Taxes 
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comments

What Law Requires Us To Pay Taxes?

1040 Tax FormsHardly a week goes by when someone doesn’t discover my page on IRS tax brackets and leaves a comment about how there is no law requiring us to pay income taxes. Every once and a while, you hear a story about someone refusing to pay their taxes and getting locked up and penalized for it. Case in point, just last month a couple in New York were convicted, between them, of seven felony counts (5 counts of tax evasion and 2 counts of conspiring to defraud the government).

You are legally required to pay income tax. To argue otherwise is at best a political statement (which I think is fine, it’s our First Amendment right) and at worst a one way trip to the slammer.

Want to know which law requires it? Read on.

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 Business 
27
comments

Incorporating Your Business: Sole Proprietorship, LLC, or Corporation

When I started blogging, my “business” was a sole proprietorship. As I began to earn a little more income, I decided to move from a sole proprietorship to a limited liability corporation, an LLC, to reduce my personal liability. As the years passed and business grew, I ultimately converted to a S Corporation for tax purposes. At each step of the way, I analyzed whether going from one business entity to another made sense from a financial and a legal standpoint. You have to weigh all these factors before you decide whether filing the paperwork is worth it.

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 Government 
82
comments

How to Get Out of Jury Duty (Legally)

Summons for Jury DutyOne of my friends has been asked to be on a jury multiple times in the last few years (I don’t know the exact details) and was wondering how she could potentially be legitimately excused. Turns out, it’s not as difficult as it sounds (neither is fulfilling your duty, as most people don’t get selected for juries).

Rule #1: Never lie. Don’t be a fool, the odds say you’ll just have to sit in a room and waste a day watching news, don’t make things worse by lying. Plus, most places will let you bring a computer into that waiting room so bring one or a book or something semi-productive to do instead of watch TV. It’s not that bad, plus you get lunch.

So, still want out?

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 Shopping 
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Airborne Settlement Increased to $30M

Airborne In A Coffee CupEarlier this year, I wrote about the details of the Airborne Settlement and how you could claim your Airborne settlement refund. Airborne agreed to settle a complaint with the FTC of false advertising because their nasty orange mixture doesn’t actually prevent colds. The original settlement was for $23.5M and the FTC recently added $6.5M to the original figure to bring it to $30M (this is all subject to approval by a federal court in California).

If you purchased an Airborne product between May 2001 and November 2007, you qualify to participate in this settlement. You can get a refund for as many items as you can prove you bought in that time period (purchase receipts) plus six. If you have no receipts, you can claim six without any proof of purchase. If you have receipts for 2 items, you can claim eight. This means that a lot of people can claim six products purchased without any proof and so you probably will just get a microscopic percentage of the $30M settlement (at least it’s $6.5M higher!).

The deadline to submit is 15 September 2008. If you opt to mail it in, it must be postmarked by September 15th.

Resources:

(photo: fredosan)


 Retirement, Reviews 
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Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit Review

Suze Orman Will & Trust KitIt’s not easy thinking about Wills because doing so forces you to confront your mortality and that one day you will die. However, if you do not take care of this very important piece of business, the State will take care of it for you. In every state there are rules that dictate what will happen to your assets in the event of your death. Unfortunately, they may not match what you’d choose to do with it (chances are they don’t). Creating a Will is one of the most important and significant actions you can do for your finances and shouldn’t be put off. The preparation of Wills is big business too and can cost quite a large sum in lawyer fees, but there’s a way to significantly cut your costs – Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit.

My tentative plan is to create a Will with Suze Orman’s system and then get it reviewed by a lawyer. By having at least a draft, you save a ton of money on the hours that would’ve been spent preparing it. What makes this even better is that the kit is free for a limited time (meaning I have no idea how long it’ll last).

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 Cars 
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States with Hands Free Laws

California recently joined the states that make it illegal for you to drive and use a cell phone without a hands-free set, which led me to wonder what other states also make it illegal for you to use a cell phone without a hands-free device. The states that currently have universal handheld bans include: California, Connecticut, Washington DC, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Of that list, five prohibit their use state-wide while the others prohibit it in certain areas. Chances are, unless you live there, you’ll be driving into and out of various areas so you might as well treat those states as state-wide rather than jurisdiction specific. (Text messaging itself is also prohibited in four states so far: Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington.)

I’ve colored the states with hands-free bans in red, states with local/regional hands-free bans (not state-wide) in orange, in the map below:
USA Map Cell Phone Ban

One important bit of advice is that they are all primary enforcement – meaning a police officer can stop you for this offense alone. If they see you on your cell phone without a hands free set, you can get pulled over. (the only exception is Washington state)

I suspect that more and more states will begin instituting hands-free laws since they’ve been shown to reduce accidents, something we can all agree is a good thing. Also, NPR reported that in the first year of the NY ban, they were able to collected $27M in fines. I’m sure the bean counters in City Hall were pleased, it’s a good way to raise a little revenue.

