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Treasurer Fitzgerald has a Vault Full of Valentine's Day Treasurers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Karen Austin   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 13:25

DES MOINES, IA (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald is looking to reunite owners this Valentine's Day with their lost and forgotten cherished treasures. The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt database contains names of more than one million accounts from individuals all over the state that have lost track of some money or treasure. "In addition to money, we have an assortment of sentimental items waiting to be reclaimed. These include safe deposit box contents such as pictures of soldiers' wives they had with them while overseas, engagement rings, lockets, cards and love letters," Fitzgerald said. "Some of these items may have been tokens of affection given from one of your family members on a past Valentine's Day."

Treasurer Fitzgerald encourages all Iowans to check the website for forgotten treasure. "Check regularly, check often and check for your friends and family," Fitzgerald advises. New property is uploaded every year, so even if you have claimed property in the past, there is a chance your name could reappear. "We want to return people's money," he stated. "That's our number one priority."

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $143 million to more than 359,000 individuals since Fitzgerald started it in 1983. Companies and financial institutions in Iowa and from across the nation report millions of dollars in unclaimed property to the State Treasurer each year. Common examples of unclaimed property include money in forgotten savings/checking accounts, uncashed insurance benefit and payroll checks, IRA funds, lost stock and dividends, abandoned safe deposit box contents, gift cards, utility refunds or deposits.

Treasure seekers are encouraged to visit www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com and check to see if they have unclaimed assets waiting for them. Individuals may also send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For those who prefer corresponding by mail, please write to State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald, Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319. Please make sure to provide current name, previous names and addresses.

 

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Put Your Grocery Bill on a Diet: Secrets for Bringing Home More for Less PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 13:24

This year, we’ll be paying more than ever for dinner. Food prices jumped a whopping 4 to 5 percent in 2011 and are expected to continue rising in 2012, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But you can have your chocolate cake and eat it, too, without breaking the bank, says Toni House, author of Savvy Shopping: How to Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Bill to $85 Per Week – or Less! (www.SaveYourMoneySaveYourFamily.com). A mom with executive-level experience in accounting and the restaurant industry, House pared the monthly grocery bill for her family of four to $250. And nobody complained.

“It takes savvy shopping,” she says. “You can have great everyday meals and special-occasion feasts and trim the household budget with planning, patience and grocery shopping ‘guardrails’ to keep your cart in line.”

House offers these tips:

• Be patient – wait for good deals. Save pricier purchases for double coupon days. If you’re planning for a special occasion or celebration, save now so you can splurge a bit later, The more you rush, the less you save.

• Be detail-oriented. There is a lot of fine print involved in being a savvy shopper, from expiration dates to special offers to asterisks. Know exactly when a coupon expires, how much it’s for, how much more it will be worth on double coupon days and whether or not it’s worth the price in the first place.

• Plan ahead. Plan a menu for at least three meals in advance; combined with leftovers; that should give you five days or more of meals, depending on the meal. This puts you in control of your shopping list; and not the other way around. Instead of always playing catch-up, replacing what you’ve run out of, you buy only when it’s on the menu. Same goes for cereal, yogurt, bananas, fresh herbs and spices, etc.

• Instead of making expensive foods (meat) the centerpiece of each meal, design menus that use the most expensive foods less often. For instance, from now on at least twice a week, try using meat as more of a filler than a main dish. Instead of making spaghetti with meat balls, or sausage, or chicken breasts, make spaghetti with a meat sauce of ground turkey, ground sausage or ground chicken breakfast sausage.

• At the grocery store, buy ONLY what you can eat. That means no paper plates, toilet paper, plastic cups, Army men, toothbrushes, jar candles, greeting cards. Grocery store prices for non-food items are higher than you’ll pay almost anywhere else, so make a hard-and-fast rule and stick to it.

• Do use coupons, but only for products you actually need. Let’s say you just bought twice as many hot dog buns as you needed last week and now you’ve run across a two-for-one coupon for…more hot dog buns? Do you really have room in your freezer for all those buns?

House’s $85-a-week budget does require tossing out some pricey products your family may have grown accustomed to (brand-name cereals, pre-packaged snack cakes) and changing the way you plan meals. But there are plenty of delicious, often healthier, and less expensive substitutes

“You are the leader of your family unit, not just at home but at the grocery store,” House says. “Your new quest to become a savvy shopper might meet with some…resistance… at first. Take the bull by the horns and lead the family in the right direction."

About Toni House

Toni House has a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill is her second “Savvy Shopping” book. Her first was Save Your Money, Save Your Family. Find her money-saving blog tips at www.saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com.

 
Grassley Schedule This Week PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 06 February 2012 11:43
Monday, February 6, 2012

Here is information about Senator Grassley’s schedule this week in Washington.  The Senate is in session.

