February, 2007
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

CPSC Offers Free Posters & E-Mail Notification of Recalls


Colorful posters featuring electrical safety, carbon monoxide safety and more topics can be downloaded and printed for free from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Web site. Whether displayed in your booth at a home show, used during a presentation to real estate agents, or included in your handouts to customers, the posters will serve as a reminder of your commitment to safety. To find them, visit the Neighborhood Safety Network on the CPSC Web site, www.cpsc.gov/nsn/nsnposter.html.

In addition, the CPSC welcomes subscribers to its e-mail notification of all or specific categories of recalls and safety notifications. Visit www.cpsc.gov and click on the heading “Sign up for Email Announcements.”

Subscribers receive notifications such as the recall issued December 28, 2006 (#07-071), “Trim Assembly Kits for Recessed Light Fixtures Recalled by Progress Lighting Due to Risk of Falling Parts.”

The CPSC, in cooperation with Progress Lighting Inc., of Spartanburg, S.C., announced a voluntary recall of Trim Assembly Kits for Recessed Light Fixtures. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. About 12,800 units have been sold.

Heat from the light bulb can cause the fixture’s plastic trim to soften and melt, causing the trim and lens to fall. Progress Lighting has received four reports of the trims melting. No injuries have been reported.

Description: Trim assembly kits involved in this recall attach to recessed light fixtures installed primarily in bathroom ceilings. The trim assemblies include a 7-3/4-inch white plastic ring, a lass lens and a metal reflector. Affected models were made in China and have model numbers 8009-60, 8010-60 or 8011-60. The model number and country of manufacture are located on a sticker attached to the inside and outside of the reflector. Models made in Mexico are not included this recall.

They were sold by electrical and lighting distributors nationwide from July 2006 through December 2006 for between $9 and $27.

To arrange for installation of a replacement trim ring, consumers can contact Progress Lighting toll-free at 877-369-4548 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or log on to www.progresslighting.com.

A Turning Point in Flood Protection?

Disaster Safety Review examines the NFIP past and present

A look at the National Flood Insurance Program and its efforts toward modernization is the lead feature of the Fall 2006 issue of Disaster Safety Review, a journal of the Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

The article “NFIP’s Move Toward Modernization is in Keeping With Founder’s Legacy,” includes two pieces: Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, chronicles the legacy of Gilbert White, known as the “father of flood plan management,” and David Maurstad, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mitigation division, writes about major policy changes intended to strengthen the NFIP.

Through a series of case studies, the issue also looks at how the IBHS Open for Business property protection and business continuity program is gaining ground across the country.

Request a copy of Disaster Safety Review by calling toll-free 866-657-IBHS (4247), or visit the IBHS Web site’s publications section to view or download a copy.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other property losses by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.

IRS lists tax law changes for businesses

It may seem like a long time before income tax returns are due, but the Internal Revenue Service is ready to help small business owners and self-employed taxpayers who want to know what has changed for 2006 and 2007.

Depreciation and Section 179 Expense
Increased section 179 limits: The maximum section 179 deduction you can elect for property you placed in service in 2006 is increased to $108,000 for qualified section 179 property. This limit is reduced by the amount by which the cost of section 179 property placed in service during the tax year exceeds $430,000. In 2007, the limit increases to $112,000, but is reduced by the amount by which the section placed in service during the tax year exceeds $450,000.

Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property, has more information on these rules.

Self-employment tax
The self-employment tax rate on net earnings remains the same for 2006 and for 2007. This rate, 15.3%, is a total of 12.4% for social security (old-age, survivors and disability insurance) and 2.9% for Medicare (hospital insurance).

The maximum amount subject to the social security part for tax years beginning in 2006 has increased to $94,200. All net earnings of at least $400 in both 2006 and 2007 are subject to the Medicare part, but the maximum amount subject to the social security part for tax years beginning in 2007 has been increased to $97,500.

Social Security and Medicare taxes
For 2006, the employer and employee will continue to pay:
• 6.2% each for social security tax (old-age, survivors and disability insurance), and
• 1.45% each for Medicare tax (hospital insurance).

The percentage will remain the same for 2007.

Wage limits.
For social security tax, the maximum amount of 2006 wages subject to the tax has increased to $94,200. For Medicare tax, all covered 2006 wages are subject to the tax. Circular E (Publication 15), Employer's Tax Guide, has more information about these taxes. The maximum amount of 2007 wages subject to the tax will increase again to $97,500.

Standard Mileage Rate
For 2006, the standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car, van, pickup or panel truck for your business is 44.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven. For 2007, it increases to 48.5 cents.

The list is published on the IRS Web site in the small business section at www.irs.gov/businesses/small/index.html.
Also on the site, “Filing Season Central” offers small businesses and self-employed taxpayers one-stop assistance for filling their tax returns.

Business Owner’s Toolkit™

CCH, Inc. offers free, online comprehensive  resources for small businesses. From planning a business to protecting its assets, the form or template you need is here. Here’s a short list of a few items in  Small Business Tools Section:

• Model business documents: 
Sample letters, contracts, forms and policies ready for you to customize—from a Sample Independent Contractor Agreement to a Job Application Form.

• Financial spreadsheet templates:  Help for managing your business finances—from balancing your checkbook to creating your own financial statements. Just plug in your numbers.

Checklists: Information you need at a glance, from whether you qualify for the home office write-off to the right things to do and say during an employee termination interview.

Official Government Forms:  A selection of the forms and publications most commonly used by small business owners when filing taxes with the IRS or contracting with the federal government.

The Small Business Guide is a virtual classroom for the small business owner. Here are a few of the main topics:

• Marketing Your Product
• Your Office and Equipment
• People Who Work for You
• Managing Your Business Finances
• Controlling Your Taxes
• Protecting Your Assets

Go to www.toolkit.cch.com.