Articles to Read
We did it! Congress Restores FHA Loan Limits!
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A Victory for Loan Limits
Urgent Call-for-Action: Loan Limits
FHA and conforming loan limits will drop DRAMATICALLY in just two weeks. Bank of America has already lowered theirs for new loans, and others will follow suit. C.A.R. and NAR are fighting to maintain the existing loan limits and we need your help.
Please respond to the NAR Call-for-Action NOW by clicking on this link:
By responding you will be urging both Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer to work to maintain the current loan limits. If you have already responded to NAR’s Call for Action, there is more that needs to be done:
Please urge the agents in your office to respond as well using the same link.
Help mobilize your clients. If you or your agents have clients that will be affected by the reduction in loan limits, please have them contact our U.S. Senators Directly to urge them to maintain the current loan limits:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- (202) 224-3841
Sen. Barbara Boxer -- (202) 224-3553
For More Information
Please contact DeAnn Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org or see C.A.R.’s web site: http://www.car.org/newsstand/news/loanlimitscfa/
The New SB 458-Good or Bad for short sales
The new SB 458 law extends the protections of SB 931 to ensure that any lender that agrees to a short sale for a residential 1 to 4 property, must accept the agreed upon short sale payment as payment in full of the outstanding balance of all loans. This applies to 2nd mortgage liens, 3rd mortgage liens, etc. (junior lien holders, home equity line of credit, HELOC).
For short sale sellers, SB 458 means that a short sale junior lien holder cannot require additional compensation (cash contribution or promissory note) as part of the short sale approval. SB 458 makes sure that after close of escrow of the short sale, there is no possibility that the lender will come after the borrower/seller. In effect, the lien and (personal) liability will be released by all lenders involved in a short sale.
However, SB 458 may have an opposite effect. Junior lien holders may not approve a short sale as it will limit their ability to go after the borrower for the deficiency and your short sale will be in jeopardy!
California to Receive $18 Billion in Mortgage Settlement
On February 9, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that California secured up to $18 billion for its distressed homeowners as part of a $25 billion national multistate settlement with the country's five largest loan servicers. More than $12 billion will be used to offer short sales or write down loans over the next three years for about 250,000 underwater homeowners in California, according to the attorney general. Relief will go to areas hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis within the first year of the settlement.
Although the actual settlement has not yet been released, the attorney general has stated that other financial benefits for California include $849 million for refinancing 28,000 borrowers who are underwater but current on their payments; $279 million restitution for 140,000 homeowners who were foreclosed upon between 2008 and 2011; $1.1 billion for unemployed homeowners, transitional assistance, and repairing blight; $3.5 billion to extinguish unpaid loans that remain after foreclosure for 32,000 homeowners; and $430 million to the state attorney general's office for costs and fees. As part of a California guarantee, if the lenders fail to reduce principal balances by a minimum of $12 billion, they will be required to pay fines up to $800 million to the state.
The loans involved in this settlement are those owned or serviced by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally Financial Inc. The settlement releases the five named lenders from certain federal and state claims pertaining to robo-signing and other foreclosure misconduct by the lenders. It does not affect any individual's rights to bring legal action against a lender. It also does not apply to the majority of mortgage loans, which are those owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
This mortgage settlement does not change any homeowner's existing financial relationship with a settling lender. It does not relieve homeowners from any obligation. It does not require a settling lender to stop any foreclosure.
S&P downgrades Fannie and Freddie and the Impact on Homebuyers
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Monday downgraded the credit ratings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and other agencies linked to long-term U.S. debt.
The agency also lowered the ratings for: farm lenders; long-term U.S. government-backed debt issued by 32 banks and credit unions; and three major clearinghouses, which are used to execute trades of stocks, bonds and options.
All the downgrades were from AAA to AA+, reflecting the same downgrade S&P made of long-term U.S. government debt on Friday.
S&P said the agencies and banks all have debt that is exposed to economic volatility and a further downgrade of long-term U.S. debt. Their creditworthiness hinges on the U.S. government's ability to pay its own creditors.
Stocks plunged further after the downgrades. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 300 points, or 2.8 percent. The S&P 500 stock index tumbled 3.4 percent. Investors seeking safety drove gold prices up and Treasury yields down.
