Beware the Preferred Shop!

In Massachusetts it is illegal for an insurance company to steer people to body shops. The insurance company is required to give you a list of all the “registered shops” in your county. A registered shop is one that has a licensed appraiser on premises, and thus can compel the insurance company to negotiate with it in good faith to determine the proper price of a repair, and can compel the insurance company to arbitrate any disagreements. As such, the person getting their car fixed after a collision can be assured that the repair will be done completely and, with few exceptions such as deductibles, the damage, at the sole expense of the insurance company.   The insurance company is not allowed to tell you which shop on that list you should go to. That is called “steering” and it is...

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Finally! Technology solutions to distracted driving!

Distracted driving is a large and growing problem. In my own office, the typical motor vehicle collision involves a person who is stopped at a place where it is pretty obvious that they should be stopped or would be stopping, such as a red light, a stop sign, or in heavy traffic, and someone is slamming into them. This fact pattern describes a majority of the accidents in my office. 10 or 15 years ago, that would have been less than 25%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nine people die every single day from car accidents that result from distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 people were injured by distracted drivers in 2015. As disturbing as these figures are, they almost certainly understate the problem. While most accidents in my office were probably caused by distracted driving, very few of them are directly attributed to distracted driving in the police...

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Tax Resolution Boot Camp – A Trial Lawyer’s Perspective

I recently had the opportunity to attend the two-day tax resolution “boot camp” offered by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS). In spite of the name, ASTPS is a fantastic organization, and this “boot camp” was by far the best seminar of any sort I have attended. ASTPS is an organization for tax attorneys, enrolled agents (EA), and certified public accountants (CPA). No one else would join this organization, because the IRS no longer allows anybody else to solve the “tax problems” that ASTPS deals with. Simply put, appeals and complex collection matters are outside the domain of what un-enrolled tax preparers, or even those who have completed the annual tax preparer’s program, generally do. Besides, who would want to hire such a person for a complex tax matter, such as an audit, appeal, or an offer in compromise? The tax resolution “boot camp” was taught by a person, who is both a CPA and an Enrolled Agent. In fact, all the presenters met...

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I HAVE BEEN INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT, WHO WILL PAY MY MEDICAL BILLS?

At first glance, the answer to the question “I have been injured in a car accident. Who will pay my medical bills?” is a simple one. Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state, so at least initially the car insurance is required to pay your medical bills and wage losses that resulted from the car accident. There are numerous exceptions to the rule, many of which I will discuss in the body of this article. Some of the exceptions are intentional, such as the absence of the coverage for injuries resulting from the injured person’s drunk driving or drag racing and the lack of coverage for motorcyclists. Others derive from the fact that Massachusetts is not a pure no-fault system, but instead a hybrid system. Medical expenses need to be coordinated with private health insurance. Wage loss claims are subordinate to disability insurance and other payments, including payments by the employer. The most gnawing exceptions derive from complications involved in administering a hybrid system...

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USCIS IS INCREASING ITS FEES

I have been warning my clients for the past several months that there is a rumor circulating that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is going to be raising its fees soon. It is no longer a rumor. USCIS has announced its new fee schedule effective December 23, 2016 The immigration service is increasing many of its fees, some of them are quite substantially. For example, where it is used to cost $1,490 for a spouse or immediate family member to adjust status and receive a green card while in the U.S., that fee will increase to $1,760. That is just for the government. The attorney fees will be on top of that. Similarly, to apply for citizenship is increasing from $595 to $640. The fiancé petition fee is increasing from $340 to $535, while fees to replace a lost or stolen green card are increasing from $365 to $455. Petition for non-immigrant workers (H-Visas) are increasing from $345 to...

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When Bankruptcy is the Best Option

I had the pleasure the other day of reading an article on a website called nerdwallet.com called "When Bankruptcy is the Best Option". It raised a number of issues that I would like to take the opportunity to expound upon. It also cited two of my favorite Federal Reserve articles, one published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the other by researchers at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank. One concern that people commonly have when filing bankruptcy is what impact it will have upon their credit score. This article cites some findings from the researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. The article quotes the following...

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A Special Thank You to the Stoneham Office of the Internal Revenue Service

I need to say something nice about someone at the Internal Revenue Service. I should preface this by saying that for the most part the individuals that I have dealt with at the Internal Revenue Service have been professional and helpful. Many have even been friendly. However, I thought that this recent experience was special and so I wanted to give a special shout out to the Stoneham Collections Office for going out of its way to help me and my client. I have a client whose divorce I did some years ago. At the time, neither he nor his wife were working and the agreement simply said that they would alternate claiming the tax credit for their child. Now my client is working, and I am doing his taxes. He did not claim the child in 2012, but we did claim the child in 2013. Unfortunately, the wife's address is impounded, and her former attorney is no longer practicing law. We did not know how to get a hold of her. After considerable networking we found her. She was not very cooperative....

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Early Retirement Distributions from IRAs, 401(k)s and other Retirement Savings Plans

The Internal Revenue Service has put out this article "Early Retirement Distributions and Your Taxes". I want to discuss it because it has been a major issue for many of my clients. In fact, I have a running joke whenever a client hands me a form 1099-R (the form that people receive when they take a distribution from a retirement plan) that they "did this to make me look bad". It seems that any time a client takes an early distribution from a retirement plan that it destroys their refund and sometimes even causes them to owe tax when they would otherwise receive refunds. This is true even if they "took the taxes already" which only means that some tax was withheld. Generally speaking, the withholding that is done is inadequate. There are also "hidden costs" to a 401(k) or other retirement withdrawal. I wanted to discuss this article when it came out, but it came out during the height of...

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Make a Wise Choice When Selecting a Tax Return Preparer

The IRS has published its annual advice publication on how to choose a tax preparer cleverly named “Make a Wise Choice When Selecting a Tax Return Preparer”. They list ten (10) tips and explain each one. This article discusses each tip and how Attorney Haskell meets or exceeds the Internal Revenue Service standard. The first tip is “Select an ethical preparer.” The Internal Revenue Service has put the most important issue at the top of the list. Their emphasis is on the fact that you are trusting somebody with all of your personal information. You must give your tax preparer the names, addresses, social security numbers, and dates of birth of yourself, your spouse, your children and any other dependants you may have. Right off the bat, you are giving your tax preparer everything necessary to steal your identity. On top of that, you give your tax preparer your employment information, your bank account information and your investment account...

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