The Beginning Of The End
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How Big Banks Can Steal Your Home From You Even If Your Mortgage Is Totally Paid Off

Foreclosure - Photo by respresDid you know that the big banks have a way to legally steal your house from you even if you don’t owe a single penny on your mortgage?  Big banks and hedge funds are buying billions of dollars worth of tax liens from local governments all over the nation, and they are ruthlessly foreclosing on homeowners when they can’t pay the absolutely ridiculous penalties and legal fees that are tacked on to the original tax bill.  As you will see below, one 76-year-old man lost his $197,000 home that he fully owned over a $134 tax bill.  A 95-year-old woman lost her $300,000 home over a $44.79 tax bill.  This is a very, very dirty way to make money, and the predatory financial institutions that are involved in this business definitely do not want to talk about it.

Of course much of the blame should also be shouldered by the local governments that are coldly selling these tax liens to these ruthless predators.  If local governments want to collect their tax bills, they should do it themselves.  They should not be auctioning off their tax liens to cold-hearted financial institutions that are very eager to commit a legal version of highway robbery.

A few days ago, the Washington Post reported on the tragic story of a 76-year-old former Marine named Bennie Coleman.  Coleman had originally purchased his home with cash, but that didn’t stop tax lien predators from stealing his home over an unpaid $134 property tax bill…

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.

Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.

So why couldn’t he pay such a small bill?

Well, as the Post explained, these big banks and hedge funds keep tacking on interest, penalties and legal fees until the tax bills are many times the size that they originally were.  When the distressed homeowners can’t come up with thousands of dollars to pay off the debts, the big banks and the hedge funds move in for the kill…

For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.

But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.

In particular, hedge funds have discovered that this is a great way to make huge piles of money.  The following is a short excerpt from a CNN article that was published back in May

With buyers identified only by numbers or unrelated names, the fragmented, unregulated industry is opaque. Even the market’s size is debated — $15 billion a year, according to Howard Liggett, the chief executive of Distressed Real Estate Consulting Services, or $5 billion a year, according to the National Tax Lien Association, a trade group. While returns are a closely kept secret, investors typically make between 2.5% and 10% a year, or in the low teens for larger buys.

“The hedge funds are chasing yield in this business” says Albert Friedman, a principal at Alterna Capital, an alternative investment firm in Boca Raton that buys tax liens.

Insiders estimate hedge funds now control 40% of the tax-lien market, from under 5% five years ago, with regional banks, obscure partnerships sporting names like God’s ATM LLC, and mom-and-pop investors making up the rest.

And a number of “too big to fail” banks are involved in this business as well.

In a previous article, I described exactly how this works…

1) The big Wall Street banks set up or invest in shell companies that will disguise who they really are.

2) These shell companies run around and buy up all of the tax liens that they can get their hands on.

3) Predatory levels of interest (in some states as high as 18 percent), fees and penalties rapidly pile up on these unpaid tax liens.  The affected homeowners quickly end up owing much, much more than what the original tax bills were for.

4) If the collecting firm has to hire a lawyer, then that gets charged to the homeowner as well.  The bloated legal fees for some of these lawyers can end up being the biggest expense of all.

5) If the tax liens do not get paid, the collecting firms move in to foreclose as quickly as legally possible.

According to the Huffington Post, Wall Street banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been gobbling up several hundred thousand tax liens from local governments.  It appears that “distressed housing markets” are being particularly targeted.

Many of these tax liens are sold in online auctions, so it is unclear if many local government officials even realize who the big money behind many of these shell companies is.

These big financial institutions may consider this to be “good business”, but the truth is that they are absolutely shattering lives in the process.  This is particularly true when it comes to older people that do not fully understand what is happening to them.  Just consider the following examples from a recent Washington Post article

A 48-year-old math teacher paid his taxes in 2007, but the tax office took his $1,400 payment and applied it to the wrong house, crediting an entirely different taxpayer.

