Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
by Chris Isidore
Many online purchases could soon be more expensive, if a long-debated Internet sales tax law advances through Congress.
The law would allow 45 states and the District of Columbia to demand that online retailers collect sales tax on purchases.
Estimates are that consumers would be spending between $12 billion to $23 billion more a year due to the increased tax collection.
Here’s what you need to know about the current law on online purchase and what would happen under the legislation:
When is an Internet retailer required to collect sales tax under current law?
Essentially states can only demand that online retailers that have a physical presence in their states—such as a store, a warehouse or a factory—collect sales taxes on purchases by residents of that state. Technically people who buy goods online tax free are supposed to make sales tax payments on those purchases to their home state. But estimates are that only about 1 percent of buyers comply with those widely unenforced laws.
Who would pay sales tax under the proposed legislation?
Sellers with more than $1 million a year in sales would be responsible for collecting the tax from buyers in the 45 states plus D.C. that currently charge sales tax. Even if an online retailer provides “tax-free” purchases as a way of attracting customers, the way many now offer free shipping, it would be responsible for paying the sales taxes to the various states.
That would likely raise the cost of the item charged consumers.
How much in taxes will be paid?
This is tough to say. The most widely quoted study shows that there would be $12 billion in taxes, but that study is from 2009 and online purchases have risen significantly since then. Some estimates are that tax collection could be nearly double that amount. The highest statewide sales tax is the 7.5 percent rate in California, but local sales taxes raise the rate to about 10 percent in some locations.
Who is supporting the legislation?
The National Retail Federation is one of the most active voices in support of the proposal, as it is concerned its brick- and-mortar members are losing sales to online competitors. Amazon.com, the largest online retailer, is also backing the bill. It is expanding the number of warehouses nationwide, so most Americans already pay sales tax on their Amazon purchases. So Amazon doesn’t want a competitive disadvantage with other online retailers that have a smaller geographic footprint.
Who is opposing the proposal?
Many online retailers are opposed, saying it would create an administrative nightmare to comply with the law, and that higher taxes would hurt their sales. On Sunday, eBay CEO John Donahoe sent an e-mail message to millions of users asking them to contact members of Congress. The e-mails went to eBay members who simply buy online in addition to its millions of sellers. Donahoe advocates a threshold of $10 million in annual sales or 50 employees before an online retailer would have to start collecting sales taxes.
What is the status of the legislation?
The legislation has strong bipartisan support, with the lead sponsors in both houses being Republicans. But it has never been able to get out of committee for a vote on the floor of either chamber before now. Democrat Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has kept the legislation from advancing. Baucus is from Montana, one of the five states without a sales tax.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken the unusual step of bypassing the Finance panel, and scheduled a procedural vote on the measure in the Senate later Monday. The legislation could be in its final form later this week, though a vote might not come until after the coming recess.
Passage in the House is less certain, but the measure does have bipartisan support there as well. Norton Francis, senior research associate of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Institute, said that even members of the House Republican leadership support the plan.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 12:59
Category: Business Written by Associated Press
NEW TWITTER APP--This image taken from an iPhone shows the new Twitter music app. (AP Photo/Twitter)
by Ryan Nakashima
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Twitter has launched a service that lets people find music they like and tweet songs from iTunes, Spotify and Rdio.
Last Updated on Friday, 19 April 2013 16:14
Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—The old saying, “The check is in the mail,” is often a ruse not worth heeding. But beginning April 12, checks will begin going into the mail for 4.2 million mortgage borrowers who were in the foreclosure process in 2009 or 2010 and who likely experienced robo-signing or other deficiencies by their mortgage servicer.
Initially, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve required servicers to hire consultants to do detailed reviews of borrower case files and determine specific harms that borrowers received to qualify for monetary rewards. This process ultimately became unwieldy, slow and expensive without producing timely benefits to borrowers.
Earlier this year, the OCC and the Federal Reserve negotiated a settlement with 13 mortgage servicers. They agreed to pay a total of $3.6 billion in cash payments ranging from $300 to $125,000 to all affected borrowers. More than 90 percent of the payments due borrowers are expected to be paid by the end of April. Remaining borrowers are expected to be paid no later than mid-July.
Borrower payments will be based upon the stage of foreclosure and in some cases, gravity of servicer errors. The largest payments will go to borrowers with completed and wrongful foreclosures. The vast majority of checks payable to borrowers will be for less than $1,000.
The spring 2013 payments will include all but two of the servicers—Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—agreeing to the settlement. A second and separate announcement in the near future will address payments for the two holdouts
In the meantime, for the other 11 servicers, a payment schedule includes eligible borrowers in any stage of foreclosure in 2009 or 2010 with one of the following servicers, affiliates or subsidiaries: Aurora, Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, MetLife Bank, PNC, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
The largest payment of $125,000 is reserved for one of two types of completed foreclosures: military families covered by the Servicemembers Civil Rights Act and loans that servicers foreclosed when borrowers were not in default.
