Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Taxing the rich: The record under Obama

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm
obama taxes up
President Obama’s budget proposals to tax the rich are usually DOA with Republicans. Nevertheless, the top 1% are now paying an average tax rate that’s 6 percentage points higher than when Obama first took office.

New year. Old strategy.

The White House has already revealed many of President Obama’s proposals to raise taxes on the rich that will be in his 2016 budget, due out Monday.

Among them: A plan to increase investment taxes and get rid of the so-called “trust fund loophole” in the estate tax.

The idea is to help pay for other measures aimed at helping low- and middle-income families. They may also be used to help pay for increased government spending.

Calling for higher taxes on the rich has been a feature of every one of Obama’s budgets since 2009. Remember the Buffett Rule? That would have imposed a minimum 30% effective federal tax rate on the very wealthy.

That one and most others didn’t get very far, but that doesn’t mean Obama’s push hasn’t been effective.

Under Obama, the average federal tax rate paid by the top 1% of households has gone up more than 6 percentage points to an estimated 33.8% today, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Related: How Obama would close the ‘trust fund loophole’

That’s largely due to the following tax hikes that were part of the Affordable Care Act and the bipartisan fiscal cliff deal at the start of 2013.

Higher Medicare tax on top wages: It used to be that everyone paid 1.45% in Medicare taxes on all their wages (or 2.9% if self-employed). But the Affordable Care Act added an additional 0.9% tax on wages over $200,000 ($250,000 if married).

So the highest wage earners now pay 1.45% on their earned income up to that threshold and 2.35% on the earnings above it.

New Medicare tax on investment income: The ACA also imposed the Medicare tax on investment income at a rate of 3.8%.

In this context, investment income can come from capital gains, dividends, interest, rental income and annuities.

It’s not a straightforward tax in that it wouldn’t necessarily apply to 100% of one’s investment income. It would apply to whichever is less — your investment income or the amount that your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the high-income threshold.

A higher top income tax rate: For those with taxable income over $400,000 ($450,000 if married), the fiscal cliff deal raised their top income tax rate to 39.6%, up from 35% previously.

Higher capital gains and dividend tax rates: For those with taxable income over $400,000 ($450,000 if married), their rate on dividends and long-term capital gains is now 20%, up from 15% previously.

In his 2016 budget proposal, Obama will call for the long-term capital gains and dividend tax rate for high-income households to be raised again — this time to 24.2%.

So for taxpayers also subject to the 3.8% Medicare surtax, they would pay a top rate of 28% on at least some of their investment income.

Limits on tax breaks for high-income households: For people with adjusted gross incomes over $250,000 (or $300,000 for married couples), the fiscal cliff deal reinstated limitations or phase-outs that reduce the value of itemized deductions and personal exemptions.

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Radio host Michael Medved says he has throat cancer

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm
michael medved
The long time radio show host announced he had throat cancer on Friday.

Popular conservative radio host Michael Medved has stage three throat cancer, and is taking a leave of absence while undergoing treatment.

Medved told his listeners on the air and in a letter on Friday afternoon.

“I always knew that it would take something serious to keep me away from the microphone I cherish for an extended period of time,” Medved wrote. “As it turns out, I am facing something serious. It’s called cancer.”

He said he was diagnosed in the middle of December and began treatment immediately.

“My prognosis for full recovery is very good; in the great majority of cases, this is a highly curable form of cancer,” he wrote. “In fact, given my fierce desire to keep doing the show I managed to broadcast every day while completing more than half of my daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy treatments.”

Medved said he’d like to keep broadcasting, “but my voice — the most essential tool in radio — won’t cooperate.”

Fellow talk radio host Mark Davis, an occasional guest host for Rush Limbaugh in the past, will fill in while Medved is away. Other fill-in hosts will be David Boze and Arthur Brooks.

Medved said he’d like to return to his show shortly after his “last scheduled radiation treatment” on February 26.

“The exact time of my return will be determined by my medical progress, but rest assured that I’ll be straining to get back to work just as soon as humanly possible,” he wrote.

Medved has been a nationally syndicated radio host for eighteen years. He has also been a movie reviewer in the past — for several years he contributed reviews to CNN, the owner of this web site.

