reap the sweet rewards. Last year, it only took a week and a half for both my state and federal return to be processed, so I like sending mine out as soon as possible.  But in case I made a mistake I can file amended 1040-X anytime over the next three years. And yes, Tax Day is technically on April 15th, but that’s also a Sunday – with the observed ‘Emancipation Day’ holiday falling in Washington DC on the Monday, making it a federal holiday, thus the deadline is now Tuesday, April 17th.

IRS | IRS E-File

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[LA Life] Meandering through LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art

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Dotted around the city like technicolor sprinkles on an urban cupcake, the museums of Los Angeles offer a unique artists perspective on time, culture and society.  The Getty Villa gives a wonderful retrospective of Greco Roman art and architecture while the Getty proper itself is almost as well known for their immaculately groomed gardens as they are their vast collections of classical, modern and post-modern art. Venture into the Fairfax District and the La Brea Tarpit extension of the Natural History Museum thrusts you backwards through time as the LACMA descends into global contemporary and modern art, and Peterson’s Automotive Museum drives you through the history of the modern car.  Then there’s downtown, with The Broad, a menagerie of museums at Exposition Park and last but certainly not least, the Museum of Contemporary Art.  First, that’s not even all – and that doesn’t cover the incredible amount of art galleries and spaces like Gabba Gallery, The Container Yard and Hauser and Wirth, providing hundreds of avenues, indoors and out, to peruse a vast array of art and creativity.

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One thing about art, one of the great things, like Alex Grey says in ‘The Mission of Art’,

“The artist’s mission is to make the soul perceptible. Our scientific, materialist culture trains us to develop the eyes of outer perception. Visionary art encourages the development of our inner sight. To find the visionary realm, we use the intuitive inner eye: the eye of contemplation, the eye of the soul. All the inspiring ideas we have as artists originate here.”

Each and every one of us is a visionary of sorts, with our own unique lens to observe the world with; within that, we’re all artists just waiting to find our catalyst for creativity.  The art at the MOCA is wonderful, inspired, controversial and pensive – it makes you stop, think and smell the artistic roses – so to speak.

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The MOCA is in close proximity to art galleries, wonderful graffiti and a lot of yummy restaurants – including a branch of the famed Lemonade right outside their lobby.For more on LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art, head to their socials – or just take a journey downtown!

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For more photos, head to my Flickr album!

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[LA Life] A Tranquil Trip to the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens

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The happiness of one’s own heart alone cannot satisfy the soul; one must try to include, as necessary to one’s own happiness, the happiness of others.”
– Paramahansa Yogananda

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The bumper sticker is faded, a bit roughed up and dirty – but the words “Never Stop Exploring” boldly expresses our want, or rather need, of constant discovery and wanderlust. Affectionately called the ‘Adventure Wagon‘,  what was formerly my family’s car and what I learned how to drive on back in the day has become a staple of our current lives.  Turning 20 years old this year, it’s taken us throughout the better part of the West Coast, roaming between Oregon, Southern California and Canada, and experienced it’s share of music festivals; truth be told, my favorite adventures are the ones that it takes us close to home.Untitled

Truth be told, this past year was a monster unlike any other for me – and as it seems, for most of us.  Between some of the highest highs and the lowest lows, we traveled a lot less than ever this past year, especially as we slowly dissolved ourselves from the festival scene. Recently, these little country cats have turned into city kitties and we’ve fallen in love with the Museum of Modern Art in Downtown Los Angeles, the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room‘s at The Broad and simply roaming the streets of downtown in search of amazing architecture and technicolor street art. Instead of gallivanting to new states, we found ourselves in a slow state of finally appreciating our surroundings within Los Angeles proper, and it was absolutely wonderful. Between the beaches in Malibu and Venice, hiking trails in Hollywood, desert landscapes of the Antelope Valley and Salton Sea, the Griffith Park Observatory, and the Angeles National Forest, it’s been nice to finally marinate in the beauty of what’s in our backyard. With the year drawing to a close and no holiday vacation on tap, the last few weeks of light work turned into the perfect reason to get one last round of exploration in for the year, and I couldn’t think of a better way to look ahead into 2018 than a tranquil trip through the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens in Mount Washington, featuring sprawling lawns perfect for stretching, yoga, and ample seating while you take in the salacious views of Downtown Los Angeles and marinate in the wonderful pockets of nature..

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The Self Realization Foundation itself was founded back in 1920 by yogi and guru Paramahansa Yogananda as he first came to America. Considered far and wide the father of Yoga in the West, Paramahansa Yogananda is attributed with introducing his practices of Kriya Yoga and meditation to both Indians as well as Westerners.   After coming to the United States, he lectured and traveled along the East Coast, gaining notable followers from Mark Twain‘s daughter Clara Gabrilowitsch to soprano Amelita Galli-Curci, leading him to establishing the Self Realization Center in Los Angeles.  As the first Hindu teacher to truly live in the West, over time and even surpassing his death, Paramahansa continued to influence key movers and shakers across the board with his essentially self titled autobiography “Autobiography of a Yogi“, from Steve Jobs to George Harrison and Elvis Presley.   Since then, the Self Realization Fellowship has been dedicated to carrying on the ethos and humanitarian work of their founder.  The foundation themselves reaches worldwide, with a goal of fostering “a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples and religions of our global family, and to help those of all cultures and nationalities to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit.”

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Enjoy a panoramic view of the city by the sundial, or relax in the luscious lawn with lovely little flowers and well groomed trees in vibrant shades of green. Following the paths through the gardens, dip into the ferns and marinate in the calmness of the small waterfall and pond in the center.  When you continue, you’ll find various benches hidden between bushes and off the beaten paths, and a set of stone chairs and table perfect for an afternoon picnic.

The paths at the SRF are open to visitors from 9am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and from 1-5pm on Sundays. For more photos from the gardens, head to my Flickr – and keep in mind, I’m really just learning the Canon 6D – so more to come from that in a bit! For more on the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens, head to their socials or pay them a leisurely visit.

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