Taxes, painting and stuff

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here, mainly because I have been swamped at work, getting ready for a presentation next week at Educause, my first foray into public speaking since, oh, 1995 or so. That was back in the days of transparencies, so it’s been a while. And I do have to say, there are much better tools around for preparing slides nowadays. But anyhow, it’s been pretty all-consuming writing up this presentation, and by the time I get home I haven’t been much in the mood to write anything else.

Interesting tax-related development here in the People’s Republic of Maryland. It seems that the legislature has raised the personal exemption amount for 2008 a whopping 33%, from $2400 to $3200. This is the first time Maryland’s personal exemption amount has changed since 2002, when it rose from $2100 to $2400. Apparently this is the legislature’s way of providing relief to the “working families” they are always harping about. This is in contrast to the governor’s original plan that would have widened the lower-income tax brackets, and being a flat tax advocate, I think it’s a better idea, although it benefits fewer people. For a typical family of four (like us.. imagine that) this results in $3200 less taxable income in 2008 than in 2007. Maryland has also completely overhauled how they figure payroll withholding. For me, that resulted in about $27 less state tax being withheld from my paycheck. This seems like a lot. According to my handy spreadsheet, an exemption amount of $3200 would have resulted in $254 less in taxes owed in 2007. Extrapolating the $27 withholding difference out to 26 paychecks results in $702 less tax withheld in 2008, leaving me $448 in the hole. There must be something I’m missing here, or I’m going to have to tweak my withholding exemptions again.

In other, less exciting news, we are finally getting ready to paint the master bedroom, several years after buying the paint. In preparation, I’m putting in a new phone jack. The original jack was one of those “woodwork warts” that was surface-mounted to the trim. I hate these, so I’m getting rid of them as we paint the rooms, in favor of flush-mounted wall jacks. This will be the first phone jack I’ve rewired, so I’m going to do it right and use twisted-pair cable with a Leviton “QuickPort” punch-down type jack. In the basement, I’ll install either a patch panel or a 66-type punch-down block (haven’t decided which yet) and splice it into the old quad-conductor cable that makes up the rest of the house’s phone wiring. Then as I replace jacks down the road, I’ll replace the quad with Cat-5. Doing this might improve our DSL speeds, too.