On Friday, he made sure to mention that just because he’ll be off the air doesn’t mean he’ll “be off the grid,” adding that he’ll continue to write columns and commentaries.

The host wrapped up his note to his radio family by saying that he would be speaking with his fans again soon.

“Here’s hoping for cures, and causes, well beyond the range of earthly laws or rulers,” he wrote. “You’ll be hearing from me soon.”

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Shake Shack workers get in on IPO riches

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Wall St. is salivating over Shake Shack 

It’s not just investors that made out like bandits Friday as Shake Shack ended its first day of trading 120% higher than its IPO price. Some of its workers made money, too.

Every Shake Shack (SHAK) manager got stock options Friday, CEO Randy Garutti told CNBC.

The company has 160 managers who also get revenue-sharing and health benefits. And its 1,450 hourly employees all make more than the local minimum wage.

Employees start at least $10 an hour in the New York metro area, where the chain has 16 restaurants. New York City’s minimum wage is $8.75 an hour.

Shake Shack, which has been profitable, said it will continue to pay above minimum wage even at the risk of earning less money, according to a regulatory filing.

Related: Make it a Double Shack. Shake Shack is up 120%!

“We believe that this enables us to attract a higher caliber employee and this translates directly to better guest service,” the company said.

Shake Shack didn’t respond to CNNMoney’s requests for comment.

It’s that kind of sentiment that workers at fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s (MCD) and Burger King would love to hear.

A growing movement has brought the issue of fair worker pay to the public’s mind. A group of fast-food workers first took to the streets of New York City two years ago, demanding $15 an hour. Since then, dozens of states and cities have raised the minimum wage for all workers, but the protesters haven’t had any luck in getting the big corporations to give across-the-board raises to its workers.

Related: McDead? More lousy results from McDonald’s

To be sure, while Shake Shack serves burgers and fries, it’s not exactly a fast-food chain. It bills itself as a “fast casual” restaurant with healthier options, just like Chipotle (CMG) and Panera (PNRA) do. A Shake Shack burger can cost twice as much as a Big Mac.

Wall Street is a fan. The company raised $105 million from the stock sale. And at Friday’s closing price of just under $46, Shake Shack is worth $1.63 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it’s still far behind McDonald’s market cap of nearly $90 billion.

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Who actually benefits from Obama’s ‘Middle Class Economics’

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm
chart middle class tax cuts 2

President Obama says he’s all about the middle class.

He’s coined a new term, Middle Class Economics, and released a raft of plans that he says will help these families get ahead. To pay for it, he’d tax the rich.

But not everyone in the middle class would benefit from Middle Class Economics. It’s heavily weighted in favor of married couples and parents of young children.

“Many people in the middle class will get no benefit from the president’s proposal,” said Roberton Williams, a fellow at the Tax Policy Center. “Among the middle class, it’s targeted at people with kids and second earners. Virtually no single middle class people without kids will get anything.”

Related: What you need to know about Obama’s proposal for the middle class

It’s tough to gauge how the tax plan would actually help the middle class because the averages can be deceiving. Many people pounced on a recent Tax Policy Center analysis that showed middle income people, making between $49,000 and $84,000, would pay an extra $7 in tax, on average.

Drilling down, however, reveals that the center added an average $19 tax bill to everyone in that bracket to account for a tax on banks, which ultimately is borne by all Americans.

A different picture emerges when one looks at just the individual income tax provisions. These include a credit for working couples and expanding the child care tax credit.

That’s why taxpayers with children come out the big winners under the president’s plan. Nearly 51% of middle class filers with kids would receive a tax cut. These taxpayers would receive a $329 decrease, on average.

Some 45% of married folks who file jointly would get a tax break. This group would see an average cut of $200.

Related: How Obama would close the ‘trust fund loophole’

Far fewer middle class single and elderly taxpayers would benefit from Obama’s plan.

Only 12.5% of single filers would get a tax cut. Overall, this group would see a $61 increase, because nearly 7% of middle class singles would see their taxes go up and that skews the overall average.

Among the elderly, only 10% would enjoy a dip in their taxes. But because many in this group would be hit with another of the president’s provisions — that would require estates to pay capital gains on appreciated assets — they would pay an additional $152, on average.

