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Iowa Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Sioux City PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judical Branch   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:40

Des Moines, February 20, 2013—On Tuesday, March 12, the Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sioux City, Iowa. The proceeding will take place in Morningside College Eppley Auditorium, 3625 Garretson Avenue. The session will begin at 7 p.m.

The court will hear lawyers argue in two cases:

In the Matter of the Estate of Lois L. Hord

In this case the Iowa Supreme Court will settle the law on issues arising from the transfer of real property subject to a spendthrift trust. Iowa law recognizes the validity of spendthrift trusts, which "restrain both voluntary and involuntary transfer, assignment, and encumbrance of the beneficiary's interest" in the trust. Appellants seek to invalidate transfers they made of their future interests in farm land to their aunt, who held a life estate interest in the land under her husband's will.

State v. Kooima

In this case the Iowa Supreme Court will consider whether an anonymous citizen's tip called into the 911 dispatcher was sufficient for a law officer's investigatory stop of appellant's vehicle. The stop resulted in a second offense OWI conviction. Appellant argues the court should have allowed him to present evidence on the unreliability of the anonymous tip.

 
U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Police Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs to Carry Out Warrantless Searches During Traffic Stops PDF Print E-mail
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Written by John W. Whitehead   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:11

WASHINGTON, DC — In a 9-0 decision in Florida v. Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that police may use drug-sniffing dogs to carry out warrantless searches during routine traffic stops. Citing studies raising serious doubts about the reliability and training of drug detection dogs, The Rutherford Institute had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the practice of using drug detection dogs as the sole basis for warrantless searches unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Published scientific studies show that drug dog alerts are wrong as much as 56% of the time, and are heavily influenced by the biases of the dog’s handler.

“This ruling undercuts the entire basis of the Fourth Amendment, which was designed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “When dog sniffs, which have proven to be unreliable, are considered probable cause for police to search your property without a warrant—whether it’s your home, your car or your person—then none of our rights are secure.”

In June 2006, a Florida county sheriff stopped a vehicle driven by Clayton Harris for an expired license tag. When Harris refused the sheriff’s request for consent to search the vehicle, a drug-detection dog was deployed and conducted a “free air sniff” of the exterior of the vehicle. When the dog alerted to the door handle on the driver’s side, the officer conducted a warrantless search of the interior of the vehicle and found materials used for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Harris was arrested and charged. However, before trial, Harris’ attorneys moved to suppress the evidence found as a result of the search of his vehicle, asserting that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. At the suppression hearing, the state introduced evidence that the dog had gone through training and was certified for drug detection, but presented no specific evidence documenting the dog’s overall performance nor records of the dog’s false alerts. In fact, Harris presented evidence that the dog had alerted to the same vehicle two months after his arrest, but a search of the vehicle revealed no illegal drugs. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, but the Florida Supreme Court granted the motion on appeal, ruling that evidence that the dog has been trained and certified to detect narcotics, standing alone, is not sufficient to establish the dog’s reliability for purposes of determining probable cause. The court held that the state has the burden of showing the officer had a reasonable basis for believing the dog was reliable by presenting evidence on matters such as training field performance records.

In asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s ruling, The Rutherford Institute documented empirical research showing dog alerts are not inherently reliable. One recent study at the University of California—Davis, showed that in a test where handlers were told drugs might be found at the test site, but no drugs were present, dogs gave false positive alerts an astonishing 85% of the time. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on a related case, Florida v. Jardines, which challenges the use of drug-sniffing dogs by police to carry out warrantless searches of private homes. The Rutherford Institute also filed an amicus brief in Florida v. Jardines.


This Press Release is also available at www.rutherford.org

 
NARI remodelers more successful than industry norm PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Morgan Zenner   
Friday, 22 February 2013 15:03

Research reveals business sophistication level of NARI members

 

Des Plaines, Illinois, February 19, 2013—Members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) continue to lead the industry in terms of sales, production and employees, according to results of the 2012 NARI Member Profile Study, conducted by Fred Miller, president of Consumer Specialists.

