How Ventura County Residents Can Donate for Dorian Relief

How Ventura County Residents Can Donate for Dorian Relief

Unfortunately, this is a follow-up piece to some advice I shared in the spring — March to be exact.

When tornadoes ravaged Lee County, Alabama, the country rushed to its aid. Although nature is beautiful in various forms, it’s also equally unpredictable. And that unpredictability sometimes leads to loss of life and communities.

If you’ve turned on the news anytime in the last couple weeks, you’ve watched Hurricane Dorian sweep through the Bahamas, up along the east coast and even reach Canada.

A reported 70,000 residents in the Bahamas are now searching for what to do next — for their families and communities.

Before I get to how you can help their community, please know that if you, or any friend or family member, are ever personally affected by a natural disaster, I will be here to walk you through pertinent tax questions related to your losses. There is a great IRS resource page which helps walk victims through tax-related issues following natural disasters.

Tuck this info away for a day I hope never comes.

And one last thing: On Monday, September 16th, estimated taxes for the third quarter are due. Plan accordingly.

How Ventura County Residents Can Donate for Dorian Relief

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

In the spring, I was struck by how different my daily existence was, from the devastation wrought in the disaster zones. The same is true here … and almost every time news of this sort hits the wires.

I must confess to feeling some “disaster fatigue” setting in.

It seems that the world keeps spawning disaster after disaster…

But that doesn’t mean we can turn away.

It’s good to keep your mind clear from the political and cultural “battles” of our day so that we can focus on the things that really matter.

And things like THIS really do matter. In fact, it’s a good practice to consider donating towards disaster relief causes each and every time — however small the amount — simply for the sake of your own soul, and what it signals to yourself about the “hold” that your bank accounts might have upon your heart. We truly do live in a world of abundance.

And that is especially obvious in contrast to those whose worlds have been most recently wrecked.

So, if you donate to Dorian relief using this link to the Red Cross, your contribution will go towards hurricane relief and help communities across the Bahamas who are rebuilding from rubble. Our Ventura County community can be a part of helping those in need across the world with a few clicks.

An even easier option? Text the word “DORIAN” to this number: 90999. You’ll automatically donate $10 to relief efforts, and the charge will simply show up on your phone bill.

Or if you want to donate a little closer to home, The National Association of the Bahamas will help provide food and shelter for hurting victims.

It’s hard to fathom how many animals were affected by the hurricane, but donating to the Humane Society will assist (foreign and domestic) efforts to aid animals unfortunately caught in Dorian’s path.

When you donate, are those contributions tax-deductible? Yes. But more importantly, when debating over a gift to these organizations, know the day may come where you or someone you know is affected by a natural disaster. When it’s humanity versus nature, other problems fade to the background when we realize we’re all in this together.

If you have any questions about the tax ramifications following a natural disaster, please give me a call so I can walk you through the options available.

I’m on your side. Now go let hundreds of strangers know you’re on theirs.



Diana Castro

(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Five Productivity Tips for Ventura County Busy Bodies

Five Productivity Tips for Ventura County Busy Bodies

With Labor Day behind us, fall is just around the corner.

(And a quick tax note: so are estimated taxes, if that applies to you. Due the 16th of this month. Consider yourself reminded. Though I will probably remind you once more.)

Now … fall. This can be a happy transition (as it is for many), though I do know that some of my Ventura County clients wish the summer never stopped. It’s a season that can get hectic with travel, weddings, and taking time off in general — and it should be a time to enjoy the outdoors. But fall can deliver routine again, and routine is a great step toward productivity.

So, with all that in mind, I thought I’d offer you some thoughts today about how I try to make sure that autumn is the start of something great.

It requires focus.

Five Productivity Tips for Ventura County Busy Bodies

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” -Peter Drucker

Here are a few productivity tips to utilize as we step into a new season, as your routine continues (or starts?). And if you’re always in “scramble mode”, think of ways to incorporate these methods into your daily life.

1. Choose Your “Focus Times”
No one knows you quite like yourself. I can’t tell you when the best time of day is for work and productivity. However, it’s important you nail down that time. In the morning? As a night owl? Whenever you feel most productive, mark that time off on your calendar — no one else can touch it. That’s your time to buckle down and get your MOST IMPORTANT tasks done efficiently.

2. “Do Not Disturb”
The first two steps on this list go hand-in-hand, but this is so important, it warranted its own paragraph.

