Could the Great Chicago Fire Been Prevented?

  • Nearly 300 deaths
  • More than 2,000 acres
  • 17,500 buildings
  • 73 miles of road
  • 90,000 left homeless
  • $ 222,000 in damage
  • The destruction of between two and three million books from private library collections

What do these have numbers have in common? If you answered the Great Chicago Fire of October 1893, you would be correct. And while as devastatingly as fire is in Chicago history, it is not the only horrific fire-related Chicago history. In fact, just a few years later (December 1903) there were more than 600 deaths when the Iroquois Theater burned and later listed as the deadliest single-building fire in American history.

What is more interesting, is that while the exact cause of the Chicago fire has ever been determined, the Iroquois Theater fire could have been prevented had the proper measures been taken. History shows that a Chicago fire department captain, toured the facility and noted that "there were no extinguishers, sprinklers, alarms, telephones, or water connections; the only firefighting equipment available were six canisters of a dry chemical called" Kilfyre ", which was Normally used to douse residential chimney fires. "

He reported the problems to his superiors, but was told that nothing could be done, as the building had its own fire warden. In addition to the lack of firefighting equipment, the editor of the Fireproof Magazine , toured the facility and reported that there was an "absence of an seize, or stage draft shaft; the exposed reinforcement of the (proscenium) arch; the presence of wood Trim on everything and the obligation provision of exits. "

After each of these events, Chicago rebuilt. But what if there had been something in place to send out an early alarm? How many lives would have been saved had the Iroquois Theater taken the time to make the necessary changes? Yes, it was a century ago, and modern assumptions as we know today were not available, but that does not excuse the loss of life and property destruction.

So, with a proactive focus in mind, what are you doing to protect your home and family from fire, theft, burglary or mayhem of any sort? Whatever you choose to have utilize the services of one of the local Chicago home security systems or opt for a nationally recognized company, taking care of what matters to you is important. After all, as the early residents of Chicago learned, it's not much fun to clean up after a fire! Do not make the mistake of thinking you could be excuse form personal injury, property damage or a break in. Do your part to keep your family safe.

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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The Rights That Go With Real Property

The rights that go with real property can be summed up by the term appurtenances. When real property is sold, appurtenant rights are ordinarily sold along with it. They can, however, be sold separately, and may be limited by past transactions. In addition to knowing the boundaries of the land and which items are considered part of the real property (fixtures vs. personal property), homeowners and lenders also need to understand which rights are being transferred along with that parcel of real estate.

Fee simple ownership includes such other appurtenances as access rights, surface rights, subsurface rights, mineral rights, some water rights, and limited air rights. One way to understand the rights that accompany real property is to imagine the property as an inverted pyramid, with its tip at the center of the earth and its base extending out into the sky. An owner has rights to the surface of the land within the property’s boundaries, plus everything under or over the surface within the pyramid. This includes oil and mineral rights below the surface, and certain water and air rights. Air rights are sometime regulated by each state allowing for air traffic and water rights can differ from state to state.

It is possible, though, for the owner to transfer only some of the rights of ownership to another person. For example, a property owner may sell the mineral rights to a piece of property, but keep ownership of the farm. Later, when the land is sold, the mineral rights will most likely stay with the mining company (depending upon the wording of the contract involved) even though the rest of the bundle of rights in the land is transferred to the new owner. The new owner is limited by the past transaction of the previous owner, and may not sell these mineral rights to another party, nor transfer them in a future sale of the land.

A lender must know if the entire bundle of rights is being transferred (fee simple) or if there are restrictions or past transactions that may limit the current transfer of ownership in any way. This is important because it may have a great effect on the value of the real property. Transfer of access rights for a sidewalk to be placed across the front of a subdivision lot generally would not have a significant impact on the value of a piece of land. Transfer of mineral rights to a mining company, as in the previous example, likely would impact the value.

