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Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2000 /30 Shevat, 5760

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Absurd community zoning laws -- DEAR BRUCE: I own a lake home in a popular vacation area where the property is zoned for single-family residences. Recently I let two friends use the property for two weeks. Two weeks later I received a letter from the zoning commission alleging that I was renting the property on a weekly basis.

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 thinking.

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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