Everything You Need to Know About Your Stimulus Check

covid-19

In light of the developing coronavirus crisis, Congress has agreed to a $2 trillion dollar stimulus relief package which President Trump has signed into law. The package includes a $250 billion expansion of unemployment benefits and $500 billion in loans to corporations. But how will this impact the average citizen? One much anticipated provision in the bill is a one-time payment in the form of a check paid out to those who are eligible. Here is everything you need to know about the stimulus checks.

Not everyone will receive a check. Individuals must be legal residents that are not/can not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. There are also limits on how much income you can earn to receive a stimulus check. Payments start to decrease for single filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) over $75,000, married couples filing jointly with AGI over $150,000, and heads of household (a single person with dependents) with an AGI above $112,500. The amount you receive in your stimulus check will be based on your 2019 income or your 2018 income if you have not filed your 2019 tax return yet.

So exactly how much money will you be receiving? You can use this calculator to determine your payment. Some of the information is as follows:

The maximum an individual can receive is $1,200. Smaller checks will go out to individuals making up to $99,000 a year, falling $5 for every $100 in income above $75,000. Married couples can receive up to $2,400, again with smaller checks going to married couples who earn up to $198,000 a year. Couples will also receive $500 for every child in their household under 17.

If you are currently receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits but still earn too little to have to file income tax returns, you will also receive a stimulus check based on the information you provided the IRS through forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099. If you are a college student or older teen who still depends on your parents for more than half your support, you are not eligible to receive a stimulus check.

These checks basically function like a 2020 tax credit. Therefore, if you earned too much in 2018 or 2019 to receive a payment, but have recently lost income (possibly due to the crisis), you will be eligible for the payment when you file your 2020 tax returns in 2021. On the other hand, if you qualify for the payment under your 2018 or 2019 returns but would not qualify based on your 2020 income, you will not be required to pay back the stimulus check.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated checks could go out within the next three weeks. If you used a bank account for your direct deposit for your 2019 tax returns, you should see your money deposited there. If you do not have a direct deposit established, you will receive a check in the mail at your last recorded address. Mailed checks could take longer than direct deposits.

Nearly 125 million Americans are expected to receive a stimulus check over the next few weeks. If you’re not sure how much you’re set to receive, don’t hesitate to call our offices for assistance. We are more than happy to put your mind at ease, and, if it looks like your stimulus check will not offset your current financial difficulties, we can walk you through your rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What You Need to Know

On March 18th, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was sign into law, providing important services for American families during this difficult time. The FFCRA is intended to help both employees and employers alike. While there are many provisions in the full legislative package, there are four main aspects of the law that apply primarily to businesses. Here we will break down how this new law may impact your business.

The first portion of the FFCRA that businesses need to pay attention to revolves around the expansion of the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In 2020, employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide up to 10 weeks of paid FMLA. The first two weeks of the normal 12-week FMLA leave can be offered as unpaid leave, although an employee is able to receive payment during this time through other paid leave or accrued PTO. Your business could receive an exemption from the Secretary of Labor if you have less than 50 employees or can prove offering the leave would “jeopardize the viability” of your business.

Eligible employees include anyone that has been employed for at least 30 days. Childcare must be provided for employees’ children whose schools have been closed due to the pandemic. The employee must be incapable of working (on-site or remotely) while providing childcare. Employers will first offer unpaid leave (or accrued paid PTO) for 10 days. After this time period, FMLA will go into effect. Employees will be compensated at two-thirds their normal pay rate. The paid leave cannot exceed $200 a day and $10,000 total for the duration of the 10 weeks.

If your business has fewer than 25 employees, you will not be required to reinstate an employee who has taken leave upon their return to work. However, you will be required to do so if you have more than 25 employees. If your business has fewer than 50 employees, you will be exempt from any civil actions concerning emergency paid leave. Healthcare facilities and emergency response organizations are legally protected to exclude any employees from paid leave expansion.

