After years of breakfast meetings with small turnouts, the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce decided to do something different.
So on Thursday, the organization held its first ever lunch meeting at the English Pub in Ravenna.
"All I can say is, 'Wow,'" said Bruce Kirby, president of the chamber, looking at the 44 people crowded into a meeting room at the pub. "We'd been doing the network coffee events, and we'll still do that, but we decided to try a lunch to see if the time frame fits better. I think we know the answer to that."
Deborah Petrone, a certified public accountant with Schlabig Certified Public Accountants, gave an "overview" of the American Tax Relief Act, which was passed in January.
"Accountants aren't boring, we just find boring things exciting," she said, explaining the 70 pages of the 200-page legislation that deal with taxes. The rest, she said, address things like Medicare and unemployment.
The law has new parameters for estate tax, making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Estate gifts are not taxed unless they exceed $5 million, she said.
Several tax credits were restored for 2013, including credits for hiring veterans and Native Americans, and for expanding in new markets.
For individuals, the law sets a new definition for "wealthy Americans," applying tax increases only to families who make more than $450,000 or individuals who earn more than $400,000. Several tax credits were preserved, including earned income tax credit, tax credits for student loans, adoption and energy-saving home improvements, with a $500 cap. New credits were set up for electric car batteries and plug-in vehicles.
Unemployment was extended a year, and the "dairy cliff" was averted.
Petrone said "quite a few" people have their income tax forms piling up on her desk because they cannot be filed yet, particularly those with estimated tax and investment income.
The Ravenna Parks and Recreation Department sponsored the lunch, and gave a free month's membership to the Ravenna Athletic Center. Elaine VanHoose, the city's parks and recreation director, said the RAC is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Leslee Keegan of the Ravenna Fit Chicks said the group is looking for children ages 12 to 15 who are willing to train for a two-mile run. The participants get free training each Saturday, a pair of shoes and two pairs of socks.
"We're just trying to get people in the town moving," she said.
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