What are Consumer Protection Laws?

Consumer protection laws are federal and state statutes that regulate seller and lender practices concerning consumer goods. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are federal agencies that handle product safety standards and consumer complaints, respectively.

These laws typically go beyond the traditional legal remedies available for breach of warranty. These laws are found in nearly every state, but the details may vary.

  • Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA)
    • Limits what debt collectors can do when contacting or seeking you out to repay a debt.
    • Specifically prohibits such things as harassment.
    • Statutory damages and attorney’s fees can be awarded for debt collectors that do not comply.
  • Truth in Lending Act (TILA)
    • Covers a broad range of conduct, such as charging exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and other loans.
    • Covers hiding fees and penalties in the fine print of agreements.
  • False or Misleading Advertising and Pricing
    • This is covered under federal law, and most states have their own statutes that address such practices.
      • Many states tie-in warranty clauses.
    • Examples of false or misleading practices can include car salesmen using “bait and switch” tactics. Another example could be a seller selling you a broken product, whether intentionally or negligently.

A big problem that consumers face is the relatively small amount of economic damages that they suffer as a result of a company’s improper conduct.

A class action lawsuit helps to equalize or tip the balance of power. An individual whose rights have been violated can join together with others who have similar claims against the same defendant.

In ordinary lawsuits, a plaintiff can typically only recover his or her actual losses. However, many consumer protection laws allow consumers to seek additional penalties, which can drastically increase the damage award, sometimes even tripling the amount of actual damages.

If you think that your rights have been violated, contact a consumer rights lawyer that can answers your questions and get you the help that you need. Many lawyers offer free consultations, and there are statute of limitations to consider in some cases. Thus, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Need an Attorney for Tax Law?

In the United States, tax laws are difficult to comprehend without a professional at your side. A number of lawyers are also CPAs, and other types of attorneys focus on tax litigation.

Different regulations dictate when the government can tax citizens for personal income, real estate, business profits, gifts, estates and a variety of other sources.

Is the IRS Claiming You Owe Back Taxes?

Income tax is a common source contention between the government and individuals and/or business owners. When a person owes back taxes, the worst thing he or she can do is ignore the notices from the IRS. The sooner you can review the situation with a tax lawyer, the better. Tax attorneys can negotiate with the IRS on the behalf of a person or business, and litigate the issue in tax court when necessary.

When an individual ignores IRS collection notices, penalties and interest will start to build. Further, if the IRS places a lien on a piece of property or a business asset, you will likely lose the ability to file bankruptcy and discharge the tax lien.

Can Bankruptcy Lawyers Help People with Tax Problems?

Bankruptcy can be an extremely useful tool for individuals with income tax debt. Certain income tax debt is dischargeable if it meets the eligibility requirements.

Once an IRS debt becomes a tax lien on a piece of property, it changes from being an unsecured loan to a secured loan. This has the effect of making the lien non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. However, you may be able to stop foreclosure from the tax lien by filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free consultations to review your debt situation and offer you options.

How Do Estate Planning Lawyers Minimize Taxes?

The federal government exempts a certain amount of a person’s estate from taxation. In 2015, this amount was over $5 million. Therefore, estate taxes (sometimes referred to as “death taxes” as an anti-estate tax political euphemism), only affect multi-million dollar estates. Some states have their own estate taxes, with exemptions that are typically lower than the federal exemption. A few states also have separate inheritance taxes, which affects those who receive portions of an estate.

An attorney who plans estates attempts to lower the total taxable value of an estate so that little or none of the estate is taxable. Lawyers who plan estates for clients can utilize several techniques in order to lessen or altogether eliminate the effect of taxes on a person’s estate. Depending on a client’s specific situation, an estate planning lawyer may advise actions such as the following:

  • Irrevocable trusts – Trusts involve the owner of an estate setting aside funds to reserve for beneficiaries. Most importantly, money in a trust is not taxable. However, the owner of the trust usually is unable to access the funds. Certain trusts may allow benefits to be paid out to beneficiaries when the owner dies or they may allow a spouse or other person to access the funds.
  • Designate a beneficiary through an annuity, IRA or other fund – Certain types of funds allow owners to name a beneficiary who gains from the fund after the owner passes away. These funds are typically exempt from the estate tax.
  • Lifetime gifts– Another way for estate owners to limit estate taxes is to be generous and give funds to future beneficiaries before passing away. Anyone may give gifts worth up to $14,000 annually before gift tax liability would apply. Those seeking to lighten their estates can avoid the gift tax altogether by paying for another person’s medical bills or college tuition directly.

How Do Zombie Foreclosures Have an Effect on Me?

Zombie foreclosures involving vacant homes have become a plague to many local governments, which have to deal with cleaning up weeds, boarding windows and other upkeep on empty properties.

Additionally, if you live in an area with a high amount of vacant homes, it can drag the property value of your home down.

Some experts think that banks are taking their time to foreclose on the homes, as they would have to pay back taxes, code enforcement fees and other things associated with the process.

TIME Magazine had an interesting story about zombie foreclosures, which involve homes abandoned by their owners that have not yet been taken over by banks. According to the news outlet, as of last month, there were 141,406 homes in the zombie foreclosure process, down 16 percent from a year ago.

It is upsetting that there are so many vacant homes in existence in this country. Keep in mind, if you are facing the threat of foreclosure, there are programs like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and the Home Affordable Mortgage Modification Payment (HAMP) that could work to reduce your mortgage payment.

The Aylward Law Firm, LLC – Maryland Bankruptcy Attorney