Whether you are in the middle of a “focus time” or not, get in the habit of using the “Do Not Disturb” mode on your phone or computer while you work. It’s no surprise that technology is distracting. But consider this: according to research from the University of California, it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain focus after your first distraction.

Think checking in on social media takes just a few seconds? Think again, and make “Do Not Disturb” a part of your routine.

3. Don’t Accept Pointless Meetings

In the past, we’ve discussed how to run effective meetings — something easier said than done.

But there are many statistics that discuss the ramifications of unimportant meetings. An Inc. Magazine article, highlighting a survey from Doodle, cites the following:

  • “Poorly organized meetings mean I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work” (44 percent)
  • “Unclear actions lead to confusion” (43 percent)
  • “Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects” (38 percent)
  • “Irrelevant attendees slow progress” (31 percent)

If you are the recipient of costly meetings, start a new routine of saying “no” if you see it as unimportant to your job success (and you’re in the position of having permission to voice that opinion). Not only will shedding meetings help your productivity, it will inevitably save others time as well.

4. Accept Help From Others!

Exclamation added because many do not use this to their advantage.

We often think asking for help means burdening others. But it often has the opposite effect. Think about who you ask to take you to the airport, or help you move into a new house. Those are your closest friends!

You have people that care about you, and productivity sometimes looks like not doing it all on your own.

5. Small Breaks

Remember those social media distractions? That’s not what we mean by “small breaks” here.

But scheduling a few daily breaks into your routine can greatly increase productivity.

Again, as long as the breaks are purposeful and consistent.

Maybe every day at 10AM you walk outside around the block. Maybe everyday at 2PM you water the plants. Something to keep your mind sharp without mindlessly drifting into cyberspace — only you will know the perfect activities to fill these breaks, but I highly encourage a regular mind refresh so that you stay as productive as possible.

How are those five for a start?

Even if you focus on one or two this week, try them out! We all need productivity reminders from time to time. Let’s keep refining our days so that friends, family and ourselves benefit from better practices.



Diana Castro

(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Estate Planning For Ventura County Singles

Estate Planning For Ventura County Singles

Many of our Ventura County clients are married. What I have to say today is still relevant, conceptually (and even in some of the details).

So don’t skip on by.

As I have talked about before, estate planning is something that many families continue to neglect.

I’m not here to toot that horn again today. But there is actually more to the story for the “unattached” out there than you might think, so I’m picking up that ball today.

One thing I WILL say to those families, many of whom are sending children back to school: this school year, make your children’s FINANCIAL education a priority. Many schools don’t ever cover these topics in any kind of substantive detail … the ball is in your court.

So if you don’t have finances on the syllabus, add it yourself. Your future generations will thank you.

And speaking of future generations…

Estate Planning For Ventura County Singles

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” -George Edward Woodberry

In reality, estate planning is just as important for single people as it is for couples and families.

In fact, many estate planning attorneys believe that singles need it more. For married people, it is pretty much assumed that a spouse, even in the absence of any planning, is going to be the person that the court is going to appoint as the guardian over your personal and health care decisions and conservator over your financial matters.

But, if you’re single, you need to appoint someone to make your personal, health care, and financial decisions, or the court will decide for you — and it may not be the person you would want.

A common misconception among most singles is that they don’t have much money, so they don’t need estate planning.

But typically they find they have more assets than they think. Singles often have a life insurance policy through an employer, perhaps a retirement account fed by their paychecks, equity if they own a home, and sometimes accidental death benefits from credit cards. Once their estate has been settled, a parent, sibling, niece or nephew will most likely end up with this modest inheritance.

However, it is important for anyone, single or married, to create a real plan in order to designate who will be responsible for our health care and financial decisions when we are no longer able to do so ourselves. You may have every intention of leaving your nephew your “vintage” Xbox, but without estate planning in place, the court may sell it off in an estate sale so the money can be distributed.

Besides, your nephew probably doesn’t want it anyway.



Diana Castro

(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Ventura County Area

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Ventura County Area

Sometimes real estate is more art than science.

Because every homebuyer’s situation is nuanced from home to realtor to geographic location, there’s no cut-and-dried way to go about it, and that’s whether you’re investing, moving or selling.

But there are a few things you should know about — whether you’re a long-time homeowner or just beginning your search. Because buying a home is one more thing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) affected last year — so it’s time for a little homebuying update and explanation of the changes that have occurred.