 

The data—designed to provide a snapshot of NARI remodelers—shows slight growth in the number of company locations, in-house design work, dedicated salespeople and types of services offered.

 

“NARI members are quite adept at diversifying and adapting to market trends in order to remain successful,” says Tom O’Grady, CR, CKBR, chair of NARI’s Strategic Planning and Research committee and owner of O’Grady Builders in Drexel Hill, Pa. “The research suggests the majority of NARI businesses are operating on a sophisticated level, with ongoing evaluation of revenues, sales margins, overhead, income, performance, shifts in housing and consumer demands as the basis for decision-making.”

 

This year’s data shows other signs of improvement in the remodeling industry:

  • NARI members reported a 14 percent boost in average sales, with 38 percent reporting more than $1,000,000 in annual sales.

 

  • Eighty-two percent (82%) of NARI members offer more than one remodeling service.

 

  • NARI members reported an increase in number of employees, with a 3 percent uptick in dedicated sales employees.

 

“Though the recession took its toll on many small businesses, NARI members seem to have prevailed,” O’Grady says. “Many of us are taking time to refresh our operations and responsibilities in preparation for growth over the next couple of years.” In fact, 93 percent of NARI members predict future sales to be as good or better in 2013, according to the Member Profile data.

 

To see the full 2012 Member Profile Study results, send your request to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

NARI is a professional association whose members voluntarily subscribe to a strict code of ethics. Visit the NARI.org site to get tips on how to hire a remodeling professional and to search for NARI members in your area.

 

Click here to see an online version of this press release.

 

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About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling industry.  The Association, which represents 7,000 member companies nationwide—comprised of 63,000 remodeling contractors— is “The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”™ To learn more about membership, visit www.NARI.org or contact national headquarters, based in Des Plaines, Ill., at (847) 298-9200.

 
Personal Finance Article: Should You Hire a Tax Preparer? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Burke   
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:28

By Jason Alderman

The U.S. tax code grows more complicated every year and currently spans thousands of pages – even government experts can't agree exactly how long it is. So it's not surprising that millions of Americans hire professional tax preparers to complete their returns.

Relinquishing the onerous task of calculating your taxes to a professional may save you time and give peace of mind – they know more about tax law than you do, right? But remember: You're still legally responsible for all information on the return. So if the preparer makes a mistake or intentionally defrauds the government, you'll be on the hook for any additional taxes, interest and penalties – even possible prosecution.

The IRS notes that although most tax return preparers are professional, honest and serve their clients well, taxpayers should use the same standards for choosing a preparer as they would for a doctor or lawyer, and be on the lookout for incompetence and criminal activity.

There are several basic types of tax preparers: certified public accountants, IRS-designated enrolled agents, tax attorneys, storefront agents (think H&R Block) and self-employed preparers.

The first three types must meet their own licensing agency's continuing education and licensing requirements and are bound by ethical standards; they're also the only professionals authorized to represent you before the IRS on all tax matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Others may only represent you for audits of returns they actually prepared. Always ask whether they belong to any professional organizations with continuing-education requirements.

Here are tips for choosing the right tax return preparer:

  • Request an initial free consultation at which you can share last year's return and discuss how your situation has changed.
  • Ask how their fees are determined – some charge by the number of forms (schedules) filed, others by the hour. You might pay anywhere from $100 to many thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of your situation, where you live, the agent's credentials, etc.
  • One good way to get a sense of fees is to ask what they would have charged to complete your last year's return.
  • Be wary of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. No one can estimate your refund without first reviewing your financial information.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the return months or years after it's been filed.
  • Check their credentials and find out if any complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Reputable preparers will ask to see receipts and will ask multiple questions to determine whether expenses qualify for deduction.
  • Ask whether your return's preparation will be outsourced, which means your personal information could be transmitted electronically to another firm, possibly outside the U.S.
  • Ask about their experience with IRS audits and what their fees would be to represent you in an audit.
  • Ask their policy for reimbursing you for fines, penalties and interest if it turns out your owe back taxes on a return they prepared – many have insurance for that purpose.

