Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rules for 'Head of Household' Get Stricter

AccountingWEB.com - Jan-23-2006 - Claiming a dependent child on a federal income tax form may sound like a straightforward matter, but some taxpayers have been bumping up against confusing definitions for years.

Congress, last year, brought together the five different definitions of the term “dependent child,” tightening the rules and making it simpler to determine whether to file taxes as the head of household.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Deadline Nears for Abusive Transaction Settlement

AccountingWEB.com - Jan-19-2006 - The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last week that taxpayers have until January 23, 2006 to file an election form to take part in the global settlement program for 21 specified transactions, and there will be no deadline extension. Interest on tax due as part of this settlement has been exempted from the interest calculation rules changes for abusive tax shelters passed by Congress in the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005.

The new Act provides that interest on additional taxes involving abusive tax shelter transactions will now start with the filing of the tax return and continue until the time the taxes are settled and paid. Previously, interest was suspended for the period beginning 18 months after the filing, until October 3, 2004. Taxpayers who chose to close out a transaction as part of the settlement initiative will be exempt, on a one-time only basis, from the additional interest.

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Deadline Nears for Abusive Transaction Settlement

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Combating Corporate Fraud

AccountingWEB.com - Jan-13-2006 - The number of companies around the world that reported incidents of fraud increased 22 percent in the last two years, according to the 2005 biennial survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which interviewed more than 3,000 corporate officers in 34 countries. In England, a recent Ernst & Young survey of the Times Top 1000 indicated the average cost of each fraud exceeded $200,000.

But fraud is not the only problem. There's also misconduct, unethical behavior, lying, falsification of records, sexual harassment, and drug and alcohol abuse.

PwC found that “accidental” ways of detecting fraud, such as calls to hotlines or tips from whistleblowers, accounted for more than a third of the cases. Internal audits were responsible for detecting fraud about 26 percent of the time.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Dealing with Unruly Neighbors

Question: For the last few years, a neighbor's teenage son has stolen, vandalized and beat up other kids in the neighborhood. When his father is at work, their home is the hangout for all of the drug addicts. The police have taken the boy to juvenile hall on several occasions and the boy only laughs at the situation. The local police had told us about another alternative, a civil lawsuit for ''Peaceful Enjoyment of Your Property''. There are several neighbors that have been impacted by this and we want to know what we can do. Our thought is that if we punish the father with punitive measures, maybe he might wake up and take an active roll with his son, versus keeping a deaf ear to us and the police.

Answer: You should continue to report any illegal conduct to the police or other appropriate authorities. If the police are not being aggressive enough, you can always contact your local city into your own hands, you have two basic options for filing a civil action.

The police are referring to a lawsuit for "abatement of a nuisance". A nuisance is anything "which is injurious to health, including, but notlimited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use ofproperty, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life"

The situation you describe is a "nuisance" under California Civil Code § 3479. Under Civil Code § 3501, any private party impacted by the nuisance can sue for money damages and for a court order prohibiting the offensive conduct. Intentional violations of court orders are punishable by up to 5 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine. In a civil lawsuit, private parties can act as a prosecutor and file contempt of court charges without the assistance of the government. Attorney's fees are recoverable from the defendant for a successful prosecution of a civil contempt matter.

If you or your neighbors do not have the resources to hire an attorney for a civil action, many local law enforcement agencies have a program called Safe Streets Now. Neighbors discreetly monitor a property, keeping logs of possible illegal activity. When enough evidence has been gathered, neighbors send a demand letter to the property owners asking them to clean up the property and evict the problem tenants.

If the property owners fail to comply or fail to resolve the problems, the people go to small claims court and argue that the owners are maintaining a public nuisance by allowing illegal activity to occur on their property.

Under the rules of small claims court, each neighbor on the claim is eligible for up to $7,500 in damages. The judge has no power to close down a home, but the threat of huge financial penalties often compels the owners to step in and take care of the problems. Police and community groups have used the Safe Streets Now program all over the country to combat illegal drug activity and other community.

Please contact us if you need further assistance.

About the Author
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Federal Trade Commission - The Do Not Call Registry

The National Do Not Call Registry is open for business, putting consumers in charge of the telemarketing calls they get at home. The Federal government created the national registry to make it easier and more efficient for you to stop getting telemarketing calls you don’t want. You can register online at https://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx or call toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236), from the number you wish to register. Registration is free.

2005 Tax Changes Affecting Electric & Clean-Fuel Vehicles

AccountingWEB.com - Jan-4-2006 - Taxpayers who put a qualified electric or clean-fuel vehicle into service during 2005 can claim the maximum electric vehicle credit and/or the maximum clean-fuel vehicle deduction, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Other clean-fuel property placed into service this year may also be eligible to take the maximum deductions.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Removing Old Debt From a Credit Report

Questions: How can we personally remove unpaid debt from our credit reports that have exceeded the 4-year statute of limitation in California? Credit card debt and utility bills are of the types of debt I am concerned with.

Answer: There really is not a way to legally compel a creditor to remove a debt from your credit report even if it is barred by the statute of limitations. In California, most credit card debt is subject to a 4-year statute of limitation. This establishes the creditor's time limit to file a lawsuit to collect the money owed. Even without filing a lawsuit, federal law allows most negative credit information to remain on your credit report for up to 7 years.

Although you cannot force the complete removal of information regarding debt that is time-barred, you do have the right to challenge the entry and offer an explanation that might help improve your credit rating. Once a year, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report and then challenge or explain inaccurate or misleading information. Click here to read an informative article on disputing a negative credit history.

This publication is NOT INTENDED TO SERVE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. Please consult with a licensed attorney if you require legal advice.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II, has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.