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Law Office of Louis S. Haskell
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I am running this deal through the end of the tax season this year.
I have written previously about my favorite Fall Bankruptcy Payment Plan. The link to that blog is here  and the link to the section of my website where I also discuss this is here. Now, I am discussing it again, but this time I am throwing in a free tax…

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Motorcycle accidents are a form of motor vehicle accident. In many ways, motorcycle cases are easier than car and truck accident cases, although they do present some of their own unique issues, especially where the payment of medical bills is concerned.…

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A Bankruptcy Lawyer in Washington State sent me this post.  I thought he did a nice job with it, so I am sharing it.  His basic point is a simple one.  If you are not careful, debt collectors will quickly and completely destroy your credit.  This article…

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This question came in my email today, and I am going to answer it here: Question Detail: Can I rent my house to someone in need if I filed bankruptcy and the case has been discharged for 3 years but bank has done nothing yet with the house? Answer:  Yes,…

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Here is another decision in which a bankruptcy court allowed a student loan to be discharged even though an income based repayment plan was available. It is important that this line of cases continue to develop. In the past, in Massachusetts, the rule has been essentially that if an income based repayment plan is available, then the debt can not be an undue hardship. As these cases emerge elsewhere, it may become possible to chip away at this rule. Better still, it may help to convince the First Circuit to overturn this rule altogether.
http://www.ncbrc.org/…/student-loan-discharged-despite-ibrp/

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FACEBOOK, OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE LAW

One of the interesting changes which has occurred in recent years in the practice of law is the widespread use of social media. There is probably no area of the law which is completely untouched by the advent of social media and the tendency of people on social media to broadcast many, and in some cases all, aspects of their private lives to the public. For a trial lawyer such as myself, this has opened up many opportunities and has created many problems.

We all know from television that any time the police arrest somebody and give the Miranda Warnings, they will say “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law”. As a matter of constitutional law, the police must warn criminal suspects of this fact. However, it is not merely a fact in the criminal context, but in any context where you may find yourself in court. As such, no matter what kind of a case you may have, be it a car accident, an immigration matter, a bankruptcy case, a divorce, a criminal matter or almost anything else that you can think of, anything you say can and will be used against you. This is especially true when what you say is said on Facebook or some other social media platform to which the public has access. If your friends have access, then the government has access; the lawyer for the other side has access; the insurance companies have access, and all of your enemies or adversaries have access. What is more, all of these various groups are likely to interpret what you say in ways very different from what you intended. What is more, your social media posts may be used to spin a narrative that is quite the opposite from what you may intend.

Since I do not do messy child custody fights, I will not be blogging about them. Instead I will use the example of social media and child custody. Since many of my Facebook friends are also current and former clients, as opposed to professional colleagues, I have a pretty good understanding of what the public posts on Facebook, and I have a few Facebook friends who spend an inordinate amount of time talking about what jerks the fathers of their children are. They can be quite vicious in the attacks upon their baby daddies. Were I representing them in their fights with their exes, I would tell them to cut it out. They generally cannot use their own posts in court. For example, if the woman is posting that the father has once again missed his scheduled visit with his child, and that the child is upset about it, that is, general speaking, something that she cannot use as evidence against the father in court. Perhaps it helps her to keep a record that she can then go in and testify about, but she can accomplish the same thing by keeping a visit diary. On the other hand, everything that she posts can be used by the father in court, if he so chooses. What happens, quite commonly, is that the noncustodial parent, usually the father, will come to court and complain that the custodial parent, usually the mother, is trying to estrange the children from the noncustodial parent. Basically, mom is trying to turn the kids against dad. What better proof of mom’s hostility towards dad than five-hundred often profanity laden posts on Facebook or elsewhere talking about how awful a person dad is. This becomes especially true if the mother and child are themselves Facebook friends. However, unless the child is very small, there is no reason to believe that the child is not accessing the mother’s posts. More to the point, there is no reason to believe that the mother is talking to her children any differently than the mother is talking to everyone in cyberspace. What is more, there is now an argument to made that it is in the best interest of the child that the child be removed from the hostile and hateful environment that the mother is providing. Suddenly an absentee dad who has neglected and abandoned his children has an argument for why he might be the more suitable custodial parent, and certainly has an excuse for why he has not been there for the kids.

Similar problems exist quite frequently in the area of personal injury and social media, and I will blog about that specifically. Another problem that can come up in social media is that sometimes people try to project an image that may or may not be one-hundred percent accurate. When I blog about social media and bankruptcy and taxes, I will touch upon this issue in more detail. The basic idea is that every time you are in court, you need to be truthful about what is really going. If you have gone on social media to try to project a different image, this could be problematic. Going back to the family law context, if you are telling the court that because the deadbeat dad has not paid his child support, you cannot afford shoes for the children, but you are posting on Facebook all of these parties, vacations, restaurant meals and other more glamorous sorts of events, then there can be a problem.

