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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Deadline Approaching to File Property Tax/Rent Rebates

Property Tax Property Tax I again want to remind everyone that the deadline to file for a property tax or rent rebate through the PA Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program is December 31st.  Property tax/rent rebate applications must be postmarked no later than December 31st to be considered. 

If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability 18 and older, or a widow or widower age 50 and older, you may be eligible.  Income limits are $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters.  The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebate amounts.  You can stop by any of my district offices to get a claim form (PA-1000), receive help in completing your application, and check on the status of your claim.  Please know that there is no cost to submitting an application and my staff will be glad to assist you.

You may also check the status of claims by visiting the PA Department of Revenue website or by calling 1-888-PATAXES.  The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Wednesday, December 25th in observance of the Christmas holiday.  My offices will re-open on Thursday, December 26th as scheduled.

OrnamentsHappy Holidays

Whether you celebrate Christmas on December 25th, celebrated Hanukkah between November 27th and December 5th, or celebrate Kwanzaa, beginning December 26th, I want to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and safe holiday season.

HealthCare.gov

Healthcare.gov Healthcare.gov As a result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, individuals in the Commonwealth without health care coverage can shop for affordable health care plans specialized to their individual needs and to those of their families.  Since Pennsylvania elected not to establish its own marketplace, Pennsylvanians can shop for health insurance by visiting the federal marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.  Anyone without health insurance or those individuals who have health insurance but want to shop for other options can visit the site to get started. 

There are several ways to apply for coverage.  In addition to applying online at www.healthcare.gov, you may also apply by phone (1-800-318-2596) or with a paper application that needs to be mailed.  Additionally, you may apply in person by visiting with a trained and certified navigator or application assister.  Organizations that are available to offer assistance with the application process can be found by clicking on the “Find Local Help” tab on the homepage at www.healthcare.gov.  Simply enter your city or zip code when prompted to view the organizations nearby that offer free assistance with navigating the health insurance marketplace.

You may also visit my website at www.senatorfontana.com to read more about the Affordable Care Act.  The open enrollment period runs through March 31st.

PHEAA Encourages Wise Financial Choices

PHEAA PHEAA As Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Board of Directors, I want to again alert current students and recent graduates to a website that can assist in managing financial decisions.  The site, www.YouCanDealWithIt.com, offers budgeting tips, saving strategies, tax deduction information, debt management strategies, information on the benefits and dangers of credit cards, and other tools to help students afford higher education and successfully enter the workforce on sound financial footing.

One of PHEAA’s biggest priorities is ensuring students graduate with manageable debt and are successful guardians of their financial responsibilities.  Over-borrowing during students’ school years or over-charging on credit cards can significantly affect their lifestyles after graduation.  This site is a free resource students can easily access to help reduce their debt levels.

You Can Deal With It www.YouCanDealWithIt.com PHEAA also encourages students and graduates to consider good spending habits that can save them money while still participating in the giving spirit of the holidays.  With time off from classes, the holiday season is a time when students and graduates can put themselves at risk of getting into difficult financial situations.  PHEAA offers the following suggestions for students and recent graduates on how they can navigate this financially stressful time of year:

  • Part-time jobs in retail as companies tend to hire additional staff during this busy time
  • Offer to provides services or chores for family or neighbors to make some additional cash
  • Shopping at consignment stores can save money and offers the opportunity to find a gift that is especially unique
  • Avoiding department stores where so many expensive items can lure students and recent graduates into spending beyond their means – prudent online shopping can eliminate the temptation to buy additional items that are not necessary

Did You Know…

Did you know that approximately $168 billion of student aid is available each year in the United States to help students pay for college?  Most aid comes in the form of low-interest loans and grants.

529 College Savings – 2013 Tax Benefits

PA 529 PA 529 With one week remaining in 2013, I want to make you aware that opening or contributing to a Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Account before December 31st can help reduce your 2013 PA state taxable income while assisting a loved one pay for college.  The PA 529 College Savings Program offers two distinct plans, the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan and the PA 529 Investment Plan.

Families who contribute before the end of this year can take advantage of Pennsylvania’s income tax deduction.  Contributions up to $14,000 per beneficiary can be deducted from PA taxable income and married couples filing jointly can deduct up to $28,000 per beneficiary, provided each spouse has taxable income of at least $14,000.