A 58-year-old bank employee almost lost her house in 2010 because the tax office mistakenly sent bills and notices to a wooded lot across from a strip shopping center in Virginia — 12 times.

A 69-year-old hat designer was given the wrong payoff amount and ended up in court to save her property, owned by her family since 1943.

Those homeowners found out about the mistakes in time to fight. Ninety-five-year-old Daisy Dolsey, living in a nursing home and struggling with Alzheimer’s, wasn’t so lucky: She lost her $300,000 house over a $44.79 tax debt even after she paid her taxes.

Doesn’t that just sicken you?

And then the big banks and the hedge funds have the gall to wonder why people dislike them so much.

In this day and age, large financial institutions have become more cold-hearted than ever before.

Always make sure that your property taxes are fully paid, and always keep a paper record of all financial transactions involving your home.

If you do slip up and make a mistake at some point, there is a very good chance that a ruthless financial institution will try to swoop in and steal your home right out from under your nose.

Happy New Year Middle Class: The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Rip You To Shreds

Happy New Year Middle Class - The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Rip You To ShredsThe middle class has quite a gift welcoming them as the calendar flips over to 2013.  Their payroll taxes are going to go up, their income taxes are going to go up, and approximately 28 million households are going to be hit with a huge, unexpected AMT tax bill on their 2012 earnings.  So happy New Year middle class!  You are about to be ripped to shreds.  In addition to the tax increases that I just mentioned, approximately two million unemployed Americans will instantly lose their extended unemployment benefits when 2013 begins, and new Obamacare tax hikes which will cost American taxpayers about a trillion dollars over the next decade will start to go into effect.  If Congress is not able to come to some sort of a deal, all middle class families in America will be sending thousands more dollars to Uncle Sam next year than they were previously.  And considering the fact that the middle class is already steadily shrinking and that the U.S. economy is already in an advanced state of decline, that is not good news.  You would think that both major political parties would want to do something to keep the middle class from being hit with this kind of tax sledgehammer.  Unfortunately, at this point it appears that our “leaders” in Washington D.C. are incapable of getting anything done.  So get ready for much smaller paychecks and much larger tax bills.  What is coming is not going to be pleasant.

So what happened?

Weren’t the tax increases only supposed to be for the wealthy?

Well, that is what the politicians always promise, but it is always the middle class that ends up getting hit the hardest.

In this day and age, the big corporations and the ultra-wealthy are absolute masters at avoiding taxes.

For example, Facebook paid approximately $4.64 million in taxes on their entire foreign profits of $1.344 billion for 2011.

That comes out to a tax rate of about 0.3 percent.

Overall, the global elite have approximately 18 trillion dollars parked in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for 2011 was only slightly above 15 trillion dollars.

So the global elite have an amount of money parked in offshore banks that is substantially larger than the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States each year.

According to one estimate, a third of all the wealth in the entire world is stationed in offshore banks.  Our politicians are playing checkers and the global elite are playing chess when it comes to taxes.  Our current system of taxation is irreversibly broken and should be entirely thrown out and replaced with something else.

And of course under our current system those that are poor don’t pay much in taxes because they are just trying to survive.

So who always ends up getting the painful end of the hammer?

The middle class does, and that really stinks.

Let us hope and pray that our politicians can come together and do something for the middle class.  In particular, we should all be screaming and yelling at our politicians about the Alternative Minimum Tax.  It was originally designed as a method to “tax the rich”, but unless Congress does something the middle class is about to be ripped to shreds by it.  The following is from a recent CNBC article about the AMT…

In a cruel epilogue to 2012, roughly 28 million families would owe the IRS $86 billion more than they anticipated for this year should the country plunge off the cliff, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Those families would face the “Alternative Minimum Tax,” which was introduced in 1969 to supposedly guarantee that wealthy Americans could not elude the taxman. But the AMT not only flopped, it was never indexed to inflation. So with each passing year, it seeps away from high society and into the wallets of Target and Wal-Mart shoppers. That sets up a disaster for April 15.

