Accidents, Lies and no Videotape | BrooklynCovered

I raced outside and saw what looked to be a 1995 Panel Van with NYS plates kissing the rear bumper of a white 2007 Chrysler Station Wagon with Pennsylvania plates. The driver of the Panel Van had jumped out of his vehicle, cursing his fate, not thinking clearly enough to put his van in park. I suggested, in a loud voice, to get back in the van and put it park.

Date:  Thursday, June 23, 2011
Time:  5:oo PM
Road Surface Conditions:  Dry
Light Conditions:  Cloudy with excellent visibility

Whatever Shall I Blog About?

I was at my desk, thinking of what to blog about, (I mean, I’ve only got about five shopping bags full of notes and ideas), when I thought I heard a bomb go off outside my office.

I raced outside and saw what looked like a 1995 Panel Van with NYS plates kissing the rear bumper of a white 2007 Chrysler Station Wagon with Pennsylvania plates. The driver of the Panel Van had jumped out of his vehicle, cursing his fate, not thinking clearly enough to put his van in park. I suggested, in a loud voice, to get back in the van and put it park.

I  briefly spoke to two former Brooklynites, just in from their new home in Las Vegas for a visit. They said both cars were stopped and then, in what I can only imagine was a severe case of distracted driving, Panel Van Man hit the gas and slammed into the rear of the PA Chrysler Wagon. So hard, in fact, both the drivers and passenger side front air bags , the van’s front bumper was ripped off, and the hood bent like a piece of paper you didn’t like before you threw it away. The result of a collision which again, sounded like a bomb going off.

The driver of the PA Chrysler emerged from his vehicle, holding the back of his head and flexing his spine. When I inquired as to how he felt, he told me he had just left work early to go to a doctor’s appointment.

Call 911, Kiddo

My daughter brought out some paper and pens so the two drivers could exchange information. Why? Well, Sections 601-605 of Title VI, Article 22 of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, (2007-2008 edition) covers the responsibilities of persons involved in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in the state of New York.Section 605 specifically states anyone involved in an accident where on or both parties suffer damage in excess of one thousand dollars shall report the accident in writing to the commissioner.

Your wilful failure  to report an accident or give current information is a misdemeanor creating grounds for the suspension and/or revocation of your license, registration, or both. This applies even if the driver involved is licensed, registered and insured out of state. You wouldn’t be able to legally drive anywhere in New York State.

Send In The Clowns

Why the lesson in vehicle law? Only because this is when the circus began.

The Pennsylvania plates finally made my insurance agent brain go “Click.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“I called the police and they should arrive soon. Are you the owner of this vehicle?” I asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“And, just between us, do you really live in Pennsylvania?”

“Uh, yeah. I’m just, uh, staying with my daughter in Brooklyn this week.”

Now, did somebody leave a dead, rotting fish in the sink for a week, or does something else smell fishy to you? Didn’t he tell me he’d just left work early to go to the doctor? Somehow, I don’t think he works, or lives in Pennsylvania.

Here’s the reality. Panel Van Man probably lacked either a valid license or current auto insurance. Chrysler Man really lives somewhere in Brooklyn, and fraudulently registers and insures his vehicle in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Panel Van Man again came over to offer PA Chrysler Man money to fix his car.

“Come on pal, we can settle this right now. How much do you want to fix your car?”

To his credit, PA Chrysler Man initially said “No, I want to call the police and get an ambulance. I don’t know if something is wrong with me, and I don’t know how bad my car is damaged. Don’t you have insurance?

“Yeah, yeah, I got insurance, but it’s high insurance. I pay real high insurance now.”

Gee, no kidding.

“I don’t want my insurance to go up. I’ll tell you what, follow me to my collision shop and I’ll fix your car for you.”

Why is it everybody responsible for an accident does body work? I mean, are they driving around looking to hit other cars so they can take them to their shops for practice? Or is business that bad?

They got down on hands and knees to examine the undercarriage of the Chrysler, then lifted the hatch and checked the interior trunk area for damage. All the while, Panel Van Man kept imploring PA Chrysler Man to take some money.

“Look, I only got $60.00. You’ll have to trust me for the rest.”

Say what? You just ram the back of another car, don’t want to call the police, and expect the other driver to ‘trust you’?

That’s when PA Chrysler Man pulled out his cell phone, began to hold the back of his head. Me, I’d have been laying on the macadam, waiting for Godot, I mean, the ambulance and the police. I’d already have my lawyer, John Dewey, of the law firm Dewey, Cheatum and Howe, on line one, and my real estate agent on line two.

Then, as if by miracle, Panel Van Man sighed, and pulled out a wad of bills which would have choked Secretariat to death. If he thought he had only $60.00, then he didn’t know how to count. He counted out a bunch of $100’s for quite some time. The first time he stopped, PA Chrysler Man shook his head as if to say, “Keep it coming fool”, and he kept on counting.

When an agreeable amount of money had chaned hands, Panel Van Man got into his vehicle lacking a legal bumper, with two deployed air bags and drove off in a cloud of smoke to strike again.