Overall, fewer than one in four middle class taxpayers would benefit from Middle Class Economics.

As for the rich, the president’s plan does accomplish its goal of raising their taxes. Just over three-quarters of the Top 1% would see a tax hike, of $34,500, on average. And more than nine out of 10 of Top .01% would see a tax increase, of $167,250, on average.

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In football they trust: Polynesians’ pipeline to the American dream

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:19 pm
football we trust movie still

There are only about 300,000 Samoans and Tongans in America but their impact in one of the most American sports of all time is huge.

“As Polynesian kids, we were much bigger than the other kids in high school so it was natural for us to excel and do well in football, said Tongan Tony Vainuku.

Vainuku is the director of the documentary, “In Football We Trust,” which debuted at the Sundance Film festival this past week.

The film chronicles the lives of four young NFL hopefuls in the Salt Lake City area, which boasts one of the largest Polynesian communities outside of Samoa and Tonga.

“The Polynesian football phenomenon is a big thing but not many people including our own community in Salt Lake City and Utah know anything besides that,” said co-director and producer Erika Cohn.

Related: NFL gets billions in subsidies from taxpayers

For many Polynesian families, playing football is the road to a good education and way to support the entire family.

But that journey to the top isn’t all glitz and glamor.

Recruited and groomed for the NFL

Al Lolotai. Manu Tuiasospo. Haloti Ngata. Troy Polamalu.

Their names have filled college and NFL rosters in the last several decades. There have been more than 200 Polynesians who have played professionally in NFL and CFL.

Getting to play at a top college and eventually the NFL like their peers before them has inspired many Polynesian youth to start young and play football in high school.

“If I keep making the right choices and keep my head straight, things start falling in place you know, I’ll get my degree. I’ll go on and get a good paying job in the league. If I’m in the league you know, the first couple checks go to the family,” said Harvey Langi, one of Utah’s top high school running backs interviewed in the film.

The average salary range for a NFL player ranges from $750,000 to $22 million for top players, according to

Related: Who is the richest NFL team owner?

During his senior year in high school, Langi received football scholarships offers from almost every top Division I school. But a trespassing incident that involved suspected marijuana use limited those choices as schools withdrew their scholarship offers.

“It’s just so much pressure on your shoulders. It’s like I could hardly carry it sometimes,” Langi said in the film.

“If you fail this Harvey, all of your scholarships will be gone. That’s when it hit me. If it’s in my system and I test positive, I’d get just a regular job and be a normal person and if it comes out negative, I tell myself I’m going to make it today in the field,” he said.

Langi tested negative for marijuana and was suspended but allowed to stay on the football team at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah.

“The thing that’s difficult for the kids that are growing up is that their parents expect them to play in the NFL at the cost of everything else. It’s hard to get in there. It’s even harder to stay. And if kids grow up thinking well that’s what I’m going to do and nothing else, they’re a long shot to success in life period,” said former Green Bay Packer and Philadelphia Eagle player Vai Sikahema, the first Tongan to play in the NFL.

Langi ended up committing to the University of Utah but after a year he decided to go on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for two years.

“A lot of people think I’m just doing my mission because maybe I’m scared of football — scared of not playing because I didn’t do good my first year. I’m not scared. I can still play ball. I want to be a running back. I want to show that Polynesians can be a running back in the league. And I know I have the ability to do it,” Langi said in the film.

After returning from his mission, Langi is now playing football at Brigham Young University.

A vehicle to stay out of trouble

For other families, football was a means to stay out of bad situations and finance an education.

“It does take a toll on your family. Sacrifice is something huge for us where we feel we’re going to do whatever we need to do with whatever means we have,” said Kauta Bloomfield, mother of Leva and Vita — brothers who were profiled in the film as they struggled to disassociate their ties from gangs while playing football. Leva was sent to juvenile detention after he brought a gun to school.