So how much money are we talking about?

According to that same article, many families are about to be socked by tax bills that will be absolutely huge…

On the whole, 98 percent of those with incomes between $200,000 to $500,000 would pay an additional $11,000 in AMT this year, according to the center’s estimates. About 88 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 to $200,000 would need to fork over another $3100, and even the majority of Americans with earnings between $75,000 and $100,000 would have an AMT liability.

Most of the tax increases that will be coming as a result of the fiscal cliff will be for 2013 earnings, but the AMT tax hike will apply to 2012 earnings.  So if you end up falling under the AMT, you better get ready to write a very large check to Uncle Sam in just a couple of months.

And the AMT is only just one of the very painful tax increases that American families will be facing.  If no deal is reached in Congress, every single middle class American taxpayer will be dealing with significantly higher taxes.

A recent ABC News report entitled “Fiscal Cliff: By The Numbers” detailed some of the other tax increases that you can expect in 2013…

So why don’t our politicians do something about all of this?

What are they fighting so bitterly about anyway?

Sadly, neither side is actually serious about substantially reducing the size of government deficits or about getting government spending under control.

During a recent interview on CNBC, Ron Paul explained that “they pretend they are fighting up there, but they really aren’t. They are arguing over power, spin, who looks good, who looks bad; all trying to preserve the system where they can spend what they want, take care of their friends and print money when they need it.”

Most in the mainstream media are making it sound like some kind of a “battle royal” is going on in Washington, but as Lou Dobbs recently pointed out, the U.S. national debt is going to end up in just about the same place no matter what happens.

According to Dobbs, if we “do nothing” the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.8 trillion dollars in 2022.

If “Obama wins”, the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.4 trillion dollars in 2022.

If “Boehner wins”, the U.S. national debt will be approximately 25.2 trillion dollars in 2022.

You can watch the entire analysis by Lou Dobbs right here

So they are putting all of us through all of this torture even though nothing will really change in the long run no matter who wins?

What kind of a circus is this?

Meanwhile, the reckless spending continues.

Barack Obama has just issued a new executive order that ends the pay freeze for federal workers that had been in place.

So now all federal employees will be getting a nice hefty pay raise.

For example, Vice President Joe Biden brought in $225,521 this year.

Next year, he will make $231,900.

Not that our politicians really need the money.  Most members of Congress are millionaires anyway.  But if they can get us to pay for it, they might as well go for it, eh?

There are now close to half a million federal employees that bring home at least $100,000 a year.  Plus, it is important to keep in mind that the benefits that federal employees get are absolutely outstanding, and it is close to impossible to actually fire a federal worker.

Life is good if you are working for Uncle Sam.

Meanwhile, our politicians seem determined to keep draining more blood out of the middle class.  Even if a “deal” is reached, we will still be hit by some categories of tax increases.  Let’s just hope and pray that we don’t get hit by all of the tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect.  That would be a financial disaster for millions of families.

So happy New Year middle class.  Your taxes are about to go through the roof and our politicians are too busy fighting with each other to do anything about it.

What else will 2013 bring?

Funny Baby

They Are Going To Make It Nearly Impossible To Pass On A Farm Or A Business To Your Children

