Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

May 30, 2013
How do I correct mistakes on claiming a Capital Loss Carryover?

I had a CPA prepare my taxes in 2007. He did a very thorough job.

The following year, I made a big mistake: I used a very popular tax prep program with the initials TT. Now, in 2012 I have discovered that I failed to enter a capital loss carryover of $98,000 on my 540D (California taxes). I entered the right amount for the federal cap loss carryover when I filed the following year - 2008.

So from 2007 to the current year 2012, no CA capital loss carryover was entered. Now, 5 years later, the federal capital loss carryover has been whittled down to about $45,000.

I have a couple of Capital Loss Carryover (CLCO) questions.
1) I believe I can amend back 4 years. Is that right?

2) The 540D capital loss carryover worksheet (CLCO ws) is a carryover to the state tax capital loss and not the federal capital loss carryover for the following year?
It's just a state figure, right?

There are two different carryover figures. The value calculated using the CLCO worksheet in the 540D instructions is used on next year's state tax form, not next year's 1040 schedule D.

3) A lot of people have been telling me to just enter the Fed cap loss carryover for 2012 into the value for the 2012 state 540D form and be done with it. I don't think this is right. I think I need to work thorough the CLCO worksheets from 2007 till present and enter that figure for 2012, and then re-file back to 2008 with the right figures.

4) Finally, this should only affect my State tax forms, not my federal forms. Am I right?

Fortunately, I'm still "deep into" the Carryover, so in the years that I can't amend the CA forms I lost a deduction that would have netted me higher refunds. I won't be owing anything but I lost out on refunds. I don't believe I'll come close to using up the carryover for some time to come.

Sleepless with Worry in Moraga

May 30, 2013
How do I complete a long-term "Capital Loss Carryover" on a tax form?

My father has a long-term Capital Loss Carryover from 2011 and 2012. On his federal return, I entered the amount on line 14 of Schedule D. Is the Federal amount I entered on Line 14, also entered on Line 6 of California D(540)?

Carmichael, CA

May 30, 2013
Can a trust remain open for an indefinite period after the death of the settlor?

When my mom died in April, 2012, I, as the Successor Trustee, distributed all the monetary gifts per the Trust. All that's left in her Trust is her house which I inherited. How long can I legally keep her house in her Trust? Is there a maximum time before I must move her house from her Trust to my Family Trust or sell it?

May 29, 2013
Now that I have my college degree, how do I get my first job?

Q: I am a recent graduate of the Environmental Engineering program from UCSD. I need help to find my first job in my field. I have been applying for jobs the last few months, but have had no luck in securing an entry-level Environmental Engineering position.
Sacramento, CA

May 28, 2013
How can we use our trust to help our grandchildren pay off their student loans?

We have four grandchildren who are saddled with substantial college loans which they are paying off at the present time. My wife and I want to leave monies for each of them, through our revocable trust, to alleviate their education burdens.

What is the best way to make sure that the funds are used for the specific purpose of making loan payments in full? How do we amend our trust to facilitate this arrangement?

Finally, what are your recommendations to eliminate animosity, which may occur if our married children who don't have kids feel they are being cheated out of a percentage of the monies designated for the college loan payments?

F., Rocklin

May 27, 2013
Summer driving danger: Don't get stuck in a truck's 'no zone'

As Memorial Day revs up the summer driving season, drivers are reminded about one of the biggest dangers: sharing the road with big trucks.

Compared with passenger cars, trucks are heavier, need far more braking distance to stop, a bigger radius when turning, and more maneuvering room to avoid roadway hazards. And they also have lots of blind spots where they can't see your car.

All of which can spell disaster: In 2011, nearly 3,400 people died nationwide in collisions with big-rig trucks, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Of those fatalities, 66 percent were occupants of passenger cars.

May 20, 2013
Do I need to amend my tax return for a $20 correction on a 1099?

Q: I filed my federal return on May 10th and received an amended 1099 dated March 15th, then a second amended 1099 dated April 1st, and then a 3rd amended 1099 dated April 15th! The total net changes are less than $20. Filing a 1040x for 2012 seems like a lot of pointless work. Can I account for these changes on my 2013 federal return rather than file a 1040x for 2012? Thanks for your help.

Elkton, Maryland

May 20, 2013
Should my wife transfer her IRA to our living trust?