The second aspect of the FFCRA that applies directly to businesses is emergency paid sick leave. Companies with fewer than 500 employees are required to offer paid sick leave to those who meet a specific criteria. The employee must be unable to work on-site or remotely because:

  • They have been put under federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19.
  • Their doctor has advised them to self-quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • They are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are in the process of getting a medical diagnosis.
  • They are caring for a family member subject to a quarantine order or self-quarantine.
  • They are caring for children whose schools are closed or whose regular caregiver is unable to work because of the COVID-19 emergency.

Full-time employees can receive a maximum of 80 hours of paid sick leave and part-time employees can receive a maximum based on the average amount of time they work in an average two week period. If the employee qualifies under the first three reasons, the sick leave will be paid at the employee’s regular rate with a cap at $511 a day and $5,110 total. If an employee qualifies based on the last two reasons above, they will receive two-thirds their regular pay with a daily cap of $200 per day and $2,000 total.

Emergency paid sick leave through the FFCRA is offered in addition to existing sick leave and/or paid time off that is already offered by the employer. If your business has fewer than 50 employees, you may be exempt if you can prove offering these provisions would “jeopardize the viability” of your business. Again, healthcare and emergency response organizations are able to exclude employees from these provisions.

Tax Credits for paid sick leave and paid FMLA will be offered to help employers afford these provisions. Each quarter, employers are entitled to fully refundable tax credits for costs related to the FFCRA. If these tax credits are not enough to cover employee payouts, the U.S. Treasury Department has been authorized to assist in covering the rest of the costs with cash payouts. The Treasury is also authorized to waive penalties for businesses that do not submit their payroll taxes in anticipation of a refund under FFCRA. A tax credit will be increased by the amount paid by the employer to maintain healthcare for employees on paid sick leave or FMLA.

The final provision of the FFCRA that applies to businesses is the allocation of $1 billion for state unemployment programs. This provision also gives the state government more flexibility in determining which workers need unemployment insurance. Employees no longer need to wait a week or meet specific work search requirements before becoming eligible for unemployment insurance (UI). These provisions may help employers make business decisions surrounding potential layoffs or staff changes due to the coronavirus crisis.

If you need help understanding how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act may affect you personally or as a business entity, please reach out to us at Veitengruber Law. We are working through the pandemic at virtual locations throughout New Jersey and can be reached at the phone numbers listed on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Do if You Can’t Make Your Car Payments During the Coronavirus Pandemic

coronavirus pandemic

It’s infiltrated nearly every part of the country, and when it arrives, the Coronavirus pandemic brings with it more than physical symptoms. Pummeling the US economy is a side effect of COVID-19 that biologists and infectious disease experts failed to mention, but massive nationwide business shutdowns have led to extensive job loss. Those who were unprepared for this unforeseen event quickly found themselves unable to make even their regular monthly living expense payments.

Although a $2T stimulus package has been signed into law, many Americans have already been out of work for weeks, and won’t likely see any payments from this legislation for several additional weeks. In that amount of time, any number of mortgage, rent, and car payments will go unpaid. This may, unfortunately, lead to some people losing their vehicles.

If your car has been repossessed, you might be confused about where to turn. But even after your car is hooked to the tow truck, you have options. There are laws in place to protect you from having to file bankruptcy and some things you can do to recover your vehicle. Here are some answers to common questions about car repossession.

1. Why was my car taken?

Late payments aren’t the only reason your car may be taken. It is very possible for cars to get repossessed by accident. If you were not expecting your car to get repossessed, it is worth it to call your lender to find out where your vehicle is and how you can get it back. If your car was taken in error, congratulations! You should be able to get it back relatively easily.

2. Can I get my car back?

On the other hand, if your car was repossessed for failure to pay, your lender legally has to notify you in the event of a repossession. In some cases, the lender will expect the borrower to pay back the car loan in full, plus the cost of repossession and storage, to get the vehicle back. Alternatively, the lender can require the borrower to pay any past due payments to return the vehicle and reinstate the loan. If you cannot meet the terms required to return the car, the lender will (typically) begin the process of selling the car to make up the balance of the loan.

3. What are my rights?

The borrower is entitled to receive notices from the lender. The first indicates the lender’s intent to sell the property and provides information for the borrower to try to get the car back or pick up any personal belongings left in the car. The second notice comes after the car has been sold by the lender. The borrower must receive a notice confirming the sale, how much the car sold for, repossession and storage fees, and the remaining balance—if any—on the loan.