·         Senator Grassley will meet during the week with Iowans from Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the National Child Support Enforcement Association, the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, Job Corps, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the American Wind Energy Association, the National Association of FSA County Office Employees, the University of Iowa and the Iowa State University Colleges of Engineering, Habitat for Humanity, and the Iowa State Education Association.

·         Senator Grassley will meet with an Iowa family visiting Washington from New Hampton.

·         Senator Grassley will be a guest on public affairs programs hosted by Cindy Kohlmann on KDTH Radio in Dubuque, Scott Voorhees on KFAB Radio in Omaha, and Mike Savage on KBUR Radio in Burlington.  He also will be a guest on AgriTalk, an agriculture-focused public affairs program that airs live on 13 radio stations in Iowa.

·         On Monday, February 6, at 3:30 p.m. (ET), Senator Grassley will meet with community leaders and city officials traveling to Washington with the Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty Chamber of Commerce to discuss economic development initiatives and other public policy matters.

·         On Tuesday, February 7, at 10 a.m. (ET), there is a Budget Committee hearing on the outlook for U.S. monetary and fiscal policy.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify.  Senator Grassley is a senior member of the committee.

·         On Tuesday, February 7, at 3 p.m. (ET), Senator Grassley will participate in a business meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on the Highway Investment, Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012.

·         On Tuesday, February 7, at 4:30 p.m. (ET), Senator Grassley will meet with Major General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard regarding the Iowa impact of the Air Force budget reduction recommendations announced Friday, which would retire the 21 F-16 fighter aircraft assigned to the 124th Fighter Squadron, Iowa Air National Guard in Des Moines.  Senator Grassley has expressed concerns about the Air Force strategy of targeting the Guard for cuts, as the Guard is more cost effective for missions such as a fighter squadron than Active Duty, and Guard pilots tend to be more experienced since they stay in the service over a long period of time.  On Thursday, February 9, at 1:30 p.m., Senator Grassley will host a meeting for the Iowa congressional delegation with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to discuss the recommendations.

·         On Wednesday, February 8, at 12:30 p.m. (ET), Senator Grassley will speak at a Capitol Hill event of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.  CADCA is the leading national drug abuse prevention organization representing more than 5,000 community anti-drug coalitions in the country and focusing on local, targeted solutions to prevent drug abuse.  Senator Grassley founded the FIT Coalition in Iowa more than 15 years ago.  FIT stands for Face It Together.  The organization, today part of the Iowa Drug-Free Partnership, networks employers, schools, parents and community-based organizations to help address local substance abuse problems.

·         On Thursday, February 9, at 10 a.m. (ET), Senator Grassley will participate in the weekly business meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The committee is scheduled to take action on legislation sponsored by Senators Grassley, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, John Cornyn of Texas, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chuck Schumer of New York.  Senator Grassley’s bill, S.1945, would permit the broadcast and televising of Supreme Court proceedings.  It builds on sunshine legislation Senator Grassley has sponsored for more than 10 years to grant federal judges the authority to allow cameras in other federal courtrooms.  Over the years, Senator Grassley has successfully pressed the Supreme Court to release audio recordings of its proceedings.  The court did so in 2000 in the Bush v. Gore case, and last year the court began releasing audio at the end of each week.  In 1947, the Supreme Court said that what transpires in the courtroom is public property.  In Iowa, there has been broadcast coverage of state-level courts for more than 30 years, including online archived streams in recent years.  The federal-level Southern District Court in Iowa is part of a three-year pilot program to evaluate the impact of cameras in courtrooms.

 
Governor Quinn Encourages Working Families to Apply for Tax Relief During Tax Season PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 06 February 2012 09:30

Increase to Earned Income Credit and Personal Exemption
to Help Working Families and Stimulate Local Economies

CHICAGO – February 4, 2012. As families across Illinois prepare their taxes this season, Governor Pat Quinn today visited a tax assistance center organized by the Center for Economic Progress at Truman College to encourage working families across Illinois to learn about tax relief passed by the Governor earlier this year and how to apply for the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit. The law doubles the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over two years, saving low-income workers an extra $105 million per year. The new law also benefits all Illinois taxpayers by raising the value of the personal exemption and indexing it to inflation.

“Illinois took a step forward this year in helping working families keep more of what they earn,” Governor Quinn said. “We must get the word out to our friends, family and neighbors about who is eligible and how to apply for this tax relief that will help every day people and grow our economy.”

To benefit from Illinois’ EITC, also known as the Earned Income Credit (EIC), taxpayers must include it on their tax returns. While more than 2.5 million state residents benefited from the Illinois EITC in 2010, many people who are eligible for EITC don't file for it. The not-for-profit Center for Economic Progress (CEP) estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of eligible taxpayers did not file for EITC last year.