And finally, don't muddy the waters by linking your tax-return fee to buying another product the preparer may be trying to sell, such as a refund-anticipation loan or check, retirement savings account or insurance policy.


Jason Alderman directs Visa's financial education programs. To Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

 
Governor Quinn Encourages Working Families to Apply for Earned Income Tax Credit PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Erin Wilson   
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 13:15

Newly-Doubled Tax Credit Puts More Money in the Pockets of
Working Families

CHICAGO – February 16, 2013. Governor Pat Quinn today encouraged working families across Illinois to learn about how they can apply for newly-expanded tax relief and highlighted no-cost tax preparation services they should take advantage of. The governor continued his drive to get the word out about Illinois’ newly expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at Truman College, which serves as a tax assistance center organized by the Center for Economic Progress (CEP).

Governor Quinn fought for and signed legislation in 2012 that doubles the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the next two years, which is expected to save working families an extra $105 million a year. The same legislation also benefits all taxpayers by improving the value of the personal exemption by indexing it to inflation. Today’s event is part of the governor’s effort to drive economic growth and support working families across Illinois.

“Empowering working families is essential to growing the Illinois economy,” Governor Quinn said. “We want to make sure to get the word out about how eligible people can apply for the tax relief they deserve.”

The EITC is uniquely pro-growth and pro-family. Available only to workers who are earning income, this tax credit provides incentive to work as well as much-needed tax relief to the lowest-income families. The EITC also generates local economic growth by increasing consumer spending. A 2006 Brookings Institution study found that every dollar a family saves through this tax credit translates into $1.58 of activity in local economies and can help businesses avoid layoffs, hire employees and pave the way for future growth.

The law also improves the value of the standard personal exemption for all taxpayers in Illinois and ties its continued growth to the rate of inflation. The personal exemption will increase by $50 (to $2,050) in tax year 2012, and the value of the exemption will be indexed to the cost of living adjustment each tax year thereafter. The personal exemption change benefits all taxpayers, regardless of income.

Governor Quinn launched EITC.illinois.gov last month to help more eligible families receive tax relief and take advantage of tax preparation assistance.

How to Benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

To benefit from Illinois’ EITC, also known as the Earned Income Credit (EIC), taxpayers must include it on their tax returns. The not-for-profit Center for Economic Progress (CEP) estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of eligible taxpayers did not file for EITC last year.

To help working families achieve the maximum savings on their taxes, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) partners with the Center for Economic Tax Counseling Project to provide free tax preparation assistance at tax assistance centers across the state. The services are provided free of charge to families making less than $50,000 annually and to individuals with yearly incomes under $25,000. More than 25,000 Illinois taxpayers filed returns through the program in the 2011 tax season, with more than $45 million in state and federal tax refunds returned to clients.

DHS also funds the Tax Assistance Program (TAP) which has nearly 20 locations in Chicago and the suburbs. TAP recruits tax professionals to volunteer to assist low-income families. DHS also works with its clients and those who found jobs and have left DHS programs to educate them about tax preparation programs and ways to ensure they receive the maximum refund on their tax returns.

A list of locations across the state that offer free tax assistance to eligible individuals is attached.

For more information on the Tax Counseling Project, contact the Center for Economic Progress in Chicago at 312-630-0273, or call the toll-free statewide number at 888-827-8511. For information on the Tax Assistance Program call 312-409-1555 or 312-409-4318 (Spanish). Details are also available on the DHS website at www.dhs.state.il.us and the Department of Revenue website at www.revenue.state.il.us.

Information about filing federal taxes online can be found at www.irs.gov.

 

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