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Archive for March 15th, 2012

Attorney General Madigan sues national tax preparer Mo’ Money

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Lawsuit highlights need to crack down on high costs, fees of refund anticipation loans

 

CHICAGO, IL — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the national tax preparer Mo’ Money for charging taxpayers at least $800,000 in hidden costs and fees for services and filing inaccurate tax returns without consumers’ authorization.

The Attorney General’s suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks to shut down Mo’ Money locations in the Chicago area and East St. Louis and refund consumers at least $800,000 in estimated losses.

“Without customers’ permission, this company filed annual tax returns riddled errors and charged taxpayers exorbitant, undisclosed fees, but worst of all, it failed to provide consumers with their refund checks,” Madigan said. “While the promise of fast cash may be tempting, these heavily marketed refund services always end up costing taxpayers much more in the end.” 

Madigan said the Memphis, Tenn.-based Mo’ Money advertised its tax refund anticipation programs primarily to low-income taxpayers as a way to receive and spend refunds instantly. But Mo’ Money used these programs to automatically deduct hundreds of dollars in undisclosed fees before consumers ever received their refunds – as much as $700 per person. 

The Attorney General also alleges Mo’ Money filed tax returns without consumers’ authorization, which in some cases were fraught with errors. For other consumers, Mo’ Money charged fees to file Illinois state tax returns but never completed the filings on taxpayers’ behalf. Consumers have waited weeks – and many continue to wait – to receive refund checks due to these alleged deceptive practices.

Madigan’s office has received 76 complaints against Mo’ Money this year. Consumers have also contacted the Better Business Bureau, City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department.

Madigan urged consumers who had tax returns processed by Mo’ Money to contact the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-1040, (800) 829-4059 TTD or visit www.irs.gov. Taxpayers who receive a refund from Mo’ Money should not cash or deposit the check and contact the IRS immediately. Taxpayers who have already cashed or deposited a refund check from Mo’ Money should be very cautious. These consumers may be subject to an IRS audit and required to return their refund. Consumers should call the IRS immediately.

Taxpayers audited by the IRS may be eligible for free legal representation from one of the following organizations:

  • Center for Economic Progress: (312) 252-0280
  • Loyola University School of Law, Federal Tax Clinic: (312) 915-7176
  • Prairie State Legal Services: (630) 690-2130 or toll-free (800) 690-2130
  • Administer Justice: (847) 844-1100 or toll-free (877) 778-6006

Consumers with questions about state income tax returns prepared by Mo’ Money can contact the Illinois Department of Revenue at (800) 732-8866 or (800) 544-5304 TTD.

Beware the Costs, Risks of Refund Anticipation Products

As a general warning, Madigan said that during tax season consumers should be aware of the high cost of refund anticipation products – called refund anticipation checks and refund anticipation loans. This caution is particularly important for Illinoisans eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a federal and state anti-poverty program for working families, to ensure they maximize their returns.

Refund anticipation loans have interest rates running as high as 150 percent that can reduce a taxpayer’s refund by as much as 20 percent before they receive it. A related product, refund anticipation checks, are offered to taxpayers who do not qualify for a loan and simply allow the taxpayer to cash a refund – using a check or a pre-loaded debit card – after the IRS deposits it in a temporary bank account. These products are similarly riddled with high costs.

This year, Madigan is working with lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 3523 to crack down on the high costs and fees associated with refund anticipation products. The bill also seeks to strengthen disclosure of fees and other costs to consumers, and it provides for additional protections for consumers who obtain refund anticipation loans from non-bank lenders, such as a payday lender.

“Every year during tax season some tax preparers and lenders take advantage of low-income individuals by charging them exorbitant fees, on top of high interest rates, to get their refunds early,” said Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Senate bill sponsor. “This legislation will cap interest rates, prohibit fees charged in addition to interest and give borrowers a chance to use their tax refunds as intended – to pay for needs like food, housing, clothing and medicine. Last year we passed an increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit and put money back in the pockets of the working poor. I want those eligible for the EITC to be able to keep and spend the full amount of their refunds in our communities, not have to give it to exploitative payday lenders or tax preparers.”

