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Archive for September, 2013

Joblessness still hangs over economy

September 30th, 2013

unemployment

Unemployment under President Barack Obama has remained high for the longest period since the Great Depression. Despite a slowly improving job market, the millions of Americans without jobs underscore weakness in the recovery, drag down consumer spending and still roil the nation’s politics.
Wall Street has had its jitters but the stock market remains high, consumer confidence has improved and the housing market is making a solid comeback.
Yet, while economic conditions change, much remains the same.
Unemployment has dropped from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. It also is the last consequence of a recession to show improvement in a recovery. But the jobless rate has remained at or above 7.5 percent for 53 months, a period that has left an unusually large number of people out of the work force for so long that some of them will likely never work again. Nearly 12 million people are searching for work and millions more are underemployed in involuntary part-time jobs.
The rate will take time to bring down, adding pressure on the economy and creating political problems for Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. Moreover, experts say the rate could plateau at a higher level than the 4.7 percent unemployment in place before the recession hit in 2008.
now hiring The Federal Reserve last month issued an optimistic forecast that the jobless rate would drop to between 6.5 and 6.8 percent by the fourth quarter of next year. But the Fed has been overly optimistic before; in 2009 it projected unemployment would hit between 6.7 and 7.5 at the end of 2011. Instead, it remained at 9 percent for most of the year before dropping to 8.5 percent. It has also had to revise other subsequent projections upward.
Likewise, some forecasts have been too pessimistic. The non-partisan Congressional budget Office projected in February 2012 that unemployment would remain about 8 percent until 2014.
“I think the forecast that makes most sense to me right now is the unemployment rate ticking down very slowly, something like a tenth of a percent every few months for the next year or so,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.
Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said he finds it hard to imagine unemployment getting as low as the Fed predicts because incomes are not growing, thus constraining consumer spending.
Bernstein believes the Obama administration and Congress should embrace a policy of full employment, which means anyone who wants to work should be able to find a job and that the government should step in if the private sector can meet the demand. That doesn’t mean zero unemployment. Even a humming economy has a level of joblessness—there are always workers leaving or quitting jobs without lining up new ones, and the mismatch between jobs and skills means many workers inevitable are displaced by technology.
Form 1999-2007, the Congressional Budget Office defined full employment as a jobless rate of 5 percent. Citing the difficulty the long-term unemployed face finding jobs due to the recession, the CBO now defines full employment as 5.5 percent.
At the White House, officials are continuing to press proposals that have found little support in Congress, particularly among Republicans who control the House of Representatives. Administration officials also point out that there have been 37 straight months of job growth, with nearly 7 million jobs created and argue that the budget pinch created by this year’s automatic spending cuts are hurting job creation.
Jason Furman, a veteran White House economist nominated to be chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told a Senate committee that government could accelerate job growth by increasing spending in public works projects and tax credits to help small business expand payrolls—both proposals that Obama has been making for two years. Furman also said that over the medium and long term the federal government should also make social programs for the poor and elderly more efficient and change the nation’s tax code. But each of these would require a massive—and unlikely—effort in Congress.
Republicans, unwilling to increase deficits in the short term, say Obama’s health care law and a slew of proposed and existing regulations have increased uncertainty in the private sector and contributed to low job growth. They have pushed Obama to liberalize oil and gas exploration and to build an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico as ways of increasing employment. need work
A Pew Research Center poll conducted last month found 44 percent approve of his handling in the economy, 50 percent disapprove. The public is divided on whether his administration’s policies have improved economic conditions, with 35 percent saying they made things better, 35 percent worse and 27 percent saying they’ve had no effect on the economy.
“All this leads people to hold two opinions simultaneously: ‘It looks like things are getting a little better, but it still sucks for me,’” said Wes Anderson, a Republican pollster who has advised the House and Senate wings of the Republican Party.
“Obama owns the economy,” Anderson said. “He owns; he wears it.”

By Jim Kuhnhenn.

Courtesy of The Legal Record.
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Debtors 1 – Creditors 0

September 25th, 2013

NACBA

With persistence and determination, Ohio NACBA members were successful in persuading the republican controlled, Ohio legislature to raise the homestead exemption by over $100,000,00. Since then, trustees in Ohio have battled against the debtor’s use of the new exemption. The case of In re Depascale, No. 13-40768 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio Aug. 8, 2013), was one such battle. There, the court addressed the issue of whether Substitute House Bill No. 479 (HB 479) (eff. March 27, 2013), which raised Ohio’s homestead exemption from approximately $23,000.00 to $132,900.00, applies to a debtor whose bankruptcy petition was filed after the amendment took effect but whose debt was incurred prior to the effective date.  The issue came before the court on the debtor’s motion to avoid two judicial liens pursuant to section 522(f)(1)(A) on the basis that they impaired his homestead exemption. One of the lienholders, Landmark, objected to the avoidance arguing that the debtor was entitled only to a $23,000.00 homestead exemption because that was the statutory exemption amount in effect under Ohio Revised Code§ 2329.66 at the time it filed its lien. Under this earlier exemption amount, the lien would be only partially avoidable. The issue turned on whether the lien impaired the debtor’s exemption under section 522(f)(1)(A) and, therefore, required a finding as to the amount of the exemption.

