Category: Business Written by Associated Press
EXTREME CASE--James Weitze satisfies his video fix with an iPhone. He sleeps most of the time in his truck, and has no apartment. (AP Photo/James Weitze)
by Ryan Nakashima
AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some people have had it with TV. They've had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don't like timing their lives around network show schedules. They're tired of $100-plus monthly bills.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 19:35
Category: Business Written by James Clingman
(NNPA)—Thomas Boston, noted economist and author of Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship, in which he called for a strategy that would establish and grow Black-owned businesses to the point of having the capacity to employ 20 percent of the Black workforce by the year 2010. Aptly titled, “Twenty by Ten”—A strategy for Black Business and Employment Growth in the Next Century,” Boston’s charge was right on point, especially since he wrote it in 1999.
When I read his book, “Twenty by Ten” seemed very doable to me. After all, we had 10 years to make it happen, not to mention the fact that if we implemented his plan, Black folks would be well on our way to a higher level of economic self-sufficiency. What an idea, I thought to myself; I was certain government officials and businesses sectors would jump on that idea and bring it to fruition.
Well, it’s been 13 years since Professor Boston called for “Twenty by Ten” and sadly, according to the last economic census, of the 1,197,864 Black firms, only 106,566 were employer firms, and they employed just 909,552 workers. Of course, we know all of those employees are not Black. Thus, we are shamefully behind Boston’s ideal, and according to a recent poll, we are not only behind we are seeking every solution except the one that he put forth in 1999.
The poll was commissioned by Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, multiple business owner, and employer of many. Titled “Black Opinions in the Age of Obama,” and conducted by Zogby Analytics, the poll brought forth some very interesting responses from Black people. The area I will address in this column is Black employment.
When asked why they believed the Black unemployment rate was double that of Whites, respondents’ answers included, failure of the education system for minorities/African-Americans, lack of corporate commitment to hiring minorities/African-Americans, and a lack of good government policies.
When asked why the wealth gap has increased by $70,000 over the last 20 years, nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said that both the lack of jobs and a lack of access to capital were to blame for the wealth gap between Whites and African-Americans. When respondents were asked if they have ever been overlooked or felt discounted as a serious contender for employment because they were Black, nearly half (47 percent) replied “Yes.”
While the answers are all valid and reasonable, I was struck by the absence of any response that suggested what Thomas Boston called for over a decade ago: More Black businesses hiring more Black people. There was a noticeable lack of onus put “on us” when the subject turned to unemployment and wealth creation/retention.
I am not trying to wrap all of our problems into a neat little package called “Twenty by Ten,” but I am attempting to point out a flaw in our thinking and a gap in our own responsibility toward Black economic empowerment. Yes, we have need of solutions to the many problems we face, but many can be resolved if we would follow the perfectly sensible business model of starting and growing more Black businesses to the point of having the capacity to hire more Black people.
Yes, the government has a role to play. Yes, the private sector has a role to play. But what is our role? I am so tired of hearing so-called leaders beg for “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” from folks who are too busy taking care of their own to worry about us. It drives me crazy that there is no call for “Businesses! Businesses! Businesses!” We must get back to common sense strategies for growth of the Black economy, which means we must produce more, or at least just as much, as we consume. And, we must hire more of our people. Others certainly have an obligation to hire us as well, no doubt. But we cannot keep chanting slogans and begging them without, at the same time, building and growing our own employment base.
Professor Boston noted, “Without question, economic inclusion is the next civil rights frontier…promoting the growth of Black owned business means reducing society’s unemployment burden, providing jobs where they are most needed and improving the income status of people who are too often trapped below the poverty line. Because the economy can grow as a result of economic inclusion, everyone can benefit.”
Let’s look inward as well as outward for solutions to our problems. Let’s have our own economic inclusion policy by dusting off “Twenty by Ten” and renaming it “Twenty by Twenty.”
(Jim Clingman can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.)
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 09:51
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
by Marlene Cooper
(NNPA)—I was first introduced to the court proceeding called “probate” as a result of a frantic call I received soon after I began practicing law. The caller, a real estate agent, was handling an escrow and found that the sale couldn’t be completed because the seller (his client) didn’t have title to the property. Unfortunately, the property in question was still in the name of the seller’s mother who had died several years earlier. Because the seller didn’t have title, the escrow couldn’t be completed, the real estate agent lost his commission, and the matter had to be taken to court before any further action could be taken with respect to the property.
Many people who have inherited real estate are surprised to learn that they must go through probate in order to legally transfer the property into their name. They usually learn of their need for probate only after they have decided to sell the property or borrow against it. When they find out that the average probate takes 15 months to complete, they are disappointed that their plans have to be put on hold. Then, when they find out what probate costs, they are shocked. For the average home in Los Angeles County, now valued at $350,000, probate costs can exceed $25,000!
Even those that are aware that they must go through probate put it off for various reasons—primarily the cost, time, and/or “hassle” involved in a court proceeding. However, procrastination can lead to unforeseen problems down the road. For example, a person who inherits a piece of property might think that the property is worth a certain amount and has made big plans for the future based on the anticipated inheritance. However, the individual may not be aware of creditors or other heirs that have a legitimate claim to the property until their claim is revealed through the probate process. In one case I know about, a person was sharing in the rental income from the property for years, but when the probate was completed it revealed that the person sharing in the rental income had no legal claim to the property at all.
When probate procrastination goes on for years, it becomes a huge problem to sort out the various interests in the property. Many of us have heard of instances where a family inherited property “down South” a long time ago, never went through probate and now there are so many relatives involved that it seems hopeless and not worth any one person’s time and effort to get the title issues resolved.