“This legislation will impose first-time ever limits on the exorbitant fees that tax preparers are able to charge individuals for these anticipation loans and checks,” said Rep. Michael Zalewski, House bill sponsor. “In effect, this measure will help ensure that working families are able to keep a larger portion of their tax refunds so that they stand a better chance of making ends meet in this tough economy.”

Assistant Attorneys General Jonathan Reischl and Vijay Raghavan are handling this case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.

Clergy fight to restore water exemptions for churches

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Push back meeting set for today

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

A number of clergy will be meeting 5 p.m. today, Thursday, March 15, 2012, at the Rise and Sun Baptist Church, 820 N. Central, to oppose Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s elimination of water fee exemptions for churches and to tell aldermen to restore the water exemption policy.

Pastor Michael Eaddy, administrative assistant of the First Jurisdiction Illinois International, is outraged over the lifting of the water exemption. He is helping to circulate petitions to oppose the exemption. The ministers, known as the Coalition for Good Works, said churches, not-for-profits, schools and hospitals will be affected.

Calling the water plan unfair, Eaddy said, “As faith base leaders, we are providing so many services—services we don’t charge people who are in need. We provide services that no one else provides. This exemption will create a hardship on the church and one we do not need especially in these economical hard times.”

Agreeing with Eaddy was Rev. Dr. Princella B. Lee, founder/pastor of the Victory Cathedral Faith Church, 10441 S. Racine, Chicago. “I am thoroughly against Rahm Emanuel’s wanting the churches to pay water bills. Most of the churches are trying to survive just to keep their doors open and they don’t need nothing else tacked on to what they are trying to do. I am completely against it.

“Our city is the hungriest city in the world. You’re taxed for everything,” said Lee. “After awhile, they’ll tax us for breathing.  I feel the mayor is out of order and it’s wrong for us to be taxed for water. It is not right for us to pay for water. The gas bills are horrendous. Some churches can’t have service in their main auditorium in the wintertime because the gas bills are so high.  Some churches can have service once a week because the gas bills are so high and to tack on a water and light bill” is not fair, she said.

With pastors having to pay a mortgage and other bills, Rev. Lee said, “At some point, the city ought to recognize that the church is doing the same thing that the police are trying to do…make the city better. If you close the churches down, then you’re tying our hands and you won’t have us to be able to help fight the crime because that is the work of the church to try to make our city better and that is what most of the churches are trying to do. Rahm Emanuel ought to take that under consideration,” Lee said.

The coalition will first meets with the aldermen then take it to the next step. There are 89 churches in Eaddy’s jurisdiction but ministers and some elected officials across the city are uniting over this issue.

Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th)  said, “The non-for-profits are really working to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in society.  “A lot of times, they are the difference between whether or not our constituents receive the services because government, facing a deficit as it is, cannot always give the assistance that is needed.” Collins asked, “Why put that burden on non-for-profits and churches?

Referring to churches and non-for-profits, Collins added, “They render a service to a constituency base where many times the government cannot reach,” said Collins who fears this might lead to closures of some churches and non-for-profits. “I leave a large population in need with no resources. Many times the churches and the non-for-profits have been there when government policies have not been there; so why put such a great tear in the safety net”?

Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church and co-Chair of the Leaders Network, is also against lifting the exemption on water for churches. “I am very disappointed about that but I am not surprised because when the mayor ran he promised that was one of the things he would do.

“I am glad that the ministers are coming together to push back because if you don’t push back you’re basically saying it’s OK. I do not think this is a concession that not-for-profits should make. These churches were given tax exemption for water for a reason because of the good works they have rendered,” said Acree. “So, all of a sudden not-for-profits, hospitals, churches and schools are not doing good works anymore? I don’t think so.

“If the crime rate is tough now, can you imagine where it would be if the churches were not in existence,” said Acree. “Taxing these inner city churches can actually put some of these churches out of business and we can’t afford that.”

Bishop John Rodgers, Sr., pastor of the New Life in Christ Missionary Non-Denominational Training Center Church, said he received his first water bill of $2.02. “This was the first one. We don’t use much water, but it is still a hurt and a take away from the church necessities. It’s the water bill now. The next thing they will want us to pay property tax. We’re standing up and coming against Mayor Emanuel and we are asking him to have mercy and leniency” on the churches.