In cases where borrowers were completely foreclosed despite fulfilling all requirements during a trial loan modification plan, or if a servicer failed to convert borrowers to a permanent modification after successfully completing the trial period, a $25,000 payment will be issued.
According to the schedule, additional payments will be made to borrowers experiencing one of the following errors:
Modification request denied;
Modification request received; but no underwriting decision reached
Interest rates charged in excess of SCRA limits;
Foreclosures begun while borrowers were protected by federal bankruptcy laws;
Servicer failure to engage borrowers in loan modification or other loss mitigation.
Eligible borrowers were recently notified of their eligibility for payments under the settlement. Any borrower who believes he/she may be covered by the agreement should call toll free at 1-888-952-9105 to verify their inclusion and also update their contact information.
Payment acceptance does not remove any borrower’s right to private legal actions. The agreement explicitly denies servicers permission to ask borrowers to sign a waiver of any legal claims in exchange for payment.
Any borrower needing foreclosure prevention assistance is encouraged to contact the Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673), or visit www.makinghomeaffordable.gov.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:03
Category: Business Written by James Clingman
(NNPA)—As George Benson sang in Moody’s Mood, “There I go, there I go, there I go…” making up words again. I couldn’t resist this one in light of our penchant to choose sides when it comes to economics versus politics. It seems we cannot understand, nor act upon, the fact that by combining the two disciplines and leveraging the resulting power from such a sensible strategy we could build a stronger base and finally put an end to being ignored and taken for granted.
So I made up this word in an effort to indoctrinate us, to condition us, to program us, or whatever you want to call it, so that Black people can stop being sacrificial lambs led to the political and economic slaughter.
We do not have to choose between the two, but as I always say, if I had to choose I would definitely take economics over politics. Why? Isn’t it obvious that while politics runs most of our lives (because we have no real economic base) it certainly does not run the lives of those who are economically empowered?
Whatever Wall Street wants Wall Street gets. The stock market hits record highs; but Black people are sinking lower in net worth and income. Black people are too busy watching the Wives of … or Scandal, or all of those BET Award shows to recognize the subordinated consumer-oriented role we are playing in the economy. Like sister Sweet Brown said about the fire on YouTube, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
As the war machine cranks up once again, the moneychangers are rubbing their greedy hands together in anticipation of another windfall from supplying the tools of war, the food for the troops, the equipment, the uniforms, and all the accoutrements necessary to dispose of those pesky Koreans, Syrians, and Iranians.
This is the country of the Golden Rule—He who has the gold makes the rules. Blacks aren’t making any rules; we are just playing by them, and being used as grist for profit mill. Sadly, some of us are so entrenched in the political shenanigans in Washington, so enamored by the celebrity of our president and those with whom he socializes, that we either ignore the weightier things in life or simply refuse to listen, even though we know that the road we are on leads to destruction.
Just watch the dueling news channels, MSNBC and Fox, and you will get a steady dose of Obama love and Obama hate. He can hardly do any wrong on MSNBC and can seldom, if ever, do anything right on Fox. I often wonder if these newscasters have a life outside of the bashing they do of each other’s political parties. Even sadder is the fact that Black people, who have little or no skin in the game, take sides and start fighting one another over emotional rhetoric centered on who likes or dislikes the POTUS and his policies.
It makes little sense for us to spend 90 percent of our capital and time on 10 percent of our problem, as Khalid Al-Mansour suggested in his book, Betrayal by any Other Name. When it comes to choosing instead of combining and leveraging, Al-Mansour says, “Blacks feel helpless because they hear so many conflicting voices and so much empty rhetoric. It’s easy to throw up one’s hands, get drunk, and have another baby. The African-American has been hearing about the problem and the solution since he can remember and yet, his condition always continues to disintegrate.”
We get a daily dose of political rhetoric and hardly ever take any economic medicine; it’s no wonder that many Black people see no way out of our economic/political dilemma. We have chosen political rhetoric over practical tried-and-true economic initiatives to free us from psychological bondage—a prescription that has not and does not work.
The political hacks are doing what they do because they get paid to do it, not because they necessarily believe in everything they promote. Our problem is allowing these jokers to dominate our thinking and our actions, as though what they say, or who they support, or what ideology they promote will move Black people to a position of real power rather than mere influence. And if that happens at all, whatever influence we attain will have to be channeled through them, because they are the political gatekeepers.
As Malcolm said, “…you are chumps…” when it comes to politics; and I say we are pawns when it comes to economics. However, if we combine politics with economics and not be led around by the ears by so-called leaders who only care about themselves, their political connections, and the money they make from selling us down the road, we will be much better off than we are now.
