“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”
-Peter Marshall

This is that time of year when all sorts of tax-related proposals are bouncing around Capitol Hill. It’s not really worth the regular family’s time to be paying attention to the ramifications of these proposals–of course, that is, outside of making your opinions known to your own representatives.

But watching this stuff IS part of how we’re able to deliver the most up-to-date and comprehensive tax services in the area. We pay attention so YOU don’t have to!

So, here are a couple things we’re paying attention to around here:

1) First, this has been sort of a joke among we tax professionals, but it’s actually now under real consideration, apparently! (Ok, perhaps this doesn’t say much about “accountant humor”, so let’s just move along now.) They’re considering allowing deductions for pets…
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pets-save-taxes-congress-debate-happy-act/story?id=8811927

Seriously–$3500 of pet expenses? Those are some expensive pooches. But hey, we all love our pets!

What’s YOUR opinion? Too much? Too little? Or maybe not a very good idea in the first place?

Here’s a couple other ideas coming out of Washington…

2) The House committee charged with overseeing tax policy (Ways & Means) is considering a few sweeping proposals.
a. Extending the $8,000.00 First-Time Homebuyers credit
b. Extending the current estate tax limits
c. Some sort of jobs-measure
The original article is here:
http://www.bnasoftware.com/News_Articles/News/Rangel_Plans_Separate_Estate_Tax,_Jobs_Creation,_Tax_Extenders_Measures.asp

We’ll keep you informed, especially as it affects you!

3) We’ve got clients all across the US, so this isn’t just about our humble state. See how YOUR state gets its revenue here:
http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=430433

It’s an eye-opener, especially as it relates to how different states are responding to the current economy!

So, on to my Personal Strategy Note. Since I send these via email, I thought this was particularly prescient. Some recent news revealed that thousands of Hotmail passwords were hacked, so here’s some tips I ran across for making sure it doesn’t happen to you!

(And, again–please do feel free to leave comments. I read every one that comes my way!)

“Real World” Personal Strategy
How To Protect Your Online Passwords

It’s been in the news that 30,000 passwords for Hotmail and Gmail accounts were stolen earlier this month. Small wonder, right?

Well, a security group analyzed those passwords and found that the most commonly used password was “123456”! If that wasn’t bad enough, the second most common password that was used…yep, you guessed it…123456789.

In today’s electronic environment, that’s unbelievable. We no longer live in a world where we can use a simple string of numbers or a child’s name as a password. They’re just too easy to hack…and the results can be much more devastating than merely finding your emails made public.

The problem is that we all have so many passwords. So how do we make strong passwords that we can actually remember for every account?

The tips below can help you avoid the most common password pitfalls and even implement a few new ideas that will make your passwords easy to remember…and hard to break!

Avoid The “Easy to Guess” Windcroft hd
There’s no way around it…a well-protected password is hard for other people to guess. How do you do that? It’s pretty simple really. Just follow this advice:
• Use a random string of characters. That means no sequential letters or numbers, like those Hotmail accounts that used 123456!
• Make it looooong. The longer the better–even up to as many as 10 to 14 characters if space allows.
• Switch things up. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, along with a few numbers mixed in the middle or end.
• Don’t use substitute symbols in common words. Using “@” for “a” or “1” for “I” may look good to you, but most hackers are smart enough to break those substitutes rather quickly when the password consists of a common word.
• For that matter, avoid easy targets like words straight out of the dictionary or things like family names and birthdays.

Mix Things Up
Most of us cheat when it comes to passwords. We have trouble remembering our passwords, so we come up with two or three that we can remember and use them everywhere.
But…you should avoid the temptation! That’s because all of your accounts will be vulnerable if even one account is compromised. The reality is, you need to create and remember multiple passwords–a different one for each account! Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. Just follow the steps below.

A Simple Roadmap for Memorable, Yet Hard To Hack Passwords
Good passwords come down to two things: (1) they’re easy for you to remember and (2) they’re hard for others to break. Here’s a sure-fire tip that can help you achieve both!
1. Think up a phrase. Instead of a common word or family member’s name, think up a unique phrase that only you know. For example, you may think up something off the wall such as “I Like Short Hair Too.”
2. Make it an acronym. In our example, “I Like Short Hair Too” would become ILSHT.
3. Add Complexity. Remember those substitutes you’re not supposed to use with common dictionary words? Well, you CAN use them with your acronym. For example, “I Like Short Hair Too” can become “1 Like $hort Hair 2” which makes: 1L$H2. You can also use upper and lower letters to make it 1L$h2. The point is to be creative, but in a way that you can easily remember it.
4. Make it unique. A password is only really unique if you use it for one account and one account only. So you can’t just use 1L$h2 for every account. And, in reality it’s still too short.

Here’s the key to the whole process: Mix in additional letters and numbers that are unique to each account. For example, if you’re logging into a “gmail account” you can use the “gm” and “@cct” (for acct) to make: 1L$h2gM@cct. Then, for a Netflix account, you may use: 1L$h2Nf@cct. That way, you’re passwords will be hard for others to guess and unique to each account, but also easy for you to remember!

Of course, these are just examples. You’ll want to be creative and think up your own acronym and ways to add unique characters for each account. And then keep that little secret to yourself so no one will be able to guess your account passwords.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll have passwords that are tough to break, unique to every account, and easy to remember. And if you have children in your house who are starting to use passwords for email and IM accounts, teach them these steps to help educate them on the importance of strong passwords – they’ll thank you later in life!

I hope this helps!