Edvenson Consulting

English Services, American Legal & Tax Services 

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Welcome!  I follow American legal issues, international law issues, English language points, and international business and audit concerns.  I'm usually responding to news, either with opinion or information, for Americans overseas and those interested in law, audit, or language concerns. These are filtered through my residence, in Norway. 

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(Disclaimer: My blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.)

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Americans must report money in foreign banks and securities

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 9:13 AM

Jason Turflinger, of the American Chamber of Commerce in Norway, was kind enough to call me this summer at the one-room cabin on the fjord, noting the American tax deadline of September something, 2009, and the question and alarm of some callers to their office. Being the thoroughly modern Millie I am, I turned to the coffee-table-desk-station and Googled the tidbits.

 

This turns out to be a reference to the U.S. deadline for Americans with money in foreign banks - or financial interests in the money that is in foreign banks - to report some general information about that money to the United States government. Since we're in the acronym age, let's call it like it is: It is FBAR. I will think of that as the letter F, followed by the word, BAR. You can decide what the F stands for if it does not stand for Federal, by the way, as this is what most Americans, hard-working overseas, probably think of this requirement.

 

I, meanwhile, have been simply bowled over with responsibilities since this inquiry, which has caused the delay of some superb blog entries (still forthcoming), and the complete re-painting of the main-home kitchen, among other things such as swimming, working, teaching courses and helping students. But now is the time to ring the bells.

 

Time to report on the FBAR! Americans, Awake! Time to report!

Not just American citizens but all those subject to filing with the IRS, including, for example the categories identified as non-resident aliens with U.S. income and those holding green cards while temporarily living and working overseas who wish to keep those cards active. 

 

The United States, besides being one of the only countries in the world to tax its citizens when they live abroad and make money from foreign sources only (geez), is also interested now in catching up with those who have stashed money in foreign banks - and, by the way, securities. They want to know the names of the banks, the account numbers, and the amounts in those accounts.

 

Conceptually, we recognize the new reality as a great Grisham novel: Here's the American company CEO with a foreign bank account, into which he somehow stashes some money that he does not claim for U.S. taxes. We get it. The rub, however, is that, conceptually, it is also this person: the American overseas who simply lives overseas and has a bank account of their own - and/or 'interests' in another person's bank account. This would include, for example, in a Norway example, an American woman married to a Norwegian man who has the right to inherit from him, and then how much does he have in his banks, whereever they are in the world? Well, how much? The U.S. government would like to know.

 

The authorities are kind enough to excuse those of us who do not report if the amount is under $10,000. Be any better off than that, and you're just the sucker that the Federal Treasury department wants to hear from - BEFORE September 23rd. This is called a "Voluntary Disclosure" deadline, after which one may or may not be eligible for an exception from penalties imposed by someone.

 

How does this affect you? Maybe not much, depending on how cash-poor you are, that is. There is the general $10,000 dollar minimum. Surely this is one of the only moments at which I find myself glad to be married to a man who is relatively cash-poor, as am I. In Norwegian kroner right now (September 11, 2009), that $10,000 dollar amount over which reporting is required is a mere 59,189.51 NOK! Darn it!  The kroner is so strong.

Here is how clearly the IRS tells us about this:

 

" The purpose for the voluntary disclosure practice is to provide a way for taxpayers who did not report taxable income in the past to voluntarily come forward and resolve their tax matters. Thus, If you reported and paid tax on all taxable income but did not file FBARs, do not use the voluntary disclosure process." -IRS website.  This means that those of you who have been filing IRS tax forms - and paying taxes when you are supposed to - should not use the voluntary disclosure process, for some reason? whatever that is?

 

The IRS continues, "For taxpayers who reported and paid tax on all their taxable income for prior years but did not file FBARs, you should file the delinquent FBAR reports according to the instructions (send to Department of Treasury, Post Office Box 32621, Detroit, MI 48232-0621) and attach a statement explaining why the reports are filed late. Send copies of the delinquent FBARs, together with copies of tax returns for all relevant years, by September 23, 2009, to the Philadelphia Offshore Identification Unit at:

Internal Revenue Service

11501 Roosevelt Blvd.

South Bldg., Room 2002

Philadelphia, PA 19154

Attn: Charlie Judge, Offshore Unit, DP S-611" - IRS website.

 

We take this to mean that you better send in an FBAR to DOT in Detroit as soon as you can. This simplifies things, don't you think?

 

I can hardly bring myself to list some links, they are similarly somewhat confusing. However, I have seen the FBAR form and it is really quite straightforward. Here is a copy attached as a link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f90221.pdf.  (Just fill out the pages that apply to you and your 'interests.') 

 

 And don't ask me how the Treasury or IRS plan to follow-up on this routine. Let's just say, it will be interesting to see who the BIG fish are who get caught having been living the good life in the U.S. of A. while stashing their cash in other countries. I will welcome all the stories, just like the good collectivists and egalitarians that most Norwegians are.

 

But as for poor Mrs. American-in-Norway, if you fall into this category, little lady, you better list up your and your hubby's accounts and totals. The U.S. government will be watching for it. And if you have been smart enough to keep your personal income low, but the financial interests lie in corporate or security accounts, or savings, well, you don't get a 'free pass.' In Monopoly terms, the government wants you to know that you could get the 'go to jail' card for not reporting, okay? So take the Nike road: "Just Do It."

 

For those interested in finding more information online:

Who must file? http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=209418,00.html  

FAQs regarding the FBAR filing requirement: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=210252,00.html  

The excuse notice on the September 23rd deadline: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=210174,00.html

 

Creating Democracies - Shelley's Bonaparte

Posted on May 14, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Subject:  Iraq and Afghanistan's fragility-stability

We read with a combination of tension, hope and resignation the latest installments of diplomacy and intervention, all designed to assure that economic stability and a semblance of democratic governance take hold in these war-torn lands. 

 

So it was with special interest that I recently came across this poem, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, discovering in it some truth that reminded me of those who use faith as a blunt weapon and virtue as a costume.  With apologies, I would like to share this short poem, for the reader's enjoyment, an early poem written probably before 1816.

 

Feelings of a Republican On The Fall of Bonaparte

 

I hated thee, fallen tyrant!  I did groan

To think that a most unambitious slave,

Like thou, shouldst dance and revel on the grave

Of Liberty.  Thou mightst have built thy throne

Where it had stood even now:  thou didst prefer

A frail and bloody pomp, which time has swept

In fragments towards oblivion.  Massacre,

For this I prayed, would on thy sleep have crept,

Treason and Slavery, Rapine, Fear and Lust,

And stifled thee, their minister.  I know

Too late, since thou and France are in the dust,

That Virtue owns a more eternal foe

Than force or fraud:  old Custom, legal Crime,

And bloody Faith, the foulest birth of time.

 

-P.B. Shelley

Saving Our Banks, One Poem at a Time

Posted on March 8, 2009 at 9:27 AM

 

Subject:  The continuing failure of our American banks.

Recently:  The word "nationalize" has now been uttered.

Take:  Poetic justice is served here.

