Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ambiguous Tax Questions for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXVII

1040EZ form
We occasionally check over our list of favorite contributors, and we noticed that it had been almost a year since the last time we trotted out one of our more prolific nominees. He's an guy named Tom Lutzenberger, who spread his peculiar form of misinformation across a wide variety of categories during his time at eHow. Whether it's plumbing, mining, the oil industry, or HVAC; Tom's there to muddy the infowaters. Given that the guy has an MBA, though, you'd think that he'd get the answer to "When Can You Start Filing Taxes?"  right for PocketSense.com... you'd be wrong.

We'll give Tommy this: he did a workmanlike job of explaining that you can't file your Form 1040EZ until after you receive any and all relevant W-2 and 1099 forms. he also mentioned that those must be sent out "before" January 31 (yeah, right...). So what's not to like?

Well, we think Lutzenberger was suffering from a form of tunnel vision: he read the question as "what's the earliest I can file my tax return to get my refund?" That is not, however, the way the question is worded. It's just as likely – perhaps even more likely – that the OQ wanted to know if his five-year-old had to file taxes after earning big bucks as a TV star. Don't laugh: we're pretty sure the Olson Twins had to pay taxes during the run of "Full House," in which they first appeared at the age of one. So Tom's rather oddly-worded statement,
"Because the tax year for most taxpayers matches the calendar year, the earliest filing date must be after the related tax year ends..."
...may have been technically correct, but off-topic.

At the very least, we think Lutzenberger's advice should have mentioned that very young people have to pay taxes on earned income once they've exceeded the value of their standard deduction (for 2018, that's $1050). If a child has unearned income, there's also a threshhold value. Suffice it to say that, like most tax questions, a bit of calculation is involved in determining whether a minor child owes income taxes. Ask the IRS for Publication 929 for help.

You'd think that, instead of padding his "answer" with all manner of fluff, Lutzenberger could have addressed both questions in his PoketSense answer. That, however, was never the eHow way: it was always full speed ahead on whatever narrow focus the freelancer's little mind seized upon. But never mind, that's why so many of our Dumbass of the Day winners, like Tom, come from the site.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Chandeliers for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXVI

end-of-run switch wiring
As is so often the case, today's DotD nominee stuck her foot in her metaphorical mouth so blatantly that one of our staffers was able to spot her incompetence in her chosen "how-to" task immediately. Given that the article "How to Wire a Chandelier" at HomeSteady.com is 402 words long (it has to be at least 300 to meet Demand Media's minimum word count), the presence of a sentence of amazing stupidity near the very middle shouldn't stand out... but Laura Hageman somehow made sure it did!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Plumbing Supplies for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXV

the parts of a toilet
On the reference shelf of the Antisocial Network headquarters library you can find a copy of an interesting reference work, "The McMillan Visual Dictionary." Instead of long, wordy discussions of hundreds of everyday items, this dictionary includes thousands of labelled drawings. Some show the different parts of an item; such as the parts of a single-hung window; while others show varieties of an object, such as the many different types of shoes. Something like this must be how Elizabeth Punke "researched" her Homesteady.com post, "How to Identify Plumbing Parts."

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mortise Lock Conversion, the Dummy Version - The Freelance Files MCCLXIV

hole for a mortise lock
Note lip on body of mortise lock
Although the vast majority of our DotD candidates claim to be "professional writers" or bloggers (at least the ones from eHow), some also allow as to having other careers. Take today's nominee, returning eHowian Mark Morris, Although a professional writer (of course) and a "college perfesser," Morris also claims fifteen years as a carpenter. If all his carpentry work is as clueless as his instructions for "How to Convert Mortise Locks" (a Hunker.com presentation), some houses in Oklahoma are probably falling apart...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Pet Doors for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXIII

homemade pet door
If there's one form of so-called freelance online "how-to" posts that tends to give our research staffers hives, it's the bait-and-switch job. To some extent we can understand it when a freelancer doesn't know enough to write instructions – understand it, but not forgive it. But when someone who claims relevant expertise pulls this trick, it definitely puts the BS in Bait and Switch. That's precisely what we have on our plate for today: LoveToKnow.com contributor Amy Whittle says she going to show us "How to Build a Pet Door"... but does she?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Gas Stoves for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXII

gas supply line
What "black tube," Laura?
A friend recently had a major kitchen remodel performed on his house. The contractor who did the work flat-out refused to do the dryer and stove hookups because both were gas appliances. While that meant that our friend was faced with hiring a plumber to do the hookups or do it himself, he appreciated the honesty. He ended up doing it himself – he's pretty handy, and he's done it before. That makes him a lot different from eHowian Laura Hageman, who pretended she was similarly handy when she wrote "How to Hook Up a Gas Stove" at HomeSteady.com.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Crystal Growth for Dummies - The Freelance Files MCCLXI

Crystals in a cave
No light here, Megan...
One of the Antisocial Network staffers once spent a tortured semester as a fifth-grade teacher. We've seen her pull out those teaching tricks many a time, and one of our favorites is what she calls the reasonableness test. Take, for instance a cashier making change: if you give him a twenty for your low-fat soy-milk mochalatte and he gives back two tens in change, he should realize something isn't reasonable. The same should have applied to eHowian Megan Shoop (and her content editor) when attempting to explain "The Best Growing Conditions for Crystals" at Sciencing.com.