Washington, DC (MPG) - The Internal Revenue Service has an important reminder for taxpayers who filed for an extension and face an Oct. 16 filing deadline: The adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from their 2015 return may be needed to electronically file their 2016 tax return.

For those taxpayers who have a valid extension and are in or affected by a federally declared disaster area may be allowed more time to file. Currently, taxpayers impacted by Hurricanes HarveyIrma and Maria as well as people in parts of Michigan and West Virginia qualify for this relief. See the disaster relief page on IRS.gov for details.

As a reminder, taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years. Prior year tax returns are even more important as the IRS makes changes to protect taxpayers and authenticate their identity.

Extension filers should plan ahead if they are using a software product for the first time. They should have kept a copy of their 2015 tax return or if not, will need to order a tax transcript, a process that may take five to 10 calendar days. The AGI is clearly labeled on both the tax return and the transcript.

Taxpayers who prepare their own electronic tax returns are required to electronically sign and validate their return. Using an electronic filing PIN is no longer an option. To authenticate their identities, taxpayers will also need to enter either of two items: their prior-year AGI or their prior-year self-select PIN and their date of birth. If married filing jointly, both taxpayers must authenticate their identities with this information.

Generally, tax-preparation software automatically generates the prior-year AGI and/or self-select PIN for returning customers. However, taxpayers who are new to a software product must enter the prior-year AGI or prior-year self-select PIN themselves.

How to Find AGI; Plan Ahead if a Mailed Transcript Needed

The adjusted gross income is gross income minus certain adjustments. On 2015 tax returns, the AGI is found on line 37 of Form 1040; line 21 on Form 1040A and line 4 on Form 1040EZ. Taxpayers who e-filed and did not keep a copy of their original 2015 tax return may be able to return to their prior-year software provider or tax preparer to obtain a copy.

Those who lack access to their prior-year tax returns also may go to irs.gov/transcript and use Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail. A transcript is a summary of the tax return or tax account. There are various types of transcripts, but the Tax Return Transcript works best. Look for the “Adjusted Gross Income” amount on the transcript.

Taxpayers must pass Secure Access authentication in order to access Get Transcript Online and immediately access their transcripts. Those who cannot pass Secure Access authentication should use Get Transcript by Mail or call 800-908-9946, and a transcript will be delivered to their home address within five to 10 calendar days.

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Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The Parkinson Association of Northern California (PANC) is holding its Annual Education and Information Conference at the Sacramento Convention Center on Saturday, October 21st from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

The event will provide information, education, and inspiration to people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) along with their carepartners and family members and interested members of the community. Featuring regionally recognized expert clinicians and therapists in the field of movement disorders, the conference will highlight the future of the disease along with inspiration and tools to help attain the highest possible quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s disease.

Additional Information about the event and registration options can be found by visiting the PANC website at www.panctoday.org. The cost to attend the event which includes a full-day of presentations, exhibit fair, and lunch is $25 per registrant.

“Our annual conference is an upbeat event of community, learning and connection. We educate attendees about the latest in Parkinson’s disease research and therapies and connect individuals who share challenges and successes with PD. We’re excited to host this event for our Northern California constituents and look forward to an uplifting day,” says PANC president, Nancy Kretz.

Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in more than 50,000 Americans each year. We are asking for the assistance of the media to help make this event a successful one and provide this information and event coverage to your audiences who may have PD, know someone with PD, or possibly be diagnosed in the future.

The Parkinson Association of Northern California has been dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s, their families, and carepartners since 1996. We facilitate over 30 regional Support Groups, host the Annual Conference, publish a quarterly newsletter (Parkinson Path), offer financial support for caregiver respite, support medical community collaboration across healthcare providers, and more. We live our motto, ”Until there is a cure…hope and healing every day.” For more information see www.panctoday.org

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Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continue to increase in California, according to new statistics from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). These diseases are reportable to the state and local health departments. The data are presented in CDPH’s 2016 STD Annual Report: a summary can also be found on CDPH’s website.

Over a quarter million cases of STDs were reported in 2016, a 40% increase compared to five years ago including, 198,503 cases of chlamydia, 64,677 of gonorrhea, and 11,222 of early syphilis. Particularly concerning to health officials, 207 cases of congenital syphilis were reported. If not caught early, syphilis during pregnancy can result in congenital syphilis leading to stillbirth or permanent, lifelong disabilities. Syphilis can also cause permanent loss of vision, hearing and other neurologic problems in adults. If left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection and lead to lifelong reproductive health problems.

“The number of reported STDs in California is increasing at a concerning rate,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “This is the third year in a row that we have seen increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.”