Of course the best solution to probate problems is to avoid probate altogether through a living trust. A forward-thinking property owner would do well to save his or her heirs the time, expense and “hassle” of probate. If, on the other hand, you are that unfortunate heir who is faced with probate, it is best do it sooner rather than later.
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 09:42
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
Because of the end-of-the-year “fiscal cliff” negotiations, the IRS delayed the start of tax filing season until Jan. 30 this year. Some taxpayers faced further delays in filing, including those who claimed residential energy credits or whose returns involved property depreciation or general business credits. With or without delays, there are always those who end up filing their taxes at the last minute. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) offers these tips for people who scramble to get their returns in by the April deadline.
1. Don’t panic
Even if you’ve been putting off filing your return, you can still get it in on time. Take that important first step: locate all the documents you need and organize your paperwork. Sometimes that can be the hardest part.
2. Check your facts
It's much more stressful to get your return done in a hurry, and errors may creep in if you’re rushing. Take extra care to double check your figures and confirm that your Social Security number and other data on your return are correct.
3. Go electronic
Instead of standing in long lines at the post office, take advantage of the opportunity to file your returns electronically. According to the IRS, nearly 100 million taxpayers used the e-file option last year. You can use the IRS Free File system or ask your CPA to prepare and file your return electronically for you.
4. Talk to an expert
Speaking of CPAs, if you are running behind and don’t usually use a tax preparer, this may be the year to put a CPA’s expertise to work for you. A CPA can quickly tell you what paperwork you need and make sense of your tax situation, taking this burden off your shoulders.
5. Get it done
Know that if your return is late and you owe taxes, you could face interest and penalties that can really add up. If you don’t file a return at all, the IRS can assess tax based on the information it has—which may not include exemptions or deductions you deserve—and begin a collection process. Even if it will take a lot of effort to get your return done on time, it’s worth it.
6. Consider an extension
If you can’t file your return on time, you may be eligible for a six-month extension of the due date, but keep in mind that you still must properly estimate the amount you will owe and pay that amount by the regular deadline. If you don’t, you may be subject to interest and penalties. It may be possible to avoid a late payment penalty if you can show reasonable cause for missing the deadline. An automatic two-month extension to file a return and pay taxes is available to taxpayers who are out of the country on the normal due date because they reside overseas or they are on military duty outside the United States.
7. File even if you can’t pay
If you’ve been putting off filing because you don’t have the money you owe, don’t fail to send in your return. The IRS offers payment plans to eligible taxpayers who can’t pay their taxes all at once. If you’re not financially able to pay your tax debt immediately, you may qualify for an installment agreement that allows you to make payments over time. Your local CPA can help determine if you qualify for IRS payment plans and help you apply for one.
Your CPA can help
Whether you’re racing to finish your return or facing questions about other aspects of your financial life, be sure to turn to your local CPA. He or she can help you address all your critical financial concerns.
(To find a CPA in Pennsylvania by location or area of expertise, visit www.IneedaCPA.org.)
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 09:47
(NNPA)—Have you ever turned on the light in a dark basement and shuddered as cockroaches scurried away? I get that same sense of revulsion whenever I hear about unscrupulous swindlers taking advantage of the victims of natural and manmade disasters.
The Better Business Bureau has dubbed these human cockroaches “Storm Chasers” because they creep out of the woodwork after every major storm or disaster. In fact, because fraud was so widespread after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Justice created the National Center for Disaster Fraud, a central information clearinghouse for more than 20 federal agencies where people can report suspected fraudulent activities tied to disasters of all types.
One common scam is where supposed repair workers blitz impacted neighborhoods, hoping to ensnare frazzled homeowners. Their typical line is, “We’re really slammed but with a cash deposit you can ensure a spot on our busy schedule.” Or, they’ll scare people into thinking their home is dangerously unsafe, sometimes actually creating damage during their “inspection.”
Often, these Storm Chasers just take the money and run. Or, if they do show up and make repairs, their work or materials are shoddy. This could leave you on the hook financially since your homeowners insurance probably won’t cover unauthorized or fraudulent repairs.
Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau to avoid becoming a storm chaser victim:
Ask your insurance company about what’s covered under your policy and specific filing requirements. Also ask them to survey the damage and see whether they have approved contractors.
Never hire a laborer or contractor on the spot. Get at least three estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check their references, licensing and registration information with the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (www.nascla.org/licensing_information); also read reviews posted by the BBB.
Require written contracts that specify work to be done, materials to be used, start and end dates, responsibility for hauling away debris, and costs broken down by labor and materials. Verify that the contractor’s name, address, phone number and license number are included, as well as any verbal promises and warranties.
Read the fine print. Some shady contracts include clauses allowing substantial cancellation fees if you choose not to use the contractor after your insurance company has approved the claim. Others require you to pay the full price if you cancel after the cancellation period has expired.
Ask your contractor to provide proof of current insurance that covers workers compensation benefits, property damage and personal liability.
You’ll probably be asked to pay an upfront deposit to cover initial materials—one-quarter to one-third is reasonable upon delivery of materials to your home and once work begins.
Never pay in full in advance, and don’t pay cash. Have the contract specify a schedule for releasing payments, and before making the final payment, ask the contractor to provide proof that all subcontractors have been paid—if not, you could be liable for their fees.
And finally, remember the adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
(Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. To participate in a free, online Financial Literacy and Education Summit April 17, go to www.practicalmoneyskills.com/summit2013.)
Last Updated on Friday, 05 April 2013 09:37
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