Monday's downgrades of the mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie reflected their "direct reliance" on the U.S. government, S&P said.
Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans worth more than $5 trillion. As part of a nationalized system, they account for nearly all new mortgage loans. Their downgrade might force anyone looking to buy a home to pay higher mortgage rates.
Officials at Standard & Poor's say they will also indicate shortly how local and state governments will be affected by their decision to lower the long-term U.S. debt.
S&P on Friday said it downgraded U.S. debt for the first time in history because the credit rating agency lacks confidence that political leaders will make the choices needed to avert a long-term fiscal crisis.
The downgrade of long-term debt issued by the U.S. government affects the banking and lending industries because many interest rates are pegged to the yields on Treasury securities. In addition, many companies use the securities as collateral that they would surrender if their bets lost value.
The lower credit rating for long-term U.S. debt means that it might be considered less valuable for those purposes. It might become more costly for companies to borrow or trade.
Some analysts said the downgrades were unlikely to have much effect on the companies named by S&P or the broader markets. They noted that Treasury yields remain low and the dollar is getting stronger -- signs that the world still sees the U.S. as a safe harbor in volatile economic times.
The downgrades "are as meaningless as the original action," said Daniel Alpert, managing partner at the investment bank Westwood Capital LLC in New York. He said that investors are rushing into Treasurys, and that they will do the same for "anything backed by the full faith and credit" of the U.S. government. That includes debt issued by Fannie and Freddie and bank debt that was guaranteed by regulators to ease lending after the 2008 financial crisis.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.38 percent from 2.57 percent late Friday. Analysts say traders are shifting out of bonds and European banks are snapping up U.S. debt to steel themselves for a regional financial crisis.
S&P Managing Director John Chambers said that the credit rating agency believes the dollar won't be weakened "under any plausible scenario." He said it will remain the dominant international currency, and that will reduce interest rates for governments and the private sector.
Ten of the country's 12 Federal Home Loan Banks also were downgraded from AAA to AA+. The banks of Chicago and Seattle had already been downgraded earlier to AA+.
A spokesman for Freddie Mac declined to comment on the move.
Home owners receiving loan mods are being viewed as short sellers by Fannie Mae!
when it seems sanity is returning to the lending industry….this gets dropped on us.
Homeowners receiving loan modifications for their primary residence (and noted on their credit report); are now being treated as short sellers by Fannie Mae…even if the homeowner was never late on their mortgage.
In other words: A responsible homeowner, who made their payments on time and received a loan mod for their primary residence will now have to wait three (at least) years before they can purchase their NEXT home (or refi their current residence).
The only exception to the rule: If a homeowner received a loan modification on an “investment property/second home” may receive financing on another property (primary residence only) on a case by case basis (underwriter’s discretion) within 2 years.
Here are the Fannie rules:
o Refinance transactions: On previously modified loans…refinancing is not permitted.
o New purchase transactions: When a borrower’s current residence (previous loan) was modified AND the property is being retained as a 2nd home/investment property…financing for another home…will NOT be permitted.
o New purchase transactions: ..When a borrower’s previous loan was modified AND the property is being sold…the borrowers loan application …should be treated with caution and reviewed for delinquencies and short payoffs.
o New purchases of 2nd home or investment properties: When a borrower’s current residence (owner occupied) has been granted a loan modification…financing for the next home will not be NOT permitted.
o Refinances where another property (not the subject property) has a loan modification should be reviewed with "caution" to ensure that there was no short refinance (treated as a short sale).
C.A.R. recently launched its Home Payment Protection Program (HPPP), which provides a home buyer with mortgage payment assistance in the event of a job layoff. To find out more, click here.
SHORT SALES: TOP 10 MYTHS DEBUNKED!
2012 is the year of the short sale. As an agent, one of your most valuable business tools is the understanding of how to help underwater homeowners avoid foreclosure. Don’t make the mistake of believing these myths:
Myth #1: The homeowner must fall behind on mortgage payments in order to qualify for a short sale.
Debunked: Years ago this may have been true, but not in 2012.
A financial hardship must exist, such as the ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) increasing in monthly payments.
Loss of job or income.
Health or medical issues.
Extraordinary loss in home value (which may be considered a hardship).
Note: Agents should not advise a homeowner to miss a mortgage payment.