These three diseases can be prevented by consistent use of condoms, and they can be cured with antibiotics, so regular testing and treatment is very important, even for people who have no symptoms.  

Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates are highest among people under age 30. Rates of chlamydia are highest among young women, whereas males account for the majority of syphilis and gonorrhea cases.

Regular screening for STDs is recommended for people who are sexually active. STD services also provide opportunities for further prevention of HIV through testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

“All Californians need to know how to protect themselves and their partners,” said Smith. “Getting tested regularly is one of the most important steps.” A directory of where to get tested can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage.

CDPH is collaborating with the California Department of Education and community groups to implement the newly enacted California Healthy Youth Act, which mandates comprehensive STD/HIV prevention education in schools. For more information, go to the CDPH Sexually Transmitted Diseases Control Branch website at www.cdph.ca.gov

Source: CDPH

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Volunteers Needed for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program

By Anaí Ibarra, AARP  |  2017-09-22

Last year, 2,841 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 184,276 people file their federal and state tax returns. Photo courtesy AARP.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation service

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is looking to expand its team of volunteers for the upcoming tax season. Soon approaching its 50th year, Tax-Aide offers free tax filing help to anyone, especially those 50 and older, who can’t afford a tax preparation service. Tax-Aide volunteers make a difference in their communities by assisting many older, lower-income taxpayers who might otherwise miss out on the credits and deductions they’ve earned.

A recent AARP survey of working Californians, entitled “CA Dreaming or Struggling,” reveals that a large percentage of Californians are not ready for retirement; and while they remain optimistic, many are struggling with issues of housing affordability and difficulty in saving for retirement.

Programs like Tax-Aide, says AARP California State Director Nancy McPherson, can help.

“Considering the difficulty many Californians are having making ends meet, a program like Tax Aide, which helps people save every dollar they can, is that much more valuable,” she said.

Tax-Aide volunteers receive training and support in a welcoming environment. There is need for volunteer tax preparers, client facilitators, those who can provide technical and management assistance and interpreters. Every level of experience is welcome. Volunteer tax preparers complete tax preparation training and IRS certification.

Last year, 2,841 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 184,276 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 378 sites in California, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has grown remarkably since its inaugural team of just four volunteers in 1968. The program now involves nearly 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.5 million taxpayers annually at some 5,000 sites nationwide with free tax help. In 2017 taxpayers who used AARP Foundation Tax-Aide received $1.37 billion in income tax refunds and more than $222 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). Taxpayers do not need to be a member of AARP or a retiree to use this program. 

To learn about our volunteer opportunities, visit www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide  or call 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277). AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in coordination with the IRS. 

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds.  AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.      

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Hey Man, Let’s Talk Pot

By Corey Egel, CDPH  |  2017-09-18

CDPH Launches Cannabis Public Education Campaign

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has launched a health information and education campaign about what’s legal in California and potential health impacts of cannabis use. Senate Bill 94 (SB 94) - Medicinal and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) - makes it legal for adults 21 or older to possess, consume and cultivate cannabis in California. Sale of cannabis from licensed retail outlets will become legal January 1, 2018. 

CDPH received funding to develop a campaign, as detailed in SB 94, describes: The scientific basis for restricting access of cannabis and cannabis products for persons under the age of 21 years; The penalties for providing access to cannabis and cannabis products to persons under the age of 21 years; The potential harms of using cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding; The potential harms of overusing cannabis or cannabis products.

“CDPH engaged in extensive conversations with stakeholders in California and partners in other states with legalized cannabis to target the most vulnerable populations and apply their lessons learned,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “We are committed to providing Californians with science-based information to ensure safe and informed choices.” CDPH has and will continue to incorporate the latest data available into public messages to increase awareness about how cannabis affects bodies, minds and health.

On CDPH’s website, individuals can find information about legal, safe and responsible use, and health information for youth, pregnant and breastfeeding women, parents and mentors, and health care providers. CDPH produced fact sheets with safe storage tips and the important things Californians need to know about purchasing and possessing cannabis for personal use. An educational digital toolkit for local governments and community organizations will be available in the future.                                                                                                                                               

For additional information, visit the Let’s Talk Cannabis web page at www.cdph.ca.gov

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Circus Vargas Comes to Town

MPG Staff  |  2017-09-18

Show Unveils Original New Production- SteamCirque!

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Circus Vargas returns to to the Sacramento region, embarking on a brand new epic adventure under the big top! The biggest American, Animal-Free traveling Big Top circus is making a splash across California and will be entertaining the Sacramento area Residents from September 21 through October 15, 2017 with its latest hit production, SteamCirque!

