discovery toys blog of billie elias
Tips for parents who play with their children or who want stay-at-home income.
Toys for special need, autism, gifted and typical kids.

February 16, 2009

press release of Consumer Product Safety Commission

Release #09-120
CPSC Media Contact; (301) 504-7908 CPSC Hotline: (800) 638-2772

CPSC Spells out Enforcement Policy for New Lead Limits in Children's Products effective February 10

Washington, D.C. -- Starting on February 10, 2009 consumer products intended for children 12 and under cannot have more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part. This new safety requirement is a key component of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) aimed at further reducing children's exposure to lead.

In an effort to provide clear and reasonable guidance to those impacted by this important law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing its enforcement policy on the lead limits established by CPSIA.
Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers should also be aware that CPSC will:
  • Not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing, or selling
a children's product to the extent it is made of certain natural materials, such as wood, cotton, wool, or certain metals and alloys which the Commission has recognized rarely, if ever, contain lead;

an ordinary children's book printed after 1985; or
dyed or undyed textiles (not including leather, vinyl, or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children's apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.
(The Commission generally will not prosecute someone for making, selling or distributing items in these categories even if it turns out that such an item actually contains more than 600 ppm lead.)

  • Sellers will not be immune from prosecution if CPSC's Office of Compliance finds that someone had actual knowledge that one of these children's products contained more than 600 ppm lead or contined to make, import, distribute or sell such a product after being put on notice. Agency staff will seek recalls of violative children's products or other corrective actions, where appropriate.
  • Issue an interim final rule effective February 10, 2009 which establishes alternative lead limits for certain electronic devices, in order to prevent unnecessary removal of certain children's products from store shelves.
  • Accept a manufacturer's determination that a lead-containing part on their product is inaccessible to a child and not subject to the new lead limits, if it is consistent with the Commission's proposed guidance or is based on a reasonable reading of the inaccessibility requirement. Paint and other coatings or electroplating are not considered barriers that make a component inaccessible.

This enforcement policy will remain in effect until superseded by action of the Commission.

CPSC still expects companies to meet their reporting obligation under federal law and immediately tell the Commission if they learn of a children's product that exceeds the new lead limits starting on February 10, 2009. Companies also should know that the CPSIA generally prohibits the export for sale of children's products that exceed the new lead limits.

As announced on January 30, 2009, the Commission approved a one year stay of enforcement for certain testing and certification requirements for manufacturers and importers. Significant to makers of children's products, the 'stay' provides limited relief from the testing and certification for total lead content limits, phthalates limits for certain products and mandatory toy standards. Manufacturers and importers - large and small - of children's products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will still need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements. Certification based on testing by an accredited laboratory is still required for painted children's products and soon will be required for children's metal jewelry, as well as certain other products for non-lead issues.

February 14, 2009

Confucius say....

"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."
~ Confucius

from "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

In his currently in vogue short story, F. Scott Fitzgerald describes the "newborn" baby Benjamin's lack of interest in his toys:
[Mr. Button] passionately demanded of the clerk in the toy-store whether "the paint would come off the pink duck if the baby put it in his mouth." But, despite all his father's efforts, Benjamin refused to be interested. He would steal down the back stairs and return to the nursery with a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, over which he would pore through an afternoon, while his cotton cows and his Noah's ark were left neglected on the floor.
He would have loved Discovery Toys for their safety and open-endedness!

February 13, 2009

Practice, Practice, Practice

"It's a funny thing, the more I practice the luckier I get."
--Arnold Palmer, golf great

February 12, 2009

New Logo, New Products

In the coming months you will start to see some amazing changes at Discovery Toys.
  • The logo will be changing to "the lively child," a hip, colorful representation of anychild in motion. It suggests no specific gender or race...but rather a child eager to learn through exploration and discovery.
  • The website will be getting a new look, as well. Later this year, we anticipate a new and improved shopping cart to come online. Stay tuned.
  • Spring season to launch on March 1. Look for lots of new books and some interesting new toys.

February 05, 2009

Tax Time Deductions

April 15 is only 10 weeks away. Here are some things to consider as a home-based business owner, while gathering up last year's receipts and documents. (Note : I am not qualified to give tax advice. ALWAYS consult your own accounting professional before filing your income tax return.)