 

I enjoyed reading Joe Nocera's article, "Chorus grows: Nationalize the banks," in the Feb. 14th International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/13/business/wbjoe14.php.  This issue included a further article, visiting not only Nocera's 'Kitchen Cabinet' of economic experts, but even more great experts, "U.S. Treasury may need bolder approach on banks" in the Paris edition, also here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/13/business/13insolvent.php .  What these articles suggest is that a plan modeled on aspects of nationalization, combined with the selling-off of bank portions in a fashion similar to that done during the savings and loan bail-out of the 1980's, could and would result in the sort of effective cost-saving action that should be contemplated and put into place now.  And yet, according to Nocera, Timothy Geitner, the new U.S. Treasury secretary, is "avoiding the most straightforward, obvious path out of the crisis."  (IHT, Feb. 14, 2009).

 

I have a solution: Make it easy to understand, and make it quippy.  As an American attorney with multiple degrees in law and literature, too much snow on the roof, and too little incentive to shovel it off, I have created something with the smack of modern vivacity, originality and, let's admit it, rhythm, which is just the thing to get us going, climbing out of the hole that over-confident consumerism, greed and sheer financial debauchery have gotten some people into.  It would not be the first time that a quippy phrase – or two – saved the day, or the company.  After all, Things go better with . . . banks.  And banks . . . gotta lot to give. So, let's pour it on.  Additionally, one has to admit that nationalizing banks is not as difficult as nationalizing oil, both of which would improve the average American's life tremendously, and both of which have been done, to one degree or another, in many advanced quality-of-life civilizations now admired around the world (er...including Norway).

 

I have reviewed the outlines of the suggested resolutions made by the esteemed experts noted in these aforementioned articles, and have arrived at two poetic solutions.  Each provides its own rationale, logical order and internal rhyming perfection, in addition to including the important use of numbers:

1.      Drop

2.      Crop

3.      Prop

This particular poem, Part One, covers the bases:  Get rid of the losers, crop the bad debts out of those questionable in-betweeners, and prop up banks with government ownership that can be re-sold to the private sector at a later date – like, year – when and if they promise to behave themselves and run a better show. My second poem has similar strengths, so one can select it, purely on the basis of enjoying the roundness of its tones, as opposed to the clipped personality of Part One.

  1. Tell
  2. Swell
  3. Sell

This poem, Part Two, also covers the bases:  Tell these idiot banks what you are going to do, (ie: then do it), swell the revenue available for good loans under new rules, and then sell off the banks you've been majority-owning and managing, again, when and if they promise to behave themselves and run a better show.  That show should include banking rules preventing shenanigans of this sort in the future. After all, a real tree is a much better real tree than the promise of a real tree. I can see those trees of banks bearing voluminous and beautiful fat fruit already.

 

Ahh, it's nice to have things solved, isn't it?  Timothy?  It's just all those details that can become so complicated.  But then that is what we look towards our financial and economic wizards, and our Treasury, Fed, and SEC, to do with their time and talents.  One would think they would rather shovel snow off their roofs.

Economic Recovery: Potential Redux

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Economic Recovery: Potential?Redux???

Subject:??Economic recovery footnotes for the *U.S. ?(*Note:? Just as good a place to start as any.)?

?News item:? Recent weeks have shown President Obama and his team attempting to grapple with the financial mess left for them by the outgoing administration and a host of greedy and secretive financial folk that stretch from Alaska to Florida.... and probably also Saudi Arabia to China.? Still, the American people who put Obama in the White House have held hope that he would 'change business as usual' in Washington ? and beyond, as necessary.? They also hoped he would be able to help them personally - to recover their forward momentum, their own economic status, their dreams for their children and families, and help make the 'American dream' of safety in one's house and home, and satisfaction with one's work a reality.? Not only this, but Americans also want to recapture global growth in technology and professionalism and, of course, secure the social services that a tax-based system should provide: good health care at affordable prices and a social safety net for the disabled, sick and elderly - all things that Americans once had, and that smack of the honest, hard-working and respectable nature that is part of our own particular heritage -?one we are damned proud of. Therefore, it is hard not to notice some sad developments 'at home' while pointing out some observations that appear crystal clear as an American sitting in Norway.

?

?One of these observations is made by Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist.? Krugman writes that the Republicans in Congress are standing in the way of an economic recovery plan in a situation that has much more dire consequences than they can have any notion of wishing on anyone, including themselves.? Perhaps someone should do the math for the politicos.? The economy cannot be held up by greedy bankers, lenders, shysters and hucksters.? Nor can it be held up by millionaire senators and representatives, no matter how clueless or mean-spirited they want to be.

?

?Item 2.? The auto industry. ?In early January, the International Herald Tribune reported that, "GMAC LLC will no longer have exclusive rights to provide no- or low-interest loans to people who take advantage of General Motors financing incentives, as part of the complex deal that gave the troubled lender billions in federal aid. The move could reduce the Detroit automaker's dependance on GMAC to provide financing and possibly boost its sales by giving consumers more options for affordable loans.? GMAC, which provides GM dealer and customer financing in addition to home mortgage loans, disclosed the terms of the agreement in a regulatory filing Friday. The lender said the government will get 5 million preferred shares of GMAC paying 8 percent interest in exchange for its $5 billion capital injection to help GMAC avoid bankruptcy." ("GMAC gives up some GM car financing in bailout," The Associated Press, Published: January 2, 2009).

?

The auto industry is back in Washington soon to attempt to get more money without promising to pay back any loaned money already received, all while attempting to show that they have used billions of short-term dollars for precisely the things that will save their industrial life (um, not 'their' bank) from otherwise economic death.? Meanwhile, Hyundai is capturing a growing segment of the new car market, with soaring sales in the U.S. (and Norway).? What has GM been?? Answer: In part, another car loan salesman ?another greedy banker, lender, huckster, and shyster of high-interest, repo-prone car loans.? Is it any surprise that we do not hear the car companies reminding Congress that they just love the banking business? Let's see income as a percentage of sales of cars vs. loan interest and appreciation.? One could add in a column for proceeds from repo's, re-possessions of cars whose 'owners' failed to make a payment or two, only to see their entire investment be driven off by the company for re-sale elsewhere, their own contributions acting more as a lease than a contract for purchase. And, frankly, one could take them out of the banking business - which would be good for American business - if one was strong enough, smart enough, and interested enough.? This would appear to be a reasonable proposition (ie: for discussion).? Note:? It is not nationalization (ie:? for those who think that would be the end of the growth economy, that is).

?

Item 3.? Several thousand persons show up at a housing assistance program office to complete applications for a small number of housing assistance grants in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, causing such fear of overcoming the capabilities of the public authorities that the police are called in to maintain order, resulting in escalating tensions and periods of chaotic desperation, tearing the social fabric and surprising with its personal and identifiable sadness.? Meanwhile, in Norway, the office of unemployment insurance announces that there are so many qualified people applying for unemployment insurance just now that check-postings will be delayed for weeks and weeks, resulting in a similar gasp of collective panic.? Which country would you prefer to live in?? Despite the gloomy days and nights of winter we have seen lately, the answer is: Norway.? Reason:? They manage to have a social safety net ? um, at all.? For those of you who are history-challenged, this (a social safety net) began to disappear in the age of Ronald Reagan, and never re-appeared.? Reagan's legacy may have been the gipper guy, but it was also the age when ordinary Americans began to become permanently homeless, and the entire 'volunteer' economy was ordered into being.? Americans work hard...for the most part.? They are willing to work hard, and they like working hard... in general.? But cut off a person's ability to try to succeed, and when failing, not be caught by someone somehow as they fall, and you begin to ruin the promise that a caring society should afford its members ? respect for the need for food, lodging, medical care, safety and community.? The sooner our new President and his administration can do something about that, the sooner the fear ? and loathing ? will begin to subside.? That's not a promise, but it is a good guess.

