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IRS agent allegedly coerced sex by threatening tax penalty

An Oregon man has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for an IRS agent’s alleged sexual harassment. The IRS says they have a zero tolerance policy – do you know how to report abuses?

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Above: photo of professional model by Russian photographer, Belovodchenko Anton. Note: image does not depict actual IRS agent.


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Lawsuit alleges sexual harassment by IRS agent

An Oregon man has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that an Internal Revenue Service agent threatened him and harassed him into having sex against his will.

According to KVAL-TV, Vincent Burroughs alleges that IRS agent Dora Abrahamson informed him of an upcoming audit, and for months harassed him with text messages filled with flirtatious messages, racy photos, and insistence that they meet.

“She said she knew more than my mother knew about me,” said Burroughs.

Burroughs tells KVAL, “She was sending me texts that she wanted to come out, give me massages because she needed to help me relax,” adding that she actually showed up at his home, scantily clad. “Next thing I know, she’s at my gate, honking, so I opened my gate, she came into my property dressed exactly like she texted me.”

Seeking restitution from the federal government

Further, he alleges that the IRS agent asserted that there would be a 40 percent penalty if he did not meet her sexual demands. Court documents show that Burroughs was “sexually harassed and intimidated” into having sex with Abrahamson that night. She said he had the option of paying, “no penalty, or a 40% penalty, and that if he would give her what she wanted, she would give him what he wanted.”

Burroughs is seeking restitution from the U.S. government for the IRS’s part in employing Abrahamson and not properly enforcing their rules involving the privacy act.

This is not the first, nor is it the last time an IRS agent has been the focus of a lawsuit for violating privacy laws, harassment laws, and generally abusing their power, nor will it be the last.

How to report misconduct by any IRS agent

The IRS says they are committed to protecting the privacy rights of America’s taxpayers, pointing to the protections offered by the Internal Revenue Code, the Privacy Act of 1974, the Freedom of Information Act, and IRS policies and practices.

In addition to the Privacy Act, which is the core focus of the aforementioned lawsuit, Section 1203 of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA ’98), created a statutory provision requiring termination of IRS employment for misconduct. The agency says they have a zero tolerance policy for taxpayer harassment and the IRS website and manual is laced with tough language on the matter.

When abuses slip through the cracks and taxpayers’ privacy is violated or they are harassed, taxpayers may either hire an attorney, or contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service which is an independent organization within the IRS, headed by the National Taxpayer Advocate, with advocates in all 50 states. The IRS asserts that every Local Taxpayer Advocate is independent of the local IRS office and reports directly to the National Taxpayer Advocate. IRS Form 911 requests Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance.
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1 Case Number 6:2013cv00141, Vincent Burroughs v. Dora Abrahamson and United States of America, filed in the Oregon District Court, Presiding Judge: Thomas M. Coffin

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. IsaacO

    February 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve got to give you credit for the absolute best photo regarding this news item. We covered it in our news, and I’ve seen the general news in other areas, but your photo, and the caption, were priceless. — Editor, CPA Practice Advisor.

  2. Really?

    February 18, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I wonder if the thought occurred to the taxpayer that he might not have anything to worry about if he had his records for the audit in order; there would be nothing to tax.

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Business Finance

Ramp: Corporate card launches to push you to spend LESS

(FINANCE) Ramp up your biz with higher credit lines and simple tools for expense monitoring. Ramp wants to take your worries away with their features.

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You launch your startup. You get the business going and need corporate cards for expenses. Standard issuers may decline to serve you because they see your business as a risk. Or, they offer you a low credit limit. But, you need to purchase pens, paper, coffee, and beer (you are a startup).

Before you head down the rabbit hole of “how will we pay for all those breakfast tacos?” there’s a new corporate card company ready to serve your needs. Ramp launched recently with the goal of providing higher limit corporate cards for startups.

Not only does Ramp provide corporate cards, it makes it easier for businesses to control employee spending. Rather than giving everyone a card with unlimited spending amounts, or only giving cards to certain employees, Ramp allows you to create spending rules and set spending limits for employees.

Also, there are no fees for using the cards. Every employee can have their own white card without any fees attached. The company plans to earn income through transaction fees, just like other card companies.

And, according to this story in Tech Crunch, Ramp allows you to integrate with some accounting software and to centralize receipts and attach them to expenses.

The company has launched with $25 million in backing and has several high-profile startups already using its services, including Candid, Truebill, 8 Sleep and Ro.

To make things easier for companies, Ramp offers a flat 1.5% cashback rate across the board on all purchases, whether you take a ride share or purchase computers, you get the cashback regardless. Ramp said startups can expect limits set 10 to 20 percent higher than traditional card companies.

The company may create competition for Brex, which launched in 2017. Unlike Brex, which has a more complicated points systems, Ramp aims to make cashback, monitoring and setting spending limits a simpler process.

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Business Finance

Why product liability insurance is critical for companies

(BUSINESS FINANCE) The best way to protect your company, and more importantly your customers, is product liability insurance. It keeps your standards up, and lawsuits down.

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If your small business manufactures products, you need to think about product liability insurance. No matter how good your designs are, or how polished your quality assurance strategy is, there’s a chance one of your products could come to harm a customer. And if that happens, your customer could contact a personal injury attorney and bring a case against you. Personal injury cases are somewhat common, and could cost you hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars if you’re not protected.

Product liability insurance coverage could protect you in the event of such a case. But what exactly is it, how does it work, and how are you supposed to get it?

