The U.S. Federal Communications Commission just adopted strict net-neutrality rules that will treat the Internet like a public utility. What’s in the new regulations? There are three major principles that Internet-service providers—like Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon—have to follow when sending data from their networks to your computer:
Internet providers can’t prevent you from accessing “legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices” when you’re on the Internet. This is intended to prevent censorship and discrimination of specific sites or services. Some open-Internet advocates worry the phrase “legal content” will create a loophole that might let Internet providers block stuff they see as questionable on copyright grounds without a fair hearing.
Internet providers can’t deliberately slow down data from applications or sites on the Internet. That means, for instance, that a broadband company has to let all traffic flow equally, regardless of whether it’s coming from a competitor or a streaming video service like Netflix that uses a lot of data.
No Paid Prioritization
Internet providers can’t charge content providers extra to bring their data to you faster. That means no Internet “fast lanes,” because regulators fear they will lead to degraded service for anyone not willing to pay more.
If content providers or the networks that underly the Internet complain about Internet providers acting as gatekeepers for their users, the FCC says it will have the authority “to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary, if it determines the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable.” It’s not clear yet what that will mean in practice.
Gov. Chris Christie (R, NJ) is scrambling to satisfy an irate judge who ordered him (last year) to follow his legislature’s adopted law (which he signed) and properly fund his state’s pension fund. The amount that he is now in the hole? It’s grown to $1.56 billion.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R, LA) is scrambling to find a way to cover his state’s $1.6 billion deficit, after he let BP off the hook for destroying the Gulf’s ecology, and with it, his state’s economy.
Gov. Scott Walker (R, WI) is trying to pay for his state’s financial collapse by screwing the hell out of education. Neighboring Minnesota, with a nearly identical population size, is prosperous. But Walker’s Wisconsin is a whopping $1.8 billion in the hole.
Depreciation refers to the value of property that’s lost over time due to wear, tear, and obsolescence. In the case of improvements to a rental home, you can deduct a portion of that lost value every year over a set number of years. Carpeting and appliances in a rental home, for example, are usually depreciated over five years.
You can begin depreciating the value of the entire rental property as soon as the rental home is ready for tenants and you hold it out for rent, even if you don’t yet have any tenants. In general, you depreciate the value of the home itself (but not the portion of the cost attributable to land) over 27.5 years. You’ll have to stop depreciating once you recover your cost or you stop renting out the home, whichever comes first. Depreciation is a valuable tax break, but the calculations can be tricky and the exceptions many. Read IRS Publication 946, “How to Depreciate Property,” for additional information, and use Form 4562 come tax time. You may need to consult a tax adviser. (HOuselogic)
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed an executive order Monday banning the state from requiring job seekers to disclose their criminal histories in the initial application stage.
The “ban the box” initiative will prohibit the use of a criminal record as an automatic disqualification for prospective state employees, except in applications for “sensitive governmental positions.” The order instead requires state employers to provide applicants an opportunity to discuss their past offenses, as well as their efforts to rehabilitate themselves, in an interview.
Repairs vs. Improvements
Another area that requires rental home owners to tread carefully is repairs vs. improvements. The tax code lets you write off repairs—any fixes that keep your property in working condition—immediately as you would other expenses. The costs of improvements that add value to a rental property or extend its life must instead be depreciated over several years.Think of it this way: Simply replacing a broken window pane counts as a repair, but replacing all of the windows in your rental home counts as an improvement. Patching a roof leak is a repair; re-shingling the entire roof is an improvement. You get the picture.