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by Frank Taglienti


Topic Summary: Now that the Syrian crisis is calming down, Members of Congress are getting ready for a contentious battle to over haul the tax code and lower overall tax rates.


Did you know that the current tax code for companies and individuals is 74,000 pages long? Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, agrees. She said complexity is the biggest problem taxpayers face and her report indicates that American taxpayers spend over 6 billion hours and $168 billion every year to comply with the code.

Over the last few months there have been hearings and focus group meetings aimed at forging a consensus that the time is right to gut the tax code and start over. To this end, tax writers are shooting for late November to have a framework to start with. Every Member of Congress has their "pet" deductions as well as a slew of lobbyists who want their tax preference protected. It will get messy!

The intention of tax reform is not only simplification but actual taxpayer savings. Currently there are 7 tax rates for individuals starting at 10% and moving up to 39.9%. Many in Washington are pushing to cut or severely diminish many deductions such at the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains exclusions. If successful in reducing tax breaks, (thus more revenue) individual tax rates can be reduced to just two brackets, 10% and 25%.

The two lawmakers tasked most with writing tax laws - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp, R-Mich. - have endorsed a "blank slate" approach to tax reform, eliminating all tax breaks and forcing Members of Congress to justify adding them back in. They were on a bipartisan summer tour of the country to get input from taxpayers and sell the concept.

So to simplify, all tax breaks that homeowners receive (here are the top ten) are on the table and getting special focus.  HomeActions will keep you informed as the process gains momentum


by Frank Taglienti

Topic Summary: About 1/2 of all homeowners live in some sort of "community". Call it a Condo,  HOA, Townhome or Community Association but you have to play by the rules.

The Community Q and A's  are managed by Richard Thompson from Richard has been involved for many years with various aspects of Condo and  community living. He provides consulting services to community groups and industry vendors. He also takes questions from online consumers with Condo/HOA issues.


Question: The landscape contractor destroyed part of my downspout. A work order was turned in to the management company and I was given a completion date which came and went. A month later, we experienced heavy rains and the missing downspout allowed water to enter and damage my basement. I called for emergency repairs and was told I would have to wait. I paid for the repairs to the downspout and basement myself and I am billing the HOA for reimbursement. Am I within my rights?

Answer: The homeowner association is not automatically responsible for damage to your unit. For example, if torrential rains caused the gutters to overflow and flood your basement, the damage would be yours to repair. Under the scenario you describe, however, the management company (the HOA's agent) obviously failed to respond in a timely manner. This failure resulted in damage which rightly should be paid by the HOA. Of course, the board may have an issue with the management company for failure to respond but that's another Q&A.



Question: Our board meeting minutes are so sanitized that one gets the impression that "all is well in Happy Valley". Nothing could be further from the truth. Important items clearly stated at the meetings are noticeably missing or show a different outcome than took place. And the secretary does not record the minutes, the management company does. Is this proper? Homeowner comments at the Homeowner Forum aren't included in the minutes. Help!

Answer: You can request that the minutes be amended if you believe critical information was left out or recorded improperly. If the misinformation is glaring or may have been done intentionally, it is fair to ask if there was a motive behind it. The minutes should be clear and accurate so that someone not attending the meeting would understand what was discussed and what actions were taken.

While it's common for the manager to record minutes, I don't recommend it. Managers are hired to advise the board. If they are busy taking minutes, the consulting aspect suffers and the Board loses a great value. Recording minutes is not difficult and the elected secretary should do it.

The minutes need only include agenda items of the Board Meeting. That is why Homeowner Forums are often held prior to the start of the meeting. If an owner has a concern that requires board action, a request should be made to include the item in the meeting agenda. The agenda is assembled in advance so the request should be made early enough to be included. Many such requests require forethought for the board to make a decision. If your request requires background information to understand, it should be included with the agenda so the directors have time to review and ponder it.


Question: At our recent annual meeting, an issue was brought up and a motion was made on something that was not on the agenda for the meeting. The president allowed the motion to be made, seconded and voted on. There was not a sufficient amount of homeowners at the meeting to constitute a quorum. The homeowners not present had no idea this was being voted on.Was this a legal vote?


Answer: The vote was illegal due to lack of quorum and failure to notify other members in advance. A notice should to go out informing all members of the "confusion" which led to an illegal vote. If the rowdies don't like it, tough. There is a right and a wrong way to do things. Just because the board president made a mistake doesn't legitimize the vote.

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Frank Taglienti
Berkshire Hathaway PenFed REALTORS®
565 Benfield Road, Suite 100
Severna Park MD 21146

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