There are three, in particular, that you should keep in mind.

Three New Tax Implications for Buying or Selling a House in the Ventura County Area

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” -Maya Angelou

If you have any additional questions about the following information, please reach out with a phone call. I’d love to discuss these tips and more in greater detail: (805) 650-1052

Lower Deduction Cap

Currently, Ventura County homebuyers are only allowed to deduct mortgage interest they spend on up to $750K in debt for a new home. If the buyer is filing separately while married, the total is $375K.

Prior to the TCJA, total mortgages (of up to $1M) were fully deductible if they were owned as primary residences.

Also, if you bought your home before the TCJA went into effect, and plan to refinance your home, the “up to $1M” of total deductible mortgages rule still applies.

Property Tax Deduction

We’ve talked a little in the past about state and local tax (SALT).

In short, there is a $10K SALT deduction limit that applies to items like real estate and local income taxes. Before the TCJA there was no limit. Now, homebuyers need to pay a little more attention when it comes to SALT regulations.

(I’m here to help with this too!)

Tax Breaks for Sellers
This is kind of a “bonus” tip, but I figure if you or someone you know is buying a home, there is a chance that selling a house also applies to the situation.

In that case, the tax implications of selling a house can be positive.

Something the TCJA did not affect was the fact you don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on the profit you make from selling a home. Now, you still need to meet the requirements for living in the house long enough to earn money from the sale. But this perk could make the stress of buying and selling a house worthwhile for your bank account.

I hope these brief tips help you or someone you know.

Even though the TCJA shifted some laws around, note that the law is liable to change in 2025. It’s not set in stone, and things could change in just a few years’ time.

All the more reason to form a relationship with a trusted Ventura County expert for all the changes (most likely) to come.



Diana Castro

(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Ventura County Families And Individuals

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Ventura County Families And Individuals

It’s wild to think that there are only four more months in 2019.

As we get older, time sure does fly. And unfortunately, many get stuck in a rut from year to year. Specifically related to taxes — many do not look at, or even think about, their tax situation until the winter or early spring. But if you can take just one piece of advice from today:

Not only can you start planning your taxes in advance, it is by far the wisest thing you can do for an accurate, stress-free April (or at least less stress than usual).

And if planning ahead is the first item of importance, having someone to plan with is a close second. If you are planning your taxes alone, please give me a call so we can meet and discuss everything from strategy to accuracy when addressing your taxes.

Let’s examine a hypothetical situation, and the kind of strategy we could put in place together…

A Powerful Example of Tax Planning For Ventura County Families And Individuals

“Stop setting goals. Goals are pure fantasy unless you have a specific plan to achieve them.” -Stephen Covey

Pretend you were considering taking money out of a pension (401k) to finance a down payment on a house. This kind of strategy happens all the time. However, to complete the transaction without consulting a knowledgeable Ventura County professional beforehand might result in a four- (or five-) figure mistake.

In this specific situation, I would ask you a few simple, necessary questions. And then, depending on the answer, would likely advise you to roll the money ($10,000) into a Traditional IRA. That way, you could withdraw the money at a savings of $1,000. This is because money used for a first home, up to $10,000, is penalty-free when taken from an IRA but not a 401K.

That’s called strategy. When you benefit from that kind of strategy, it’s called tax planning. It’s not only related to housing, 401K or IRA allotment — I want to help you experience all-around financial success moving forward.

While we’re on the topic, here are other “penalty-free” retirement account withdrawal opportunities (Note: these are NOT “tax-free” — only penalty-free):

* Unreimbursed Medical Bills
* Total and/or Permanent Disability
* Health Insurance Premiums After 12 weeks of Unemployment
* Death
* Higher Education Costs
* Pending Senate Approval: Qualified Birth And Adoption Expenses

Also note that there are specific caveats to each of these options. We can discuss your best route when we talk about your individual situation. There are a few other obscure situations available, but again — these decisions are best made under consultation.

Although, when working with us, there’s no certified promise of saving money (because every situation is so nuanced and unique to each Ventura County client). But I can guarantee this: If you don’t speak with us in advance, we won’t have the chance to save you all we possibly could on your 2019 taxes.

Don’t wait until winter. Please don’t wait until spring. Let’s get some strategy started … right now.



Diana Castro

(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

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