The court began its analysis noting that, like the previous legislation to amend O.R. C. § 2329.66, HB 479 changed only the exemption amount. The court then looked at how the issue was treated under the previous amendments, finding that courts uniformly applied the exemption amount as of the petition date. See, e.g., Simon v. Citimortgage, Inc. (In re Doubov), 423 B.R. 505, 514 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2010) (“The homestead exemption is determined as of the date on which the debtors filed their petition.”); In re Jaber, 406 B.R. 756, 762 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2009); In re Pier, 310 B.R. 347, 354 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2004) (“[T]he terms of § 522 provide that the petition date establishes whether a debtor is entitled to an exemption[.]”); In re Lude, 291 B.R. 109, 110 (Bankr. S.D. Ohio 2003). Pursuant to well-established rules of statutory construction, the Ohio legislature, operating against this historic treatment of exemption amendments, may be presumed to have intended the same treatment.
This finding harmonizes both federal and state law in that section 522 explicitly provides that property exemptions for opt-out states are determined by the state law applicable “on the date of the filing of the petition,” 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(A), and O.R.C. § 2329.66(D)(1) likewise states that a debtor’s interest in property is determined as of the date a petition is filed with the bankruptcy court.

The court was not persuaded by the creditor’s reference to legislative language accompanying HB 479 that: “The amendments made by this act to sections 2329.66 and 2329.661 of the Revised Code shall apply to claims accruing on or after the effective date of this act. . . . This act is not intended to impair any secured or unsecured creditors’ claims that accrue prior to the effective date of this act.”  The court found this language was contradicted by the express language of the Ohio exemption statute, and was, in any case, “internally nonsensical and unworkable.”  Please work with you State Chair if you’d like to pursue homestead exemption increases in your state.

Courtesy of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
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Correction Deeds Discussed

September 23rd, 2013

Owner quitclaimed property to successor, filed plat, then recorded deed, and continued to convey interests in property. Statutes provides for correction deeds to cure defects in earlier instrument unless void. Statutes also provide for deeds’ admission into evidence, so circuit court did not err in overruling hearsay objection. Rule provides execution discovery against judgment debtor developers, but discovery sought information about assets of buyers, so circuit court did not err in striking discovery. Law of the case and judicial estoppels bind claimant to result sought in earlier actions. Appeal cuts off all jurisdiction over a final judgment, except ministerial functions and vests judicial jurisdiction in the appellate court, but circuit court retains jurisdiction over partial judgment as to portions not certified for appeal.

Missouri Land Development, LLC, Appellant, vs. Raleigh Development, LLC, et. al., Respondents.

Courtesy of the Supreme Court of Missouri-Opinions.
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No Confusion Over Drug Policy Shown

September 20th, 2013

Claimant stated that he understood employer’s manual, which described random drug tests, but refused drug test. Those facts show misconduct. Claimant’s later allegation, that he feared a false positive from prescription medication, was no defense because he did not raise it to employer.

Martin Zych, Appellant, v. Wilson Waste Systems, LLC and Division of Employment Security, Respondents.

Courtesy of the Supreme Court of Missouri-Opinions.
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Interest Rates Remain the Same for the Fourth Quarter of 2013

September 19th, 2013

interestrate

The Internal Revenue Service today announced that interest rates will remain the same for the calendar quarter beginning Oct. 1, 2013. The rates will be:

  • three (3) percent for overpayments [two (2) percent in the case of a corporation];
  • three (3) percent for underpayments;
  • five (5) percent for large corporate underpayments; and
  • one-half (0.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, the rate of interest is determined on a quarterly basis. For taxpayers other than corporations, the overpayment and underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points.

Generally, in the case of a corporation, the underpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percentage points and the overpayment rate is the federal short-term rate plus 2 percentage points. The rate for large corporate underpayments is the federal short-term rate plus 5 percentage points. The rate on the portion of a corporate overpayment of tax exceeding $10,000 for a taxable period is the federal short-term rate plus one-half (0.5) of a percentage point.

The interest rates announced today are computed from the federal short-term rate determined during July 2013 to take effect Aug. 1, 2013, based on daily compounding.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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No Default, No Set-Aside

September 18th, 2013

Answer filed timely, under extension granted by circuit court, barred default judgment and renders inapplicable rule on setting aside default judgment. Recusal of judge moots allegations of ex parte contracts.