?

?I like most Americans pray that God will speed all of the necessary tools and talents to the persons at whose disposal they will begin to unravel and re-invent these crucial and difficult societal concerns.? For personal assistance from Yours Truly, please call me!? After all:? "Under-employed professional in Norway seeks meaningful work to retire persistent balance on law school loans, caused by unavoidable repayment delays...caused by under-employment in Norway, the total sum of which was caused by lack of options ..a lack of options for avoiding ... greedy bankers, lenders, shysters and hucksters."

Norway's National Anthem ? What do the words mean

Posted on January 18, 2009 at 7:57 AM

Norway's national anthem is a lovely song which also includes wonderful lyrics.  It is heard by us often during Olympic events, as Norway ratchets up the wins in gold, silver and bronze medals.  It is also heard and sung often on the 17th of May, the day of Norway's annual Independence Day celebrations. 

 

 

I was encouraged to learn it when I moved to Norway ten years ago, and became interested in the English translation. I have seen other translations, but felt obliged to create my own - to reflect, as closely as possible, the meaning of the words, even if it was not 'singable.'  I therefore provide a link to my translation of "Ja, vi elsker dette landet."  I hope you enjoy it. 

Norwegian National Anthem

 Lyrics:  Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, 1859,  Music:  Rikard Nordraak, 1863,  Adopted:  1864

 

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,                                   Yes, we love this land,

 

som det stiger frem,                                          that emerges,

 

furet, værbitt, over vannet,                                furrowed, weather-beaten over the water,

 

med de tusen hjem.                                           with its thousands of homes.

 

Elsker, elsker det og tenker                               Love, love it, and think

 

på vår far og mor                                              about our father and mother

 

og den saganatt som senker                              and those nights full of long tales that sink

 

drømmer på vår jord.                                        dreams into our soil,

 

og den saganatt som senker,                             and those nights full of long tales that sink,

 

senker drømmer på vår jord.                             sink, dreams into our soil.

 

 

Norske mann i hus og hytte,                              Norwegians, in houses and cabins,

 

takk din store Gud!                                           thank your great God!

 

Landet ville han beskytte                                   The land he will protect

 

skjønt det mørkt så ut.                                      Understanding it appeared hopeless.

 

Alt hva fedrene har kjempet,                             All that our fathers fought for,

 

mødrene har grett,                                            and mothers wept for,

 

har den Herre stille lempet,                                has this God calmly lifted,

 

så vi vant vår rett.                                             so we won our right,

 

har den Herre stille lempet,                                has this God calmly lifted,

 

så vi vant, vi vant vår rett.                                  so we won, we won our right.

 

 

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,                                   Yes, we love this land,

 

som det stiger frem,                                          that emerges,

 

furet, værbitt, over vannet,                                furrowed, weather-beaten over the water,

 

med de tusen hjem.                                           with its thousands of homes,

 

og som fedres kamp har hevet                           and that our ancestors'  fight has raised,

 

det av nød til seir,                                             what was our distress to victory.

 

også vi, nar det blir krevet,                                Also we, when it becomes required

 

for dets fred slår leir,                                         for its peace, shall guard it,

 

også vi, nar det blir krevet,                                also we, when it becomes required,

 

for dets fred, dets fred slår leir!                         For its peace, its peace, shall guard it.

 

 

 

 

What are our International Human Rights? How can we decide when they have been violated?

Posted on January 15, 2009 at 8:02 AM

Subject:  International Human Rights law.  Inspiration:  How to consider Israel's punishing pounding of life out of everyone who happens to live in Gaza these days - including small women and children, day in and day out, including the destruction of their government buildings, and the terrorizing of the civil population with random threats, injury, death, leaflets and armed surprise in their homes and businesses, without the ability to flee or defend themselves.  

International human rights have grown in their importance to the world community over the last century as nations continue to resist peace-making and conflict resolution.  However, most people probably are not aware of what these rights include.  Nor do they know precisely how to think about them.  If someone robs a grocery, we know there is a law against robbery, and that a law has been broken:  the concept and our understanding of its social context is known to us.  Not so with that nebulous but heavenly 'thing,' "international human rights law."  I was asked to address this subject in my International Legal English course this past Spring, and created some materials I thought I should upload now, as a result.  First, the most familiar of the international human rights documents:  click here to see the U.N's "Universal Declaration of Human Rights."  This is a 'copied-off' version, English first, followed by a Norwegian version.  This can also be found at the U.N.'s website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx along with many other human rights instruments.  Another such document is the U.N.'s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or ICCPR.  You will find a short list I created of the ICCPR Articles indicating the basic rights they reference here: ICCPR Articles summary list

And last but not least, how should we think about these rights from a legal standpoint?  How can we try to evaluate if a nation has violated an international human right?  I created a basic outline of the international human rights law with respect to its caselaw notions.  The document covers the bases for cases in this legal area, and should help you identify the areas of "State" (ie: nation) responsibility, as well as some of the procedural points.  The document was designed for my students to become somewhat familiar with these concepts, and concludes with an exercise with questions that can be applied to one's "Case of Choice."  It was not designed to 'practice law by,' but simply to sketch some of the broader concepts in international human rights law so that my students would be familiar with the English vocabulary and how it is applied generally.  I hope you find this interesting and informative.  I would appreciate any comments you may have, in reply:  Governing Principles of International Human Rights law.

The much overdue subject of our next blog post should, rightfully, be the question that is spread as a full-headline across the front page of Norway's Aftenposten newspaper today.  Against a scene of billowing black smoke rising from Gaza, it reads in large block letters, ""Hvorfor er det ingen som gj?r noe?" -Alaa Khalid (14), d?ende."  For the Norwegian-challenged, as well as readers of Aftenposten's English news who are now missing the defunct translation copy, this means: "Why is there no one who is doing anything?"  Fourteen is Alaa's age, and d?ende means dying, which means he is probably now dead.  Like too many other innocents in this tragic and foolhardy contest. 

Publishing my Thesis Online

Posted on January 6, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Happy New Year to all!  And may it be a blessed one! 

I am writing to tell you that I've uploaded my thesis online, "Poetic Technique in Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate."  In it, I review Seth's use of poetic technique to achieve effects in the work.  Published in 1986, the book is a 'novel in sonnets.'  I include a Synopsis in the Appendix for those who are interested in reviewing the story but who have not read it.  The synopsis gives context to the sonnets I select for analytical examination in the body of the thesis. 

 

Poetic analysis can be cruelly detailed - frankly, boring, especially to read.  I tried to create a very enjoyable experience of it and hope I succeeded.  I combine the use of traditional literary analytical techniques with consideration of a variety of contextual concerns. 

 

I hope you like it!  You will find the Abstract and Thesis links at my "English Services" page on this website.