“Every since I’ve been in Chicago, the churches never had to pay a water bill. The city is not that uptight that they have to start charging the churches water bills. Where’s the mercy, Mr. Mayor. Delete the water bills. It’s not going to pull you out of debt. The churches need everything they’ve got so they can continue to give to the people,” Rodgers said.

Rev. Marvin G. Hunter, pastor of the Grace Memorial M.B.C. Church, said, “I think this action by the city of Chicago is a direct attack on the religious community and especially the African American church and has angered a large number of black voters within the religious community and at a time when our aldermen who are running for committeemen and our President is up for re-election. This is not good for the Democratic Party, and I wonder does the leadership of City Hall really care,” said Hunter.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

State Senator Collins fights Predatory Tax Refund Loans

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins has introduced
legislation to protect vulnerable, mostly low-income consumers from exorbitant interest rates and hidden fees on Tax Refund Anticipation Loans. The push to curb these abuses comes after customers of Mo’ Money Taxes, the target of a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, complained that their checks for refund money were late, much smaller than promised or couldn’t be cashed at all.

“Most taxpayers affected by these outrageous fees and interest rates are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit,” Sen. Collins said. “My colleagues and I just voted to increase the state EITC, and we want that money to go into the pockets of the working poor to spend on essential needs, not into the pockets of predatory lenders.”

Sen. Collins’ legislation, the Tax Refund Anticipation Loan Reform Act (SB 3523), would cap interest rates on refund anticipation loans made by payday lenders, prohibit tax preparers from charging extra fees for facilitating loans and prohibit all loans in anticipation of the state EITC.

Mo’ Money Taxes is under investigation in several states. Recent problems at a Chicago location spurred the Office of the Attorney General to investigate dozens of complaints and inspired Sen. Collins to find ways to protect taxpayers in the future. Her plan requires tax preparers to disclose interest rates, any applicable fees and the fact that customers can get their refunds within 8 to 15 days directly from the IRS – without taking out a loan.

Refund anticipation loans allow customers to get their refund money up front after a tax preparation firm estimates the amount. The interest rates are unregulated and often extremely high. The state cannot limit rates charged by banks, but Sen. Collins wants to cap rates charged by non-bank entities like pay-day lenders at 36% in order to protect
customers and discourage partnerships between tax preparers and high-interest lenders.

“When the state of Illinois designs policies to protect and uplift the least of these and unscrupulous businesses subvert the effect of those laws, we are compelled to act,” Sen. Collins said.

Senate Bill 3523 was approved unanimously on March 1 by the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions. It next faces a vote of the full Senate.

Activists to announce change of plans for Protest V. G8-NATO

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS
CHICAGO, IL – New plans for the only currently permitted march to go to the doorstep of Chicago’s NATO summit May 20-21 will be announced at 10 AM today, March 15, at a press conference to be held on the southwest corner of Daley Plaza (Washington Blvd. & Clark Street), site of the opening rally for the May protest.
 
While activists see the moving of the G8 summit to the mountains of western Maryland as an attempt to blunt the protests to be held here, most reports indicate that activists are instead taking confidence from what they see as a victory over an institution that’s so unpopular that it once again shuns holding its meetings in major urban areas.
 
“The removal of the G8 from Chicago shows the value of protests,” said Pat Hunt, a spokesperson for the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (www.CANG8.org).  “If protest can score such a victory, then people draw the logical conclusion that even more protest can score additional victories.”
 
“With the Sunday murder of 16 Afghan civilians by one or more U.S. service members and the unprovoked Israeli air strikes on Gaza which have killed 21 over the past few days, the occupation policies promoted by NATO and its allies are showing why May’s protests in Chicago are going to the focus of the progressive movement this spring,” said Joe Iosbaker, also of CANG8.
 
