Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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Monopoly Game Rules

One game has always been a favorite with all people associated to all age groups and that is Monopoly. The game has its fans across borders and all around the world. Still, a lot of people are unaware of all the rules of this game. It is imperative to know and understand Monopoly Game Rules in order to be a champion while playing this game. Let us have a closer look at the Monopoly Game Rules:

  1. Build Hotels: Many people think that they only need to have four houses on every property in group color before they can actually start buying hotels. Well, it is not correct. Apart from this condition, optimum number of houses should be available in the bank as well. In absence of enough homes, one can not buy hotels.
  2. Going to Jail: If as a player one goes in the jail then even though he scores doubles, his turn will come to an end. Such a player will not get an opportunity to roll again.
  3. Income Tax: As a player, if a person ends up on income tax block after passing GO, his money worth $ 200 is included in his total worth. In this case a player gets to decide whether he wants to pay 10% of his total worth of $ 200.
  4. Fine amount in case of Utilities: A player is not required to roll again to determine the amount of fine on utilities. The numbers which come from the dice in first roll are considered for the fine amount.
  5. Together try to win: Mergers are not considered as part of the official Monopoly Game Rules, however, there are many players who add it in their personal rule book. In this situation, two players can decide to play together as partners. In such a situation, the assets of both the players can not be combined. Instead of this, one of the two players has to quit the game and then the second one continues playing.
  6. Quitting the Monopoly Game: At any point of time, if a player wants to quit the game then his assets are returned to the bank. The player can not gift his assets to any other player. Yes of course, a player can decide to sell off his property to some other player even gifting is not possible.
  7. No immunity against rent: At no point in the game a player can offer immunity to another player against rent.

Players often forget these simple rules and end up losing the game. There are many people who have twisted the rules of this game as per their convenience though the fun of playing Monopoly is more when played with the original rules of the game. Monopoly Game Rules were designed keeping in mind all the possibilities in this game and here one should follow them to play the game in the best and accurate manner. If one plays the game with all the rules then the chances of disagreements on various things can be avoided and game can be enjoyed thoroughly.

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The Truth About Personal Injury Protection – & Some Myths

Trying to get insurance cover can be a real minefield to most people. It is almost always an unbelievably expensive item with respect to the family budget. Unfortunately however, it can be horrendously costly in another way if the cover is not appropriate or does not cover the intended items. Let’s look at the main kinds of cover and attempt to throw a little light on the subject.

The best automobile insurance policies will include the following items: uninsured motorist coverage, personal property liability, collision coverage, bodily injury liability, comprehensive coverage and personal injury protection (PIP). Some of these elements are required by all states whilst others are not required. Collision coverage pays for all damages to a automobile or other vehicle when it is in collision with another automobile or other vehicle or non-vehicular object, even if the insurance holder is at fault. Comprehensive insurance policies protect the insurance holder in the unfortunate situation that their automobile or other vehicle is taken without the owner’s permission, damaged illegally, harmed by an act of nature or damaged otherwise. Both of these kinds of insurance are always optional and are usually very costly.

Bodily injury and personal property insurance are required by all U.S. states in in one way or another. Where the states differ greatly is in the minimum guaranteed payout that is set for each. For example, in Alaska, a driver is required to carry coverage that has a guaranteed minimum bodily injury payout of $100,000. In Florida, a driver is only required to carry coverage worth $10,000.

Many elements of an auto insurance policy that could be optional are cover for the uninsured motorist and personal injury protection. The coverage for the uninsured motorist protects the insurance holder in case he or she has an accident with an uninsured person. It provides the insurance policies that should possibly have been supplied by the other party. PIP, in the event of an accident, pays for the medical expenses and other assorted damages incurred by the insurance holder and their passengers (or if the insurance holder is an injured pedestrian). Carrying personal injury protection is mandatory in: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah.

Even if personal injury protection is not mandatory in your state, you may still want to consider purchasing the insurance policies. PIP, in the event of an accident, will pay around 80% (depending on insurance policies limits) of the costs of the insurance holder and passengers. These costs include medical bills, lost wages and other assorted expenses. personal injury protection is a no-fault policy, so it will cover you and your passengers, even if the reason for claim was your fault.

personal injury protection, sometimes known as Medical Payment Insurance or Medpay, is a no-fault insurance policies for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that blame does not have to be confirmed saves time and therefore allows medical payments to get into the pockets of the injured parties as soon as possible.

Secondly, it saves everybody from the cost of lawsuits being filed so that responsibility can be proved for an accident and therefore who has responsibility for the bills. One time a personal injury protection policy might allow for a lawsuit is when serious injury or death occurs.