Obama's Path to Power

Posted on November 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM

I am proud that the people of the United States have voted for Barack Obama.  But also a little confused that we found his election so - surprising, for lack of a better word.  On a cold Fall night, thousands of supporters gathered in Grant Park, Chicago, my hometown, to see the man who told us this election was "about you" - only to discover that when the numbers were tallied, this election was also about him.

I especially enjoyed Time magazine's Commemorative issue coverage, and recommend it to others who want to 're-live the moment.'  http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20081117,00.html.

Now on to the hard work.  As The Onion cynically surmised in their over-the-top humorous headline, "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job," http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/black_man_given_nations.

 

Caught between the frying pan of the election-run and the fire of the Presidency, Obama, like Lincoln, seems to be sobering to the hard work ahead of him - and the world.  Thank goodness for someone with some sense.

Caught between the stardust of the upcoming inauguration parties, and the floodlights of public opinion, let our new President remember that the election of Barack Obama was about changing business as usual - in the sort of way that ordinary people need and deserve.  God bless him, and God bless America.

 

Summer 'Games' in Norway: (1) Mullah Krekar (2) Jens Stoltenberg

Posted on August 26, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Well, here we are, on the other side of a lovely summer, and enjoying a rather outstanding 'sensommer' or, literally, late summer, to boot!  What could be better?

Answer:  Perhaps (1) a bit more 'international justice' at home (in Norway), and (2) a bit less generosity of our Prime Minister with OPM - that is, other people's money.

We note two stories that made the headlines this past summer.  First, in case you did not know it, Norway is a good place for international criminals to hide - from justice, that is.  Reasons are various:  Norwegian authorities actually let them in, on purpose, that is, and then don't prosecute them or send them back home; and, Norwegian authorities don't have much money, staff, or time (read: small country) for the creation of international tribunals on our own soil, and really don't want to take the time to 'bring these folks to justice,' as we might say in the U.S. - well, not as long as they stay out of trouble and keep a low profile.  That low profile can even include a free apartment and a monthly welfare endowment, so, hey, why not come to Norway?  As long as you can stand the cold and dark months, it's like the global stage version of 'Home Free.'

That said, we have one especially high profile world terrorist who has been in Norway - for his own safety, of course, with his family for some years, and manages to threaten the authorities on a regular basis if they suggest they might honor a legitimate request for extradition from the country in which he committed his terrorism atrocities, that is, Iraq.  He goes by the name of Mullah Krekar, and a file of articles published on his warnings and statements to Norway reveal a clever man, formerly a deadly killer, wreaker and leader of planned havoc.  This lawyer used his case as a Moot Court example in the International Legal English course of 2006, with good success:  We came to the conclusion that, since he had already been found by a Norwegian court to qualify, officially and legally, as a "terrorist," his case needed to go to court.  Alternative to extradition, the case should proceed in Norway, with a jury of his country's peers.  And, while he was walking around free, doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to, his liberty should, in the meanwhile, be curtailed.  And finally, two years later, the state of Norway has taken the suggestions of this small class of eager international legal English students forward.  Well, at least in part...they are holding his passport, which he had been using to violate the terms of his permissions - ie: to go anywhere and do any terrorism business he wanted whenever he wanted to - and they have curtailed his internet usage and his ability to work. Nice job, Norway.  A good start, that is.

And thus does Mullar Krekar, with his intense and scary visage, jump off the cover of the Aftenposten's magazine of June 13, 2008, complaining, (as translated by me), "Now I can't feel myself safe in any place."  Well, Mr. Krekar, that is one problem with being loose, you know, and since the state of Norway has begun to curtail your freedom of movement, you suddenly do not feel safe in any place.  I suggest that the state of Norway therefore proceed with all speed to answer your concerns.  This would mean that the state of Norway would be sure to provide you with an expeditious trial and sentencing, umm, as required by international treaties of which Norway is already a member nation.  Should you be found guilty of the international crimes with which you have already, for years, been charged, the state of Norway could put you in Norwegian prison for, perhaps, the rest of your life.  Then you could feel a bit more safe.  We will continue this topic in the future, and fill in some of the background, as little reaches the English press, it seems to me, on this important and neglected international case.

On to our second topic, the Prime Minister's magnanimous suggestion that we double Norway's contribution to development in foreign lands through the U.N. - that is, Aftenposten, Thursday, July 24, 2008, "Norsk rikdom i en fattig verden."  Jens Stoltenberg, like many Norwegians who support uncontrolled NGO development, gets lots of moral and ethical brownie points for calling for a 'radical increase' in Norway's contribution . . . at the same time that the effectiveness of 'today's contributions' is in great doubt (per several studies, both Norwegian and international).  As all colonial empires did, just throw money at 'them,' and the more the better. 

Meanwhile, the tattered 'coalition' government currently residing in Norway and headed by Stoltenberg fails to assure sufficient funding for simple and basic health care needs, services, supplies, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and nursing homes. The situation has become critical, and is well past being a wonderful experiment in efficiency.  

Meanwhile, the sorry excuse for effective government now in place in Norway watches the roads and highways crumble, there being no federal authority in this area - or at least not one willing to buy and build the highways and byways needed to effectively and safely transport its citizenry.  Go anywhere else in Europe, and you will see better roads than here in Norway, whose oil fund is overflowing with . . . invested wealth.  To compare, start with Sweden, which has put together a magnificent highway system, we are told.

Sorry to complain, folks, but perhaps someone is listening - or reading, for that matter.  Overall, the summer was lovely.  Fresh air and sunshine in Norway were cheap this summer.  The fjords became warm and refreshing, and the enjoyment was here for the having. What more could one ask for?

The IRS Economic Stimulus Payment Notice - for Overseas Americans

Posted on April 6, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Subject: the notice we overseas Americans have received by mail entitled, "Economic Stimulus Payment Notice"

Context:  Some of my tax clients are confused about this.  What does it mean?

Perspective:  I don't blame them.  Here's the scoop.

This letter begins, 'Dear Taxpayer,' but has little else to do with paying taxes.  It appears that the economic stimulus that the federal government (ie. the Bush proposal) sought to put into place - in order to create an economic stimulus for 'America,' meaning: help U.S. markets recover from what looks like a buying slowdown, is here in our mailboxes, . . . even those of us abroad. 

First, let's assume that the government knows what it is doing, and we Americans overseas are actually supposed to be included in the payout on this 'incentive.'  Second, don't ask whether you think it is wise budgetary policy to hand out a huge amount of money to almost anyone who can claim at least $3,000 in CY 2007 income and/or child dependents with Social Security numbers;  that's just the way it's going to be.  Get it?

What does it mean to you?  Well, despite the fact that Americans who pay taxes overseas in their country of residence may have no qualifying income in the U.S., it may mean that if they file their tax forms to the U.S. IRS, they could get a check for the amounts noted.  The notice gives the general layout.  A similar version is available to read at the IRS website, at: http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=180179,00.html

If you are not sure whether you would get back some money, why not do the calculation that is provided at the website.  The link is: http://www.irs.gov/app/espc/.  If you would like me to calculate it, I'm happy to do that for you.  I do taxes for overseas Americans and those others, non-resident aliens, with the need to file their personal income tax forms annually with the IRS.  Just note:  if you do not file tax forms, you do not get a pay-out, even if you might otherwise have qualified for one.  So check out your ability to get a payout, even if you would normally fall below the line on need to file CY2007 IRS forms on personal income.