I approached PA Chrysler Man and expressed my hope he wouldn’t wake up a month from now, paralyzed from the waist down from the displaced spinal fracture he may have suffered in the accident. The same fracture the x-ray machine at the hospital would have discovered had he gone.

“There’s not enough money in the wad of bills he gave you to pay the medical and skilled nursery costs you could be facing down the road.”

He shrugged, smiled, got into his  rear bumper-damaged wagon, and drove away, happy with his unexpected payday.

Let’s just hope the rear of his car and his rear don’t fall off the same day.

Who Loses When This Happens?

Well, dear readers, it’s you and I. Us, the “I don’t need the hassle,” “Chicken livered,” and “I am too pretty for prison” honest folk who dutifully pay the proper and legal rates for auto insurance. Rates which are high because of the fraud so many other perpetrate daily.

We pay for everyone who says we’re crazy or stupid for paying so much when you can insure in Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and yes, even Pennsylvania and save yourself some money.

Just don’t get into an accident.

That’s okay though. Like I said, I’ll be glad to wait for the ambulance, talking to my lawyer on the phone.

The really good side of all of this? I finally had something fresh to post.

 

Eustace Greaves Jr, LUTCF is BrooklynCovered, a financial services representative located in Brooklyn, NY.
And all of the cool stuff happens right outside of his door.

 

 

Cruise Control |Brooklyn Covered

It Happened One Day

I happened to meet one of my clients on the street the other day. When she saw me she had the “Oh no” look so common with people who really don’t want to run into their financial representatives. Why? Because we seem to never forget what most people tend to – the disposition of  their financial affairs.

“Have you and your brother given any thought to talking with your mom about her insurance and planning needs should she require skilled nursing care either at home or in a nursing home?”

Before she could come up with an answer the old Greaves memory kicked in. “And what about the Renters, Life and Disability Insurance program we discussed at your last review? When would you like to get together to put your plans in place?”

She looked at me and said, “Listen, I really can’t worry about that stuff now. I’m getting ready to go on a cruise and I need a complete new wardrobe and I have to finish paying for my ticket…I’ll just take my chances. I’m sure nothing is going to happen and everything will be okay until I get around to it.”

Don’t ask me where my reply came from. “Be careful with the chances you take. You just might run out of luck.”

The Ships’ Company is Prepared

“You mentioned you’re going on a cruise, right? Well, think about this: The captain and each member of the crew of your cruise ship knows exactly how much food, fuel, fresh water and other supplies they need on board before the ship departs. They know to the minute when they’ll reach their first, second and last port of call. They know exactly how many meals will be served, who will sit at the captain’s table and when, how many songs the different bands need in their repertoires, the number of towels for the deck chairs and how many mints for the pillows. They’re ready for any shipboard emergencies because they constantly run simulated drills so they know how and what to do and when. They even know your name, date of birth, food allergies and maybe even your favorite color. All before you set foot on board that ship. And I’ll bet they have a pool on how many shipboard romances will end in broken hearts.”

Confused, she looked at me and asked “So what does that have to do with me? I’m just taking a vacation.”

I looked at her, took a deep breath and said, “They have a plan. You don’t. ”

I didn’t if she was going to laugh, cry or slap me upside the head. After a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, she quietly said, ” Well, if my luck holds out, I’ll see you when I return from the cruise.”

“Give me a date and time,” I said. “And before you can tell me you don’t know when we’ll meet to get your financial house in order, try telling me you don’t know the exact date, pier and time of departure for your cruise.”

I am looking forward to our upcoming appointment.

How Prepared Are You?

Take a moment and just think about your own financial house. A “Little Bit of Luck,” is cute in the New York State Lottery commercials, but how long will your luck hold out? I think you’ll sleep better if you just put yourself on “Cruise Control” so you can really enjoy all your life has to offer.

Just ‘a little’ food for thought.

Ten Reasons For A New Tax Preparer Review | Brooklyn Covered

You must remember your preparer possesses extremely sensitive information about you. Your Social Security Number, date of birth, your checking or saving account numbers, and employment and income information should be maintained in a secure site, safe from the dangers of identity theft. If your preparer relocates each year, you must ask them what precautions thy take to protect the information in your file. Find out who else has access to the information in your files and if so, for what purpose.

Make A Promise, Keep A Promise…

Let’s review why reasons one, two and three from last’s week’s post should make you really consider finding a new and competent Income Tax Preparer this year.

Reason Number One:

Back in 1991, I met an AT & T field technician referred to me by one of his co-workers for income tax preparation services. When the young man came to the office, he asked me to review a letter he’d received from the Audit Division of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

First, let me tell you, it’s never good to get a letter from either them or the Internal Revenue Service.

The letter explained his tax preparer, a well-known Enrolled Agent, had pleaded guilty to charges of preparing fraudulent income tax returns. So she would avoid incarceration, she agreed to cooperate fully with the state taxing authorities during their investigation. She also agreed to relinquish her status as an Enrolled Agent, and gave up her ability to ever prepare income taxes again.