Other representatives at the press conference will include:
 
** Mark Banks representing Occupy Chicago
 
** Mary Dean, who recently visited Afghanistan as part of a Voices For Creative Non-Violence delegation
 
** Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary, United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Vice Chair, National Council of Churches in the Philippines
 
** The Right Reverend Felixberto Calang, IRI, Supreme Council of Bishops of the Philippine Independent Church and Convener, Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
 
** Ms. Angelina Bisuna-Ipong, former political prisoner in The Philippines and author, Garden Behind Bars
 
** Jan Rodolfo, RN, who is the Midwest Director of the National Nurses Union, which is hosting another anti-G8/NATO march on Friday, May 18
 
** Darrius Lightfoot, Fearless Leading by the Youth and Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP)
 
** Nick Egnatz of Northwest Indiana Veterans for Peace
 
and,
 
** Joe Iosbaker and Andy Thayer representing the Logistics Committee of CANG8.
 

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Visits State’s Attorney

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 1 COMMENT

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez welcomed the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Queen Sara Collins and the Queen’s Court to her office as the entourage made their annual visit to local dignitaries to personally invite them to participate in the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Pictured, left to right are: Mary Kate Casey, Bridget Fitzgerald, State’s Attorney Alvarez, Queen Sara Collins, Lauren Catinella and Lauren Corry.

Father Pfleger: ‘I got a serious problem with guns in Easter baskets’

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 1 COMMENT

Demands baskets be pulled from shelves

 

By Chinta Strausberg

 

Saying he has a “serious problem” with K-Mart, Walgreens and other stores selling Easter baskets that include toy guns, Saint Sabina’s Father Michael L. Pfleger Tuesday called for their removal especially in one of the holiest seasons of the Christian religion.

During bible study, Pfleger held up several Easter Baskets that clearly showed toy guns included in the candy and toy-filled saran-wrapped packages that were made in China. They contained warnings that said, “Warning: Choking Hazard – Small Parts Not for children under 3 years.”

The Easter Jubilee baskets, for the age group 3+, cautioned: “Remove attachments, hang tag, and packaging materials before giving to children” and warned the contents may contain splinters.  Some of the items were made in the USA, some in the USA and Canada, Mexico and others in China.

Holding up the baskets, Pfleger said, “I don’t think we need toy guns in Easter baskets. I have a serious problem with that,” he told his students.

Pfleger said after he objected to the selling of the inclusion of toy guns in these Easter baskets, he said the Sears Holding Company, which owns K-Mart, called him. He wants these stores to pull the baskets from the shelves, and Pfleger asked his bible study students to check the stores and also to demand their removal.

To confirm his suspicions that giving children toy guns could make them immune to violence, Pfleger said he called noted black psychiatrist Dr. Carl Bell who agreed that giving toy guns to children could be a subliminal message that guns are acceptable and a normal part of life. 

Reached in New York, Dr. Bell said, “It is extremely bizarre to put toy guns in children’s Easter baskets; it borders on psychotic thought process. I cannot see the logic in this act and to me it suggests moral bankruptcy.”

Pfleger agreed saying, “Just like candy cigarettes” given to children,  they can easily move to the real cigarettes.” He said the same would be true of giving children toy guns. “If you get used to pointing toy guns, it makes you less sensitive when you point a gun at a real person.”

He was outraged that these packages containing toy guns would be sold as Easter baskets—around one of the holiest weeks in the Christian religion.  It is a time when Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion and at the ending of Lent which ends a 40-day period where Christians fast, pray and celebration of Resurrection Sunday. It is a day of peace.

Pfleger has a problem with toy guns being mixed in with children’s Easter baskets since the flood of illegal guns in Chicago and across the nation represent a major problem in the communities given the increased shootings and including the killings of innocent children.

Pfleger asked the students to do their own investigations to see which stores were selling the baskets and to demand that they be pulled from the shelves.

After bible study, this journalist stopped by Walgreens at 55th and Lake Park and spotted several baskets containing toy guns. When asked that they be removed, the night manager gave me a card and asks that I send a letter to Michael Kampe, store manager, Walgreen Co., 1554 E. 55th Street, Chicago, IL 60615, asking him to pull the baskets or call him at 773-667-1177. She said I could also fax a letter demanding that the baskets be pulled at: 773-947-0226.

