Attention Homeowners Facing Foreclosure: New IRS Web Site Offers Tax Relief Assistance
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has created a special section on its website for homeowners who have lost their homes due to foreclosure. The new section at irs.gov provides a variety of information, including a worksheet to help borrowers determine whether any of the foreclosure-related relief provisions apply to them. For those taxpayers who find they owe additional tax, it also includes a form they can use to request a payment agreement with the IRS. In some cases, eligible taxpayers may qualify to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount due.
In a recent release, the IRS reassured homeowners that although mortgage workouts and foreclosures can have tax consequences, special relief provisions could often reduce or eliminate the tax bite for financially strapped borrowers who lose their homes. The IRS urges struggling homeowners to consider their options carefully before giving up their homes through foreclosure. Under the tax law, if the debt wiped out through foreclosure exceeds the value of the property, the difference is normally taxable income. But special rules allow insolvent borrowers to offset that income in certain circumstances. The IRS is encouraging mortgage lenders and brokers and consumer service agencies to use various means to make this information available to consumers. Additional information may be obtained from the website through the following links: irs.gov/newsroom or irs.gov/article.
DISB Fraud Investigator Recognized
DISB Fraud Investigator Jeremiah Smith with the Enforcement and Investigation Bureau received the Maryland Governor’s Award for Service at the Maryland-District of Columbia Anti Car Thefts’ annual meeting on October 18. Maryland’s Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler presented the award to Smith to recognize his efforts with regional law enforcement to resolve consumer complaints regarding tow trucks, towing storage and other insurance auto fraud issues for the residents of the metropolitan area. In addition, Smith was the District nominee for the FY 2007 Annual William Reeder Award, which recognizes outstanding service from the public sector. Smith has been instrumental to DISB’s visibility in assisting the public with the tow truck-storage fraud.
“Protecting Our Seniors Together” Anti-Fraud Seminar Still Garners Interest
The District government agencies’ anti-fraud seminar, “Protecting Our Seniors Together: A Town Hall Meeting on Fraud Against Seniors,” is still making waves six months after it first aired on the District’s Office of Cable Television Channel 16. Since late July, DISB has continued to receive calls from residents interested in the subject and DISB’s work. DISB, the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Office of Consumer Protection and the DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board presented a two-and-a-half-hour-long seminar on financial, consumer and lottery fraud to more than 100 seniors at the Washington Seniors Wellness Center in Ward 7 on July 26, where seniors learned the tools for spotting and fighting fraud. The event underscored the notion that older Americans are particularly susceptible to financial fraud, so during Fraud Awareness Week (July 22 to 28, 2007), DISB put additional focus on outreach to them. DISB Associate Commissioner for Enforcement and Investigation Stephen Perry said he received at least 20 calls after the event; and several staff received calls as soon as the show reaired on Channel 16 several times.
New Health Insurance Website Launched
DISB, the DC Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) launched on November 20 the District government’s first health insurance website, healthinsurance.dc.gov. The one-stop Web site provides comprehensive information on health coverage in the District, and is expected to educate consumers on the insurance plans that make most sense to each individual and his or her family. The site, which is accessible through the DC government’s main page at dc.gov, provides wide-ranging information on private insurance and public programs. It is presented by categories such as individual, families and small businesses; and offers a glossary of terms and several guides to lead consumers through purchasing and plan evaluation processes. These make finding the best coverage easier, and help residents understand the often-complicated world of health insurance. Those seeking coverage will find features, such as a list of low-cost health services available to residents and a list of agencies and programs providing health insurance-related services. The launch was part of the city’s Health Insurance Awareness Month as a partnership between DISB and DOH to raise awareness about access to health care and health coverage in the District of Columbia.
Community Presentation—Saturday, January 5, 10 am to noon, Commissioner Thomas E. Hampton will be discussing DISB, financial fraud, subprime lending and mortgage issues as the guest speaker at the Hillcrest Community Civic Association meeting at the Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE (corner of 32nd and Denver Streets, SE).
NBC 4 Health and Fitness Expo—Saturday, January 12 and Sunday, January 13, 9 am to 5 pm. DISB is an exhibitor at the Washington, DC, Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW.
|(Clockwise, starting right) DISB Senior Insurance Operations Specialist Colin Van Niel, a senior resident of Capital Towers Senior Home (sitting), Assistant Chief of Police for Patrol Services and School Security Bureau Diane C. Groomes and Officer Yetta Winfield at the senior fraud event on G Street, NE.|
DISB in the Community
DISB staff spoke to 43 attendees on insurance fraud at the Police Servicing Area (PSA) 102 meeting for seniors on Sept. 20 in northeast Washington, DC. The meeting was arranged by Officer Yetta Winfield and the Assistant Police Chief for Patrol Services and School Security Bureau Diane C. Groomes. The presentation by Senior Insurance Operations Specialist Colin Van Niel covered Medicare and its supplements together with other insurance plans. He provided an overview of DISB and how to prevent insurance fraud. Many were encouraged to come forward with any insurance, banking or securities problems they may encounter.
Besides this event, DISB held several presentations at senior homes, churches and community meetings on the suitability of the Medicare Part C plan. In the past year, several District seniors were given misleading information on the suitability of the plan. Some experienced problems with co-payments and doctors’ refusal to accept the card and requested disenrollment from the plan. Health Insurance Counseling Project worked with DISB on the recent sales practices of Medicare Part C.
New Federal Lending Review Division
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity announced the creation of a new Fair Lending Division that will review mortgage-lending practices throughout the nation. HUD has hired a senior level economist and has been working on hiring five fair lending specialists to enhance its capacity to investigate allegations of mortgage lending discrimination.
The new Fair Lending Division will investigate discrimination complaints against lenders who have allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to make mortgage loans, refusing to provide the same information regarding loans, or imposing different terms or conditions for granting a loan, such as factors based on the race or national origin of the borrower. The division will also conduct investigations where lending patterns or other information suggests discrimination by a lender, but no individual has come forward to file a complaint. Additionally, the division will conduct HUD’s fair lending oversight of the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to ensure their underwriting policies and practices comply with fair lending laws. The existence of this new division will probably result in Federal-District government mortgage lending discrimination initiatives for the protection of District residents.
Survey Shows Confusion Among Consumers Regarding Rental Car Insurance
A large percentage of U.S. consumers are confused about buying insurance when renting a car, according to new research by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), of which DISB is a member. In fact, many people purchase insurance at the rental counter without knowing whether existing auto policies or credit card benefits already cover their needs.
The NAIC’s national survey of 632 consumers, conducted from September 19-30, revealed the following: About 42 percent of respondents said they were either thoroughly confused or had only a rough idea about insurance coverage when renting a car. Thirty-four percent said they purchased the rental company’s insurance just to make sure they were covered. Twenty-four percent were not sure whether their credit card provided insurance coverage when renting a car.
NAIC said consumers should carefully review their auto insurance policy and check with their credit card issuer about auto insurance benefits. They may be able to protect themselves and save money by taking a few precautions and asking the right questions. As travel increases around the holiday season, NAIC encourages consumers to investigate whether their existing auto insurance provides sufficient protection for car rental. Get more information about the types of insurance products car rental companies tend to provide, as well as additional auto insurance information by visiting the NAIC’s consumer-education website, insureuonline.org.
You can also get extensive information, tips and considerations regarding life, health and home insurance by life stage. The entire site is available in Spanish at insureuonline.org/espanol.