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Construction Insurance – Importance and Coverage

Construction involves large number of manpower and huge investments of money. The workers at a construction site risk their lives working at great heights, with dangerous tools, toxic materials, heavy equipment, under tunnels, etc. Hence, construction is associated with high amount of risk for money and lives. A slight negligence or bad fortune on part of the worker or owner may prove too costly. It may lead to a huge financial loss. These unfortunate events require tools, which can bail the company out of the situation. Here arises the need of ‘Construction Insurance’, the risk management tool, customised specifically for the construction industry. Construction insurance is like any other insurance, which is used to protect the various parties associated with construction process.

A comprehensive construction insurance policy covers all the expenses that may occur due to property damage or personal injuries at the construction site. This insurance not only includes the organization owner, but also workers, employees, tenants, sub-contractors, sole proprietors and business partners.

Importance of construction insurance

As discussed above, construction involves usage of heavy equipment, materials, labour, etc. and is more prone to accidents. Since the business stands liable for any accident on the construction site, it is the business owner or the contractor that should pay for the medical treatment charges of the injured or compensation to the families, in case of death of the worker.

Material costs associated with construction are very high. Any damage to the structure or the materials leads to huge financial loss. Insured with the construction insurance, one can seek financial assistance from the insurance company.

The buyers of the flats or the constructed property will have all rights to sue the construction company, in case of faulty construction. In such cases the construction company has to pay for the remodelling or repairing the constructed site. Construction insurance protects the builders from those claims, by providing financial assistance.

Apart from the above circumstances, construction insurance provides wide coverage, providing security to the business in case of unpredicted events.

Four main areas it covers

Construction insurance is very significant in terms of its coverage. It is very comprehensive and is specifically designed to cover every aspect of construction process, to make the business process flexible. Construction insurance covers four major areas of business insurance. They are:

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance is a general insurance to be possessed by any business which involves interaction with the customers or people in general. Public liability insurance as part of construction insurance helps the businesses in case any damage to third party property or individuals is caused by employees or the tools used in construction.

Employers liability insurance

As the construction industry involves lot of risks, any worker can get injured or die at any point of time, due to the faulty equipment or negligence of supervisors or co-workers. Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees at construction site. Moreover, the employees will have every right to sue the owner and claim for compensation. In case of such unexpected events, the employer or the owner can benefit from the construction liability insurance, as the insurance company pays the medical costs or the compensation associated with the claims.

Contractors all risks insurance

Contractors all risks insurance is customised for construction businesses. It provides assistance for contract works of new houses, theft of materials or tools, damage to the materials or tools due to unexpected events, sudden stoppage of on-going works of new houses, owned or hired plants, etc. This insurance acts as a perfect help for the most commonly incurred accidents in the construction process.

Personal accident insurance

This insurance is specifically designed for managers, sole proprietors or business partners. This is useful in the cases, where the person injured can’t blame any other person for the injury caused to him. This is helpful in providing assistance during the period for which the injured person cannot get income.

Construction insurance is very important for construction businesses as the damage or the financial loss occurred is very hard to be recovered. Businesses should realise that the cost of premiums for insurance is less when compared to the compensation costs. Therefore, it can be concluded that, construction insurance is very valuable in making the business sustain for long run.

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Problem #1

Prospects have more sales resistance training than agents usually have in sales presentation skill.

Prospect response to insurance agents is designed to get as much information as possible and be in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead insurance agents about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.

The prospect intent is designed to turn agents into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their quotes to compare with their current agent or a competitor.

When prospects have what they need, they stop returning the agent’s phone calls.

Does this make prospects bad people?

Of course not.

We all use this system for dealing with salespeople…it’s almost second nature.

Why do prospects do this?

It’s simple.

It works.

The stereotype of an agent is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a way to deal with agents. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of agents that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall.

So how do most agents deal with the prospects system of defense? Most play right into it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. The agent eagerly:

o gives their knowledge

o makes commitments without getting any in return

o wastes resources on pursuing deals that will never close

o gives quotes to non-prospects who never buy

o misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale

How do most sales organizations contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts products fit best with.