To encourage more families to save for college in a tax-advantaged way, the PA 529 College Savings Program is offering free enrollment, a $50 savings, for all new PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan accounts opened by December 31st.  There is no enrollment fee for the PA529 Investment Plan.

To learn more about these savings plans or to enroll online, please visit www.pa529.com.  If opening a new PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan online, use the code “TAX2013” when prompted to take advantage of the free enrollment.  You may also call 1-800-440-4000 or email pa529@patreasury.gov to ask specific questions about both plans.

Table Games Revenue Rises

Table GamesThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that revenue generated from table games at the state’s 12 casinos increased by more than 14 percent in November compared with the same month in 2012.  The $63.7 million generated from table games also represents the second highest monthly amount this year and over $9 million in tax revenue was generated during November.

Combined with figures on slot machine revenue, overall gross gaming revenue increased by 2.2 percent in November compared with November 2012.  Revenue from all casino gaming was nearly $254 million in November.

Pennsylvania’s casinos employ over 16,000 people, and collectively generate an average of $4 million per day in tax revenue.  A portion of that money is used for property tax reduction to all Pennsylvania homeowners, provides funds to the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry, fire companies, a statewide water and sewer project grant program, and the state’s General Fund as well as establishing a stream of tax revenue to local governments that host casinos for community projects.

Free Tax Preparation Campaign Needs Volunteers

Free Tax Preparation CampaignThe United Way of Allegheny County in partnership with the Money in Your Pocket Coalition is recruiting and seeking volunteer tax preparers to support the 2014 Free Tax Preparation Campaign.  About two hundred volunteers are needed to prepare returns beginning in January.  The Free Tax Preparation Campaign assists low-wage earning families and individuals in filing their federal, state and local tax returns, maximizing their refunds by claiming valuable federal and state tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  The Campaign is administered by the Money in Your Pocket Coalition, an alliance of non-profit agencies committed to helping low-income workers and their families access the federal EITC.

Individuals who are comfortable using a computer and working with people are eligible to volunteer and no prior tax preparation experience is necessary.  United Way and the Money in Your Pocket Coalition will provide the necessary training, including both in-person and online training modules.  At the conclusion of training, volunteers must pass an IRS certification test and will then be scheduled according to the most convenient hours and locations.  Trained volunteers commit to at least three hours each week during tax season.

This year, fourteen tax preparation sites will be open throughout the region, operating during day, evening and weekend hours.  Training, which will begin in January, is based on the level of the volunteer’s experience and the site in which they intend to work.  If you are interested in volunteering, please visit www.pghfreetaxes.org to learn more about the program and to register online.  Volunteers must be registered by this Saturday, December 27th.  If you have further questions or need assistance with registering to volunteer, please contact Suelynn Shiller at sshiller@uwac.org.

Holiday Gift Ideas Supporting State Parks & Forests

DCNRIf you are looking for a last minute holiday gift and want to help protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) has several gift giving ideas.

You can support Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks by purchasing the 2014 special edition state park calendar featuring state park seasonal scenes.  For more information on the calendar or to order one for purchase, please call 1-888-PAPARKS.

Another option is the purchase of a state park gift card.  These gift cards can be purchased in any dollar amount and may be used for campsites, cabins and pavilions across Pennsylvania.  If you’re interested in ordering a gift card, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us and chose the option, “Find a Park,” then “Reservations” then “Gift Cards.”

PA Parks and Forests Parks and Forests Foundation You may also consider a gift that supports the non-profit Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF).  PPFF helps enhance parks and forests, and supports conservation and environmental programs.  They produce a 135-page passport with maps, a history of the state park and forest system, and a brief description and most memorable feature of each state park and forest.  Please visit www.paparksandforests.org to learn more about their passport and other gift ideas. United Way Taxes

Fontana Fact

Allegheny CommonsEarlier this year, Allegheny Commons was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the third park in the city of Pittsburgh to receive this recognition.  Allegheny Commons comprises 62 acres in the city’s North Side neighborhood and was originally designed in 1867.  During the Civil War, the Commons was used by union soldiers as a camp and training area.  As the oldest park in the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Commons is filled with countless stories and memories and has seen its share of significant historical moments.  You can read more about the park here.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) Allegheny Commons