Taxability of Alimony and Child Support

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Tracy Coenen talks about the taxability of alimony versus child support, including a brief discussion of the IRS rules. These rules are still in effect for 2017 activity, but may differ based on possible changes to the tax code for 2018 and thereafter.

Tax Mistakes to Avoid

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With the end of the year approaching, it’s a good time to talk about some tax mistakes that can be very painful. With a tax code as huge and as complex as ours in the United States, there are countless mistakes we can make in preparing and filing our taxes. These are just a few that you might have the misfortune of making.

  1. Report all income – This includes the income on W-2s from all of your jobs, as well as income on 1099s that you may have earned as in independent contractor. Did you know that you need to report all of your income even if you don’t receive a 1099? While a company only has to provide a 1099 if they paid you $600 or more, you’re still required to report the income even if it’s less than that. Or if a company forgot to send you a 1099, you still have to report the income.
  2. Use a tax preparer – This is especially important if your taxes get complicated. Buying a rental property, moving to a new state, and having investments are all common things that can make your tax filing more difficult than it was before. The tax laws are constantly changing, and it makes sense to work with someone who is on top of those things. (But don’t go to H&R Block or other “big name” tax preparation places.)
  3. Continue reading

Jeunesse Is a Pyramid Scheme, Says Expert

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In October, a billion dollar class action lawsuit was filed against Jeunesse, alleging that the multi-level marketing company (MLM) is actually a pyramid scheme. Truth in Advertising summarizes the lawsuit:

The lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 12 in California federal district court by three current distributors and one former distributor, names 15 defendants and 100 unknown defendants that plaintiffs allege are responsible for the injuries and harm they incurred. Named defendants include Kim Hui, who held the second-highest distributor rank in Jeunesse as a Presidential Diamond director, and her company US Global System (USGS), as well as four Diamond directors in Hui’s downline, May Chang, Yvonne Yen, Samson Li and Lisa Wang.

The lawsuit says Jeunesse Global makes tons of money in Hong Kong and China by exploiting Chinese American distributors, and the company’s “… conduct violates foreign laws and constitutes money laundering and tax evasion.” Truth in Advertising reports:

The complaint most likely implicates violations of foreign law because in 2005, the Chinese government enacted a law called Regulation of Direct Sales and Regulation on Prohibition of Chuanxiao (Chuanxiao roughly translates to MLM). According to this regulation, direct sales are permitted in mainland China but MLMs are notThe suit seeks to hold defendants liable for fraudulent business practices, false advertising, and violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, among other things.

This lawsuit was the latest in a series of class action lawsuits filed against Jeunesse  recently. A July 2016 suit alleged that the company is  pyramid scheme and there are secret compensation packages. A December 2016 lawsuit alleged that the company is a pyramid scheme and preys on Chinese American Immigrants. Continue reading

Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Consumers

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Now is the time when everyone scrambles to get their tax situation in order. There are some tax moves you should make BEFORE the end of the year, so act now.

I was interviewed in 2008 on CNBC about year-end tax planning. The advice is still relevant today, and each one of these tips still applies. These are some really great things you should do before December 31.

Lack of Retail Sales in MLM

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When someone introduces you to multi-level marketing (MLM), they are likely talking to you about the sales aspect of the company. They are talking about the fabulous product (maybe even about how it “sells itself”) and they are probably downplaying the recruiting aspect (since so many people hate the recruiting concept).

MLMs like to call themselves “direct sales,” another attempt to focus on the selling of the product, even though the companies live and die by recruiting. The product or service being sold is simply the bait to get someone in. It is used as the “cover” for the scam, as a product or service is necessary to combat claims of being a pyramid scheme.

The truth is that people involved in MLM do little actual retailing of products or services to third-party customers (non-members of the scheme). The vast majority of the purchases of products and services are made by the members of the MLMs themselves, either to stock inventory (which they will probably never be able to sell) or for personal consumption.