Myth #2: Banks would rather foreclose on a property than approve a short sale.
Debunked: Many still believe this myth to be true, but more accurately, banks would prefer not to foreclose on a property due to the $50-70k it may cost the bank per transaction. Banks lose less money on a short sale than on a foreclosure.
Note: In California, some lenders may pay owners as much as $25,000 to opt for a short sale.
Myth #3: Homeowners must be pre-approved by their lender to be eligible for a short sale.
Debunked: Absolutely not true. By and large, most lenders will consider short sale offers. However, each lender may have unique and specific processes to follow, from listing the home to the acceptance of a short sale. Bypassing any part of this process may result the sale not closing, so be sure to follow each lenders’ processes closely.
Myth #4: Short sales never close.
Debunked: Obviously not true. In some areas of the U.S., nearly 50% of all closings are considered to be “distressed” properties, meaning REOs and short sales.
Myth #5: Short sales take months (and months) to close.
Debunked: The short sale processes must be learned. Once mastered, it may not be uncommon to close a short sale in 30 days. However, certain idiosyncrasies may slow the process and each lender presents their own unique set of specific challenges. No two short sale transactions are identical.
Myth #6: Damage to the homeowner’s credit standing is comparable in a short sale and a foreclosure.
Debunked: In many cases, credit repercussions and deficiency protections are more damaging with a foreclosure. Short sale transactions can often lead to faster financial recovery for the homeowner and should be carefully considered.
Note: If the homeowner missed no mortgage payments, they may be eligible to finance the purchase of a home immediately following a short sale transaction.
Myth #7: Following a short sale, the homeowner will be ineligible to purchase another property for the next 5-7 years.
Debunked: Not true. Using conventional lending guidelines, some consumers may obtain a Fannie Mae backed mortgage a short 24 months after the close of their short sale.
Myth #8: After a short sale transaction, the homeowner will receive a 1099 and be forced to declare the loss as income.
Debunked: The owner may indeed receive a 1099, but due to the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, among other considerations, the homeowner may not owe any taxes on their transaction.*
Note: This Act is due to expire at the end of 2012.
Myth #9: The lender will sue the homeowner after the close of a short sale (or foreclosure, or deed in lieu of foreclosure) for the deficiency.
Debunked: California has certain anti-deficiency protections in place for short sales and foreclosures, depending on the circumstances.*
Myth #10: As an agent, I don’t need additional training to learn all of the ins and outs of the short sale process. And if I wait long enough, the market will recover so I may not need to deal with short sales at all.
Debunked: How long are you willing to wait? Based on the most recent housing reports, home values are still falling. Hopefully, 2012 will see the bottom of the housing market but price recovery may continue to take some time.
LEASE OPTIONS ARE BACK: PROCEED CAREFULLY: The title says it all. A major question: “Why should there be a purchase agreement?” Read more.
MORTGAGE LENDERS CAN’T ALWAYS OBTAIN DEFICIENCY JUDGMENTS: This is the best short story explanation of deficiency judgments that you will find. Read it and understand it and make sure your staff reads it. Read more.
RIGHT-TO-RENT LEGISLATION BECOMES LAW IN CALIFORNIA: Can a Homeowner’s Association make a rule that you can’t rent your unit if you have to move. California has a law. Read more.
CALIFORNIA COURT HOLDS THAT MEDIATION PROVISION “MEANS WHAT IT SAYS”: Mediation ain’t arbitration and attorney fees are attorney fees. Appellate court reverses a trial court again. Read more.
LANDLORD MAY BE LIABLE FOR TENANT WHO DOES WORK ON THE PREMISES: Ask the Perez’s of Lodi if you can be held liable as a landlord for someone helping to move a refrigerator. Read more.
LISTING PROTECTION CLAUSE HAS ITS LIMITS: In my classes many students do not understand the “Protection Clause” protecting them after their listings expire. Read more for an interesting case.
CAN A LANDLORD PROHIBIT SMOKING? IT MIGHT DEPEND ON WHAT IS BEING SMOKED…: This is the first paragraph of Bob’s article. Interesting. “Is it legal for a landlord to prohibit tenants from smoking in their units and/or other places on the premises? The answer to this question may well vary from state to state, although Federal considerations will be common to all.” Read more.
NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR LANDLORDS WHO DENY ON THE BASIS OF CREDIT SCORES: Always more requirements for landlords. We are a persecuted minority. Maybe it’s the name. Landlord. I am going to change my lease name from landlord to Compassionate Provider of Housing Needs. Read more.
SUMMARY OF BANK MEETINGS
In each meeting, lenders and REALTORS® have agreed to work in the following areas:
REALTORS® need to understand each lender’s policies for underwriting loans, valuing property, selecting brokers for REO listings, and deciding whether to approve a short sale.
Having a single point of contact is extremely important to improve service to the borrower, short seller, and the real estate agent. NAR is urging all lenders to adopt this approach.
FHA and the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) have become over-focused on safety at the expense of their mission. NAR urges lenders to advocate a return to a reasonable center, now that credit policies have over-corrected.
When a borrower applies for a loan and receives a conditional approval, the conditions are often impossible to meet. It would be better to decline the loan and allow all parties to move on. Short sale approvals often take months. HAFA and other short sales programs should be implemented quickly.
Lenders are aware that problems related to the application of new appraisal guidelines have skewed some appraisals. NAR continues to raise these issues with the lenders, regulators, FHA, and the GSEs and seek solutions.
Real estate professionals work extremely hard and for many months on a successful short sale. NAR urges lenders to make commissions policies more transparent and to agree not to reduce commissions at or shortly before closing. At the same time, NAR acknowledges that lenders waste time processing short sales that are not real offers, and we urge our members not to participate in this practice.
Lenders also are monitoring performance of REO listing brokers and will take steps to resolve problems.
Top 10 Things Every Taxpayer Should Know about Identity Theft
Taxpayers need to be careful to protect their personal information. Identity thieves use many methods to steal personal information and then they use the information to file a tax return and get a refund. Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about identity theft so you can avoid becoming the victim of an identity thief.
1. The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by e-mail.
2. If you receive a scam e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at email@example.com.
3. Identity thieves get your personal information by many different means, including:
Stealing your wallet or purse
Posing as someone who needs information about you through a phone call or e-mail
Looking through your trash for personal information
Accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site.
4. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but does not begin with ‘www.irs.gov’, forward that link to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. If your Social Security number is stolen, another individual may use it to get a job. That person’s employer may report income earned by them to the IRS using your Social Security number, thus making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.
6. Your identity may have been stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don’t know. If you receive such a letter from the IRS, leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.
7. If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, you need to provide the IRS with proof of your identity. You should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification – such as a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport – along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. As an option, you can also contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 800-908-4490. You should also follow FTC guidance for reporting identity theft at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
8. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your Social Security number.
9. For more information about identity theft – including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity – visit the IRS Identity Theft and Your Tax Records Page, which you can find by searching “Identity Theft” on the IRS.gov home page.
HOME PAYMENT PROTECTION PROGRAM
In another initiative to help you earn a living, C.A.R. recently launched its Home Payment Protection Program (HPPP), which provides a home buyer with mortgage payment assistance in the event of a job layoff. The program is offered by REALTORS® to sellers at the time of listing as an added incentive to prospective buyers. It is paid for by the seller and is completely optional. The program covers both first-time and repeat buyers for 12 months from close of escrow and will make up to six mortgage payments up to $1,000 or $1,500, depending on the coverage level the seller chooses. By offering HPPP as an added incentive to buyers, sellers have an additional way of differentiating their home from others and can sell their home more quickly. It’s a win-win benefit for buyers, sellers, and REALTORS®.
Governor Vetoes C.A.R.-Sponsored
On Thursday, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1178 (Corbett), C.A.R.'s sponsored bill that would have expanded anti-deficiency protections. In his veto message, the Governor made clear his view that the bill interferes with an existing contract. While disappointed in the Governor's misinterpretation of the bill, C.A.R. is grateful to the almost 13,000 California REALTORS(R) who urged him to sign the bill by responding to the Red Alert.
C.A.R. sponsored SB 1178 to better protect homeowners going through foreclosure. SB 1178 would have ensured that homeowners keep the same "anti-deficiency" protections they have in the original loan after the loan has been refinanced.
