Financial Expert Sherri Goss answers your financial questions on 13WMAZ.
Q: I moved to Macon back in 2002 to be closer to my daughter, and then my daughter moved away in 2004. When she left, I started getting calls from collection agencies, and it turns out that my daughter had applied for credit cards using my information, then didn't pay the bills. I had to go to court and fight to clear my name, and I even filed a police report. I paid some of the bills to get rid of the collectors. My daughter doesn't speak to me, and I have requested that she pay me back. What should I do now?
A: I recommend that you look at all three of your credit reports by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get these reports free of charge twice a year. You need to make sure that these debts are no longer on your report (if they are you can dispute them). And, for the ones you did pay off, you need to make sure they show that you paid them off. Credit history stays on your credit report seven years from the date of last activity, so you are getting close to these things rolling off your credit report.
Q: I have been out of work for 16 months, and my unemployment is running out in two weeks. I owe about $5,000 to two credit card companies, and have been able to keep up the payments, but now that my unemployment is running out, I'm worried. I'm going to move in with a relative so that I don't have any expenses, but won't have income. What should I do?
A: Call your creditors now, and explain the situation to them. See if they can temporarily suspend payments and give you a break on the interest and late charges. I would also contact the temporary employment agencies in town, and see what jobs they have open. You can find them by looking in the Yellow Pages under "employment agencies." As we move out of the recession, companies will tend to hire from temporary agencies first, because they are waiting to see the economy really recover before they bring back full-time employees. Hopefully you can find something to do to bring in some income, and that may even turn into a full-time job opportunity.
Q: I was just released from prison about two years ago, and when I files my tax return last year, somebody took my refund. I don't know who it was, and I just filed my return for this year, and I'm hoping they don't take my refund this time. What can I do?
A: You need to look at all three of your credit reports, which you can do for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. The person you owe should be listed on the report, and you can see what you owe, and a phone number for them will be listed. The bad thing about your situation, is that now that they got a payment last year, that is the last date of activity so that debt will stay on your credit report for another seven years. Contact them and see if you can settle the debt to put an end to this, and begin to improve your credit.
Q: My parents gave me a house last year, and I'm wondering what to do about my taxes. How do I report this?
A: When your parents gave you the house, they had to report this as a gift which they will do on their tax return for 2010. You do not need to report anything. But, what you do need to do is find out the cost basis of the house. This is how much they originally paid for the house. When someone gives you property, your cost basis is what they paid for that item. When you eventually sell the property, you will need to know what your basis is, and the difference between this number and your sale price. This difference is called a capital gain. Depending on the tax laws at time you sell the property, you could owe tax on this gain. So, you only need to know this cost basis for future reference. Next year, when you file your return, you will get a deduction for the taxes you pay on the property, and that is the only change you will experience tax-wise. I also encourage you to start a file, and keep all your receipts for improvements you make to the property.