Finally, sometimes the absence of material on Facebook and social media can be a problem. First of all, if you are not somebody who is putting their whole life on social media, then the fact that you have left aspects of your life off is not an issue at all. Sometimes clients come into my office and I will ask if they have a Facebook page, and I will check their Facebook page to check if it is consistent with the story that they are telling me. However, if my client tells me that they have no Facebook page then this is simply not a concern. Similarly, if I go to their Facebook page and they put up three posts in the last twelve months, then unless one of those three posts has something to do with my case, their Facebook posting is unimportant. However, if you are on Facebook ten times a day reporting to the world every detail of your life, then you need a pretty good reason for why there is nothing on Facebook that relates to whatever your case is about. It is possible to have a good excuse. Again, looking at the family law context, it is perfectly reasonable to say that you will talk about the details of your life on social media, but your children are simply off limits. In fact, that is a pretty good line to take. As such, it becomes consistent to argue that your children are the most important thing in the world to you even though they are essentially unmentioned in your five-hundred Facebook posts over the last couple of years. However, there are other times when that simply does not work. The absence of posts will be a major issue in my blog post about Facebook and Immigration. The big issue there, of course, is in the area of Sponsoring Husbands, Wives, and Children.

Clearly, if you are telling the government that you are madly in love with somebody and want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but you only mention them twice in your five-hundred posts, that is a problem.

So as you can see, social media is something of which people who are involved in litigation and other legal matters need to be aware. It is absolutely the case that lawyers look at the Facebook pages of both their clients and their adversaries. It is absolutely the case that insurance companies look at the social media of people who are making claims. The immigration service, or the consular officers who make immigration decisions look at these things. Government agencies are also patrolling social media. In fact, we now know that the NSA is pretty much saving anything you ever post. I am not saying that people should close their Facebook and other social media accounts. I Facebook. My wife Facebooks and my children are actively engaged in social media as well. It is an interesting phenomenon and it can be fun, and on occasion even informative. However, you need to be aware that not everyone looking at your page is your friend, and this becomes especially true if you are involved in a legal matter.

http://attorneyhaskell.com/2014/08/20/facebook-other-social-media-and-the-law/

                               WARNING - IRS SCAM!!!             

I have had two clients call me this morning saying that they received phone calls from people claiming to be IRS agents. They were told that they owed the IRS money, and that they needed to provide their bank account information and pay this now, or they would be arrested. Of course, this is a scam. These people are not IRS agents. The IRS does not call on the telephone. There are so many things wrong about such a call that I do not have time now to go into it. What I tell my tax clients is that if anyone should call claiming to be from the IRS (or Department of Revenue for that matter), tell them that your tax preparer is an attorney and ask them to call me. If it really is the IRS (and it isn't), they will politely take my information and hang up. They will contact me. Since it is not the IRS, they will either hang up immediately, or get louder and more threatening (at which point you should hang up). If you are not already my client, just hang up on them and call me. I will reassure you that it is a scam. Whatever you do, do not give them any information, especially not your social security number, date of birth or any bank account information!

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An H&R Block client came in today with my 50% off flyer. He was a single guy with a house. I asked him how much H&R Block charged him to do his taxes last year and he said $275. I told him that he had a choice, he could use his 50% flyer and pay me $137.50 or he could pay me the $110 my regular clients pay. As I was working on his return, I realized that he did not need to itemize. I looked at him and said "I hate to tell you this, but I am only going to be charging you $70". When I finished, he asked me how much he owed the IRS. He grinned ear to ear when I told him he was getting a full refund. He was worried because he was already on a payment plan with the IRS and his collection officer said that if he owed any more that they were going to have to rewrite his payment plan.

A client of mine came in this weekend saying that he received a phone call from the IRS. The IRS does not call on the telephone. The IRS does not email. They communicate by snail mail only. I am going to send an ema...See More
IRS Warns of Tax-time Scams

It’s true: tax scams proliferate during the income tax filing season. This year’s season opens on Jan. 31. The IRS provides the following scam warnings so you can protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim of these crimes:

Be vigilant of any unexpected communication purportedly from the IRS at the start of tax season.
Don’t fall for phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Thieves often pose as the IRS using a bogus refund scheme or warnings to pay past-due taxes.
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of e-communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
The IRS doesn’t ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential information for credit card, bank or other accounts.
If you get an unexpected email, don’t open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. For more about how to report phishing scams involving the IRS visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.
Here are several steps you can take to help protect yourself against scams and identity theft:

Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
Protect your financial information.
Check your credit report every 12 months.
Secure personal information in your home.
Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure of the recipient.
Be careful when you choose a tax preparer. Most preparers provide excellent service, but there are a few who are unscrupulous. Refer to Tips to Help you Choose a Tax Preparer for more details.
For more on this topic, see the special identity theft section on IRS.gov. Also check out IRS Fact Sheet 2014-1, IRS Combats Identity Theft and Refund Fraud on Many Fronts
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