That’s not retailing. That’s making purchases within the scheme. The members of the mutli-level marketing company likely wouldn’t buy those products or services if they weren’t in the scheme. They’re making purchases for a variety of reasons: to move to the next level, to “qualify” for a commission check, etc.

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Calculating Business Interruption Claims

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Tracy walks through the process of calculating a business interruption insurance claim, also called a business income loss. When a company is unable to operate for a period of time due to a covered loss (a fire, for example), its insurance policy may provide coverage that pays for lost profits while the business is closed. Tracy explains how to calculate net income plus continuing expenses in cases such as this.

WorldVentures Pyramid Scheme Lawsuit

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Back in May, a class action lawsuit was filed against multi-level marketing company WorldVentures. This is the travel MLM that encourages distributors to share photos of themselves holding signs saying “You Should Be Here.”  It is marketed as a direct sales travel club, yet the “start a business” part of their website doesn’t even mention what you will be selling or doing. The World Ventures compensation plan mentions making money from selling products and from recruiting others, yet the entire document speaks only to the money that is made from enrolling new distributors (called enrolling new product customers). Making money from selling something seems to be wholly disregarded.

It’s not surprising then, that the lawsuit filed against WorldVentures by Melody Yiru accuses the company of being an endless chain recruitment scheme that is prohibited under California law. The lawsuit says, among other things: Continue reading

Short Seller Marc Cohodes About Face on Overstock

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BFFs Marc Cohodes and Patrick Byrne

Former hedge fund manager Marc Cohodes has been a long-time critic of Overstock.com and its wacky CEO, Patrick Byrne. The criticism dates back to the days when Cohodes was at Rocker Partners, a company that was sued by Overstock along with research firm Gradient Analytics. In 2005, Cohodes was fingered by Byrne as being part of a “miscreants ball” under the direction of a “Sith Lord.” Yet after more than a decade with a negative opinion of the company and its management, Cohodes recently did an about face.

Is money fueling the change of heart?

Sam Antar, another long-time critic of Overstock, details the Cohodes/Overstock situation nicely on his blog. The crux of the issue is that Cohodes (who has been focused on short selling) took a long position in Overstock in May 2017. A month later, Cohodes met personally with Byrne. In October, Cohodes hyped the company during a presentation at a Grant’s Interest Rate Observer conference, and said that Byrne is now his friend. Continue reading

Market America Pyramid Scheme Lawsuit

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In May 2017, Market America was hit with a class action lawsuit in federal court in California by plaintiffs Chuanjie Yang and Ollie Lan. The lawsuit calls MarketAmerica a pyramid scheme that is taking advantage of Chinese American immigrants.

MarketAmerica is a multi-level marketing company that has a number or product lines including Isotonix supplements, Motives cosmetics, and others. It also uses what it calls a “product brokerage concept,” which is essentially a massive affiliate program which pays a small amount of cash back to the the distributor when purchases are made at certain retailers while on the shop.com website. (This sounds just like Shop to Earn, a defunct MLM that screamed pyramid scheme.)

Per the lawsuit, Market America requires a start-up fee of $399 and an ongoing monthly fee of $129. Distributors must also spend $100 to $300 per month on shop.com to continue to qualify as an enrollee, and other fees are incurred to attend training and events. Continue reading

Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce and Child Support Cases

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One of the chief concerns in a divorce or child custody case is identifying the true income of one or both of the parties. It is not unusual for such a case to include allegations of hidden income or assets. It is common for a closely held business to suspiciously encounter declining sales and profits following the filing of a family law case.

In each of these instances, properly determining the income of the party is critical to getting a fair and equitable settlement, maintenance award, or child support award. Until you have the correct numbers, the attorney may find it very difficult to decide what is fair or in the best interest of the client.

How can a spouse or parent with little to no direct access to the other party’s financial records prove that there is undisclosed income? What happens if the financial records obtained during discovery appear woefully incomplete? A forensic accountant is the logical choice to help reconstruct financial records, estimate earnings, and analyze fine details of financial documents to prove or disprove income claims. Continue reading