The Big Show includes goggles, gears, and gadgets setting the stage for Circus Vargas’ retro-futuristic new production.  Join them on a journey of fantastic proportions where children of all ages will marvel at the wacky and wonderful cast of characters that come alive in this exciting steampunk, science- fiction fantasy inspired circus odyssey!

Arrive 45 minutes early for an entertaining, interactive pre-show celebration, where kids can create their own magic under the big top, learning circus skills such as juggling, balancing and more!   Meet and mingle with the entire cast after each performance.  Capture the fun by posing for pics or selfies with your favorite cast members, all part of an unforgettable Circus Vargas experience!

The Storyline presents an eccentric group of adventure seekers stumble upon a traveling circus in an imaginary Victorian city, far, far-away. SteamCirque’s peculiar protagonist, part magician-part inventor, attempts to industrialize the circus by incorporating his steam powered mechanical contraptions into the ordinary, typical circus rigging, filling the big top with new,  imaginative acrobatic apparatus for the artists to perform their acts. It becomes a test of wills, the  steampunkers versus the circus folk,  who will win? Audiences will have to come and see to find out!!

For Circus Vargas performance dates, times and to purchase tickets, visit www.circusvargas.com, call 877-GOTFUN-1 (877-468-3861) or visit the box office at each location.

Follow Circus Vargas on Facebook and Twitter for updates, discounts and behind the scenes video.

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Starting a Small Business in Sac County? Get in Line

By Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-09-14

What could possibly be taking so long? Photo by Paul Scholl

County’s Small Business Start-ups Hampered by Bureaucracy
 
Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - Pent up demand in many parts of unincorporated Sacramento County, and the county proper for retail food chains and other small businesses, some developers and business groups say, is being stalled under the multiple layers of bureaucracy built into the county’s complex permitting process and related issues.

Even opening a franchise for one of the country’s largest and perhaps best-loved food and drink chains can take years.  Case in point: Jamba Juice, which has been pushing to open its first location in Carmichael for more than a year.  The wildly popular fresh juice and smoothie maker, originally slated for opening in August at Carmichael Village on Fair Oaks Boulevard, is once again pushing back its opening to late October, due in large part to set-backs in the permitting approval process, according to Brooks Erickson of Carmichael Village, LLC, developers of the retail complex.

Construction and the permitting process for Jamba Juice began more than 24 months ago. Meanwhile, next door, Wing Stop’s approval took nearly a year to green light.  It followed the oft-stalled opening of Noah’s Bagels, also in the complex, which opened its doors in 2015.

With two open spaces left to fill at Carmichael Village, Erickson wonders how long it will take him to get the green light for what he hopes will be one more food and drink outfit and potentially a small medical related service provider to complete the development project.

“I would say it is a complex process and also can be very surprising when you think you have crossed every “T” and dotted every “I” to find out that you have to keep waiting,” Erickson said.  “I respect the idea of (the permitting and vetting process) being necessary, but it absolutely seems very burdensome.  Even after you’ve won approval for the project, you’re waiting on all kinds of things to be approved just to get construction done.”

Erickson said Jamba Juice is just one of many examples of the frustration he and other developers, not to mention the franchisees and owners, face when it comes to dealing with the county permitting process, which includes clearance requirements from multiple agencies, usually at different intervals in the build out process, including health and safety, the fire department, and ADA regulators, each of which can potentially stall a previously approved permit or plan from one department with a non-compliance order or demand for changes to meet their own department’s regulations. 

A green lighted set of blueprints can hit a number of snags in the process, ranging from issues pertaining to noncompliance with ADA regulations or county fire and electrical system guidelines, to equipment model makes and locations and flooring types, as well as overall construction plans for new infrastructures or remodeling of existing ones.

“What puzzles me is that somebody like Jamba with a national brand would have so much difficulty with our little county,” Erickson said.  “It’s a puzzle to have so many different rounds of changes.”

Linda Melody, executive director of the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce agrees the county’s permitting process often holds up construction plans for many small retailers, specifically eateries.  Carmichael’s revival along the Fair Oaks Boulevard corridor is enjoying a wave of expansion in the retail food sector.  But the growth is being hampered at various levels and she and chamber members are eager to see the momentum continue.

Melody said her agency would like to see pre-approved permitting requirements for existing retail spaces grandfathered in when approvals have been given for one area as others are considered, and that a true one-stop agency for blueprinting approval right down to the plumbing and electrical code sign-off would help.