To help working families achieve the maximum savings on their taxes, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) partners with the CEP Tax Counseling Project to provide free tax preparation assistance at tax assistance centers across the state. The services are provided free of charge to families making less than $50,000 annually and to individuals with yearly incomes under $25,000. More than 28,000 Illinois taxpayers filed returns through the program in the 2010 tax season, with more than $50 million in state and federal tax refunds returned to clients.

DHS also funds the Tax Assistance Program (TAP), which recruits tax professionals to volunteer to assist low-income families in 23 locations in Chicago and the suburbs. DHS also works with its clients and those who found jobs and have left DHS programs to educate them about tax preparation programs and ways to ensure they receive the maximum refund on their tax returns.

For more information on the Tax Counseling Project, contact the Center for Economic Progress in Chicago at 312-630-0273, or its toll-free statewide number 888-827-8511 or its website www.economicprogress.org. For information on the Tax Assistance Program call 312-409-1555 or 312-409-4318 (Spanish). Details are also available on the IDHS website at www.dhs.state.il.us and the Department of Revenue website at www.revenue.state.il.us. Information about filing federal taxes online can be found at www.irs.gov.

About the New Illinois EITC Law:

The new law marked the largest increase in Illinois’ EITC since its inception in 2000, by phasing in a 5 percent increase over two years. The law boosts the state’s EITC from its current level at 5 percent of federal EITC, to 7.5 percent in tax year 2012 and 10 percent of federal EITC in tax year 2013. More than 2.5 million state residents benefited from the Illinois EITC in 2010.

Under the new law, a single mother with one child, earning minimum wage ($12,800 a year), will save $154 on her taxes. A married couple with three children earning $30,000 a year will save $199 on their taxes this year.

Uniquely pro-growth and pro-family, the EITC is available only to those with earned income and provides incentive to work as well as much-needed tax relief to the lowest-income families. EITC also boosts local economies through increased consumer demand. A 2006 Brookings Institution study found that every dollar a family saves through this tax credit translates into $1.58 of activity in local economies.

The law also improves the value of the standard personal exemption for all taxpayers in Illinois and ties its continued growth to the rate of inflation. The personal exemption will increase by $50 (to $2,050) in tax year 2012, and the value of the exemption will be indexed to the cost of living adjustment each tax year thereafter. The personal exemption change benefits all taxpayers, regardless of income.

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Tax Credits and Breaks Available for Illinois Guardsmen and Employers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Sgt. James Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Monday, 06 February 2012 09:30

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/04/2012)(readMedia)-- As servicemembers start to receive their W2's in the mail, now is the time to prepare to file your 2011 tax returns and learn what opportunities are available for military members.

"There are many programs at the state and federal levels providing tax credits for members of our military in recognition of their sacrifices for the nation," said Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, Deputy of Human Resources for the Illinois Army National Guard. "It is important that our troops are aware of these benefits and not leave any money on the table when those dollars can be helpful to our families and employers."

If a servicemember is eligible under the Military OneSource program, he/she can complete, save and file their 2011 federal taxes and up to three state tax returns online for free with the H&R Block At Home® tool. To access this free service, use the Military OneSource H&R Block At Home® link. The first step is to log in to Military OneSource (new users will need to create a Military OneSource account). From there, users will be directed to a page with additional information on tax preparation, including a link to the Military OneSource H&R Block At Home® service.

In addition to filing taxes for free, servicemembers can get support from trained tax consultants through Military OneSource. Servicemembers and families can call 1-800-342-9647 and ask to speak with a Military OneSource tax consultant seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Federal tax benefits for hiring many veterans are available to business owners in any state. The federal benefits are available under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Program. There is up to a $2,400 credit if there is:

• a veteran who is a member of a family that has received food stamps for at least three consecutive months in the 15 months prior to the date of hire

• a person with disability who is participating in a vocational rehabilitation program through U.S. Veteran's Administration

There is also a WOTC credit of up to $4,800 for veterans entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability who:

• were hired within one year of having been discharged, or released from activity duty

• has been unemployed for any six of the last 12 months

Employers hiring multiple WOTC qualified employees can make a significant dent in their federal income taxes. These benefits are explained and claimed on IRS Form 5884.

Currently, 26 states offer partial or total exclusions, from state-level taxes for combat and/or other military compensation paid to servicemembers. There are five states offering outright tax exemption for military pay, including Illinois.

Combat pay received by members of the military serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and other combat zone localities is usually exempt from tax. But under a special rule, servicemembers can choose to count all of this income when he/she figures the Earned Income Tax Credit. In many cases, making this choice will enable the servicemember to claim the credit, or if you are already eligible, claim a larger credit.

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