Keep in mind that the repossession agent cannot use physical force, enter a closed garage, or damage any personal property in your car in order to repossess your car. The police are also barred from aiding in the repossession of a vehicle. They can be present to keep the peace but they are not allowed to intervene in any way.

4. Do I still owe money if the lender sells my vehicle?

If the car in question sells for less than what you owe on the loan, you will owe a deficiency balance. It is your responsibility to pay this balance. If you cannot pay the balance, you could face legal action and wind up on a debt collector’s list.

5. How will repossession impact my credit score?

Normally, repossession will remain on your credit report for 7 ½ years. You should expect the repossession to impact your credit score negatively. It could even increase interest rates or decrease your credit allowance on existing accounts.

Veitengruber Law can help, especially if you are struggling because of the current quarantine situation. Our New Jersey credit repair legal team is working throughout the entire Coronavirus pandemic. We are all working from home, but otherwise it is business as usual. You can reach us via any phone number on our website. We will talk with you to determine your best path going forward. You have access to all of the experts on the Veitengruber Law team during this challenging time! Reach out via phone, email, or message us on social media. We are answering messages on every platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Expect in a NJ Bankruptcy 341 Meeting

If you have filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will be required to attend a 341 meeting. Named after the section of the bankruptcy code that defines it, this meeting is where you meet with the trustee appointed to your case by the NJ bankruptcy court. The trustee will be able to question you under oath about your finances, assets, liabilities, and other things related to your bankruptcy case. Here, we will break down what you can expect and how we can help you prepare for your 341 meeting.

You will be joined in your 341 meeting by your attorney, the trustee handing your case, a court-appointed representative, and any creditors who choose to attend the meeting. Most of the time meetings are scheduled in clusters, so you may have a short wait before you are called for your meeting with the trustee. You will be permitted to refer to relevant documents during the meeting if needed.

341 meetings typically only last 10-30 minutes. In that time, the trustee will ask you some standard questions about your bankruptcy petition. The trustee will ask to see a photo ID as well as your social security card. They will also have you confirm on the record that the signature on your bankruptcy petition is yours. Additional questions can include:

  • Verifying your familiarity with the details of your bankruptcy petition.
  • Verifying the accuracy and completeness of the information in the petition.
  • Correcting any errors in the petition.
  • Ensuring all assets and liabilities are included.
  • Any previous bankruptcy petitions.
  • Information verifying employment and confirming the accuracy of your tax returns.

If any creditors are present they may ask some questions, but their scope is limited. Once the trustee has asked all of their questions, you will be free to go. Sometimes, the meeting will be deemed “not closed” if the trustee wants additional documentation. If you submit the required documentation promptly you should be able to avoid having to go to another 341 meeting.

Your attorney will be able to guide you through this process to ensure you understand the questions and provide full answers. You will meet with your attorney before the 341 meeting so they can go over necessary information with you and prepare you for any questions they anticipate will being asked. After the meeting is over, your attorney will let you know next steps going forward.

Veitengruber Law is experienced in handling bankruptcy cases. From your free consultation to the day your debt is resolved, we will be there for you throughout the entire process. We will help you prepare for your 341 meeting and provide caring, effective legal support throughout your bankruptcy case.

The Key Elements of a Real Estate Purchase Agreement

One of the biggest reasons to hire a real estate attorney is to ensure you are following the law without leaving out any gaps or loopholes than can leave you vulnerable. The last thing you need is for a court to determine your real estate purchase agreement is void. The contract details the agreed-upon price and terms of purchase for the property in question, including financial issues, important dates, and other mutually accepted details. Here are the five most important aspects of a legally valid real estate purchase agreement and how your real estate attorney can help.

1. Legal Purpose

A contract is invalid if it is intended for an illegal purchase. The details of the contract must be enforceable under current law. For real estate purposes, it is important to make sure the seller is the legal owner, for instance.

2. Competency

It is important to make sure the person signing a real estate purchase agreement with you is allowed to sign a legal contract. Both parties must be at least 18 years of age, of sound mind, and not under the influence of any substances. These rules are in place to protect vulnerable groups like minors and those with disabilities. If there is any doubt in your mind about the capacity of the other party, it is important to do your due diligence in determining competency before you sign anything.

