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Jewish World ReviewSept. 3, 1999 /22 Elul, 5759

Bruce Williams

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How can I work out my IRS payments? -- DEAR BRUCE: I owe the IRS money, but I can't keep up with the payments because the interest seems to be more than I can afford to pay. What can I do? -- S.B. Bellevue, Mass.

DEAR S.B.: You are probably working with an IRS agent. If that individual cannot or will not work out a time payment schedule that you can handle, talk to a Problems Resolution Officer. If it's clear that there is no way to continue to pay the interest and the principle on your income, the IRS is taking a unrealistic point of view as to what would be the best way to handle it for both individuals. I'm assuming that this is not a situation where you did not send 941s (employee withholding) in a timely fashion -- this is one transgression that the IRS takes an extremely narrow view of and is far less willing to negotiate on.

DEAR BRUCE: I am 28 and I have a 6-month-old son. I earn $24,000 a year and my wife stays at home with our child. We can't save a whole lot right now, but I want what we do save to count. I have $2,700 in a traditional IRA. Should I convert it to a Roth IRA? I am considering opening an educational Roth IRA for my son. -- J.R. Durham, N.C.

DEAR J.R.: I would immediately transfer your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA, because your very low income and dependents make it unlikely that you would have any tax liability. You will never have another shot at getting the money from a tax-deferred environment to a tax-free environment. Roth educational accounts certainly have something to recommend them. At this point, however, I think you need to keep some money available for you. While it is prudent to start providing for a child as quickly as possible, I just can't see where you can spare very much money for college savings now -- perhaps you can start to save when your wife returns to the work force and your income increases.

DEAR BRUCE: I recently placed a successful bid on an Internet auction. I contacted the person and we agreed upon when and where to send the money and the item. They received the money, but I never received the merchandise. I called them back and they said they had mailed it. I went to the post office, where I was told to have the seller put a tracer on the package. I went back to them after several days, and they said for me to stop bugging them. They would contact the post office and have them find the item and have it returned to them and refund my money. It's fine with me if they want to do that, as long as I get my money back. Where do I stand? -- A WORRIED BIDDER, via e-mail.

DEAR WORRIED BIDDER: You stand on very, very loose soil. Unfortunately, there is no clearing house that I know of that will guarantee that the people on these Internet auctions will deliver what they say they will deliver. If someone sends merchandise, it should be sent where a receipt is required. Without defending or attacking the post office, if I were going to send merchandise of that kind I would want it sent through one of the courier services, such as UPS, Federal Express, etc. This way they can tell you in an instant where the package is. Yes, it is a little more costly, but in a case where a certain amount of trust is involved, this would seem prudent.

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).


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...

©1999, NEA