Q: My wife and I are retired and she is required to take funds out of her retirement IRA. Several years before we retired, we established a living trust which includes most of our assets. Now, we want to transfer her retirement IRA to the trust. We have been told that, by transferring her IRA to the trust, she would be required to pay substantial income tax. Is it possible to make the transfer without having to pay taxes at the time of the transfer?


May 20, 2013
Do tax preparers ever quote fees before preparing returns?

My wife and I are both retired and have no mortgage. Because of this we use the standard deduction and have a very simple tax return. We each receive a 1099R and a SSA-1099. We also receive a consolidated form 1099 for investments. We have no other dependents or deductions.

We usually get a large refund because we choose to have taxes taken out of our monthly checks. About 6 or 7 years ago, our tax preparer charged what I felt was too much to do our taxes. Each of the following two years, I changed tax preparers. Each year the return cost a little more than the year before, with the final year being $350. None of the preparers would give us an estimation of costs prior to doing the return.

Each year I took in the previous year's return to simplify the preparer's job. I have been doing my taxes myself with tax software the last 4 years.

My question: How do you find a tax preparer who is willing to give you an estimate of the cost BEFORE you have them start your return?
Thanks for your time.

Corning, CA

May 20, 2013
College/high school grads: Too many gift cards? Swap 'em

It's high school and college graduation season and we know what that means: gift cards. Lots of 'em. (For other graduation gift ideas, see my Sunday column.)
An ever-popular graduation gift, billions of plastic gift certificates are purchased every year - but an estimated $1.7 billion a year sits on gift cards and never gets spent.

For graduates who get too many gift cards to retailers they don't like or want, Nerd Wallet personal finance expert Joseph Audette suggests swapping them.

Sites like, and let you unload those unwanted cards for cash. The sites cover hundreds of retailers, everyone from Sports Authority and Macy's to Burger King and Starbucks. You can also buy gift cards at a discount off the card's remaining balance.

For instance, will buy your card for up to 92 percent of its value; it sells cards at discounts up to 35 percent off face value. Currently, among dozens of American Eagle gift cards for varying amounts on, a $100 card is listed for $80, a 20 percent discount.

In California, gift cards cannot expire, except in very specific situations. If the gift card's value is less than $10, it can be redeemed at the retailer for cash. But if the company goes out of business, you're basically out of luck.

So if those gift cards are gonna gather dust in a drawer or sit unused in your wallet, exchanging them through an online swapping site could be an answer. Some card-swapping sites have fees; do a comparison before you decide.

And note: One longtime card-swapping service,, announced this month that it is no longer in the business.

May 16, 2013
What if spouses disagree on how they should leave their estate to adult children?

My wife and I each have one son from a prior marriage. They both are college graduates. We own two homes that are not of the same value. My wife wants to get things sorted out so that when she dies her son is well taken care of. She has been talking about a trust. I am not too concerned about my son. I believe that he can take care of himself and that we do not have to save our money for them. I feel she is more concerned about taking care of them from the grave than taking care of us. To make peace, I am about to go see a financial planner. My heart tells me it is not the right thing to do. We have a good relationship. What is your position on this matter?

May 15, 2013
IRS offices to be closed 5 days between May and August

Due to federal furloughs, the IRS is closing all its offices and toll-free hotlines on five days through summer: May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22 and Aug. 30. All of those dates, except Monday, July 22, are Fridays.

That means some 400 IRS taxpayer assistance centers, such as the Sacramento office at 4330 Watt Ave., will be closed, as well as all IRS customer service lines. Many of the IRS website's tools, such as "Where's My Refund?" also will be shut down.

But it doesn't mean that taxpayers will get any breaks on their tax-filing deadlines. Taxpayers are still required to file their returns and pay any taxes due as usual.

The only break: If an IRS deadline to provide documentation falls on a furlough day, you'll get the next business day to get your paperwork turned in.

May 13, 2013
Can my son claim education tax credits if I claim his dependency exemption?

Q: I made $80,000 and TurboTax said I was disqualified from deducting the interest I paid to federal government on the parent loan and/or the tuition I paid. Out of pocket, both totaled over $20,000. I know I would only have received the tax education credit on the out of pocket tuition I paid but since I can't take it, can my son?
Although he was a full-time student, he made about $20,000 working part time at a restaurant and singing at a church. My status is a qualified widow..because my husband died in 2011 I was able to file joint and married.. so the threshold was 160,000 ..he had been disabled and had no income it was same source of guns..seems to penalize non married people whose income is same as two married people. Anyway if I claim my son, can he take the deductions I was not able to? I assume TurboTax was correct in saying I wasn't eligible.

