Are you planning on saving a portion of your tax refund this year? You should know about an option the IRS offers to make it easier for you to save. This can be done by including IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund, when you file your tax return. Using this form, you can split your refund between three options; direct deposit into a bank account, Series l Savings Bonds, or payment by check.
Many people take advantage of the ability to directly deposit their tax refund right into their checking account. But what they don’t know is they have the option to direct deposit funds in up to three different accounts. These bank accounts can be a checking account, savings account, Individual Retirement account (IRA), Health Savings Account (HSA), Archer MSA, Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), or TreasuryDirect online account. All of these provide many options to help you save.
The only time you can get a Series l Savings Bond in paper form is by getting it with your tax refund. On January 1, 2012, financial institutions stopped issuing U.S Series l Savings Bonds in paper form, meaning you cannot walk into a bank to purchase one. You have to purchase them electronically through a TreasuryDirect account. By using the tax refund option, you can get up to $5,000 worth of Series l savings bonds in paper form. These must be issued in multiples of $50 and can be allocated between three different savings bond registrations, meaning you can give these savings bonds as gifts or get them for yourself.
The Allocation of Refund form can help greatly with saving because you can choose how you want to receive your refund. For example, you can deposit part your refund in a savings account, get $150 of savings bonds, and have the additional amount sent to you by check. Everyone knows it’s hard to save your refund when you get that check, but by using this tool you can put aside a portion of your refund before you even have the chance to spend it.
The first known use of a blog was in 1999. Blog is short for Weblog. The Merriam-Webster defines a blog as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer; also: the contents of such a site”.
Internet users have jumped from 360 million in 2000 to over 2 billion in 2012 according to the Internet World Stats. Over 1 billion of the 2 billion internet users were in Asia and 270 million in North America.
Blogs can take a personal or professional approach. Topics can include almost anything including politics, pets, comics, etc. or it can offer informative information. Businesses can use blogs as a communication platform to interact with their clients and prospective or potential clients.
So, how about it? Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter. Do you use any of them? Do you post pictures and check-in when you visit places? While your intent may be to keep your friends and family in the loop (even when we don’t want to know), other parties may be interested too. Raytheon, a Massachusetts-based defense contractor, has been developing software that pieces together a “snapshot” of a person’s life using data obtained from social networking sites. Information about this software known as Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology, was recently uncovered and reported by The Guardian (including a video of the software in use) and has sparked commentary and concern from different places.
At first glance, the software doesn’t sound that interesting. It’s picking up freely available information that we voluntarily shared. If we don’t want people knowing where we are, we should stop posting where we are. Sounds simple enough. (You may or may not know, however, that pictures are now often embedded with your latitude and longitude along with other information in its Exif data.) So then, is not using social media really the answer? As The Guardian’s article points out, the Riot software “demonstrates how the same social networks that helped propel the Arab Spring revolutions can be transformed into a ‘Google for spies’ and tapped as a means of monitoring or control.” Social networks aren’t necessarily just frivolous time wasters and places to repost pictures of cats. They can help people organize and connect in order to produce meaningful results. Not using social networks may not be the right answer.
While many of the comments made on The Guardian’s website about the article dismissed the reporting and called it sensational, I believe they are missing the point. Data mining from public websites is legal in most countries, but this data collection does not have any oversight or regulation. The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Ginger McCall emphasizes this to The Guardian: “Social networking sites are often not transparent about what information is shared and how it is shared. Users may be posting information that they believe will be viewed only by their friends, but instead, it is being viewed by government officials or pulled in by data collection services like the Riot search.” Data collection is inevitable, but it would be nice to have more transparency about who’s collecting it and when our data is “open” to everyone. For now, though, maybe give some pause to your next social media post or check-in and remember that “everyone” may be able to see it.