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Pitfalls Of Being An Executor

As a general rule, the executor of an estate does not have personal liability for the debts and obligations of a decedent. Lest executors become complacent, however, they should be aware of an important exception to that rule, which was illustrated by a recent federal court case between executors and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

At the time of her death, the decedent had a substantial unpaid income tax liability, in the range of a half-million dollars.

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How Long Has This Been Going On?

Even if you’re a taxpayer with simple returns and few supporting documents, you can become a little snowed under by tax records as they accumulate over the years, raising the question of how long you should hold on to such records. The answer depends on the types of documents and transactions involved, but if you have been a tax records pack rat for many years, chances are you can safely dispose of the oldest such records without inviting trouble.

As a starting point, you must keep tax records that support the income, deductions, and credits on your tax return, and you should also keep copies of the returns themselves.

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Fashion Design Protection Law Failed Again In 2012

In a column a few years back (Design Protection: Pros and Cons) I discussed the efforts of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (the CFDA) a by-invitation-only industry group of about 400 designers, to get the Design Piracy Prohibition Act (and similarly named proposed legislation) enacted into Federal Law. Certain very successful designers, such as Diane von Furstenberg, have been championing such proposed laws for years, with the admitted purpose of intimidating and punishing any copying of some of their popular designs.

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Internet Free Speech Vs. Employers’ Rights

Since Twitter, Facebook and other social media became a fact of life, many employers have struggled to set policies for their own protection, regarding what employees may say in their communications published online. Their primary concerns have been to prevent negative publicity about themselves. A second concern has sometimes been to prevent employees from complaining publicly about workplace conditions, compensation practices and the like.

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The Irs Is Here To Help

To help struggling taxpayers who owe back taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently unveiled a series of new steps to help people get a “fresh start,” to use the phrase invoked by the IRS Commissioner, with their tax liabilities. The general idea is to recognize the challenging economic environment the country faces while also keeping the tax revenue flowing in at acceptable levels. The focus is on changes to the tax lien system and other collection tools already used by the IRS that will make paying taxes a little easier on taxpayers.

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“Freeze” Your Credit To Help Prevent Identity Theft

By now, most people are familiar with the threat of identity theft and the uses to which the thieves might put your stolen identity. This includes using your personal information to charge goods and services on a new bogus credit card.

There are the usual preventive measures you can take, such as keeping personal information close to your vest, using passwords, and shredding financial documents you no longer need. You can also get regular credit reports from the three major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–and/or sign up for a credit monitoring service.

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Natural Gas Exploration Not Allowed In The Suburbs

An oil and gas company was enthusiastic enough about the prospects for finding and bringing up natural gas on a particular piece of property that in addition to securing a lease from the property owner for exploration and drilling, it agreed to pay him a signing bonus of nearly $100,000. As you read this, you are likely to be picturing a scene from the Great Plains or a prairie in Texas, but think again. The property subject to the lease was in a residential subdivision in the northeast, complete with an array of typical restrictive covenants and a property owners association (POA) eager to enforce them.

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New Irs Vcsp Program May Be A Trap For Unwary Employers

For over two years we have been warning clients and readers about the Federal government’s increasing enforcement of the employment tax and labor laws. The primary focus is on catching employers who classify full-time employees as “independent contractors.” When caught, such employers can be held liable for retroactive benefits, employment taxes and penalties.

A new IRS effort, named its Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), seeks to induce employers to voluntarily take employees out of the “independent contractor” category. Announced in October, 2011.

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