Ask Our Lawyer – April 2021

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

PEO-TAZ COMMENTS ON ABATE LEGAL – SHE CAN CALL HIM “BACK PAY” ROD

Dear Rod, I contacted you some time ago about my long-term disability. It was not the Social Security Office but the insurance company from my previous employer. I have been disabled for over 20 years. And although I was used to having it periodically reviewed, this time around was a nightmare. Having someone else confirm my suspicions, that I was dealing with an overzealous new person who was probably getting incentive to cancel people was more than comforting.

After terminating my payments, I did ask for an official review. I jumped through all the hoops (metaphorically of course). Even so far as to go out of state for an independent medical review. Which took all of about 20 min for him to confirm what should have been obvious. Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement. Your call just to check and see how things were going, meant more than I can put into words.

I am happy to say that they have reversed the termination. I told you at the seminar I was just waiting on the money. Yesterday, they paid me my back-pay. Thank you again for all your help and thank you for lunch once again at the seminar. Have a groovy day! Shannon Johnson, ABATE member.

Shannon – Thanks for the good news and you are welcome.  Ride safe. Rod 

GO FUND ME FUNDS AND DO I OWE THE IRS?

Q.  Rod, the GoFundMe group has sent me a tax reporting form (1099) for funds that I set up to benefit my daughter who was left with significant hospital bills.   Do I have any tax liability for this money as those funds went to pay for her medical bills and related expenses?  Worried as I have heard the IRS will audit these 1099’s.  ABATE member.

A.   It is true that the IRS is looking at GoFundMe transactions as billions have been collected. But they are finding it is for usually good causes like yours – for medical bills. Most of the contributions made through GoFundMe are below the gift tax threshold.  In those instances, there is no taxable event if the money is intended as a gift, but there may be taxable events where individuals are contributing significant sums of money. Different rules apply in those cases, so it is important to keep in mind the IRS reporting requirements for gifts over the exemption amount.  Donors who contribute more than the yearly gift exclusion to an individual (15k for single taxpayers and 30k for married taxpayers filing jointly for 2020 should contact Gino Johnson, the world’s best CPA, for further instructions.  He keeps me out of IRS hell.  And his advice is reasonably priced.

BIG LESSON – NEVER OFFEND A POLICE OFFICER IN FRONT OF HIS WIFE

Such was me at the Seminar.  In the zeal to justify my existence to a crowd that gives up their Saturday to learn something that might help ABATE, I suffered a case of hoof and mouth disease.  Or kindly putting an inappropriate sense of humor.  We have an ointment for that in Wayne County. But to no avail as I offended those that I would never intentionally offend – police officer wives.  They are the ones that have suffered in silence lately – painfully watching and hearing news reports condemning police officers.  A lot of reporters have the “lumping disease” – lumping in bad cops with the good cops.  As we all know, most officers are wonderful public servants that we could not do without, but lately the news seems to concentrate on the bad cops who number very few. If you are not careful you can come away with a sense that most officers are in the public’s sights.  This is so ironic as my beloved first cousin John Higginson was the longest serving Illinois State trooper at the time he retired and never had to draw his revolver.  I revere his service.

Police Chief Gary Smith of the Hancock County Police Department and his dear wife Laurie Smith were in attendance at the Seminar.  Now the Chief can take a dose of my off the mark humor, but I have learned that you should never expect to get by with that with a police officer’s wife.  Laurie was rightfully offended at the attempts of inappropriate humor.  I called the Chief and requested that he extend my sincerest apology to Laurie with a promise to remember what we all know to be true – that we could not do without police officers like her husband and that they deserve our utmost respect.

THIS MEMORIAL DAY; LEST WE FORGET –  D-DAY JUNE 6, 1944 – PLACES TO RIDE BEFORE YOU DIE: OMAHA BEACH -DOG GREEN SECTOR

On my way over to ride the Pyrenees Mountains, I stopped and paid my respects to those that died on Omaha Beach in Normandy. If you ever get the chance to go, take it and ride there.   You will never forget.  On June 6th, 1944, Company A of the 116th Regiment (Stonewall’s old Brigade) was to hit the beach at Dog Green Sector in a Higgins Boat (Made in Evansville, IN).  That sector was not a good place to be.  All 69 of them in that boat were from Bedford Virginia (a wonderful place to ride to ride in the Shenandoah Valley).  

Unlike many of the units that hit the shores of Normandy on D-Day, Company A of the 116th InfantryRegiment, 29th Division, was a National Guard outfit of men from the same hometown. Thirty-seven had grown up together in Bedford, Va., graduated high school together, played ball together, worked together — and 19 of them died together when the Higgins ramp  dropped and exposed all of them to German MG 42 machine guns. At 1500 rounds per minute, the boys from Bedford didn’t have a chance. The MG 42 sounds like a chainsaw when it is fired – probably the most dreaded sound at Omaha Beach. So distinctively terrifying was this machine gun that the Army developed training films to help our troops deal with the psychological trauma of facing this weapon.  It made a sound like ripping cloth.  Our boys called it, crudely, Hilter’s zipper.  Sadly, I am pretty sure our boys knew what they were in for when the ramp on that boat dropped.  The thought of dying for my county is ok with me, but dying before I even had a chance to shoot back is not. 

