Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2000 /30 Shevat, 5760
I told them that I had let my friends use the property and that I had not rented it. The woman from the zoning commission claims that the zoning law prevents me from having house guests that are not related for a period of less than one month.
I have tried to get a copy of the zoning regulations, but the town claims I need to know the page and section number unless I want to buy the whole book.
Have you ever heard of zoning regulations like this, and have they ever been challenged? -- D.M. Brookfield, Wis.
DEAR D.M.: Many communities, particularly vacation communities, have passed these types of laws to prevent people from renting to groups for short periods of time. As far as preventing people from staying there for free as a courtesy I have never heard of this type of control.
There was a case in New Jersey some years ago in which the community's zoning ordinance prohibited three or more people unrelated by blood from living together. The zoning officer immediately served notice on a group of women who lived together, and very shortly afterward, the township council decided that the ordinance was not a good idea. You see, the zoning officer served papers on a convent of nuns that said they could no longer live in the community.
Towns will do many things to preserve "tranquility," but this type of preservation is absurd. Regarding the zoning ordinance, if you go to the town hall of the community where the zoning was written, they are obliged to tell you what section of the zoning ordinance would apply. In the absence of that, you will have to do the research yourself. I am confident that the public library would have a copy of the zoning ordinance that you could peruse to dig out the necessary citations.
DEAR BRUCE: When a gift tax is due because the amount of the gift exceeds the tax-free limit, then who is responsible for paying the tax, the giver or the receiver?
If the gift tax is to assist the giver, then what's the logic? After all, the giver earned the money and has already paid income tax on it. What difference does it make to the IRS if he saves it, spends it or gives it away? Isn't that double taxation? -- H.P. Topeka, Kan.
DEAR H.P.: Welcome to the real world! If that is double taxation, then what is the death tax, which can reach 70 percent to 80 percent and begins at around 55 percent? A tax on money that has already been taxed.
In the area of gifts, it is the giver who is assessed.
If you are looking for logic in the IRS code, you're sure to be disappointed.
DEAR BRUCE: In your column you have mentioned regulations that require issuers of gift certificates to turn in the value of the expired gift certificates to a state fund. Is this true in all states, and does it apply to prepaid phone cards? -- W.S. Guadalupe, Calif.
DEAR W.S.: It is not true in all states. For example, Florida, to their disgrace, exempted gift certificates from their escheat laws after being heavily lobbied.
As to phone cards, once again I must look to state laws, as escheat regulations are on a state-by-state basis. Essentially, the money that was abandoned is supposed to be turned over to the state for their use and thus returned to the rightful owner upon application. The notion is that the issuers of various certificates should not be rewarded when they are not redeemed. From my point of view, this seems to be sound
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02/02/00: Money or securities?