How did she cooperate? “Here are the keys to the office. These are the keys to the file cabinets. Here are the worksheets  I developed using fraudulent entries to generate the largest (though fraudulent) tax refunds possible for my clients.”

How simple was that?

Just to give you an idea of the scope of her transgressions, the Audit Department audited his New York State income taxes going back ten (10) years for this particular taxpayer. ( Yes I know, they say you only have to keep seven (7) years of income tax returns. There is, however, no statute of limitations for fraud.)

The amount he owed all by himself? Over $7,800.00.

And this was only what he owed New York State. He hadn’t been audited by the Internal Revenue Service yet.

And yes, each state and the IRS do share information about taxpayers.

And he wasn’t alone in his financial pain. She alone prepared the income tax returns for over 300 folks just like him.

Why Did She Do It?

She felt great pressure.

  1. The pressure of having to constantly justify her fees.
  2. The pressure of competition posed by other fraudulent income tax preparers trying to horn into her business with their own promises of large refunds.

 What were the lies she told? Taking large deductions on Schedule A for ‘work clothing’ purchases and maintenance costs.

Here’s a tax tip: If the clothing you wear to work can be worn anywhere else besides your job, you can deduct neither the cost of the clothing, nor its maintenance costs.

Who Qualifies?

So who can usually deduct uniform expenses? Police Officers, Firefighters, Sanitation workers and certain, specifically uniformed Transit Authority workers. Also, any article of clothing worn at work emblazoned with the name of the firm, and perhaps their name also.

Nothing you wear to church or your backyard barbecue.

What Else Did She Do?

She counseled married clients with children, to show different addresses so they’d qualify to file as Heads of Households, instead of Married Filing Jointly.*

Let’s Get to Reason Number 2

Your income tax preparer should be of stable character in all ways, including their business office.

Now, I am myself in the process of relocating my office (Gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan was right when he said “The rent is too damn high.”) I have, however, occupied the same storefront since January, 1999.

You must remember your preparer possesses extremely sensitive information about you. Your Social Security Number, date of birth, your checking or saving account numbers, and employment and income information should be maintained in a secure site, safe from the dangers of identity theft. If your preparer relocates each year, you must ask them what precautions thy take to protect  the information in your file.  Find out who else has access to the information in your files and if so, for what purpose.

Make sure your preparer provides you with four (4) critical documents to review and sign. 

First, the Consent to Use Information and the Consent to Disclose Information forms. These forms are required by Section 7216 of the Internal Revenue Service code when the preparer of the income tax return offers other services to their clients. Without these documents, the preparer is legally enjoined from sharing the clients’ information with any other business entity.

Next, your preparer must give you a copy their firms’, Privacy Policy Statement, outlining what methods they will use to protect your information.

Lastly, your preparer, if they have a lick of good sense, will require you to review and sign a Tax Preparation Engagement Agreement.

No, it doesn’t mean you’re getting engaged. It outlines both the responsibilities of the taxpayer to provide all information the preparer enters into their income tax return. This means no fraudulent entries. It also covers areas relating to audits, privacy policy, fees, your copy of your return, preparation method and other services your preparer may offer you. (An example of this form is available on my website at www.insuremeeg.com/2011_Engagement_Agreement.html)

Are We There Yet?

We finally come to Reason Number 3. PTIN  and  NYPTRIN are not fancy acronyms for foreign cars. The first is the IRS’s Preparer Tax Identification Number. The second refers to New York State’s New York Tax Preparer Identification Number.

Who Must Have These Numbers?

Basically, any tax return preparer who prepares a substantial part of any return for compensation.  Ask your preparer what their numbers are. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, ask the preparer to give you your file, collect your paperwork, and leave the office as quickly as possible.

While PTINS have been around since 1999, New York State first required preparers to register in 2009 (and pay an annual  fee of $100.00 for the privilege. The IRS charges a fee of $64.95).

Why Did New York State and The IRS Do This? 

At last count, the United States Treasury determined there was a 315 billion dollar tax collection shortfall in 1985, 265 billion of which was directly attributable to taxpayers’ failure to file, and filing fraudulent returns. This new system will enable them to better identify and prosecute those abusing the system by flooding it with fraudulent returns. On the other, to catch those who prepare returns and fail or refuse to sign them. Why do they refuse? So they don’t have to declare the income. In fact, they often fail to  file their own income tax returns.

On several occasion last filing season, clients, thinking they’d save money, went to other preparers, only to be told the preparer had a “…problem with their New York State software. So tell you what, I’ll prepare and charge you for preparing your Federal return and you can go anywhere to get the NYS return done.”

Not with me. Sorry. I don’t do sloppy seconds.

Never have, never will.

No matter what, the federal return must always be done first. Many federal calculations then flow to the state return.

You come to my office and you’ll pay for both, because I must prepare both.  I wound up telling those clients to return to the other preparers and get their money back. And their files, too.

And You Thought This Was Going To Be Easy?

Next week we’ll review reasons numbers 4, 5 and 6. Until next time, wait for those w-2’s with bated breath.

Questions? Feel free to email me at eustace@brooklyncovered.com

* We’ll cover the subject of filing status in a future post.