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Comment: Re:Cash and checks (Score 1) 117

by josecanuc (#47210799) Attached to: Credit Card Breach At P.F. Chang's

Often, the rewards are paid out of the merchant's pocket, not even the credit card company or the bank that issued it. Merchants are charged a percentage ranging from about 1% to 4% on purchases. Rewards cards often take the highest percentages.

In effect, your "cash back" is paid by the person from whom you are purchasing merchandise/services. That results in higher prices, as merchants adjust pricing to meet their net profit needs.

It's correct that you, the account holder, are paying your own reward, but it's not so direct that it is paid out of interest+fees.

Comment: Re:Retailers pay your visa rewards (Score 1) 732

by josecanuc (#42703245) Attached to: Credit Card Swipe Fees Begin Sunday In USA

The fee that is charged to merchants is called a "discount fee" because it typically is the amount "discounted" from the batch deposits into the merchant's bank account.

You may see articles that refer to the fees as 1-3% or so. Some cards have higher fees than others, and often even different transactions can have different fees even on the same card. Rewards cards have the highest fees, so yes, it is taken pretty much directly from the merchants. Your airmiles or whatnot are being paid to you by the people from whom you shop.

And the agreements with Visa/MC/AmEx state that a merchant can't refuse one Visa (or MC or AmEx) and accept a different Visa (or MC or AmEx). By accepting credit cards, the merchant has agreed to take it in the backside when a customer uses a rewards card.

It's nice for the CC companies because, like you, no one seems to realize that the merchants pay for the rewards.

Comment: Re:Just use Postgresql (Score 1) 336

by josecanuc (#41034999) Attached to: Is MySQL Slowly Turning Closed Source?

I have to start by saying I am not too familiar with MySQL Workbench. However, I have been using a tool called AquaData Studio which is a java-based (multi-platform) database management/development tool that interfaces with just about every database out there. It's not free, but for my work, it was well worth it.

Comment: Re:A red state raising taxes!!??!!!??? (Score 1) 274

by josecanuc (#39831107) Attached to: Amazon To Pay Texas Sales Tax

But isn't one of the primary goals of the "Fair"Tax to be more fair, where fairness here is defined to treat all equally regardless of status/race/etc? There necessarily has to be some shift in how much each group pays, since right now it's not "fair".

It's an appealing idea -- equal justice under the law translated to taxing. But if you believe a progressive taxing system is better, then of course you will think poorly of FairTax.

Comment: Re:Simple solution (Score 1) 730

by josecanuc (#36155878) Attached to: Can Computers Be Used To Optimize the US Tax Code?

Abuse of tax deductions is a serious matter. However, it doesn't address the claim that 75% of homeowners would go bankrupt if the mortgage interest deduction were eliminated, and certainly someone with a $2M home should not go bankrupt by having to pay $25K more.

On a related note: I do think there are many misconceptions about tax breaks, especially the mortgage interest deduction. I think many folks mentally omit the "interest" part and think that you are deducting everything you pay on your mortgage, rather than the interest. As low as the IRS' audit rate is, I wonder how many people *do* deduct their entire house payment and get away with it...

Comment: Re:Simple solution (Score 1) 730

by josecanuc (#36151452) Attached to: Can Computers Be Used To Optimize the US Tax Code?

That said, in the interest of kindness (which is different from "fairness"), I probably wouldn't object to a tax break for people whom taxes would bring below a "living wage" or something like that.

It is unfortunate that the folks who make such decisions about what a living wage is, or who is or is not currently making it will tend to select the group who needs the tax break to be just large enough to get themselves re-elected...

Comment: Re:Simple solution (Score 1) 730

by josecanuc (#36151410) Attached to: Can Computers Be Used To Optimize the US Tax Code?

How much does the mortgage interest deduction really save people? Using one of the various mortgage calculators out there, I stuck in a $200,000 loan at 5% for 30 years. In the first year, the interest is about $10,000. So you would get to deduct that from your gross income, and do the other things to get your taxable income. If your tax rate is 25% (Seems reasonable for a $200k home), you save $2,500.

Does $2,500 "more" taxes in a year bankrupt so many people? And that's the most that a person with a $200,000 home would change. Each year after that, less interest is paid.