“I have a hard time with the county penalizing businesses who have already had components of their projects signed off on get rejected at another level and then see them have to go back to the beginning of the process,” Melody said. “You always hear the politicians talk about how much they love business but the rules are often not really all that business friendly.”

Diann Rogers, president and CEO of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce, said her agency has long-been fielding similar complaints about the permitting process and that mitigating those concerns remains one of her agencies top priorities.

“Are there glitches, yes,” says Rogers.  “But in terms of the challenges, it is all over the board and it really depends on what type of business you’re talking about and which layers of permitting and departments they have to go to.”

Rogers said the Rancho Cordova department of economic development is preparing to launch a new “concierge” service to help business owners understand and work their way through the permitting process.

“It can be daunting,” said Rogers, adding that she did not have specifics about the new program yet.  “I know the goal is to help them navigate the process,” she said.  “I also can say that we have a (city) council that is open and willing to hear these issues, so they do listen to the biz community.” 

Evan Jacobs co-chairs the economic development committee for the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce. He said the chamber is aware of the ongoing issues of “complexity” involved with the permitting process and insists it is an issue of ongoing concern and discussion.

“We are working collaboratively with the city to see more layers of bureaucracy removed from the process in order to both retain and attract businesses to the area,” said Jacobs.  “I know we and many other advocates are out there working toward finding a way to put a focus on this issue and see how we can make it easier for businesses to set up shop. There are many complexities involved.”

Troy Givens, director of the Sacramento County Department of Economic Development agreed that the process for setting up a small business in the county can be burdensome, particularly for a restaurant, where you have many health code requirements in play. He adds, however, that the county is always pushing to improve the process, noting the availability of free and confidential programs established to help business owners navigate the permitting process.

“We know there can be difficulties, especially for smaller business owners, but we are always looking at how we can make the process more user friendly,” said Givens.  

Givens referred to the county’s Business Environmental Resource Center (BERC) launched in 1993.  BERC provides confidential support for new and existing businesses as they make their way through the initial phases of setting up shop.  The county, he added, also recently brought in a small business liaison to help potential new business owners with financing-related questions and support.  Many of the frustrations, he says, often stem from the varying number of scenarios that arise with every start-up, whether related to health permit issues or basic blueprint snags, and whether they are a fast-food operation or a clothing retailer.

“We have a service under our department that is free and confidential, which takes a look at the permitting process at the local, state and even the federal levels and helps businesses navigate the system,” said Givens. “We do what we can to help make the process go as quickly as possible.”

Givens said a typical time frame for a franchise like Jamba Juice should be roughly 90-120 days and, while he doesn’t know the specifics of what may be holding up the clearance for Jamba Juice in Carmichael, he would be happy to sit down with Erickson or any other business owner to help figure out where the snags are and how to expedite the process.

“I’m more than happy to meet with Mr. Erickson and other developers to try to figure out if there is a certain area where we can step in,” Givens said.

The county also has a fast track program to help certain projects speed through the permitting process, however, there are specific qualifiers. For instance, a commercial or industrial project must create a minimum of 50 new and permanent jobs or show it will generate at least $10 million in annual taxable sales.  Neither of these options are likely for a small franchise, Jamba Juice included.  Even if the revenue was in place, most fast-casual eateries employ part time workers.

Tom Scott is the state executive director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses based in Sacramento. His agency advocates for roughly 22,000 small and independently owned business members in California and thousands more nationwide.   Scott said the layers of bureaucracy at the county with respect to permits are so imbedded and years in the making, a one-stop shop wouldn’t put a dent in the problem, as it stretches way beyond the permitting process and in to areas concerning housing, rising rent costs, California’s business taxes, (one of the highest in the nation according to recent studies), zoning issues, as well as employment-related legal complexities and wages.

“There’s been a Carl’s Junior effect in California for years,” said Scott, referring to 2014 plans by the Southern California-based CKE Restaurants/Carl’s Junior Restaurants, LLC to expand in the state. Faced with wait times of up to two years to expand in the state, the company moved into Texas and Nevada, where wait-times are roughly only two to three months.

Scott, who also sits on the planning commission for the city of Folsom, said the slow-pace of permitting and approving new eateries and other small businesses is rampant across all parts of unincorporated Sacramento County and the city proper.  In some cases, there just aren’t enough people to push applications through. In others, the rules are simply too draconian and driving business out.

“This problem is happening all over, and it’s not just permitting,” says Scott.  “It’s a chain reaction of things, and the bureaucracy has been building up for decades.  Everyone wants the revenue from small business, everyone agrees small business is the backbone of our economy.  But, on the other hand, they have created such a bureaucratic mess. So the real question is: OK, how do they undo it?”

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