Phyl Rubin, of Bernie and Phyl’s Furniture, spoke out about living with MS for 40 years on WCVB-TV5’s Chronicle, in The Boston Globe, on WHDH-TV7 and WBZ-AM 1030 (related stories online). Ms. Rubin is also featured in two public service announcements airing on TV in Eastern Mass., and she is the 2010 MileStones Gala honoree on May 20 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.
MS Awareness Week
Chapter Trustee Doug Bryant is interviewed by Channel 5’s Shiba Russell at the MS Flags of Hope display in front of Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture on Route One in Saugus, Mass. WBZ-TV4 and Fox25 also reported the story. Despite the rain, volunteers met early on March 13 to plant 13,000 orange flags, representing each person with MS in Massachusetts (photos). (Flags of Hope displays were planned for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, but were cancelled because of weather and other concerns.)
By Elinor Nauen
Just having MS may feel like more than enough to deal with, but you have to pay taxes like everybody else. There is some good news: You can potentially reduce your tax bite. Learn all you can about the allowances available to people with disabilities.
First off, every penny you spend out of pocket, beyond what’s reimbursed by your insurance, may add up to legal deductions.
“Many things qualify as medical expenses,” said Trudy C. Durant, an accountant in New York and New Jersey: medical equipment; supplies; insurance premiums you pay yourself; transportation and lodging (but not meals) for medically essential trips — for both you and a companion; home attendants; and doctor-recommended programs such as weight loss or smoking cessation. A physician’s letter is essential in case you’re audited.
Home improvements that are primarily for medical care are also allowable. This would include air conditioners, a roll-in shower, a stair lift, and an elevator. There is a catch. You can deduct what you spend minus the amount that the improvement increases the value of your property.
Let’s say you installed a $40,000 swimming pool. If it raises the value of your house by $10,000, you can deduct $30,000. Costs to remove a barrier, such as widening doorways to accommodate mobility aids, are also deductable. Spending the winter in Florida? Sorry, you’re out of luck.
All these deductions kick in only after you’ve paid 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for medical expenses. So, for example, if your income was $ 50,000 a year, and you spent $6,000 on medical expenses, the first $3,750 is your responsibility. You can deduct $2,250 of your $6,000 expense.
Your best bet is to keep really good records, group major expenses into one tax year if you can, and take the advice of a tax professional, including the IRS itself.
“Use common sense. Some potential deductions haven’t been tested in the courts. You’ll have to decide if you want to chance having to fight for them,” Durant said.
For more information, log on to irs.gov or call the IRS’s toll-free number:
1-800-829-1040. For those who qualify, the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program—with offices in many convenient neighborhood locations—helps prepare basic tax returns. Call 1-800-829-1040.
By Al Tainsky
Every third Thursday of the month at 4:30 p.m., I’m at the Santa Monica Housing Commission meeting at the Ken Edwards Center on Fourth Street. I sit as one of seven commissioners who serve in an advisory capacity to the City Council and its staff.
The city’s Department of Housing and Redevelopment is dedicated to preserving existing affordable housing and creating new housing opportunities for residents with low and moderate incomes. In short, the work is serious.
Santa Monica, California, is an eight-square-mile city with a population of about 85,000.
I became involved in city government because I wrote a first-person piece for The Los Angeles Times that they titled, ”MS Can’t Cripple Art and Soul.” That was back in 1992.
The article garnered a national writers award from the National MS Society and things started happening. I got a call from City Hall and a request that I sit on the city’s Accessibility Appeals Board. This led to a request that I sit on the Housing Commission. I’ve done so for the past eight years. They needed a commissioner who was a recipient of Section 8 housing and I fit the bill.
In my town the Housing Commission is but one of many that study problems and make suggestions in their area of expertise. Some of the others are the Arts Commission, the Commission for the Senior Community, the Landmarks and Historic District Commission, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and so on.
All are dedicated to the betterment of those who reside within the city borders and the food isn’t bad either. Not many cities I know of would dress the salad at their annual Commissions Dinner with walnuts and blue cheese. Santa Monica’s motto is, “Populas Felix in Urbe Felici,” which translates as, ”A Fortunate People in a Fortunate Land.”
I can’t walk anymore but I can work to better my community. Concurrently, I’m having a blast. Did I mention that the generosity of spirit of the community is almost palpable? ‘Cause it is.
Consider networking with members of local boards and commissions. Make their acquaintance first at regularly scheduled public meetings. Observe hearings, and share outcomes with your network of friends. Not only will discussion be stimulating, but as an increasingly informed citizen — with knowledge of the impact of disability — you may ultimately be invited to serve.
—Renee Vandlik, State and Local Government Relations for the Society