The solution: Train agents on a systematic approach to making presentations so they have “a track to run on.” The training should balance both the prospect and agent’s best interest.

Problem #2

Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.

A manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they give quotes to the prospect.” Why is this true?

Agents don’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry, they are afraid they will lose something they don’t have. Most agents think their job is to close everybody.

Over the years sales training has emphasized, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Insurance agents are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial closes…always be closing…and yes, even be manipulative. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to shield themselves!

Prospects realize agents don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do, they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a agent is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?

The solution: Agents need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects in, not qualifying them out. The top agents learn to ask the hard questions up-front, saving precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most agents, but it can take all the pressure off the agent and increase productivity. This approach allows prospects to feel in control, this then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold.”

Problem #3

Agents talk too much.

A manager recently said, “My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my agents don’t understand them or their issues.

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”

So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reason, not the agents reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, the agent just becomes another agent to the prospect, and then to the prospect, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach insurance agents to stop regurgitating to the prospect and start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions.

Questions gather information. Ask questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does during an office visit. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.

Problem #4

Weak Agents focus on price.

Price is never the real issue! Agents focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have, or improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.

The solution: Teach agents to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in making sales.

Problem #5

Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting.”

Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Agents, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Unpaid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospects problem, which is where it belongs.

The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our agents need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.

Problem #6

Agents fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front. Many insurance agents are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many agents avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that agents have.

The solution: Knowing whether there is money upfront will help the insurance agent distinguish between a prospects who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to management, where resources are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your agents to find out two things about money:

o How much the problem is costing the prospect; in other words the amount at risk.

o How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.

Without a candid discussion about money, the agent is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Problem #7

Agents fail to get firm commitments from prospects.

Insurance agents are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a quote, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive.

How many quotes has your team/distribution sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your team/distribution on an annual basis to do quotes that go nowhere?

The solution: Agents must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects’ level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.

Problem #8

Lack of sufficient prospecting.

A quote from a manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.'” All professional agents will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar?

o Over 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales

o And 80% of all new agents who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

The Solution: Insurance agents need to develop a realistic activity plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.

Problem #9

The insurance agent has a strong need for approval.

It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be an insurance agent.” You end up with an insurance agent that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite: a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.

The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to ask pre-hire screening questions that helps to hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.

Problem #10

Insurance agents don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and CPAs’ all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many insurance agents are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to invest in top performers and help them grow their skills. Ego stunts your growth so managers have to be willing to set their ego aside and be willing to grow, modeling behavior that demonstrates it is more important to the manager to be effective than to be right. We can all learn from each other.

In Summary:

Hiring: Distributions, supervisors and managers must complete, step-by-step, a formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Look to hire goal achievers not goal setters. Most managers hire goal setters and are surprised when agents never achieve their goals. The truth is the agent only had a wish list. Ask the agent when interviewing or coaching to describe goals they set and “how” they achieved the goal. If they didn’t achieve then it was it a goal or only a wish list?

Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.

Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective recruiting, hiring, coaching, growing, and developing agents. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance from yourself and your agent, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your team production-if you are not meeting standards. how can you expect to hold your agents accountable?. In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect. Remember, you manage things – you lead people.

Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time.

Phone scripts and rebuttals are intended to assist in moving your management and sales career forward or allowing you to increase you current volume of business.

Remember these are only meant to be sales tools, they do not work, you have to work them.

The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.

Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!

The clock starts NOW!

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Tips On How To Clean Your Dirty And Smellygage

Your luggage travels in different conditions. The rain, the muddy pathways and the dirty pavements can all make your luggage dirty and smelly. If you do not take good care of it, your precious travel bag can wear out faster.

