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Planning to Retire in Style?
Could You Lose Your Wallet or Purse?
IRS Says Small Business Exempt From COBRA
Writers Fight For E-Rights
How good is the IRS at answering tax questions? Here's some statistics from this past tax season:
Source: General Accounting Office, US Treasury Dept.
2001 Rules and Mileage Allowances
In March, the IRS increased the business mileage allowance from $ .325 to .345 per mile. The change is retroactive to January 1.
The Section 179 deduction for certain business property ( such as computers) increased from $ 20,000 to $ 24,000.
Planning to retire in style?
U.S. News & World Report, quoting Congressional Research Service, says that 55% of US workers ages 45-54 do not have a retirement account. Of those US workers with a retirement account, the average balance was only $ 57,331.
If you plan to retire in style, you better start planning and saving. The same research says that 65% of US workers are eligible for an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401k plan.
While 401k plans are a great way to save for retirement, there are some pitfalls. If you quit, get downsized, or retire from your employer, it may be better to roll the money into an IRA rather than leave it with your ex-employer.
Why?? If you die before exhausting the amount in the plan, your heirs may be hit with unexpected tax. Most company plans make payouts to heirs (other than a spouse) in a lump sum or over 5 years. They will pay income tax on the pre-tax contributions and deferred earnings at their current tax rate.
In an individual IRA, they or you can elect to have the payouts made over their expected lifetimes. This means the money can grow tax-deferred until they need it, and they can withdraw and pay tax after they retire - at lower rates.
Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens -- and then everybody disagrees.
Could You Lose Your Wallet or Purse?
If you have ever lost your wallet or purse, you know it can be a major hassle and potentially a major expense.
Here are some key ideas to limit your problems:
Experian (formerly TRW) 1-800-301-7195
Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
A winner of a Criminal Darwin Award.
A Charlotte, NC man having purchased a box of very rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against fire among other things. Within a month,
having smoked his entire stockpile of cigars and without having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the
insurance company. In his claim, the man stated the cigars were lost "in a
series of small fires".
The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion. The man sued......and won! In delivering the ruling, the judge agreed that the claim was frivolous. He stated nevertheless that the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure against fire, without defining what is considered to be an "unacceptable fire," and was obligated to pay the claim.
Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid the man $15,000.00 for the rare cigars he had lost in the "fires".
After the man cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000.00 fine.
IRS Says Small Business Exempt From COBRA
In new regulations, the IRS ruled that employers who provide a group health plan and have fewer than 20 employees are not subject to COBRA. Under COBRA, terminated employees and their dependents are eligible for continued medical coverage from the employer's health plan.
Writers Fight for E-Rights
by Kendra Mayfield
How do you apply a decades-old copyright law in an era where Napster, Google and Lexis-Nexis reign over desktops?
That is just one of the dilemmas that Supreme Court judges must rule upon in a case that could set a legal standard for copyright in the electronic age.
Tasini et al. v. The New York Times et al. pits members of the National Writers Union against media corporations The New York Times, Newsday, Time, Lexis/Nexis, and University Microfilms. The case will decide whether freelance writers should be paid royalties when publishers redistribute their work in electronic databases or CD-ROMs without their permission.
It is now up to the judges to decide how to apply the 1976 Copyright Act to an electronic technology that wasn't even around when many freelancers were signing these contracts. The case is just one of a series of recent legal debates, most notably Napster, that have begun charting the murky waters of applying pre-existing copyright law to new technologies. In March, publishers in a separate case suffered a major setback that could weigh upon the outcome of the Tasini case. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the National Geographic Society violated the copyrights of a freelance photographer by republishing his photos in a CD-ROM set. The court ruled that the CD-ROM set was not merely a revision of a prior collective work, but instead constituted an entirely new collective work in a new medium. Like the Greenberg case, the Tasini case hinges upon whether electronic databases and CD-ROMs are more than just digital replicas. "I think that the real similarity in these two situations is simply an indication of what has very rapidly evolved in the last decade as new technologies ... are allowing for the packaging of copyrighted materials in fresh and different ways," said Greenberg's attorney Norman Davis.
The Supreme Court justices struggled to define just how different that newly packaged material is. Justice Anthony Kennedy questioned whether redistributing articles in an electronic database is different from reprinting them in a bound collection of printed works. "Electronically, that's all this is," Kennedy said. Justice John Paul Stevens asked why looking up an article in an electronic database is different from looking it up on microfiche, which is allowed under current law. Justice Stephen Breyer also questioned whether publishers transfer articles to databases like Lexis-Nexis individually or bundle them in a compilation of works. If articles are considered separate, individual works, then the authors still retain the copyright.
Laurence Gold, the writers' attorney, argued that works that are republished in electronic databases are treated as a separate article, not a unit. The publishers' attorney, Laurence Tribe, argued that if the writers win, publishers would have to wipe freelance articles from databases, poking holes in the historical record. "We're going to have a serious problem with our kids doing homework and professors finding out what happened in the middle of the 20th century," he said. Tribe's "Chinese Cultural Revolution argument" vexed Justice Breyer, who was concerned that tracking down writers or their families to obtain their permission to include works in databases could prove to be a difficult and expensive task. Some experts think that Breyer's concerns are not unfounded, since publishers could face massive liabilities if the writers prevail.
Even if the Court rules in favor of the writers, the authors may not want their articles removed from the databases. "After all, these authors have an interest in exposure," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The outcome could turn upon when the actual infringement first occurs. If the infringement occurs when the user downloads an individual article, then the consumer might be protected by the "fair use" doctrine. In that case, even if the court finds that electronic re-publication is not a revision the publishers could still prevail.
Win or lose, the writers' plight could have little implication for freelancers negotiating future contracts, since most publishers now require writers to sign contracts that specifically include electronic rights. But the case could have an immense impact upon any scribe or musician seeking payback and copyright protection in the digital age.
A decision in the Tasini case is expected by the end of June.
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