California's anti-deficiency protection for "purchase money" mortgages says that if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage used to purchase his or her home, the homeowner's liability on the mortgage is limited to the property itself. The law has worked well since the 1930s to protect borrowers, ensure the quality of loan underwriting and allow borrowers brought down by financial crisis to get back on their feet.
Unfortunately, the 1930s law hasn't kept up with current times. Current law doesn't apply to loans used to refinance the original purchase debt, even if the refinance was only to gain a lower interest rate. Recent years of low interest rates have induced tens of thousands of homeowners to refinance their mortgages. During those years, almost no one realized that refinancing their mortgage to obtain a lower rate, they were forfeiting their protections and were becoming personally liable on the new note.
SB 1178 would have corrected this injustice by extending anti-deficiency protections to those who have refinanced their loans.
Thank you again to everyone who joined C.A.R.'s Government Affairs Team and fought for our clients.
For More Information
Please contact DeAnn Kerr at email@example.com.
We welcome our new agent, Julian Ortiz, to the Biafora Team!
Coming from a blue collar background, from working as a Ironworker & construction worker building people's homes, I found my passion for real estate. I wanted to introduce people to their dream home.
I've been a real estate agent since 2005. I started working from my family- owned real estate office, and that's how we treated all of our clients... like familia (family).
Due to the financial crisis that our country was and is still going through, we had to close. Its like Albert Einstein said, " in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity." That's where I found Biafora Real Estate.. my opportunity. Now I'm here to find my clients their opportunity.
I pride myself in the service and attention I give to everyone of my clients. No task is too small or too big. There is no obstacle I wont go through to help purchase or sell my clients' property. So whether they are ready to purchase/sell their first home or their home on the hills, I'm here to provide them with great service.
(fluent in English & Spanish)
Congratulations to our agents, Daryl, Amilia, Erick, and Jani for getting their HAFA certification!
Finance Your Home Purchase
Knowing how to read your good-faith estimate can help you save money on your home loan. Read
When you’re evaluating how much home you can afford, make sure you factor in the tax advantages of homeownership. Read
By knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget. Read
Here’s how to clean up your credit so you get the least-expensive home loan possible. Read
Understand which mortgage loan is best for you so your budget is not stretched too thin. Read
Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.
Copyright 2010 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Ruth Biafora of Biafora Realty Earns NAR Short Sales and Foreclosure Certification
Buyers and Sellers Benefit from REALTOR®Expertise in Distressed Sales
Ruth Biafora of Biafora Realty (www.biaforarealty.com) has earned the nationally recognized Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certification. The National Association of REALTORS®offers the SFR certification to REALTORS®who want to help both buyers and sellers navigate these complicated transactions, as demand for professional expertise with distressed sales grows.
According to a recent NAR survey, nearly one-third of all existing homes sold recently were either short sales or foreclosures. For many real estate professionals, short sales and foreclosures are the new “traditional” transaction. REALTORS®who have earned the SFR certification know how to help sellers maneuver the complexities of short sales as well as help buyers pursue short sale and foreclosure opportunities.
“As leading advocates for homeownership, REALTORS®believe that any family that loses its home to foreclosure is one family too many, but unfortunately, there are situations in which people just cannot afford to keep their homes, and a foreclosure or a short sale results,”said 2009 NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Foreclosures and short sales can offer opportunities for home buyers and benefit the larger community, as well, but it’s extremely important to have the help of a real estate professional like a REALTOR®who has earned the SFR certification for these kinds of purchases.”
The certification program includes training on how to qualify sellers for short sales, negotiate with lenders, protect buyers, and limit risk, and provides resources to help REALTORS®stay current on national and state-specific information as the market for these distressed properties evolves. To earn the SFR certification, REALTORSÒare required to take one core course and three Webinars. For more information about the SFR certification, visit www.REALTORSFR.org or call 1-877-510-7855 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-877-510-7855 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
California State Assembly passes SB 1178 protecting homeowners
Measure protecting consumers from overreaching lenders now goes to governor’s desk for signature
LOS ANGELES (Aug. 19) – The California State Assembly today approved SB 1178 (D-Corbett) by a 49 to 14 vote, extending anti-deficiency protection for consumers who have refinanced their original mortgage loans and now are facing foreclosure. The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) is the sponsor of the consumer-protection legislation.