Cleaning your dirty and smelly luggage should not be too daunting. Let me tell you some tried and tested cleaning tips:

1. Vacuum your luggage. Try to get rid of as much dirt and dust from your travel bag as you can. Also vacuum the casters and the interior of the bag. You might want to use a vacuum machine with a good filter to effect suck minute dirt and dust particles.

2. If you are using a canvas luggage, try cleaning it with a mild dish washing liquid. Mix two drops of the dish washing liquid in two cups of warm water. Soak a sponge or a clean towel in the mixture. Wring out the excess. Use this to wipe the interior and the exterior of the machine.

Make sure you remove dirt particles. Also wipe away dirt and crusty mud on the wheels of the luggage.

3. For your leather luggage, try to get rid of the mud using a leather polisher. Apply leather polisher on a clean rag. Wipe it all over the bag.

4. Get a soft bristled brush and use this to remove dirt particles in the zippers, wheels and the handles of the bag. You can try soaking the brush in the dish washing liquid solution first. This will loosen up the crusty mud or dirt.

5. Sprinkle baking soda on the interior and exterior of the luggage. Leave it on for an hour. Baking soda can effectively diffuse unwanted luggage odor. This will also help get rid of lingering stains and dirt.

6. After an hour, vacuum the travel bag again to get rid of the baking soda residues.

7. To deodorize the luggage bag once again, try spraying it with lemon juice solution. Just mix one cup of lemon juice with one cup of water. Place it in a spray bottle. Spray it all over the luggage. This should work in diffusing unwanted bag odor.

8. Let it dry completely. Place the bag in an area not directly exposed to the sun.

If you are traveling during rainy seasons, make sure you use a luggage cover for your bag. These can be purchased from travel bag stores. They can protect your bag from further damage.

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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Know About the Consequences of Not Having Public Liability Insurance Coverage

Public liability insurance is an important insurance policy that protects your business during the time of adversities. Especially, if your business handles risky activities like construction, plumbing, etc., or if the public enters into your business premises like in retailing, then this insurance plan is a must have. Owing to the uncertainty of accidents and the huge costs of legal claims, your business may run into crisis if you are not properly guarded by the right insurance plan, i.e. public liability insurance.

This article gives you a little insight into the consequences your business might face, if you do not have public liability insurance coverage.

Financial burden: Depending on the damage or loss caused to the third-party, the amount claimed may vary. But the third parties generally sue the company for heavy amounts as small amounts do not matter for both company and the sufferers. These claims will add up to the company’s existing costs and become a financial burden to the company. Managing the finances between the company’s needs and legal claims is not wise as it halts the business operations.

Legal battles: Apart from the amount to be reimbursed, a company has to face legal battles which occur as a result of lawsuits filed against the business by the third parties. The legal costs and expenses are generally high. You need to deal legal authorities with utmost care. These legal battles are hectic. The time and effort required to fight these legal battles is also high. It diverts you from your core business. But if you have a public liability policy, the insurance company assists you and takes charge in fighting these legal battles till the case is closed, besides paying the legal expenses.

Chances of bankruptcy: Inability to pay the outstanding charges claimed by the third parties may lead the business to go bankrupt. Unless a business has outstanding capital, it cannot afford to pay these legal expenses. Moreover, you are needed to provide additional financial assistance in the form of medical aid as in case of accidents and repairing charges in case of property damage, besides paying the lump sum amount and the legal costs.

Investment at risk: In case your business is facing a third-party legal claim, and if you are in a position where you cannot pay the claimed amount instantly, then, the bank or the court gives permission to seize your various monetary investments or fixed assets such as land, furniture or machinery to cover the legal expenses and the claimed amount.

Lack of mental peace: With the all the above issues, you will surely lose mental peace. These legal claims not only eat away the business’ time and effort but in some cases may ruin the business’ existence. Legal claims should be dealt instantly; any delay will only aggravate the tension and loss.

A good business will always be prepared for the future crisis. Having a public liability insurance policy is a wise decision. It provides timely financial help to pay the claimed amount and the legal costs without putting the business at stake.