If I'm going to go bankrupt over $210/month, I bet I can cancel cable TV and go with a pre-pay phone, etc. to avoid going bankrupt. If that won't save me, then it wasn't the mortgage interest deduction that was the savior.

Comment: Re:Offshore wind farms (Score 1) 252

by josecanuc (#32604930) Attached to: US Dept. of Energy Wants Bigger Wind Energy Ideas

The U.S. really doesn't import much coal from the Middle East. Coal is what powers most electric-generation plants in the U.S.

I agree, though, that it's good to reduce our energy sources based on fossil fuels. The U.S. really needs to greatly beef up it's electrical transmission and distribution system, then (or concurrently) can move toward a larger base of 100% electric automobiles.

Also at issue is that transferring large amounts of electricity over long distances causes a relatively significant loss of energy through resistance (and similar losses through inductive loading) of the transmission lines themselves. The idea that we can just stick a bunch of generation out in the windy areas where "no one" lives and haul it all over the country isn't as good as somehow trying to generate it closer to where it's consumed, to reduce transmission losses.

I mean, part of being eco-friendly, or green, or whatever the term is today, is not just alternative sources, but a reduction in use and increase in efficiency.

You're going to have transportation losses with any energy source (petrol/diesel gets pumped through non-frictionless pipes or carried in trucks that consume petrol/diesel; resistive/inductive losses with electricity, regardless of whether nuclearl, wind, coal, etc.)

I know N.I.M.B.Y. is a strong force against having electrical generation geographically closer to consumption, but wouldn't that be cheaper in the long run than installing and maintaining aluminum cables (with losses) or superconducting cables (with not as much loss, but higher costs in manufacturing and maintenance)? At some point, it's up to the individual person in the U.S. to decide whether the future will be better or worse than current and take a role in the local community to attempt to do the right thing for the good of that community.

Comment: Re:Well for starters (Score 1) 517

by josecanuc (#32405934) Attached to: IRS Wants a Cut of Sales On eBay and Craigslist

If you are truthful, accurate, and timely, you shouldn't run into trouble.

I won't say I have run into trouble.... But the IRS clearly stacks the deck in their favor in their policies. I filed my return well before April 15 this year, as usual, just because I like to get it done as soon as I have all of the information required to finish. The return indicated a sizeable refund. A week after I finished, I received a 1099-MISC form from a part-time employer that I had forgotten about. I wanted to make sure the IRS had the correct information, so I promptly filled out an amended return, included a check for the additional tax owed by this additional income, and sent it off to them. They cashed the check within 4 days.

Later, when I checked on my return's status online, I found there was some delay, so I called. They apparently got "confused" because I sent money when they owed me a refund, so they put the entire refund on "hold" and could not release it until they figured it out. So apparently what happened is the pile up all the amended returns (1040-X) and sit on them until they're done with the regular returns (makes sense). From the perspective of their computer system, I had sent a check, but no 1040-X form since it was not yet processed.

Because of this inconsistency (and they understand what happened), they "cannot release" my refund until the 1040-X is processed, which "may take up to 16 weeks".

When you owe the IRS money (past the due date), they charge interest. When they owe you money, they don't pay interest. I tried to be timely and it's ending up crimping my plans for increasing the energy efficiency of my home. When you call the IRS, there is no "supervisor" or manager you can request to speak to when one of the minions doesn't give the answer. They are the end of the line (until you get a lawyer, then you're losing money in the long run) and they don't care about doing the right thing, except when the right thing is to get more taxes or hold onto money longer.

Comment: Re:Depends on who you cater to (Score 2, Interesting) 512

by josecanuc (#31084532) Attached to: Is Internet Explorer 6/7 Support Required Now?

I work with web applications that cater to technical academics (engineering professors and graduate students). One of my apps uses a relatively simple CSS layout that just happens to hide a big block of entry fields when viewed in IE6. I didn't think it would cause a problem, but it causes me to get so many emails from grad students in China who notice the problem.

I thought I would take care of it by putting up a blocking notice for IE6 users that says something like "IE 6 is not supported, please use a different web browser such as IE 7, IE 8, Safari, Firefox, or Opera".

But it just changed the question from the IE 6 users -> "The page says IE 6 isn't supported, what do I do?"

When I helpfully explain by repeating the note in the warning, some do try another browser with success and report back, others say they cannot.

Chinese Slashdotters: Is IE 6 mandated in some Universities?

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