According to Wikipedia, Walgreens Company operates 8,270 stores in America, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The headquarters for this area is located at 200 Wilmot Road, Deerfield, IL 60015, and the number is: 847-914-2500.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

Alabama Black College wins National Basketball Championship

Posted by Admin On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

As “21st Century Hebrew Boys”, OU men’s basketball team upholds Bible’s Seventh-Day Sabbath Observance: Wins national championship

 

By Dawnette Chambers, Oakwood University Student Writer

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — The Ambassadors men’s basketball team of Oakwood University, a Seventh-day Adventist and United Negro College Fund institution, won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) 2012 Division 1 Championship after defeating Rochester College 54-51, on Saturday night, March 10, 2012.

They returned to their Huntsville, Alabama campus on Sunday, welcomed enthusiastically by boosters chanting, “O-U, O-U!”

Similarly the men’s basketball team from Andrews University, also a Seventh-day Adventist institution, won its USCAA Division 2 championship contest, during the same tournament.

More than just winning the championship, these men stood up for their Bible-based faith, according to Cedric Francois, producer and play-by-play announcer for Ambassador Radio Network. “This is the first time in the USCAA’s history, the championship games for both Men’s Division 1 and 2 were re-scheduled to respect the religious convictions of Oakwood and Andrews Universities, respectively.”

OU Athletic Director James Roddy explained that, of all the athletic associations he met with when seeking a league for Oakwood – including the NCAA, NAIA and NCCAA – the USCAA was the only organization that would respect Bible-based, seventh-day Sabbath observance.

Team members got off the bus at OU’s Ashby Gym, adorned with yellow and blue leis, symbols of welcome and congratulations. Senior Nardo Bryant thanked the crowd, declaring, “Let the record reflect that this is the first year in Oakwood’s history that the Ambassadors won (with a season record of) 20-12… in the year 2012, coincidentally.”

Senior Austin Doggette, All-American and Tournament MVP, has followed in footsteps of his brother (now Pastor) James Doggette, Jr., who was 2008 Tournament MVP when the Ambassadors won their first national championship.

For more details about Oakwood University, visit www.oakwood.edu

*Hebrew Boys reference from the Bible, Daniel 1:8-20.

Beyond Sport Summit set for London in 2012

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On March - 15 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The Beyond Sport Summit and Awards, the premier global gathering in the field of sport and development, will return to London this summer from 23rd to 25th July. Online registration for the event, which brings together the most influential and forward-thinking global figures from the worlds of sport, business, politics and philanthropy to drive the use of sport as a tool for social change, is open now at www.beyondsport.org.

London hosted the inaugural edition of the Beyond Sport Summit and Awards in 2009. Since then the Beyond Sport Summit has been staged in Chicago, USA, in 2010 and Cape Town, South Africa, in 2011, and has developed into the largest and most significant gathering in its field.

More than 1,000 delegates gathered across four days in Cape Town in December, with executives from some of the world’s top companies – Sony, Standard Chartered, Virgin Atlantic, TIME Inc, Deloitte, Canterbury, PricewaterhouseCoopers, StubHub, adidas and Barclays – joining the likes of FIFA, the NBA, the NHL, NASCAR, the Australian Football League, the Qatar Foundation, Populous, SportAccord, UNICEF and many more leading organisations to explore, develop and drive the use of sport for development.

Throughout the week, the likes of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; ‘Bladerunner’ Oscar Pistorius; and Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former UN High Commissioner of Bosnia and Herzegovina, played key roles in the Summit, while the world’s leading community programmes, corporate initiatives and sports federations were rewarded in the Beyond Sport Awards.

The Beyond Sport Summit in London will once again feature a stellar cast of speakers and facilitators, while the Beyond Sport Awards will continue to identify, highlight and support the best projects in 12 categories covering the entire sporting spectrum of health, social inclusion, corporate and social responsibility, and philanthropy.

The Awards winners are selected by the Beyond Sport Ambassadors – a group of high-profile individuals chaired by former British Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, and including London 2012 Chairman Seb Coe, HRH Prince Faisal Al Hussein of Jordan, former South African football captain Lucas Radebe; and multi-Olympic gold medallists Michael Johnson and Sergey Bubka.

Projects can enter the Beyond Sport Awards and delegates can BUY TICKETS NOW for the Beyond Sport Summit at www.beyondsport.org.

Beyond Sport is partnered with Barclays Spaces for Sports, TIME International and UNICEF.

For further information visit www.beyondsport.org or contact

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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