Their father Fua was a former Brigham Young University running back who founded one of Utah’s first Polynesian gangs.

football we trust brothers

“When I look back we did invest a lot in Leva and Vita because they were the oldest of the nine (children). We always figured that we invest all of this time and money into them it’s all going to pay off — which it did, they got full ride scholarships, however it did take a lot of time from our younger kids,” Bloomfield told CNNMoney by phone Friday. “So when they did make bad choices it did make me question myself as far as parenting — where was it worth all of that, because they still ended up making other choices.”

Leva and Vita completed their high school coursework and Leva is now playing football at Snow College and Vita is a football coach at the University of Utah.

A means to something greater

For Fihi Kaufusi, football was never the end game.

football we trust

“Football is not always going to be there for me. I may have a good body — body type for speed and stuff but that’s going to only last so long. I got to figure it out…school job and a career,” Kaufusi said.

As the oldest in his family, Kaufusi’s mother pushed him to set an example for his other brothers and sisters.

After returning from his mission with the LDS church, Kaufusi is now playing football at Weber State University.

“I used football as a means of transportation to get where I needed to go. I knew in my heart, football was going to be done soon for me and I wouldn’t be able to continue on after college,” Kaufusi said by phone Friday. “But I can use it to get me to college and to get my degree and that would do a lot for my family.”

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2.1 million cars recalled for crash sensors

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:18 pm

Here's what a Takata airbag explosion looks like 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Saturday the recall of over 2 million vehicles to fix faulty crash sensors that could cause airbags to deploy for no reason.

All the vehicles had previously been recalled for this issue but the manufacturers’ repairs have not stopped the problem. The sensors, which are designed to sense a serious impact, were made by auto parts supplier TRW (TRW).

The earlier fix, which involved installing devices to protect the airbag sensor module from electrical surges, was very effective, reducing inadvertent airbag deployments by about 85%, according to NHTSA. But some unwarranted deployments were still occurring.

Manufacturers will now entirely replace the impact sensors with new units. It will take some time to have the new sensors ready. Meanwhile, NHTSA is instructing vehicle owners who have had not had the initial recall fix done to contact their dealers had have it done.

Related: Cars with the best resale value

“Even though it’s a temporary solution until the new remedy is available, they and their families will be safer if they take the time to learn if their vehicle is covered and follow their manufacturers’ instructions,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in an announcement. “A hassle is much better than a family tragedy.”

About half of the vehicles were also involved in recalls for faulty Takata airbags. Those airbags have faulty inflators that can explode, shooting out sharp metal fragments.

Related: Ford recalls police cars

That makes attention to this recall especially important, NHTSA said, since occupants in those cars can be badly injured by their airbags.

The vehicles involved are Acura MDX, Dodge Viper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Honda Odyssey, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix and Toyota Avalon.

Related: Honda hit with $70 million in fines for failing to report accidents over 11 years

The vehicles involved are all from model years 2002 through 2004. The age of the vehicles can make it difficult to track down current owners since many of these cars and trucks will be with their second or third owners. For that reason, NHTSA as taking extraordinary steps to get out word of this recall.

For more information car owners should go to

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Burger mania: Shake Shack stock up 120%

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:17 am

Wall St. is salivating over Shake Shack 

Shake Shack is no longer just a cult favorite for foodies. It’s now a cult stock too.

The upscale burger joint’s shares surged nearly 120% Friday in their debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shake Shack (SHAK) priced its initial public offering at $21 a share Thursday evening — above the price range Shake Shack set earlier this week. It opened at $47.21 and quickly shot above $50 a share. But it closed near its lows for the day.

The company raised $105 million from the stock sale. And at Friday’s closing price of just under $46, Shake Shack is worth $1.63 billion.

Shake Shack shared some of the wealth with customers too. To celebrate its first day as a public company, Shake Shack offered free breakfast sandwiches and burgers at a food truck outside the NYSE.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer, who is chairman of Shake Shack and founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group that started Shake Shack, owns a 21% stake in the company. His share is now worth $341.5 million.

Meyer thanked employees and fans in a tweet Thursday night.

“#Gratitude. Team, Guests, Community, Suppliers, and Investors. In that order. Thank you all,” he wrote.

Shake Shack, which started in 2001 as a hot dog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park, has quickly become a Big Apple icon.

Expanding … but not too quickly. The company currently operates just 63 restaurants worldwide — but 16 of them are in the metropolitan New York City area.