If you have a farm or a small business, would you like to pass it on to your children when you die?  Well, unless Congress does something, it is going to become much, much harder to do that starting next year.  Right now, there is a 5 million dollar estate tax exemption and anything above that is taxed at 35 percent.  But on January 1st, the exemption will go down to 1 million dollars and the tax rate will go up to 55 percent.  A lot of liberals are very excited about this, because they believe that the government will be soaking wealthy people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  But the truth is that a lot of farms, ranches and small businesses will be absolutely devastated by this change in the tax law.  There are many farmers and ranchers out there today that do not make much money but are sitting on tracts of land that are worth millions of dollars.  According to the American Farm Bureau, approximately 97 percent of all farms and ranches in the United States would be subject to the estate tax if the exemption was reduced to just a million dollars.  That means that the children of these farmers and ranchers would be faced with a very cruel choice when it is time to inherit these farms and ranches.  Either they come up with enough money to pay the government about half of what the farm or ranch is worth, or they sell the farm or ranch that may have been in their family for generations.  Needless to say, most farm and ranch families do not have that kind of cash lying around.  Most of them are just barely making it from year to year.  So this change in the tax law is going to greatly accelerate the death of the family farm in America.  This is also going to devastate many family-owned small businesses.  Many small businesses don’t make much money, but they have buildings or land or assets worth millions of dollars.  Children that may have wanted to continue the family legacy will be forced to sell because of the massive tax bill that they get from Uncle Sam.  This is an insidious cruelty, and it shows just how broken our system has become.

The desire to leave the wealth that you have worked so hard to accumulate all your life to your children is something that is common to virtually all human societies.  We want to know that future generations will be taken care of.

It is simply immoral for the federal government to swoop in and tax farms, ranches and small businesses that were intended to be passed down from parents to their children at a 55 percent tax rate.

A lot of the people that are going to be affected by this change are not “wealthy” at all.  A recent Fox News report examined what this change in the law is going to mean for rancher Kevin Kester and his family…

Rancher Kevin Kester works dawn to dusk, drives a 12-year-old pick-up truck and earns less than a typical bureaucrat in Washington D.C., yet the federal government considers him rich enough to pay the estate tax — also known as the “death tax.”

Kester told Fox News that he has no doubt that his ranch will have to be sold when he dies just to pay the tax bill…

“There is no way financially my kids can pay what the IRS is going to demand from them nine months after death and keep this ranch intact for their generation and future generations,” said Kester, of the Bear Valley Ranch in Central California.

Two decades ago, Kester paid the IRS $2 million when he inherited a 22,000-acre cattle ranch from his grandfather. Come January, the tax burden on his children will be more than $13 million.

Reading that should make you angry.  Every single year, thousands upon thousands of farms, ranches and small businesses are going to be lost to the federal tax monster.

It is almost as if the federal government does not want income-producing assets to remain in the hands of the “little guy”.

What in the world are we supposed to do?

It isn’t as if all of those farmers and ranchers can go off to the big cities and find good jobs.  As I wrote about yesterday, our politicians are standing aside as millions of our good jobs are shipped out of the country.

The cold, hard truth is that our system does not work for average Americans any longer.  Those that roll out of bed every morning, work hard and never complain always seem to get the short end of the stick.

The people that are the backbone of America are the ones that the government is always the hardest on.

Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point where the government is searching for more “revenue” from anywhere it can because it desperately needs more money.  U.S. government finances are a complete and total mess and we are drowning in the biggest ocean of debt the world has ever seen.

We are more than 16 trillion dollars in debt and there are more than 100 million Americans that are enrolled in at least one welfare program.

Someday has to pay for all this.

Middle class Americans are already hit with dozens of different taxes each year, and you can be certain that our politicians will continue to invent ways to extract even more “revenue” out of us.

And of course our politicians will never stop their wild spending.  Despite all of the negotiations that have taken place over the past couple of years, our spending problems just continue to grow.  For example, the federal budget deficit for the month of October was $120 billion, which was more than 20 percent larger than the federal budget deficit for October 2011 was.

So what is the solution?

Well, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner now says that he wants to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely.  He says that we should just have no limit and that the federal government should just be able to go into debt as much as it wants.

In the end, all of this debt is going to absolutely crush us.  We have literally destroyed the future of America, and yet most of the country still seems clueless about all of this.  The blind are leading the blind, and we are headed straight for complete and utter disaster.

One day, when people look back on this period in American history, what do you think people are going to say about us?

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