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A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Would you like to travel to Maui? This is the second largest of the eight islands found in the Hawaii State. It possesses three big cities, including Lahaina, Kahului and Wailuku. The region lures many visitors because of its physical landmarks such as the highest volcanic mountain called Haleakala. Even the West Maui Mountains form very beautiful scenery. The western part of the island including Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kapalua has the most luxurious and elegant resorts.

This is a beautiful island and if you want to plan a getaway you cannot be wrong if you choose it. Although you can reach the region quickly by plane, cruising in a ship is more enjoyable. Besides, finding cheap Maui cruises is not a major problem. Since this landmass is a popular destination for tourists, you can expect to compete for cheaper cruise rates with very many people from your region.

How can you manage to overcome this competition for discounted cruise rates? If at all possible, you should look for a reliable travel agency that either has business branches in Hawaii or is based in this state. This is specifically true if you will be a first time visitor who plans to have a stress free trip to the island. A travel agent is therefore very useful when people are planning Maui vacations.

In the following few paragraphs you will find out more about the importance of using a travel agent and related information.

Reasons why you should use a Maui travel Agency

1. It provides guidance and direction through out the trip and is able to help people save money.

2. A travel operator boosts safety of new travelers throughout a whole week’s trip or even a longer one.

3. It keeps travelers from getting into trouble with the authorities in the Island

4. It recommends the best accommodation facilities as well as proper means of transportation in this wonderful island.

How you can locate a Maui Travel Agency

It is extremely easy to locate a good tour company if you know how to use the internet wisely. Look for Maui travel agents’ reviews, analyze them carefully and choose a few good companies. Go to the related forums and blogs and read prior visitors’ comments and articles. In short, you need to take your time to research carefully before making a decision about whom to hire among many tour operators that serve Maui. The best thing to do is to look for an agent that can give you a single package for the entire journey. The package should include the hotel accommodation, foods and drinks, transportation and other leisurely costs.

What your Maui tour guide should tell you in advance

An imperative detail that you want your guide to tell you about in advance is the requirements for entry in Maui, Hawaii. If you come from outside the U.S, you need to know about the passport, visas and other mandatory entry information before the travel day comes. Moreover, the agent should mention something about the climate, especially if you would be traveling with your family.

You want to avoid traveling with kids when hurricanes are common or when the weather is too wet. This is particularly important if you plan to participate in outdoor activities such as water sports and walking to the tourist landmarks. The guide should make you understand the available routes and the things you can see while cruising in a ship.

If you want cheaper rates, the planner of Maui vacations should be able to provide you an inexpensive bill without compromising the quality of your visit. You can also ask the travel guide about trip insurance, car rental services, traffic around the region and many other important issues.

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Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling

Clients who are Green Card holders (ie permanent residents) frequently ask me about issues that need to be aware of when traveling internationally, outside of the United States.

Here are some things to consider to minimize the potential for problems at the border. After a long intercontinental flight, nobody wants to find themselves in a position of being subjected to lengthy questioning by CBP officers at the airport. Particularly in situations where the Green Card holder has spent significant time (more than 6 months, typically) outside the US, there are potential pitfalls one needs to be aware of – or risk risk losing the highly-prized Green Card. CBP, interestingly enough, in its operations manual, has some good guidance on what immigration inspectors are to consider when inspecting Green Card residents seeking re-admission into the US

Admission, generally The CBP officer shall admit a resident alien returning to an unrelinquished domicile, if not otherwise inadmissible, upon presentation of an unexpired Green Card (I-551), a reentry permit, refugee travel document (indicating lawful permanent residence), or Temporary evidence of LPR status such as an Travel Statmp (or ADIT stamp).

A returning resident alien is not required to present a valid passport for reentry into the US, although most will have one, since a passport is often required for entry into a foreign country. When presented, the passport is normally annotated with "ARC", and the alien's "A" number should be written on the page with the admission stamp.