So, turn off the television and start reading more, start learning more for yourself, and start initiating and participating in efforts, where you live, to combine and leverage your collective economic and political clout—a winning strategy for sure. In other words, start practicing “Blackopoliticonomics.”
(Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.)
Last Updated on Friday, 19 April 2013 05:59
Category: Business Written by Damon Carr
Even if you’ve managed to remain gainfully employed, we’ve all been affected by this recessionary economy to some degree. For many of us, our cash-flow has been negatively affected due to reduction in income because of low sales, salaries and hours being cut, bonuses and overtime being eliminated and/or merit raises and promotions being deferred to a later date. If you’ve been fortunate enough to keep your cash-flow moving in the right direction, take a close look at your saving and investment portfolio. You’ll agree that because of the huge losses in the stock market most of us are poorer today than we were a couple of years ago.
Whenever we go through trying times of any kind, it’s important that we grow through the experience and learn valuable lessons to avoid similar unwelcoming circumstances in the future. Below, I’d like to share ideas I’ve shared in the past that were confirmed to be true during this recessionary economy.
Job security—There’s no such thing as job security! We live in an era where you’re lucky to have worked for the same company for three or more years. Both employer and employee regard for loyalty have waivered in recent years. The thing to seek today is “income security.” Income security lies in talent, skills, and know-how that are both marketable and transferrable—meaning you can adapt and apply your skill in a variety of ways to earn money. One lesson that should have been learned particularly in regions that was heavily dependent on the steel industry is that blue collar type jobs lack both marketability and transferability. Blue collar type jobs are generally good paying labor intensive jobs. If you’re fortunate enough to work until retirement as a laborer—great! The problem arrives if your job opportunity is cut short because of industry trends or the economy negatively affecting the industry’s viability. We’ve witness entire cities take a turn for the worst when the Steel Mills collapsed 30-plus years ago. We’ve seeing evidence of this trend again as the Automotive Industry shut down many of its manufacturing plants. Workers from these industries who’ve work primarily as a laborer have had a hard time replacing the income they’ve earned in their former career because the skill set they acquired was not “marketable and transferrable.” In contrast employees who’ve worked on Wall Street in a white collar environment have an easier time landing jobs with similar pay because their skill set is both transferrable and marketable.
Housing—Get your financial house in order first, and then seek homeownership. Mortgage Payment default and foreclosure is at an all time high. People are learning first hand that the word homeownership is a misnomer. If you become victim of a financial hardship making it hard for you to pay the mortgage, you’re brought face to face with the reality of who truly hold the keys to the house you live in. I’ve said it time and time again: Before you seek homeownership, you should be debt free, have money in the bank for emergencies and have a respectable down payment. Lastly, the mortgage payment should not exceed 30 percent of your take home pay. I’m reminded of an email I recently got from a client. She earns about $70,000 per year. She said the bank said she was preapproved for a $300,000 mortgage. She thought the bank was crazy. I advised her that based on her income and other financial goals to stay in the $150,000 range. She may not get the biggest house on the block, but she’ll get a nice house that she can afford comfortably while pursuing other financial goals.
Credit—The byproduct of credit is debt. Debt is hazardous to your wealth. Debt impedes your cash-flow and reduces your net worth. Credit has inflated the cost of consumer goods, housing, education, medical expenses and everything imaginable. People, government, and corporations were using credit as a supplement to their income. As a result, when the credit market froze, the economy collapsed, people’s homes went into foreclosure, companies shut down and local, state and federal government financial woes were exposed. There’s a saying that “you use credit wisely”. My position has always been “use credit only when absolutely necessary”.
Saving—Financial stability and financial prosperity is built on the foundation of saving. Prior to the recession the typical person saved less than 2-cents out of every dollar earned. If you fail to develop good saving habits you’re doomed to financial frustration. One day we’ll all experience a financial hardship of some kind. One day our children will go to college. One day we’ll retire. If we fail to have adequate savings to provide for us during these times, we’re forced to use credit cards for emergencies, student loans for education, and reverse mortgages during retirement. We go through our entire life wondering why the little man can’t get ahead. The little man neglected to save.
Government bailout—If you want to get ahead financially, you don’t want to depend on the government. Financial help from the government isn’t a something for nothing proposition unless you’re classified as needy—poor. Even then, government aide amounts to “small change.” We watched the entire economy collapse in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. How did the government help? They provided small federal grants and low interest rate loans—DEBT. The biggest help came in the form of tax relief. They relaxed the tax guidelines by reducing the tax rate and waiving certain tax related penalties for people affected by Hurricane Katrina. For example, people were able to access money from their retirement accounts early without penalty. Allowing one to take money set aside to avoid a future crisis to solve a current crisis isn’t exactly what you’ll call a bail out.
In the end, your financial security will come from YOU working hard, living below your means, saving for future goals and making good financial decisions.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is the owner of ACE Financial. Damon can be reached at 412-216-1013)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:01
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