Western Union clerk Elizabeth Teass sat at a Teletype machine near the back of Green’s Drug Store in small town Bedford Virginia just after 8 a.m. on July 17, 1944, when the first telegram came through with the usual language, “The Secretary of war desires me to express his deep regret …” Teass was accustomed to receiving about one such telegram a week informing families in the Bedford area that their sons, brothers or husbands were missing or killed in action. That morning, she received 11.  And she would receive 9 more before it was over. D-Day was as bad as it could get for Bedford as it had just suffered the highest casualty rate of any town in America.

After I left the beach at Normandy, I had to visit the Colleville cemetery where the Bedford boys and many others are buried. It overlooks Omaha Beach and by any definition is a holy place. I couldn’t talk there – draw your own conclusions.  The gravestones are marked with the name and state of the fallen soldiers. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio are inscribed on too many.  Omaha Beach is a long way from home for those guys and I wondered how many of their folks were able to visit the graves before they, too, passed on.  It bothers me that most of their loved ones didn’t get the chance to pay their respects. I gathered some sand from the Dog Green sector.  I couldn’t help it. That sand sits in an hourglass on my desk to remind me and will to my end.

P.S. Our guide took us by the German cemetery.  I didn’t ask to go there and he did not ask if I wanted to go.  If he had, I would have said no, after all I had lost family at German hands.  Then I learned a 13 year-old German soldier was next to a marker that reported, “Most here did not pick the fight or the cause”.  I am glad I went.

ABATE LEGAL GIVES GOOD ADVICE – JUST ASK JAN

To: Rod Taylor rodtaylor@ABATELEGAL.COM Date: 3/8/21 From: janbednarz  Rod – Your column is the one I read first. I was a commercial insurance agent for 40 years. You have given your readers excellent advice re: uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. You mentioned Alec Caress.  Correct name is Alex Karras. Hometown Gary, IN. 4 time All State football from Gary – Emerson H.S.  College – Iowa, Pro – Lions. Blazing Saddles was correct. Enjoy your day. 

Jan -Appreciate your comments and thanks for reading the column. Auto correct is the devil in my life but at my age I need all the help I can get. Am not big enough to get the name wrong of anyone that can knock out a horse.   Ride Safe. Rod 

ENGINE NOISE – REASONABLE IS AS REASONABLE DOES

Q.   I live in an apartment complex in St. Charles, Illinois.  I pay my rent and follow the rules.  I am a good tenant and have an excellent job.  Here is the problem.  My lease says that I can not have a motorcycle in the complex unless I get prior written consent from the apartment manager.   I want to ride my motorcycle and park it in the complex.  I put on my best face when I paid a visit to the apartment manager seeking permission to ride my bike onto the apartment parking lot per the lease.  I even offered to shut the engine off outside the boundaries of the complex and push my cycle to a parking place.  I have never given the manager any problems and there has never been a complaint about me.   I didn’t even get to first base as the manager refused to give me permission to park my motorcycle in the complex.  I do not believe the apartment management is being reasonable. What can I do?  What about the Fair Housing Act?  Isn’t this discrimination?  Robert Swisher, ABATE MEMBER.

A.  It is discrimination, but remember that not all types of discrimination on private property is against the law.  You have a better argument under the lease.  In most states your contract/lease presumes that the parties to that document are dealing in good faith and are being fair.  Your lease allows motorcycles, IF you get written permission.   When you signed the lease, it was reasonable for you to believe that the landlord would not unreasonably withhold permission for you to park your motorcycle in the apartment complex.  You have not had any noise or speed infractions.  For the apartment owners to arbitrarily withhold permission to park your motorcycle on the complex property is unreasonable and is a violation of the lease.  But you have gone even further than the lease requires by offering to shut off the engine and push the bike onto the property.  That defines your fairness and good faith.   If the complex had wanted to bar all motorcycles from the property, they could have said so in the lease.  They chose not to and by allowing motorcycles with permission, implied that they would accept motorcycles from those who operated their cycles in a reasonable fashion. My recommendation is that you take a copy of this article and have a talk with them about how good a tenant you have been and that they should give you a chance to prove it.  If they have questions, have them call me on my cell (317) 727-4599, and I will do my best to appeal to their better angels.  I have a feeling they will go along with the program.

EMBEZZLEMENT: IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

Honest people are trusting people.  And most bikers are trusting people.  Unfortunately there are people out there that will take advantage of honest folks because they know we are trusting.  As much as we all hate staring over the shoulders of our officers or co-volunteers, some basic protections must be in place or else you and your MRO risk falling victim to embezzlement.  

Here are a few tips that can help any MRO avoid becoming a piggy bank for an officer with larceny in his blood:  1. Every MRO should have a good business practice and that means checking references of those that handle our money.  2. There should be a set method of handling money and no one person should be in charge of both bookkeeping and depositing.  Rather, split those jobs between people.  3. Consider using an accountant for more than just tax filings, it may not be that expensive to also have them do semi-annual audits.  4. Do not rely on accounting programs to keep everything in check, you should do your own audit and review of MRO funds to make sure everything lines up.  

Having some basic protections in place is essential to help you and your MRO avoid sticky situations.   And it gains us business respect from those that watch us.

Ride Safe.

Rod Taylor

ABATE Legal Services

http://www.abatelegal.com

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery motorcycle crash cases, and expenses as approved by the client. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery.  In those cases, ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to their motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at 1-(800)-25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to: RodTaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2021.

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