Feel free to contact me for a free inquiry, and an estimate of the cost to do your work for you.  In case you are only finding this blog now, for the first time, I note that I wrote about the timeframe for doing overseas taxes on Sept. 30, 2007:  you will find that in the archives here, as well as a more recent article on general changes in the 2007 taxing provisions.

Since there are only two things which are certain,  Death and Taxes, I suggest you take care of your tax forms!  I don't recall forestalling death quite so handily.

 

 

Bear Stearns and Bare Robbery

Posted on March 26, 2008 at 8:24 AM

Subject:  The Fall of Bear Stearns

Perspective:  The Investigator's Nose Warms Up

Style:  Someone else told me this.

As past readers of my blog know, I have posed questions related to the scams in selling bad mortgages as safe securities, as well as commented on the FBI's involvement in the investigation as to who has been behind the latest dives of banks and 'financial-instrument' makers.  Now, we add a new chapter, which also affects Norway, with the 'fall of Bear Stearns.' 

First, it seems that Norway's multi-billion dollar "Oil Fund" has been invested in Bear Stearns.  Are we interested in having our oil revenues turned into . . . chocolate candy wrappers?  Well, it is just after Easter, and that would mean they were worth more than J.P. Morgan has offered for the related shares.  Luckily, it appears that the fast buck someone was going to make on this (or should I say Norwegian crown), namely J.P. Morgan, is going to have to come to them a little more slowly.  The renegotiated reality will be told in a future I cannot yet see, but I have another concern.  And that is, what is actually happening here.

In such cases, I consult a variety of sources.  This may start with posing the question to my dog, Tinkerbell, who sits at the side of my desk, basking in the sunshine pouring in the window, and caring very much when I speak about such things.  She is, in fact, interested, but has little context for responding accurately.  I then proceed to the kitchen, where I may find any number of magazines and newspapers, and thereafter to ProQuest, which I have on subscription online.  Then, it is anybody's guess:  if I hear from an old friend, I may say, 'What do you think of this?'  In this case, that is what happened. 

My concern was this:  Here we are, a lot of aging baby boomers, and a new generation of X's and Y's, all needing to get rich quick if at all possible.  Those who think they are closer to the money manage to get hold of more of it.  The money that is there (the real money that can be 'got), however, is money our mothers and fathers saved, money invested in the U.S. by foreign nations and foreignors, investing in our stable economy, so they think, and money - well, some of it, after all, has to be - money invested by baby boomers for their own retirements, either by their employers or by themselves, in their mutual funds, whatever.  And here this money is sitting, just waiting for someone with a tricky talent to get hold of it without 'paying for it,' so to speak. 

I was then corresponding with this old friend.  Let's call him Snake.  I wrote,

"Now, tell me, what did in fact happen . . . [with] these banks, or was it one?  Where everyone leaves their jobs and gets raises when things fold up.  I think this is reportable malfeasance. Don't you think these guys were actually high-tailing it out of town with the savings of several thousand Chicago baby-boomers, folks waiting to retire [etc. suggestions noted] . . . ?

 

And Snake replied thus:

 

"Bear Stearns... lessee, these guys stuffed their pockets with real money from paper profits, and, after their malfeasance had robbed shareholders, stripped jobs from honest workers, and tossed families onto the streets... now, why wouldn't I want my taxes to reward them with buyouts to "transition" BS's holdings to Chase, the guys whose stuff-own-pockets-by-looting-the-company-robbing-shareholders-destroying-jobs plans cost my last job?  After all, Dubyah only asked to give them another thirty billion dollars... y'know, so they won't feel so sad about the misery that they've created.  And, after all, $30B's only, like, two weeks of what he's spending to  . . . my . . . [ personal references deleted] in Iraq, so it's a relative bargain, I guess."

 

Ah, sadly, irony is creeping into even the kindest standard discourses. 

 

I am reminded that at the last OECD meeting in Davos, Switzerland, (January, 2008), when the subject of whether banks should be regulated by outside authorities came up, Angel Gurria, head honcho, rose and delivered his position "with shaking, outstretched arms - and a bit of Latin flair, thus:  "Don't invent new stuff.  Don't invent a new bureaucracy." ("Can Banks Self-Regulate?," Int'l Herald Tribune, Jan. 26, 2008).  So it is the bullies and the Latin lovers of the bank scene who will tell all the losers not to - um, what?  Try to get their money back?  Try to create a system of internal control that prohibits unjustifiable risk-taking masked as good investments?  Alright, Angel, then perhaps we should invent a new morality.  Would you prefer that? 

 

From where I sit, it looks like the few are permitted to rob the many, do so on a regular basis, and get away with it.  Auditing powerhouses are powerless to do anything about it because that simply is not what they do:  the type of auditing they do intentionally avoids some of the necessary measurements that would tell them when liquidity is too dangerously surpassed by debt obligations.  As well, the auditors cushion their 'findings' on the accounts to benefit the company, while, when the company is a bank, they have no less incentive to lend money when that is the only way they make money, even if the lending and leveraging are unjustifiable robbery  -  of good money -  for bad obligations. 

 

But I'm not the one who said they are criminals.  Snake said it.  Now, instead of having one question, I have two: who is going to prosecute them for it? and who is going to level the global playing field?

 

 

The Fascinating Democratic Primaries

Posted on March 5, 2008 at 8:48 AM

In case you have become as fascinated as I have with monitoring the Democratic primaries, I should probably direct you to both the websites of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. 

On second thought, I'll direct you to the Barack Obama website, http://www.barackobama.com.   Besides being a marvel to traverse, it contains a wealth of information and input from around the United States and across the globe.

You'll find a few blog entries of my own there, as well, at The EC Blog:  Obama Entries, http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/blog/The%20EC%20Blog.

For those who enjoy the news, with views.  Viewpoints, that is.

Mortgage Fraud: Who Are These Guys?

Posted on January 30, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Subject:  The sub-prime 'lending' crisis in the U.S., which might better be entitled, The mortgage pay-back crisis in the U.S.

Bottom Line:  The FBI is getting involved in the investigation

A few weeks ago, I commented in this blog about this issue, asking, precisely, "who are these guys"?  More on that soon, as the various players are culled out of the banking mix, and separated (well, you decide) from those that delivered to us the 1980's 'savings and loan crisis.' 

Who are the people behind this latest activity, and what did they know when?  The white collar crime investigation area is continuing to develop, and internal and external auditors - both - are interested in watching to see:  how the extent of this economic meltdown could be permitted to occur, and how controls can be put into place to prevent it from happening in the future. 

From both an attorney's and an auditor's viewpoint, the results will be of very special interest to the development of law and routine.  Or am I ever hopeful?

Perhaps... I recall walking empty and brand-new mega malls in Tulsa, Oklahoma just before the savings and loan meltdown of the late 1980's, wondering how anyone could build so much so quickly without a market.  The old adage, "Build it and they will come," was also abused by the eager Chinese, as the vestiges of the Communist economy crumbled, and concrete tourist villages dotted the coastline of the South China Sea, waiting for buyers. 