A Dozen Deductions for your Small Business
By Dana Dratch

Small-business tax rule number one: Don't mess with the IRS. But that doesn't mean you should cheat yourself. Take every legal deduction you can. Here are a dozen that even savvy small-business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes forget:
1. Home office
Concerned that claiming a home-office deduction is tantamount to sending an engraved invitation to an Internal Revenue Service auditor? Don't be, says Jan Zobel, author of Minding Her Own Business: The Self-Employed Woman's Guide to Taxes and Recordkeeping. "I don't agree that chances of getting audited are greater with a home-office deduction," says Zobel, a San Francisco Bay-area tax expert, who specializes in serving the self-employed. In her own practice, she has prepared more than 400 returns a year for the last 25 years. And while at least half of her clients claim a home-office deduction, only one home-based entrepreneur has been audited. The key here is that you use the term "home office" the same way the IRS does. The tax agency says it must be a space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else. Deducting the den that houses the family computer and serves as a guest bedroom won't fly with Uncle Sam. "If you only have one computer and you have a child over four, the IRS is going to be pretty certain that the child is using the computer," says Zobel. "And the burden of proof is on you."
The deduction, however, isn't limited to a full room. Your home office can be part of a room. Just how much of the space is deductible? Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home. That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses -- rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc.-- that you can claim.
2. Office supplies
Even if you don't take the home-office deduction, you can deduct the business supplies you buy. Hang onto those receipts, because these expenditures will offset your taxable business income.
3. Furniture
When your office supplies are more than just pens and paper, you have another tax-cutting opportunity. Office-furniture acquisitions provide a couple of choices. Deduct 100% of the cost in the year of the purchase or deduct a portion of the expense over 7 years, also known as depreciation. To take the whole cost in one tax year you'll use the Section 179 deduction (named for the part of the tax code where the law appears). But keep in mind that there is a limit on how much you can claim this way. For 2001 taxes, it was $24,000. If you choose to depreciate the desks and filing cabinets, you can't simply split the cost into equal portions over the depreciation period. Instead, you must use an IRS chart to make separate calculations each year. Which is better for you? Anticipate the times that your business will need these deductions the most. Both options are reported on IRS Form 4562.
4. Other equipment
Items such as computers, copiers, fax machines and scanners also are tax deductible. As with furniture, you can take 100% up front or depreciate (this time over 5 years).
5. Software and subscriptions
To the IRS, computer programs last for 3 years and you must depreciate the cost over that time frame. You cannot deduct the full cost of most software the year you buy it. There are some exceptions. Anti-virus software can be immediately deducted since it has such a short usage life. Ditto business and industry-related magazine subscriptions. In these cases, take the total costs as a full deduction in the year spent.
6. Mileage
If you drive for business, the IRS wants to give you some of your money back. But Uncle Sam loves documentation, so keep a notebook in your vehicle to record the date, mileage, tolls, parking costs and the purpose of your trip. At the end of the year, you have two choices. You can total the mileage, multiply by 34.5 cents per mile, and add in the tolls and parking to calculate your deduction. Or you can measure your business usage against your personal driving and deduct that portion of your auto-related expenses, says Zobel. Remember to include gas, repairs and insurance. If you are leasing, include those payments. If you are buying the car, factor in the interest on your loan and depreciation on your vehicle.
7. Travel, meals, entertainment and gifts
Good news, small-business travelers. You might as well stay in a nice hotel, because the entire cost is tax deductible. Likewise, the cost of travel -- air, rail or auto -- is 100 percent deductible, as are costs associated with life on the road (dry cleaning, rental cars and tipping the bellman). The only exception is eating out. You can deduct only 50 percent of your meals while traveling. So stay at the Ritz and eat at Wendy's. Once you get home, your on-the-job meals aren't deductible -- unless you bring along a client to talk business. In this case, you might consider splurging on a fancier meal because then you can write off half such work-related dining costs. The 50% deduction limit applies to most other client entertainment expenses, too. But a direct gift to a client or employee is 100% deductible, says Zobel, up to $25 per person per year.
8. Insurance premiums
Self-employed and paying your own health insurance premiums? This year, 60% is tax deductible, says Carter. This break primarily benefits proprietorships, but there are limits. The deduction can't be more than your business' net profit. And it's not allowed if you were eligible for other health care coverage, including that offered by your employed spouse's medical plan. You're also out of luck if you are a general partner in a partrnership, receive guaranteed payments as a limited partner or got wages from an S corporation. In these instances, you can't claim this deduction. But if you are eligible for this tax break, paying your own way medically will get easier. In 2002, notes Carter, entrepreneurs, small-business owners and the self-employed were able to deduct 70% of their medical premiums, and 100% in 2003. Don't want to wait? Carter says it's possible to fully deduct your medical premiums right now if you hire your spouse. As an employee, his or her premiums will be 100% deductible, and you and the children can be added to the policy as dependents. Two caveats: 1) Your spouse's employment must be real, not in name only, and you must offer coverage equally to any other employees. 2) Failure to meet these requirements could result in a lawsuit, an audit or both.
9. Retirement contributions
Are you self-employed and saving for your own retirement with a SEP-IRA or Keogh? Don't forget to deduct your contribution on your personal income tax return.
10. Social Security
The bad news: If you're self-employed or starting a small business, you have to pay double the Social Security contributions you would as an employee. That's because federal law requires the employer pay half and the employee pay half. Self-employed workers are both, meaning the total will equal 15.3% of your net profits. The good news: You can deduct half of the contribution on your 1040.

11. Telephone charges
You can deduct the cost of the business calls that you make for business from home. When your bill comes in, circle the business-related calls, total them up and keep a copy. At the end of the year, tally your 12 bills and deduct 100%. The IRS assumes that you will have a phone in your house anyway, so Zobel cautions that regular fees and charges don't count towards your deduction. But if you have a second line installed and use it only for business, 100% of these costs are deductible.
12. Child labor
"It's always good to employ your kids," says Carter. You can pay them up to $4,550 this year before they have to pay any additional taxes. Plus, there is no Social Security tax when you hire your child who is 17 or younger and you can deduct the salary as a business expense. Make the money go even further. Have your child contribute to a Roth IRA, says Carter. Not only have you gotten a nice tax deduction from the salary and trained your youngster to save, you've also help establish a nest egg for his or her future.

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