3. Agreement by Offer and Acceptance

In real estate purchase agreements, this is illustrated by an offer of purchase by the buyer and an acceptance of the offer by the seller. The best way to ensure the binding legality of this agreement is to write out all the terms of the purchase agreement in full. If the buyer is offering a price with specific conditions attached, the seller must sign that they accept the price and the conditions. If something is not listed in the purchase agreement, there is no legal standing to enforce that agreement.

4. Consideration

In legal terms, consideration is anything of value that is offered and exchanged in a contract: money, goods, services, etc. Typically with real estate agreements, the consideration is in the form of money. While the down payment and financing details will come at closing, earnest money can be included in the agreement from the beginning.

5. Consent

Both parties in a contract must enter into agreement knowingly and of their own free will. Any fraud, misrepresentation, or duress from any party in the contract will make the agreement null and void. Even a simple mistake can void a contract if it goes against the agreed-upon terms. All parties involved in the signing of a contract must agree to the deal.

Your real estate attorney can ensure the real estate contract you sign is binding, valid, and enforceable under New Jersey law. If you are unsure about the legality of a contract or if your interests are being protected, Veitengruber Law can help.

Why Do Real Estate Agents Ask Buyers for Pre-approval?

Many buyers aren’t aware that most real estate agents will request a copy of their pre-approval letter prior to showing them a property. Some are under the impression that they can wait to contact a lender until they find a home they are interested in, assuming they won’t have a problem getting a mortgage. While you might think it unnecessary, getting pre-approved and being able to provide proof to a real estate agent is critical these days for any buyer.  Here are some reasons why a real estate agent will ask you for a letter of pre-approval.

1. Safety

Believe it or not, requesting and receiving a pre-approval letter from a potential buyer is one of the number one realtor safety tips. First of all, if the buyer has taken the time to meet with a lender to discuss a mortgage, it is likely they are serious about buying a home. But also important is that the lender has done some research on the potential buyer. The lender will find out a buyer’s social security number, address, and job history. Having this information makes meeting with potential buyers safer as there is less of a risk if the real estate agent knows identifying information about the buyer.

2. Less financial risk for all

Not all homebuyers who apply for a mortgage will get approved. Pre-approval removes a lot of the uncertainty from the home buying process. It is highly unlikely for a pre-approved buyer to be denied a mortgage once the underwriting process is complete. This allows the buyer and the realtor to confidently spend money and time arranging home inspections, appraisals, and contract details.

3. Staying within budget

The process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage loan can give you a better perspective of how much house you can afford. Lenders will often go over loan programs you are qualified for to explain your options and help you determine which program is the best one for you. Once you have all the numbers you need, you and your real estate agent can work within that budget.

4. Better terms

Getting pre-approved will help you know what kind of an offer to make when you find the house you’re looking for. You will need to know how much cash you are paying, how you are financing, what kind of loan you will obtain, etc. Without a pre-approval letter, buyers have less clarity about making an offer that’s realistic. This will also save you lots of time when it comes down to working through these details. If you already know what you can offer, you will be able to better negotiation for terms favorable to you as the buyer.

5. Sellers’ preference

Besides just being required by real estate agents, some sellers will only allow an agent to show their home to potential buyers who have been pre-approved. Sellers go through a lot of work to make their home ready for the market. They don’t want to waste their time with people who are not serious about purchasing their home.

Getting pre-approved is easy and can give you the confidence you need to start your home buying search.

Tax Deductions Every Business Owner Needs to Know About

If you are a small business owner, you know the big costs of running a business. Thankfully, most of these expenses can be considered for a tax write-off. The IRS generally considers expenses as deductible if they are “ordinary and necessary” to running the business. This is open to interpretation and will vary from business to business, but there are some common deductions that might apply to your small business. Keep reading to see which tax deductions can apply to your 2019 tax year and which deductions you can implement into your business plan in 2020.

1. Rent and Utilities

If you rent an office, a store, a factory, or any other kind of business property, you can fully deduct the cost of renting the space. Likewise, every dime you spend on utilities, including electricity, phone, internet, water, heat, and sewage, is fully deductible. You can also include any repairs to property or regular maintenance like fresh paint.