Shake Shack has already planted outposts in several global markets, such as London, Moscow, Kuwait, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

And the company has said that it wants to expand relatively slowly. It is targeting 10 new locations in the U.S. a year as well as more international locations.

Related: 8 of the world’s craziest fast foods

The strategy has been extremely successful so far. Shake Shack reported revenue of $83.8 million in the first three quarters of last year, an increase of more than 40% from the same period in 2013.

Shake Shack is also profitable. But net income fell in the first nine months of 2014, primarily due to higher costs for paper, food and labor as the company opened more locations.

Profiting from the problems at Mickey D’s? Still, Shake Shack appears to be doing well at the expense of McDonald’s (MCD). The CEO of McDonald’s announced his retirement this week following another quarter of bleak sales.

Related: McDead? More lousy results from McDonald’s

Shake Shack bills itself as a “fine casual” dining chain, a play on the fast casual term popularized by Chipotle (CMG) and Panera (PNRA).

In addition to having the backing of star chef Meyer, Shake Shack says in its IPO filing that it prides itself on using “sustainable ingredients, such as all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free beef.”

The proof is in the prices. A typical burger at Shake Shack can cost twice as much as a Big Mac.

Related: $7.54 for a Big Mac? Only in Switzerland

Shake Shack also differentiates itself from other burger restaurants by selling hot dogs, beer, wine and — of course — frozen custard shakes.

Investors are clearly hungry for restaurant IPOs.

El Pollo Loco (LOCO), Potbelly (PBPB), Noodles (NDLS) and Zoe’s Kitchen (ZOES) have gone public in the past two years and soared on their first day of trading.

There is a lot of competition in the burger wars. But those four stocks are now well off their highs.

So is Habit (HABT), a popular California burger chain that went public last November and more than doubled in its debut.

Habit may not be as well-known to New Yorkers as Shake Shack. But its burgers were voted best in America by readers of Consumer Reports last year.

To that end, competition could prove to be the biggest risk for Shake Shack.

Related: White Castle now serving veggie burgers

Even though its burgers are delicious, so are ones made by privately held Five Guys, Smashburger, Bareburger, In-N-Out and many other regional and national upstarts.

Heck, Sonic (SONC)is doing really well lately thanks to strong demand for its burgers.

But pricey burgers could wind up being another culinary fad too. Krispy Kreme (KKD) was a hot IPO when the doughnut chain went public in 2000. But the stock is now trading more than 60% below its all-time high.

Shake Shack has already satisfied the palates of hipster burger gourmands. But now has to deal with the fickle tastes of Wall Street traders and hedge funds too.

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Oops! News sites backtrack on reports Romney is running

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:17 am
romney presidential run
Romney’s announcement to forgo a White House bid forced two websites to backtrack.

Within hours on Friday, two popular news websites went from claiming a big 2016 scoop to reversing course.

There was plenty of speculation that Mitt Romney would announce his plans to embark on another White House run, and the Daily Beast and Bloomberg News appeared to ratify those assumptions.

The two websites each published reports — neither of which had a byline — citing sources who said the former Massachusetts governor was ready to explore a third presidential campaign.

Shortly before Romney’s scheduled 11 a.m. call with donors, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt — a vocal Romney booster — posted a statement that said otherwise.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in the statement, which Hewitt posted on his website.

The news triggered an immediate about-face from the Daily Beast, whose reporters and editors had earlier trumpeted the apparent scoop.

“Confirmed: Romney is in for sure,” tweeted the Daily Beast’s executive editor Noah Shachtman at 10:21 a.m.

Shachtman owned up to the mistake.

“Our sources were wrong. Romney’s not running,” he said on Twitter.

Shachtman declined to comment beyond his tweet. He noted that all of the items in the Daily Beast’s “Cheat Sheet” — the section where the original story was published — are unsigned.

Bloomberg published a new story about Romney’s statement to Hewitt.

It also added a correction to its original story that attributed its error to the Daily Beast: “This story was based on an article from The Daily Beast, which contained inaccurate information. A statement released by Mitt Romney today clearly states he is not exploring a 2016 presidential bid.”