Sacramento, CA

May 13, 2013
Can I deduct depreciation on my 50 percent interest in a property?

Q: I own a property with a sibling in a 50/50 Percentage Ownership. With depreciation tax deductions, do we divide that depreciation deduction by the percentage of ownership? That is what I understood is the federal tax law. My sibling's tax preparer states that we cannot divide it, that only one person can claim it and that we can take turns claiming the whole deduction. Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

Sacramento, CA

May 13, 2013
Mom-friendly grocery coupon sites let consumers save/give

Several Bay Area coupon sites have launched Mom-friendly ways to save and give back at the same time.
One is CouponsforChange, started last August by Michele Boal, co-founder of Mountain View-based

Whenever someone uses three of the site's 200 grocery, restaurant and personal services coupons, CouponsforChange will donate to national food bank - enough to feed one family.
"It's a Mom-to-Mom thing. You're saving your family money while helping other mothers struggling to put food on the table for their own family," said Boal, the site's chief philanthropy officer.
The donations go to Feeding America, a nonprofit that helps sponsor food banks in numerous cities, including Sacramento. Boal said in the last 10 months, CouponsforChange has donated enough to cover more than 100,000 meals through local food banks.

Another Bay Area coupon site,, donates to a charity or nonprofit that you select. How it works: For every grocery coupon you print off its site, CommonKindness donates 20 percent of the advertising fees it receives from the food manufacturer. Consumers can choose from dozens of local and national charities, from pet shelters to arts groups.

In both cases, the consumer gets the full value of the coupon.
"It's a way for someone to feel good saving money for their own family, while giving back without taking anything out of their own pocket," said Boal.

May 13, 2013
At age 71, where can I invest my annual IRA withdrawals?

Q: I just turned 71, so I received the allotted amount from an IRA account and from an ICMA account. My husband and I live comfortably with our pensions right now and don't need this money yet. We have health insurance, but we don't have long-term care insurance. Where can I invest the money, so it will produce a decent amount of interest and be available if the need arises?

Woodland, CA

May 13, 2013
What is the tax basis in a property received by gift or inheritance?

Q: My wife and her sister were deeded their mother's home 15 years ago. Their mother bought the home 45 years prior. What would be the tax base for determining capital gains?


May 8, 2013
For Mother's Day, invest in mom, says financial planning board

Here's a novel idea for a Mother's Day gift: financial security. In launching a new monthly financial blog, Financial Planning for Everyone, the Certified Financial Planner Board in Washington, D.C., says mothers often overlook their own financial needs.

"Perhaps it is time for those of us who love and value the mothers in our lives to step it up a bit," said Eleanor Blayney, the CFP Board's consumer advocate, in a statement. "This year - along with the carnations and chocolates - consider making an IRA or other savings contribution for mom."

As the family's "domestic CEO", women generally live longer, are often single for more years and may not have as many years in the paid workforce. They need to become a little more selfish, says Blayney, about what they'll need to live on long-term.

She recommends that moms consider these steps:

May 6, 2013
Protecting online reputations: More tips on how to use social media

Our recent column on "how to improve your online image" offered tips on making sure that a Google search of your name or company yields the best possible results.

Here are some more tips:

Social media savvy:

Locally, the Social Media Club Sacramento is hosting its next monthly gathering on May 16: "Guerilla PR Strategies for Tech Startups," where five Sacramento-area tech company CEOs will discuss how they "create buzz about their product or service without spending a fortune."

The free event, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., takes place at the Urban Hive, 1931 H St., in Sacramento.

The five panelists are: Elizabeth Dodson of HomeZada; Aaron Klein of Riskalyze; Alexander Lowe of iSnap; Robb Moore of ioSafe; and Brett Owens of Chrometa.

Founded in San Francisco in 2006, the Social Media Club hosts local chapters in 300 cities and countries, bringing together individuals and business to share "digital media literacy." The Sacramento chapter hosts monthly meetings and quarterly workshops to share ideas, tools and tips on using social media effectively.

Help from Yelp:

Small business owners are invited to "Wednesday Webinars" that cover how to use's free tools, including how to respond to positive/negative customer reviews.

This month's webinars are May 15 and May 22.

Small business owners can set up a free account at, which lets them access their business listing to update hours, add photos and interact with customers, both publicly and privately.