Under existing law, if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage used to purchase a home—commonly referred to as a “purchase money mortgage”—the homeowner's liability on the mortgage is limited to the property itself. However, homeowners who refinanced the original purchase debt, even if only to obtain a lower interest rate, were not extended the same protections. SB 1178 corrects this unfairness and extends the same protections to consumers who refinance their home loans.
“Cash-out” debt for home improvement or consumer expenses is not protected by SB 1178. Similarly, additional new debt secured by the home, such as a home improvement loan, is not protected—only original acquisition debt.
“Today’s vote was a victory for homeowners in California, but the fight is not yet finished,” said C.A.R. President Steve Goddard. “We are urging Gov. Schwarzenegger to swiftly sign into law this crucial piece of legislation. Passage of SB 1178 will ensure lenders underwrite refinance loans at least as carefully as purchase money mortgages and will provide much-needed consumer protection.”
SB 1178 now moves to Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signature. If signed, SB 1178 will become effective June 2011.
Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States with nearly 160,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.
Councilmember Smith Moves to Change Lawn Watering Restrictions from Two to Three Days a Week to Help Homeowners Save Their Lawns and Save More Water
House OKs extension of tax credit closing deadline
In a 409-5 vote, House lawmakers have passed a standalone bill that would extend for three months Wednesday's deadline for closing on a home purchase in order to claim the federal homebuyer tax credit.
The Senate could vote on the bill, HR 5623, as soon as tomorrow, although the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has slowed the pace of work in that chamber. Read full story here.
Five Tax Scams to Avoid this Summer
The Internal Revenue Service issues a list of the top 12 tax scams each year – known as the Dirty Dozen. The scams are illegal and can lead to problems for taxpayers including significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution. These scams don’t just happen during the tax filing season, they can happen anytime during the year. Here are five scams from the 2010 Dirty Dozen list every taxpayer should be aware of this summer.
Phishing Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information in an electronic communication. Scams can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony websites and they try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and they must reveal personal information to claim it. Regardless of how official this e-mail may look and sound, the IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Phishers use the personal information obtained to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name. If you receive an e-mail that you suspect is a phishing attempt or directs you to an imitation IRS website, please forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit IRS.govand enter the keyword phishing for additional information.
Return Preparer Fraud Dishonest tax return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers are skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for tax preparation or are attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. To increase confidence in the tax system, the IRS is requiring all paid return preparers to register with the IRS, pass competency tests and attend continuing education.
Hiding Income Offshore Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks and brokerage accounts. IRS agents continue to develop their investigations of these offshore tax avoidance transactions using information gained from more than 14,700 voluntary disclosures received last year. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans.
Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. This includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes where donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets.
Frivolous Arguments Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid on IRS.gov. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court.
For the full list of 2010 Dirty Dozen tax scams or to find out how to report suspected tax fraud, visit IRS.gov.
NEW CITY OF LOS ANGELES ORDINANCE EFFECTIVE 7/8/2010
On May 24, 2010 the City of Los Angeles enacted Ordinance 181185 commonly known as the City of Los Angeles Foreclosure Registry Program. The Ordinance takes effect 7/8/2010. The Ordinance is more than a "Vacant Property Registration Act" rather it requires registration of all properties that have a Notice of Default recorded against it. Within 30 days of July 8, 2010 ("effective date"), all properties that have a Notice of Default recorded against it must register with the City. This requires registration of properties that currently have a Notice of Default registered against it and all properties where a Notice of Default is recorded after the effective date.
The Ordinance requires the lenders and foreclosing beneficiaries to inspect and maintain properties in foreclosure to ensure that they are free from debris, rubbish, trash, and overgrown vegetation, amongst other things. If the property is found to be vacant, or if the property becomes vacant after the Trustee’s Sale, the beneficiary must inspect the property weekly and continue to maintain the property in good condition according to the terms of the ordinance. If the Property is found to be occupied at any point of the foreclosure process, the beneficiary must inspect the property on a monthly basis. Non-compliance will result in a fine of $1,000.00 per day of non-compliance, not to exceed $100,000.00.
Registration of the property costs $155 per year. A fine of $250.00 per day will be imposed on properties which are not timely registered; the lender or beneficiary is responsible for paying these fines, even if the foreclosed borrower is in possession of the property.