Admission after prolonged absences A Green Card holder, who has been outside the United States for more than one year (two, if presenting a reentry permit), may be seen by CBP to possibly have abandoned residence. Other indicators of possible abandonment of residence are:

(1) employment abroad,

(2) having immediate family members who are not permanent residents,

(3) arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage,

(4) lack of a fixed address in the US, Egypt

(5) frequent prolonged absences from the United States.

In questionable cases, it is appropriate for CBP to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as driver's licenses and employer identification cards.

Green Card holder without Green Card? Lawful permanent residents (LPR) lacking evidence of alien registration because it has been left at home or in a safety deposit box, may obtain from CBP a visa waiver, with fee, or defer the inspection to another CBP office local to the Resident's home in The US

If the LPR claims the card has been lost or stolen, the POE may accept a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with fee. These actions may be considered once the identity of the LPR has been confirmed, preferably by checking against the data contained in the CBP computer systems.

A LPR requesting a visa waiver must complete a Form I-193, Application for Waiver of Visa or Passport, if otherwise admissible. The applicant requesting the waiver is to review the information recorded on the printed form for accuracy and sign where indicated. If the waiver is approved, the LPR is to be given a copy of the Form I-193 and be acknowledged as a returning resident. If a waiver is denied, the applicant may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

CBP officers can also use something called "deferred inspection". This is usually limited to a Green Card or Visa holder who:

O will be able to produce the requisite document within a few days; Egypt,

O claims to have lost or had the Form I-551 stolen, is unable to pay the Form I-90 fee at the time of initial inspection and has not been previously deferred for presentation of the Form I-551 document.

The LPR will be required to file a Form I-90 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the next 30 days.

Conditional Residents A conditional resident is generally admissible to the US if applying before the second anniversary of admission for conditional residence. The conditional resident may also be admissible if he or she has a lettering letter (or "transport letter") from a US Consulate, has been stationed abroad under government orders, or is the spouse or child of a person stationed abroad under government orders. Otherwise, the applicant for admission as a conditional resident must have filed a joint petition or an application for waiver, Form I-751 (marriage-based cases) or Form I-829 (investment-based cases), in the US within the 90 Days before the second anniversary but not more than 6 months prior to the application for entry.

Once I-751 has been filed, the applicant will receive a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) from USCIS, extending the conditional residency status for another year, allowing travel.

If none of those conditions exist, the inspector may defer the applicant to file Form I-751 or I-829 if there is a reason to believe the service will approve a petition or waiver. If the applicant is not admissible, CBP has authority to place him or her in removal proceedings.

Question of "Meaningful Departure" When examining a Green Card holder who has spent significant time abroad (usually more than six months), when there is a question as to whether the LPR may have abandoned his / her US residence, the CBP inspector has to Evaluate the situation and make a determination as to the LPR's intent and the nature and reason for the prolonged absence from the United States. Prior to 1997, if a lawful permanent resident was believed to be inadmissible, immigration inspectors had to first make a determination which his / her absence was "meaningfully interruptive" of permanent residence. Later revisions to immigration laws have formalized a 'test' for immigration inspectors to apply in this situation. Under this test, a lawful permanent resident is NOT considered to be seeking admission, unless the alien:

O has abandoned or relinquished that status;

O has been absent continuously for more than 180 days;

O has engaged in illegal activity after departing the US;

O has departed under legal process seeking removal;

O has committed certain criminal offsets;

O is attempting entry without inspection; Egypt

O has entered the US without authorization by an immigration officer.

If CBP believes an LPR may be inadmissible or no longer entailed to lawful permanent resident status, CBP should refer the alien for removal proceedings if a deferred inspection is not appropriate.

Special Rules for Dependents of US Service Members Spouses and children of US Armed Forces servicemembers, or civil employees of the US Government, are exempt from many normal requirements for returning residents. If a dependent is a temporary resident, and the period of conditional residence has expired, CBP should admit the person and advise to file Form I-751 within 90 days.

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