I digress.

CNN, as well as others, report today that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is actually investigating this topical area.  Their latest statements suggest that consumers will be glad for their involvement:  Per CNN online, an FBI spokesman stated, "On insider trading, we're looking in some cases at whether executives were aware that the value of their holdings would be going down and the executives traded on that information ...On accounting fraud, we're looking at housing developers who may have reported cash reserve accounts to reflect falsely inflated values."

Excellent news! 

The FBI also gave the press an idea of the size and extent of the activity in this area that had been reported to them.  The number of suspicious activity reports they reviewed (for possible investigation) climbed from 3,000 in FY 2003 to nearly 35,000 in FY 2006, and 48,000 in FY 2007. Between July 1 and September 30, 2007, the FBI received 15,000 related reports, which, when projected, would give them 60,000 complaints in FY 2008.  Add to this the fact that they investigate only cases with losses over $500,000, and that this past year, 56% of all cases had losses of over $1 million, and you have a still-growing pool of activity to review. 

They will be coordinating with staffs of various other federal agencies, so this sounds very promising, from an investigative perspective.  To date, they state that the worst states for such activity were: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Utah, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

For your information.

The Price of Oil and the... Cost of Gambling on Futures?

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 2:07 PM

Subject:  The Price of Oil (and Gas)

Perspective: Consumer, International Observer and Auditor

Style:  Article Review and Point of Comment

Americans think they have it bad now that the price of gas is creeping past $3.00 per gallon, and oil is now over $100 per barrel, although you might be glad you do not live in Norway, where gas is now upwards of 12 NOK per liter.  Given that 12 NOK was last valued at something over $2.00, and that there are  3.78 liters in a gallon, we are paying over $7.56 per gallon of gas.  Yikes!  Despite the fact that we are paying nearly 80% of this price as tax to the Norwegian government - and are one of the world's largest oil producers, not only is this scary, but here, in Norway, as a result, when the price changes, it changes by kroner at a time, arguably nothing like the tiny price-creep that occurs in the U.S. market.  No, when we pay more, we pay 80% more of that 'more' to the Norwegian government. 

Gas tax is, as we know, a user tax, not usually such a conceptually problematic approach, except when the government, despite this, avoids using it well, budgeting properly for health and social services, services that persons strapped by high gas taxes with few alternatives for travelling around affordably, must struggle with, both to pay for the gas and to get the services.  The Norwegian government calls this a democracy, but will not admit that a car in Norway is not, exactly, a luxury item.  No, that is why we pay twice as much for a car as elsewhere:  100% tax for the car, since having a car is a luxury, and then there is the price of the car.  Now, we are looking for an MRI machine - and that is hard to schedule as there are not enough of them.  But if you have slipped a disc in your neck, perhaps you do not mind waiting several weeks for an MRI, and diagnosis.  Meanwhile, they will prescribe for you...Ibuprofen.  If only Norway would drop some of the previous century's socialist philosophy and Jante law restrictions, and bring up service levels.  More on the Jante law soon, I promise.

Excuse me, I was on a tangent. 

I found William Pfaff's recent article on the price of oil truly interesting ("Paying for Virtual Oil," International Herald Tribune, Jan. 5, 2008).  It seems that, in recent years, the price of oil has been released from actual cost on the buying and selling market.  In 2006, according to Pfaff, the Mercantile Exchange "removed previous restrictions" on oil trading's "access to other energy markets."  This resulted, according to Pfaff, in removing oil from the list of products bought and sold by traders based on its actual value, and placing it on the table as the equivalent to the common poker chip.  It is thus we hear that what has driven the price of oil up over $100 per barrel recently is ... violence in Africa?   Pfaff suggests that nothing real had actually happened that affected the oil that was on its way to market at this time. And so what happened to the prices we paid at the pump for gas? If my memory is correct, they quickly spiked, and then stayed up.

Pfaff asks a real question I and others should enjoy answering, and I welcome concise comments in this area:  What is the actual cost of oil? 

The futures market has now gambled on its price, and they would like to make something off their wager? They do so by pulling out their fast winnings, dropping the Dow about now?  Does that appear traceable to oil revenue speculations resulting in quick winnings? Or traceable to non-related scary stories? Do they get to do that?  When the oil is mixed into other-product wagering environments, not just stocks but options markets, how much is the price of oil on the market still reflecting the real cost of extracting, processing and bringing it to market? 

According to Pfaff, we are paying for "virtual oil," an amazing concept, but one which, given how unhinged behavior seems the rule of thumb these days in corporate hallways, I would not doubt for a minute.   But what should the price of my Norwegian gas really be?  Minus the over-80% tax? 

We note that China's unquenchable thirst for oil is going to change the balance of power in the oil and gas equation:  they want it, and they can pay for it. Yet, the price equation seems out of kilter, based on my experience as a consumer. And so I want to know what internal controls are in place to assure that I am not overcharged, and that only a reasonable profit is made on the product.

I also note that, back in the 1980's, a handful of American recalcitrants suggested that the U.S. nationalize oil.  In that way, it was argued, it would become a public utility, in effect, without profit motives, and with the ability to enrich the country, for the benefit of present and future generations. 

When Putin moved on the BP and Amoco contracts with Russia's oil giants, he was moving to nationalize Russian oil, in part - to protect it for the benefit of Russians - by, and for Russians.

When we talk about oil in the U.S., we collapse in consternation, open our pocket-books, and exasperatingly provide unquestioned and limitless resources to for-profit corporations, companies whose goals are ... to obtain the most efficient and effective level of profits possible for themselves and their investors right now.

I enjoyed Pfaff's presentation of this topic for our consideration, and look forward to hearing and reading more on this question.

American Taxes for Overseas Americans and Expats

Posted on January 24, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Subject:  Americans Abroad:  U.S. Personal Income Tax Issues and Update

 

Folks, Congress passed a new tax law in May, 2006 which will affect some Americans abroad, who are, as we know, supposed to file with the I.R.S. every year for the rest of their lives, no matter where they live, unless they actually fall below the tax-filing threshold income (pretty darned low).  And who will be affected by this new tax law?  Not most, as you might think from reading the gloom-and-doom headlines.  Reason?  Most Americans who live abroad simply do not make that much money;  careerwise, they would have been better off to have stayed 'at home' in the good old U.S. of A.  Foreigners (non-Americans) with green cards can be affected by these requirements also if they are living abroad (not in the U.S.) during all or part of the tax year. 

At any rate, for the benefit of those interested, here are some notes on the tax law affecting Americans abroad, along with a footnote:  If you don't want to deal with this stuff, contact me, and I will deal with it for you.  It is part of my business, and I love my business, just like I love having money to pay bills, for example.