Bloomberg spokesperson Vidhya Murugesan, in a statement, said the article “was posted to reference a report in another news outlet, and did not cite the source. We realized our mistake, and it was quickly corrected.”

Bloomberg’s headline for the story evolved over the course of the day.

The original headline — “Mitt Romney to Formally Announce Third Run for Presidency” — did not cite the Daily Beast. That changed a bit later, when the headline was tweaked: “Romney to Formally Announce Exploration of Third Presidential Run: Daily Beast.”

By around noon, with the correction appended to the top of the story, the headline was amended to reflect Romney’s decision to not run: “(Updated) Romney Not Running for President.”

But the changes didn’t end there. A few hours later, Bloomberg shifted back to the original headline, restoring the Daily Beast citation and noting parenthetically that the post had been updated.

The changes did not go unnoticed.

“Been fun watching this headline change all morning,” New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro said on Twitter.

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U.S. cracks down on shady ’0%’ loan companies

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:17 am
car title loans
FTC says car title lenders duped borrowers.

Federal regulators are cracking down on smarmy companies that promise to lend people cash with zero interest, without disclosing important details that often cost vulnerable borrowers big bucks.

These loans are made by using the title of the borrower’s car as collateral.

Similar to pay day loans, car title loans are aimed at consumers who need to raise cash in a hurry. But what appears to be a short-term loan can often turn into costly debts that stay with a borrower for months.

The Federal Trade Commission said Friday that it reached settlements with two companies that make car title loans in Georgia and Alabama. It was the first time the FTC took action against such lenders.

First American Title Lending of Georgia and Fast Cash Title Pawn advertised title loans with zero percent interest for 30 days. But the ads didn’t say that borrowers would need to meet a host of conditions to receive that rate.

Related: Subprime car lending is up

Under the proposed settlement, the FTC said First American Title Lending and Finance Select, the parent company of Fast Cash Title Pawn, have agreed to stop using misleading advertisements.

“This type of loan is risky for consumers because if they fail to pay, they could lose their car — an asset many of them can’t live without,” said Jessica Rich, director of FTC’s consumer protection bureau.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to the FTC, borrowers were not told that they would have to repay the loan in 30 days and that payment had to be made using certified funds, as opposed to cash or a personal check, in order to receive that rate.

Borrowers who didn’t meet these conditions would not qualify for zero percent interest and would be charged an additional fee. The advertisements also didn’t disclose how much the interest rate would be if a borrower didn’t qualify for the no-interest offer.

The annual percentage rate for a car title loan can be over 300%, according to the FTC. Consumers often end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees. In some cases, they can lose their car.

The average borrower who takes out a car title loan pays $2,142 in interest for just $951 of credit, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Responsible Lending.

Related: Kelley Blue Book’s Best Resale Value Cars

Overall, car title loans cost borrowers $3.6 billion in interest each year, more than twice the $1.6 billion in credit borrowed, the CRL report found.

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Fake charities prey on your goodwill to make bank

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2015 at 8:17 am
dirty dozen irs scam 7

Taking advantage of your goodwill and pocketing your donations is Mission No. 1 for fake charities.

The IRS on Friday warned taxpayers not to be suckered into giving money to any group until confirming it is legitimate.

Fake charities often take a name that sounds very similar to well-known charities, and even make their websites look similar.

The IRS recommends using its Select Check tool, though it is not the most user-friendly if you only have the name and location of the group. As a back-up, you can also look up the organization on Charity Navigator.

Never give out your personal financial information, such as your Social Security number, to anyone asking for money, the IRS warned. And if you’re going to make a donation using your credit card, only do so with an organization you know and trust.

Also, never give or send cash – which is catnip for scammers. If you want to make a tax-deductible contribution, it’s better to pay by check or credit card, so you have a record of the payment. The charity should also send you a receipt of your donation.

And if you want to give money to help victims of a natural disaster, be extra cautious about who gets your donation. Scammers claiming to represent a (bogus) charity may phone or email you to ask for money or financial information, the IRS said. “They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.”

Related: IRS warns of phishing tax scams, fake emails

Related: Beware promises of ‘outlandish’ tax refunds

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