Teen/Novice Driver Cell Phone Ban

There are also states that prohibit novice drivers, such as teenagers and those with learners permits, from using cell phones at all. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association but the artistic map was all me. :)


 Cars 
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Maryland’s Lemon Car Laws Explained

One of my friends had a car that she loved but had to bring into the shop every three or four months, like clockwork, for one problem or another. This wasn’t some car she bought used on Ebay or some shady car dealership, this was a brand spanking new vehicle. I won’t slander the manufacturer by saying who made it but suffice it to say, the brothers on CarTalk have complained frequently about it’s expensive ball joints. So, knowing she’d been to the dealership so many times I wondered what the lemon law actually covers and what it means (in Maryland, the laws may differ for you wherever you are).

In order to qualify for protection, your car must be less than fifteen months old with less than 15,000 miles on it and either owned or leased by you and registered in Maryland. (If it’s registered elsewhere, check that state’s lemon laws) Now, this usually puts you within the manufacturer’s warranty so they should fix pretty much every problem you bring them. If they can’t, that’s when the lemon law protections come in.

First, write your dealer or car manufacturer a letter requesting the repair and send it via certified mail. If the manufacturer refuses to repair the problem with thirty days or if they do complete repairs and it “impairs the use” or “substantially reduces the market value” of the car, then you may qualify for a refund or replacement vehicle as long as the problem is from the following list:

The problem list is:

  • A brake or steering failure that was not corrected after the first repair attempt, and that causes the vehicle to fail Maryland’s safety inspection; or
  • Any one problem that substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle that was not corrected in four repair attempts; or
  • Any number of problems that substantially impair the use and market value of the vehicle that have caused it to be out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more days.

    If you qualify, you’ll want to write a complaint to the manufacturer with the following information (sending it via certified mail!):

    • List the make, model, year and VIN of your vehicle.
    • Include the name of the dealership from which your automobile was purchased and the date of purchase.
    • Describe the problem you are having.
    • Describe what you have done to address the problem and include copies of repair orders and dates of repair attempts.

    If the manufacturer can’t correct the problem you outline within 30 days, they are required to repurchase or replace your car. If they repurchase it, they must cover the full purchase price plus license fees, registration, and any other government charges and they have the option of reducing it by 15% because you got to use the vehicle and a “reasonable allowance” for damage outside normal wear and tear. if you

    If your car is a lemon and the manufacturer is unable to correct the problem within 30 days of receiving your letter, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace your vehicle. If you previously contacted the manufacturer, you will want to send a follow-up letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, outlining your problem, the steps you have taken to resolve it and what action you want taken. (See sample letter C.)

    The manufacturer can replace your vehicle with a comparable one that is acceptable to you, or buy it back, whichever you prefer. The repurchase price you are offered should cover the full purchase price including license fees, registration fees and other similar governmental charges. The manufacturer can subtract up to 15 percent of the purchase price for your use of the vehicle, and a reasonable allowance for damage not attributed to normal wear and tear. At this point, I’d contact the Consumer Protection Division to get their help. If you need more information, the Maryland AG office has more information.

    Good luck!

    This is not legal advice in anyway, I was just trying to understand the laws to help out a friend.


     Shopping 
    16
    comments

    $23.3M Airborne Refund Settlement Details & Forms

    This has ended.

    What happens when you make a product that promises to “boost your immune system” and ward off colds? You make a ton of money, if it actually boosts your immune system and wards off colds. When you make that promise and don’t actually do that, at least anymore than a sugar pill placebo, then you are called Airborne and you settle for $23.3 million for false advertising. I’ve never taken the stuff, mostly because it looks like a nasty orange mixture and because I didn’t believe it, but a lot of people did and if you are one of those people, you are entitled to a piece of the settlement.

    If you did drink the stuff, you probably didn’t do your body any harm; the mixture was just a super-shot of Vitamin C along with some other goodness that was mostly likely expelled out of your body the next time you used the bathroom. In fact, Vitamin C is water soluble and you urinate out anything more than 100% the daily recommended value (so the extra 230948203483209% is pretty much useless). If you do feel a cold coming on, taking Vitamin C is not a bad idea but taking 2309428304923% will not help anymore than 100%. (Some other vitamins such as A, are fat soluble and thus not expelled in urine, and you can certainly overdose on those so be very careful!)

    Anyway, if you bought an Airborne product between 01 May 2001 and 29 November 2007, then you qualify to file a claim against the settlement. If you have proofs of purchase (unlikely unless you are a serious receipt filer) then you can get a refund for everything you bought and stuff have a proof of purchase for. Otherwise, you can claim as many as six products in addition to the ones you have proof for. So, if you have a receipt for three boxes then you can make a claim for as many as nine (3 proofs plus 6 undocumented items). The only downside is that everyone and their mother is likely to make a claim since you can claim up to 6 items without proof, whether you bought it or not, so you will only get your piece after the $23.3MM has been divvied up.

    The deadline to submit is 15 September 2008. If you opt to mail it in, it must be postmarked by September 15th.

    Resources:


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