 

  • Most Americans abroad are excluded from tax on their personal income by the I.R.S. because they make less than (for CY 2007) $85,700, the "foreign earned income exclusion."  Generally, if one is taxed on that income in a high-tax country, such as Norway, one can even have extra taxes paid (ie. to Norway) that one can 'use' to offset any other U.S. tax liability one has during the same year (ie. from dividends or interest or other U.S. income in the U.S.) under the "foreign tax credit" provision. 
  • The amount one can exclude from taxation from one's earned income (say, the $85,700), is the amount of the income up to that amount, $85,700, but ... only if you did not spend time in the U.S.  If you spent time in the U.S. during that tax year, up to 6 months, there is a sliding scale relationship between your number of visited days and your ability to write down any of your foreign income from tax by the U.S.  What's the logic in that, June?  The logic requires you to think like an American - about individual responsibility, that is:  if you are walking on our sidewalks, breathing our fresh air (well, it is still fresh in quite a few places in the U.S.), and driving around on our super-highways and bridges, you can pay for it by paying taxes, yes, even on your foreign income, and by paying that to us because we are here, keeping the place nice for you to come home to, and to visit once in a while. 
  • The other side of the coin is that if one lives in a low-tax country, and reports one's income and tax paid to the U.S. (which is required if you keep your U.S. citizenship...or green card), you can have a tax liability to the U.S. for the difference in tax that the U.S. might have charged you on that same income had you been in the U.S.  Good idea:  watch your total foreign salary in relation to your taxes paid.
  • Objective:  For the average Joe, the objective would be to not have made more than $85,700 in salary and wage in foreign countries in 2007, and not to have visited the U.S. for more days than you can afford to lose the difference on in reduced taxable income exemption write-down.  Example:  You spent a month with your married children in the U.S. in 2007, but are still a working teacher abroad (not a retiree):  you lose approximately 1/6th of your exclusion ? we hope you are making less than $85,700 - $14,283, or $71,417. And you are a teacher?  It's likely you are making that or less than that.
  • Now, I'll talk to the top rung, those of you making a LOT of money abroad.  The new tax law states that you will be taxed on your first dollar over $85,700 as if it was...oops, not your first dollar of U.S. income for taxation ? that would be a nice break and rate, but as if it was your first dollar after that, ie. as if it was your dollar number $85,701, taxed in the U.S.  To be honest, I don't feel sorry for you folks.  Just pay up or hire someone to invest your income in ways that help you keep more of it, generally, out of the tax-stream. 
  • According to the International Herald Tribune, "Expats face 'sticker shock for '07 U.S. taxes," Dec. 29-30, 2007, the twist comes when one is tempted to skip the foreign earned income exclusion, and take the foreign tax credit instead.  If you do, you can be locked out of using the foreign earned income exclusion for the next 5 years.  That is the small print. So, are you sure you want to do that?  Most are not sure.  I won't 'go there,' conceptually;  this is not my client base.
  • Big deal, you say?  Are you going to figure out the number of persons concerned, or worry about the size of their U.S. tax obligation?  No, probably not.  If you are glad  to be Americans, you may pay a small bit of tax to America, or ... you could give up your citizenship. (Oops:  That last option is not recommended.) 
  • My conclusion:  For most,  there is no cause for concern, with most tax treaty countries.  Why?  First, because most countries permit business deductions that are broader than those permitted by the U.S.  So, write down your income against your related business expenses, to the extent you can do so under the law of the country to which you pay your taxes.  Second, because if one works at it even a small amount, one can plan one's foreign income and U.S. income so as not be burned.  A U.S. financial advisor can easily help anyone with questions on this, but not cashing out huge amounts of U.S. stocks and dividends all at once helps a lot.  After all, we each have a standard deduction and at least one exemption every year, even if we do live overseas.  That gives us about $8,000 in tax-free U.S. annual income, as long as we have paid our taxes on worldwide income overseas in our country of residence at at least comparable rates.  That's not bad, and is even legal, seems to be a side-step around the problem, and should suit most affected persons in most years in which they are overseas.

Information is Power: Google searching and advertising tools

Posted on January 7, 2008 at 10:15 AM

Subject:  Google.  Occasion:  Time to check the EC account

We're doing an exercise in searchability, and I would therefore like to introduce you to Google's 'Ad' tools.  I find both useful: Google Ad Sense and Google Ad Words.  (These are in addition to their user-friendly offer to put a Google search box in your website.)

Earlier problems in focusing ad targeting have now been handled by the company, with the new possibility to target specific cities and regions in combination with other cities and regions.  Recall the old adage, "Information is power."  While too much information can be overload, we still hold, generally, that this remains true.  When it does not, it is at least more 'hopeful,' and now that we have entered a new age of hope, we applaud most improvements to the information superhighway.

Let's say you have a website.  And you are not advertising with Google? You are then missing a rather simple opportunity to expand your work.  You can decide what you will pay, and where, for your ad to pop up when others search Google for related keywords:

https://adwords.google.com/select/Login

And what about permitting others to run ads on your site?  These small ads can be either a large or small side-income generator, as they pass a per-click (and there are other sorts of pay-levels) fee down to you, simply because someone at your website clicked through to an ad presented when they were viewing your pages.

https://www.google.com/adsense/login/en_US/?hl=en_US&gsessionid=ZKk6QthCFRs

I know I'm preaching only to the neanderthals that haven't discovered the potential, but just in case you are a closet cave-dweller and find these prospects interesting, you will find plenty of tutorials and guidance at the links above.  Here's to enjoying and building businesses and networks.

 

 

A New Model for Audit Functionality

Posted on January 6, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Subject:  The demise of the 'Big Four' audit firms, or, Is There Life after their Figurative 'Death'?

I refer again to Jim Peterson, who is writing for the International Herald Tribune while, I think, living in Paris.  In his article, "Saying the Unthinkable," for the November 10, 2007 international edition, he makes some thought-provoking suggestions as to what would result from the break-up of the Big Four's hold on audit reporting.  The answer is, I think, not the 'end of the world' the Big Four would have you believe.

First, he points out, internal audit departments would be reporting to their companies with "as much independence as they can muster."  Good luck.  I've been there and done that, and it ain't that easy. The external auditors' role, still there, would be more precisely sculpted.

I appreciate the way in which he calms the waves his earlier suggestions have caused in the world of internal auditors' cocktail lounge chatter.  External auditors would still be reviewing the internal auditors' work, firms would still find qualified auditors coming out of the collapsed firms (and outside of the collapsed firms, I add), niche review practices would develop that were, specifically, doing reviews on the nature of the business or company that told more about how their operations worked well, what was good, what was not, and how best the value, as well as the risks, of the company could be both measured and understood.  (That, in my words.)

One of the pleasures, he notes, would be stuffing the over-burdened litigation-happy model into the round file - that is, dumping it.  Auditors' reports would include strict liability limitations, satisfy shareholders' needs, and inform investors;  not exploit the firms through the activities of plaintiffs' and class action lawyers.

Niche practices.  Cross-performance auditing.  Cross-management auditing occurring next to accountant-auditing.  A new model that reduces liability-litigation potential?  It sounds like a perfect world, but, I would argue, it is also not unattainable!

Peterson refers, in concluding, to the title of an upcoming symposium by a "top global regulator":  "The Future of Auditing After the Big Four."  Well, happy new year, and let's bring on the day!

If you're interested in reading this article, it is presently located here:  http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/11/12/business/WEBmcolumn10.php

 

 

 

Top Ten Things Norway Should Change in 2008

Posted on January 5, 2008 at 10:55 AM

It was bound to happen eventually, some of my opinions concerning how Norway could improve itself coming out of the closet.  Don't worry ? I love Norway.  I love living in Norway, and I also realize that most of the issues I list here are the same as, or similar to, issues being grappled with across the entire globe (...um, but not all).