The Basics of Product Liability Coverage

Let’s start with a high-level overview of product liability insurance. While different carriers and different policies will afford you different types and levels of protection, most product liability coverage is designed to shield your business from the fallout of a company-produced product that causes injury or harm to third parties.

Product liability insurance typically covers the legal fees associated with any product liability lawsuit, as well as medical costs, compensatory damages, and business damages that arise from the incident.

How Products Can Fail

How does a business become liable for a harmful product?

There are four main ways consumers can be harmed:

• Design flaws. If your product is designed in some flawed way, and the consumer gets hurt because of it, they could have a case against you. For example, if you create a deep fryer product with a locking mechanism to prevent burns, but that locking mechanism is weak or easily overridden, a customer could get burned as a result of using the product.

• Manufacturing flaws. There could also be manufacturing flaws. The design itself might be practically perfect, but if a batch of products are made with an incorrect material, or aren’t made to specifications, they could still fail in a way that harms a consumer; for example, a skateboard with a loose wheel might cause someone to fall.

• Marketing flaws. Your product could also be marketed or advertised in a way that eventually leads to consumer harm. If you falsely advertise the capabilities of your product, and a consumer follows them and hurts themselves in the process, they could hypothetically sue you. The same is true if you claim there are no downsides to a product that has downsides.

• Misuse. Even if a consumer misuses your product, your company may still be held at fault. For example, if you don’t specifically warn a customer that misuse could lead to harm, and caution them against specific forms of misuse, they could ultimately bring a case against you.

As you can see, there are many ways your products could lead to a customer getting hurt—and some of them are hard to see coming. While you can implement safeguards at every stage of the process, there’s always going to be a chance that one of your products fails in some unseen, unpredictable way.

The Extent of Damages

You may wonder if you truly need product liability insurance. After all, in the unlikely event that a product fails, you may be able to cover the costs yourself. However, this is extremely risky. The costs of a single product liability case can be devastating, and if you face a class-action lawsuit, or multiple lawsuits, there may be no chance of recovery. Remember, you could be responsible not only for compensating the customer for their injury and their pain and suffering, but also for covering the legal fees of both sides.

Some cases can cost millions, or even tens of millions of dollars.

Product Liability Insurance Rates

Most product liability insurance policies require you to pay a monthly, or other type of regular premium for your coverage. These rates will vary based on a number of factors, including the size of your business, the type of product you’re manufacturing, the extent of your distribution, and how much coverage you desire. Some insurance companies may also want to conduct inspections, reviewing the design and manufacturing of your product firsthand so they have a better sense of your safety standards.

Still, product liability insurance rates are typically reasonable. Shop around for the right insurance provider, and consider bundling your product liability insurance policy with other policies to lower your rates even further.

Conclusion

If your business designs or manufacturers products, product liability insurance is a practical must. It’s easy to get a policy, and most policies are relatively inexpensive, but this safety net could save you from shelling out millions as a result of an unforeseen product flaw. No matter how safe your operations are, or how many supervisory checks you conduct, there’s always going to be a chance that someone is injured while using your product—and that’s when your policy will kick in.

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Business Finance

Small metros may have cheaper homes, but they might not have the jobs

(BUSINESS NEWS) Study by Indeed finds that small to mid-sized metros offer higher adjusted salaries, but don’t pack your bags just yet because your job may not be there

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When I told my parents how much my partner and I would be paying for rent at our new apartment, they quickly pointed out that I could purchase a home for that kind of money in my hometown.

Indeed recently published a study where they determined which cities have the highest salaries after accounting for the cost of living, an adjusted salary. Every city on the list is a small or mid-sized metro area which is why they dubbed their findings, “the small-city advantage.” No surprise to me, my hometown made the list.

My parents are right, I could literally buy a home for the amount of money I pay in rent every month to live in a large metro area. But the equation that determines where I, and many other workers should live, is more complex than salary minus housing.

Indeed’s study also shows that bigger metros have faster job growth and lower unemployment compared to these small to mid-sized metros. This is why the number one city on their list, Brownsville-Harlingen, TX, also has a higher unemployment rate than the national average. Some of the other cities on the list are Fort Smith, AR-OK, Toledo, OH, Laredo, TX, and Rockford, IL.

These areas are cheaper to live in, in part, because they may not offer the kind of job opportunities, and therefore social mobility, you see in larger metro areas. Sure, I could make my money go further in my hometown, but the chances of me finding a job in my industry there are smaller.

Your field of work does matter when considering whether or not the “small-city advantage” could work for you. If you work in tech or finance, two traditionally high-paying fields, then this advantage doesn’t apply.

“Before adjusting for living costs, typical technology salaries are 27% higher in two-million-plus metros than metros with fewer than 250,000 people. Even after adjusting for those costs, tech salaries are still 5% higher in the largest metros than in the smallest ones,” finds Indeed.

If a huge tech company offering thousands of high-paying jobs moved into a city like Brownsville-Harlingen, TX, over time it would get more expensive to live there. This is why people were freaking out so much when Amazon was trying to decide where to locate HQ2. It’s the hamster wheel that is currently driving income inequality in some of America’s largest major metro areas.

Finding the right place to call home is never going to be a single factor decision. Yes, salary is a huge factor, as is the cost of living, but there are also lifestyle factors to consider. What kind of opportunities would you have in this city? How much will it cost to move there? How will this effect the other members of your household?

It’s nice to play the ‘ditch the corporate world and buy a country house’ fantasy after a long day at work, but the reality is far more complex.

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