2. Car and Truck Expenses

If you use a vehicle to conduct your business, you can deduct the cost of operating the vehicle for business purposes. If you don’t know exactly how much you spent on car-related expenses, you can use the IRS standard deduction at 58 cents per mile for 2019. In order to get this tax write off you will need a record of your business mileage.

3. Salaries and Employee Benefits

Any payments to employees—including bonuses, commissions, contributions to retirement plans, education assistance, or other employee benefit costs—are all tax deductible. This also applies to any freelancers or contract workers you may hire to meet your business needs.

4. Advertising and Marketing

Anything you use to promote your business can count as a write-off. Business cards, t-shirts, billboards, radio spots, boosted social media posts—all 100% tax deductible.

5. Supplies and Expenses

Supplies you need to run your business, from every day office supplies (like printer ink and post-it notes) to items more specific to your business (like tools if you are a mechanic or hair products if you are a stylist) are tax deductible. If you’ve bought new electronics or software that you use for your business, those costs are write-offs as well.

6. Travel

If you or an employee have to travel for the business, you can write off the cost of transportation and lodging for the trip. You must meet the substantiation requirements set out by the IRS to prove the trip was for business purposes so it is a good idea to keep track of any costs you accumulate on your travels. This does not include local and regular commuting.

7. Home Office

If you use a home office to work from home while running your business, you can most likely deduct the expenses for the business use of your home. Keep in mind that this only applies to a home office that is used on a regular basis exclusively for business purposes. This can include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation. The IRS standard is $5 for every square foot of office space, up to 300 square feet.

8. Insurance

The cost of insurance premiums used to protect your business are deductible. This includes malpractice and liability insurance, fire and flood insurance, and business continuation insurance, among other things. Under specific circumstances, medical insurance for your employees can also be tax deductible.

These are just a few of the write offs and deductions available to small business owners. If you are a small business owner, make sure you are getting the most out of your tax returns this year!

First Timers: How to File Your Taxes in NJ

taxes in NJ

If this is your first year filing taxes, you might be unsure of where to begin. New Jersey residents face a specific challenge as the third in the nation for state and local tax burden. It is important to file correctly so you can ensure you are getting the max return possible. Receiving your W-2 is only the first step in the process. What do you do with all those numbers? Here are some steps to ensure your first time filing taxes goes smoothly.

First, you will need to gather all necessary paperwork and make sure it is correct. Look at your W-2 to make sure personal information, employer information, and reported income and withholdings are correct. If you are missing a W-2, you need to reach out to your employer directly or seek help from the IRS. Even if you do not receive your W-2 before the April deadline, you will still need to file. Form 4852 allows you to report income from a W-2 you are not in possession of. You may need more than just your W2. Other documents might include receipts from charity donations or student loan servicer statements.

Once you have all of your correct documentation, you will need to decide how to file. New Jersey recognizes the following filing statuses:

Single: if you are unmarried or not part of a civil union, if you are not a widow(er), and if you are not the head of household.

Married and civil union couples: If you’re married or part of a civil union by the final day of the tax year. You can file jointly or separately.

Head of household: This status can be used if you are not married but you cover more than half the living expenses for yourself and at least one other person.

Qualifying widow(er) or surviving civil union partner: You will qualify for this if your spouse or civil partner has passed during the tax year and you did not marry before the end of the tax year.

You will also need to decide if you want to file with help or on your own. You can file your NJ state taxes online for free with the state’s Division of Taxation filing portal. You can also file on your own through an approved software vendor or by mailing in a paper return. If you think you need more help, or want to make sure you aren’t missing out on any tax credits, you can get the help of a paid tax preparer. However you file, take your time and make sure all the information is entered correctly.

Once you’ve filed your taxes, you can track the status of your state and federal tax refund online. If you end up owing money to the state and can’t pay the full amount immediately, the state provides payment plans ranging from three to sixty months. You can face penalties and fees if you either don’t file or don’t make payments towards the taxes you owe.

Filing taxes in NJ can be easy once you know what to expect. File your return today so you can spend the rest of tax season breathing easy!