Since launching in San Francisco in 2004, Yelp says about 80 percent of its 39 million posted reviews are positive, at least three-stars or above.

"Thanking the consumer who writes those (positive comments) is always a plus," said Morgan Remmers, manager of Yelp's local business outreach.

For the negative reviews, she suggests taking "a deep breath" and waiting 24 hours before responding. That lets the comments sink in and helps avoid "any kind of defensive attitude, snarkiness or emotional tone" in your response.

Generally, brevity is your best bet: "Thank you for your comment. We appreciate customer feedback and will discuss your concerns with our staff."

Even though a nasty review feels like a personal attack, by politely responding and acknowledging their complaint, you can often defuse the anger, said Remmers. And if you're lucky, she noted, the writer might soften or even pull down his or her negative quotes.

May 6, 2013
Will simplifying our trust require us to re-do all of our title documents?

In the 1990s we established an A/B family trust and have always placed all assets in the name of the trust with us as trustees. We do not expect to exceed the $5 million estate threshold and wish to convert to a simple family trust.
How will this affect all the documents established as "James and Mary, Trustees Under 1990s Family Trust?" We have invested in several real estate trust deeds. Must these documents be quitclaimed to the simple trust or can the simple trust be stated as just a revision to the A/B trust? Thanks for your help.

James and Mary, Elk Grove

May 3, 2013
Free 'Avengers' comic books give kids financial literacy heroes

What can Spider-Man teach your kids about money? Plenty, according to the creators of a first-ever financial literacy comic book for kids: "Avengers Saving the Day."

On Saturday, free "Avengers" copies will be given away at comic book stores in Sacramento and across the country, part of the 10th annual "Free Comic Book Day." The event, sponsored by comic book publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, is expected to give away 4.5 million copies of various titles from America's favorite superheroes, from Batman to Sonic the Hedgehog. Participating stores in the Sacramento area include Big Brother Comics, Empire's Comics Vault, Metropolis Comix, and River City Comics + Games.

"Avengers: Saving the Day" is a special collaboration between Marvel and Visa Inc.'s "Practical Money Skills for Life" website. It features Spider-Man and other Avengers battling bad guys, while slipping in messages about budgeting, banking, saving and other money-minded wisdom.

May 2, 2013
Young entrepreneur's jet company wins NFIB scholarship

He may not have graduated from high school yet, but Sean Burris is already airborne with his first business venture: Classic Jet Tours.

Fueled by his passion for vintage jet airliners from the 1950s and '60s, the 18-year-old has organized two charter flights with paying passengers: on a Douglas DC-8 from McClellan Field in Sacramento and a British BAC 1-11 out of Dallas, Texas.

His company's next charter: a 50th anniversary flight in October aboard the BAC jetliner.

For his entrepreneurial efforts, the Bear River High School senior recently earned a $1,000 college scholarship from the National Federation of Independent Business. He's one of five California high school seniors to win college scholarships in the NFIB's annual competition, which awarded 100 scholarships to business-minded students across the country.

Burris, a Lincoln resident, is majoring in entrepreneurship this fall at Northeastern University in Boston.

May 2, 2013
Sibling rivalry over a parent's trust: What financial disclosures are required to beneficiaries?

My sister is the trustee of our parents' revocable trust. We will soon be selling their house and property. I feel there is a lot of unnecessary money being spent. Is she accountable for what comes and goes out of the checking account? Do I have a right to know what is financially going on? If so, does she notify me or does the attorney?

It has been almost a year since our parents died and I have no idea where we are financially. I have been involved in preparing the property and house for sale. Do I have a say in accepting an offer or not? My sister feels it is her responsibility as trustee to handle everything without including me. Thank you for your time.

Linda, Rocklin

May 2, 2013
Should I care about my credit rating?

Q: Should I care about my credit rating? I don't owe anything, I have a pension that takes care of all of my needs, and I have $300,000 in savings. I use a Costco Amex card and pay it off monthly. I have no plans to move or buy a house.

Sacramento, CA

May 1, 2013
How can I reinvest my 401(k) plan from a previous employer?

Q: I have a 401(k) from a previous employer, and I would like to transfer it to a financial vehicle where I would have some control of where the money is invested, such as precious metals, ETFs, etc. How can I do that? Do I need to deal with a brokerage company like Charles Schwab?

Elk Grove, CA

Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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