 

That said, here is my 10-List, my list of 10, my list of "Top Ten Things Norway Should Change in 2008": 

 

Top Ten Things Norway Should Change in 2008

 

  1. Whales.  Stop killing whales.  Stop killing more and more whales every single year.  Stop killing several hundred whales every single year.  Stupid, they don't bear litters:  they bear single young ones, who must look for genetic diversity in their mates, years ahead.  Stop violating international law by killing whales, and flaunting it by not even attempting to exercise the scientific research exception.  Stop acting like Norwegians can't wait until whale arrives on the grocery shelves, and stop acting like the slaughters are all old-fashioned traditional community blood-baths on the beaches that even the women and children don't mind.  Stop making money killing whales, and stop acting like all you are doing is using them to make money on tourism by flaunting your whale-watching tourism PR.
  2. Peace.  Stop acting like you're the world's best peace angel when you're no more talented at it than anyone else, and in fact, enjoy permitting those with the power to do so to make a political statement charade out of one of the last best peace prizes in the world today.
  3. The Environment.  Stop acting like you're so 'green' when every  Norwegian has their fireplace stoked from December to April, half Norwegian cars grind the asphalt pavements to micr-particulate matter in winter which lungs cannot even clear, and open burning which is banned is regularly and consistently permitted by individuals and companies simply by looking the other way. Then, stop acting like your tree-cutting policies are so very conservative when they are secretly not so, and while every Norwegian is busy cutting down any and every tree they can possibly cut down, all year, everywhere and anywhere they like, without retort, consequence or cost.
  4. Immigration.  Stop allowing immigrants to get permission to stay here when you would never want them to live anywhere near your place and will consistently refuse to improve their job conditions to a level anywhere near yours, even for decades.  Relatedly, stop acting like you're really doing something ? or planning to do something ? about illegal immigration when Oslo and other cities look like the third world, are flooded with illegal immigrants who refuse to leave, and one never sees a real policeman anywhere, at any time, in the entire country.
  5. Politics.  Stop acting like socialist goals are so consistent with non-European Union membership, and then telling everyone you're greener than they are.  Stop acting like, even if one disagrees with you, you are so ingeniously smarter than they are because you are part of a majority government when that government is hopelessly-badly cobbled together and your political skills are really marginal, even if your ego is not.
  6. Anti-Competition Practices, and Crime.  Stop acting like reducing meat and dairy subsidies would ruin Norway, while not providing adequate health care resources to get heart surgery without getting on a months-long list, and while Norwegian citizens flock in droves to Sweden just to buy the 'dumped' Norwegian meats there at half the prices that producers wouldn't or couldn't sell in time in Norway. Then, stop stopping simple people at the border who are trying to buy extra Norwegian meat in Sweden because they are over-quota when they're just hard-working people trying to make ends meet in a country they come from, instead of stopping the Eastern European gangs who are moving drugs and stolen goods in and out of here like candy in a kid's store.
  7. Children's Rights.  Force your citizens to share their international children with the other spouse.  Tell your Norwegian mothers they can no longer harbor American children in Norway in repugnance of international treaties and Norwegian law, itself, while giving them free attorneys to fight off nice American fathers who simply want to share visitation in the U.S., as is their right under the law.   
  8. Health Services.  Try to do something meaningful about some of the problems in your health care system.  For example, why should someone needing psychological counseling face the prospect of waiting over one year to get help?  If Norwegians need counseling, don't act like it's their problem;  get them counseling as soon as ever possible with professionals that you put in place for that purpose, whereever and whenever they are needed.  Study up on this, and other lapses in your medical service delivery network ? we're paying a lot for it with our high taxes.  Get it done.  That's your number one job in this area. 
  9. Employment Opportunity.  Stop acting like you're a land of opportunity and the job market is wide open when you wouldn't salary-hire a non-Norwegian woman over 50 with work permission no matter how qualified she was ? for anything, just one example of the rampant sex discrimination and age discrimination that is now supposedly illegal here, but gets little more than lip-service.  Relatedly, stop arranging for every single great job in Norway to be secretly assigned to someone who knows someone before the postings, if there are any, are even made public. 
  10. Employment Discrimination.  Tell you main bank, Den Norske Bank, that arranging for someone to be secretly fired for having the wrong last name is illegal, and that they should make it back to her in the future at some time, even it means 'eating' a little 'crow.'

 

And one last footnote, which I cannot resist suggesting:

 

Don't just buy books.  Read them.  Then read more.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Posted on January 5, 2008 at 10:47 AM

Granted, I've not been blogging for a while.  Chalk it up to poor health and lots of traveling, one of which is good for you, and one of which is not.  I'll fill you in on some of my favorite articles from the last two months here, with links, but will march on just for now, and drop in my Top Ten List for 2008. 

Wishing all a prosperous and truly 'NEW!' Year!!

-June

 

The Open Skies Agreement

Posted on October 24, 2007 at 5:57 AM

Subject:  The EU and the U.S. have now completed what is being called a "first-stage" agreement that will open new avenues for air transport competition between Europe and the U.S.  It is expected to result in increases in passenger air travel between the U.S. and European destinations, and better cargo and ground-transport coordination.

 

Projections are for: $5.2 billion annual benefits in savings to consumers through lower fares and increased travel;  $3.6 to $8.1 billion in increased economic output;  and, growth of 1-2 percent in the combined European and American cargo transport market, which already holds 70 percent of the world's total fleet.  I don't have the basis for these projections.

 

Provisions of the Open Skies agreement that you might care about:

  • Most importantly, it removes all price restrictions on EU-U.S. passenger routes.
  • It also removes significant restrictions now in place on who can fly specific international routes between the EU and the U.S.  I imagine this must include Norway, under the E?S agreements with the EU.  This is expected to affect what is called "third and fourth freedom rights" by permitting both passengers and cargo to be transported from one's own country to another and back again, without the cross-carrier limited-competition agreements that have been in place in the past.
  • It makes plans to visit and work out "fifth freedom rights," which would permit EU and U.S. carriers to cooperate on flights to other countries outside the EU and U.S.
  • The U.S. grants EU carriers "seventh freedom rights," which will allow EU carriers to operate between any EU point and any U.S. point, opening up the destination game.
  • Unfortunately, it has also been agreed that U.S. carriers will not 'price-lead' or, in other words, under-price, EU carriers on flights taking place inside the EU, and U.S. carriers preserve their rights to handle all cargo from U.S. destinations headed to third countries.
  • On the bright side, EU carriers will now be able, generally, to extend their networks in the U.S, including brand and presence in U.S. airports and cross-company alliances.  Additionally, state subsidies to airline companies will be re-evaluated to determine whether they harm competition.

 The timelines:  Open Skies 'first-stage' becomes effective this coming Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007.  The second stage, which has to do primarily with extending coordinated cargo-handling rights, should be in place by the middle of 2010.

 

This information has been summarized by me from the International Bar Association's member "News" magazine, "Open Skies:  the EU-US Open Aviation Area," by Mia Wouters, September, 2007 issue, 19-21.


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