Craig P. Kiser, Respondent, v. William Wideman, Sr., James C. Wideman, and Paradise Fiberglass Pools, LLC.

Courtesy of The Supreme Court of Missouri-Opinions.
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IRS Provides Tax Relief to Victims of Colorado Storms

September 17th, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service is providing tax relief to individual and business taxpayers impacted by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides in Colorado.

The IRS announced today that certain taxpayers in the counties of Adams, Boulder, Larimer and Weld will receive tax relief, and other locations may be added in coming days following additional damage assessments by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The tax relief postpones certain tax filing and payment deadlines to Dec. 2, 2013. It includes corporations and businesses that previously obtained an extension until Sept. 16, 2013, to file their 2012 returns and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 15. It also includes the estimated tax payment for the third quarter of 2013, which would normally be due Sept. 16.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Practitioners located in the covered disaster area who maintain records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline for multiple taxpayers outside the disaster area may contact the IRS to identify such clients using the procedures described on the IRS website.

Full details, including information on how to claim a disaster loss by amending a prior-year tax return, can be found in IRS.gov. The IRS encourages taxpayers and tax practitioners to monitor the Tax Relief in Disaster Situations in IRS.gov for updates.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Tips for Taxpayers, Victims about Identity Theft and Tax Returns

September 12th, 2013

identity theft

The Internal Revenue Service is taking additional steps during the 2013 tax season to protect taxpayers and help victims of identity theft and refund fraud.

Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the tax agency. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. The IRS has more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases – more than twice the level of a year ago. We have trained more than 35,000 employees who work with taxpayers to recognize and provide assistance when identity theft occurs.

Taxpayers can encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One instance is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen. Innocent taxpayers are victimized because their refunds are delayed.

Here are some tips to protect you from becoming a victim, and steps to take if you think someone may have filed a tax return using your name:

Tips to protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on it.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
  • Protect your financial information.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 (Mon. – Fri., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time; Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft

Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:

  • More than one tax return for you was filed;
  • You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return;
  • IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned or
  • Your state or federal benefits were reduced or cancelled because the agency received information reporting an income change.

If you receive a notice from IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.

If you did not receive a notice but believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245 right away so we can take steps to secure your tax account and match your SSN or ITIN.

Also, fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Please write legibly and follow the directions on the back of the form that relate to your specific circumstances.

In addition, we recommend you take additional steps with agencies outside the IRS:

  • Report incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261.
  • File a report with the local police.
  • Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus:
  • Equifax – www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285
  • Experian – www.experian.com, 888-397-3742
  • TransUnion – www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

More information:

Help if you have reported an identity theft case to the IRS and are waiting for your federal tax refund

The IRS is working to speed up and further streamline identity theft case resolution to help innocent taxpayers.

The IRS more than doubled the level of employees dedicated to working identity theft cases between 2011 and 2012.  As the IRS enters the 2013 filing season, we now have more than 3,000 employees working identity theft issues. Despite these efforts, the IRS continues to see a growing number of identity theft cases.

These are extremely complex cases to resolve, frequently touching on multiple issues and multiple tax years. Cases of resolving identity can be complicated by the thieves themselves calling in. Due to the complexity of the situation, this is a time-consuming process. Taxpayers are likely to see their refunds delayed for an extended period of time while we take the necessary actions to resolve the matter. A typical case can take about 180 days to resolve, and the IRS is working to reduce that time period.

While the identity theft cases are being worked, the IRS also reminds victims that they need to continue to file their tax returns during this period.

For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution to their case, they can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free, at 800-908-4490. If victims can’t get their issue resolved and are experiencing financial difficulties, contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service toll-free at 877-777-4778.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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Dismissal Without Prejudice

September 10th, 2013

Courtroom Gavel

Elements of both res judicata and collateral estoppel include a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action. That does not include “a docket entry [that] was not denominated as a judgment, and the court’s dismissal order [that] did not state that the dismissal was with prejudice.” But notice of another action on the same claims was sufficient for the circuit court to dismiss without prejudice.
John Allen & Michelle Allen, v. Titan Propane, LLC & Wilma Cook

Courtesy of The Supreme Court of Missouri-Opinions.

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Modification Affirmed

September 9th, 2013

Statutes provide that circuit court may consider modification of custody on facts constituting substantial and continuing change of circumstances after previous decree, or unknown at previous ruling, and res judicata is no bar to facts not already litigated. Such circumstances included one parent’s systematic exclusion of other parent from children’s lives and breach of duties to circuit court. Ruling, related to academic year already past, is moot. Designation of one parent for mailing and education had support in record of other parent’s history of placing own interests over child’s. A party’s “improper behavior” and “actions [requiring] unnecessary and additional attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses” support attorney fees award.
James Hermann, Respondent v. Tara Heskett, Appellant.

Courtesy of The Supreme Court of Missouri-Opinions.

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