Here’s a new book that focuses on those random questions people always have about how the law pertains to everyday activities. You know, things like starting your own online porn site, burying a pet, or selling your ex-boyfriend’s things on eBay.
Sure, you could make friends with a lawyer, invite her to a cookout, then corner her in your kitchen. But this book was co-authored by a lawyer, so it’s an even less expensive way to find out some answers—and you don’t have to go through the embarrassment of explaining why the relationship didn’t work with that ex.
Here are three sample questions:
Q: Hard to believe, but my boyfriend’s credit is even worse than mine. If he asks me to become “Mrs. Sucky Credit” does joining in holy matrimony mean I’ll be saddled with his debts as well?
A: Ah, romance. Though taking on his debt would be a real sign of true love, luckily for you, debts that were individually incurred before marriage don’t become part of your credit history. If you get joint credit cards or joint bank accounts, though, keep in mind that debts accrued during marriage will have your name on them even if you weren’t the one who made the purchase. Credit reports are individual, so debt that was brought into the marriage stays on the report of the one who accrued it. But remember you can, even after marriage, continue to get credit cards in your name alone.
At some point you two might want to buy a home or make a big purchase like a car together. To make joint loans possible, you should encourage your mate to regain good credit by paying bills on time and establishing a better record. After all, it would be a shame after getting married to find out that it’s till debt do you part.
Q: Uh-oh, after buying that set of fancy cookware I remembered something very important: I can’t cook. Now it’s sitting there in my kitchen mocking me. Can I just cancel payment and send it back?
A: Anyone who’s ever watched late night infomercials knows there’s no shortage of truly useless products. And anyone who’s ever watched late night infomercials also knows that the later it gets, the better idea these products seem-until you wake up the next day wondering if you really bought it or if it was just a bad dream. While there are protections for consumers against unauthorized charges on your credit card, most people assume you can’t dispute a credit card purchase you actually made.
Turns out that’s not true. You can dispute a credit card purchase even if you did make it, but before you buy something find out the return policy. Contact the merchant first and put your complaint in writing. If the merchant refuses to take the product back and reverse the charge, then call your credit card company. Often the charge will be removed during the investigation. But if the credit card company ultimately sides with the merchant, you will have to pay the cost and the finance charge.
What you must keep in mind is that there is no legal obligation for a store to take back items you purchased except pursuant to the return policy it has stated. There are, however, a few types of retail contracts that by law you have the right to rescind. If a salesperson comes to your door to sell you a product for more than twenty-five dollars, under federal law you can automatically return it for up to three days after purchase. In many states you also have three days to rescind a health club membership when you realize there’s no way you’re hauling tail to that gym, and under the law of many states, you have five days to cancel the purchase of a time-share. These are all things to weigh when you’re considering making your next purchase, either for that crock of cookery or that unused ab machine now doubling as a towel rack.
Q: I just made a ton of money selling my ex-boyfriend’s clothes, stereo, TV, and almost-brand-new video game console on eBay! I don’t have to pay taxes on the money I earned, do I? (And please keep in mind, having dated that jerk for a year I really do believe I earned the money.)
A: Interesting question, and it’s one that a lot of “creative entrepreneurs” find themselves pondering. As you can well imagine, the IRS is not likely to say, “Oh, you made money on your old junk? Good for you and enjoy your pocket change!” Rather, all income-including gambling earnings; lottery, raffle, and horse and dog race winnings; church bingo payouts; profits from illegal activities (recall Al Capone was put away for tax evasion); and small business profits-is taxable. Your first move is to figure out if you’re actually making a profit. If you’re just looking to clean out your garage, you are likely selling the items for less than you bought them and so would not be making a profit. But if you are buying goods from a wholesaler and reselling, or if you are producing the goods and selling them like a business for more than the cost of manufacturing, then you are running a profitable business. On eBay, one man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but to the IRS, that treasure can and will be taxed.