Before you purchase personal injury protection, you would be advised to take a look at your current policies and see whether or not the insurance policies offered by personal injury protection is duplicated elsewhere. It could be that the cost of lost wages and medical bills may be recovered through an existing health insurance policy. If this is the case, then you may need minimal personal injury protection or none at all. Your driving habits will also help determine whether or not you need personal injury protection. Do you carry passengers on a regular basis? While your health insurance might cover your own medical expenses, it won’t cover those of your passengers (unless they are members of your family who are on your health plan). Ask your regular passengers about their own health insurance policies and its coverage. If they are inadequately covered or not covered at all, you need personal injury protection in order to keep them covered. This may seem like the thin end of the wedge, especially if you’re the one driving an office car pool, however, the safety of any passenger riding in your car is always going to be your responsibility.

If you reside in a state that requires personal injury protection you will need to know the minimum amount of cover you must have because this has already been decided for you. If you live in a state where personal injury protection is not mandatory however, you might decide that you need the extra insurance policies anyway. How much insurance policies you need depends, mainly, on your age. If you are middle-aged or older, have good health and liability insurance policies, then you will need minimal personal injury protection insurance policies. If, on the other hand, you are young, just starting out and still don’t have much in the way of health and liability insurance, you will want to protect yourself, your family and your future by carrying as much insurance as you can afford. This is especially true if you have a young family or if you constantly carry others in your automobile or other vehicle.

So there we have it, whether you require PIP and at what level, depends on several factors: where you live, your driving habits, your employment, your health, your personal circumstances and your level of existing cover. Whatever your circumstances however, you need to research it carefully so that you can rest easy knowing that you are safely covered.

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How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

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India, The Tourist’s Paradise

India is a land that offers a mind-boggling diversity of natural beauty, flora and fauna, a rich, vibrant and proud history of cultural heritage and is famous for its hospitality to people who are fascinated by the numerous stories enchanting stories about India and come To visit the country. And the country does not disappoint them. The majestic snowcapped mountains, the lush rolling valleys, the gushing rivers, green fields, gorgeous colorful flowers and luscious fruits, the arid deserts, the plateaus, the hills, the tea gardens on the mountain slopes, the orchards, the waterfalls, the list Simply goes on and on. Every year, thousands of tourists from different parts of the world flock to this country for visiting different places, to enjoy different festivals, to take part in adventure tourism, pilgrimages etc. Tourism is one of the largest service industries in India and plays a major role in providing employment to the population and the country's economy. The tourism ministry in the country caters to the various demands and needs of the tourists. The India Tourism Development Corporation is a Government of India undertaking dedicated to taking care of travel needs like hotels, flights, trains, car rentals etc.

If you are coming to India the first time, it is advised that you read about the various destinations you are planning to visit and make full arrangements for accommodations. There are reputed hotel chains which have luxury hotels in different tourist destinations of the country. You can make your bookings online or over the telephone using the useful contact information available in their websites. Check out these sites and know more about the facilities, the tour packages, the tariffs etc available here.

If you are traveling on a tight budget, then there are numerous hotels with affordable rates but with high living standards. Before booking you must ensure that the neighboring area is safe, proper transport facilities are available and you can communicate with the outside world too. Book your hotels, cars etc online and enjoy a reliably hassle-free vacation.

The tourism board advises tourists to contact only fully authorized, reputed and trustworthy tour guides and tour operators to ensure a safe travel. These guides should at least have photo identity cards issued by the Ministry of Tourism. Arrange for proper transportations that will take you to different parts of the country. If you want to visit the more remote and somewhat inhospitable areas like the mountains of Ladakh, or the arid deserts of Rajasthan or forest safaris, then you must take proper precautions against potential dangers, diseases etc.

To arrange for flights, search online for cheap flights to India if the budget is limited. There are many websites which list information about flight ticket prices from different airlines, compare the prices and provide you with the best results. You can also opt for affordable holiday packages in India along with affordable accommodations and transportations. Search multiple travel portals to obtain the best options and cheap tickets to India. Just type in your destination and the sites will return a list of airline ticket prices for you to choose from.

Welcome to India and enjoy a vacation experience of a lifetime!

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The “Contents Pack-out” Trap and How to Escape It

“Contents Pack-out” is a term used by water and fire restoration contractors, and insurance companies. It is the process in which the contractor sends trucks, boxes and workers to your home. They pack up all of the damaged personal property in your home or business and transport it back to their warehouse. Once the personal property is at the warehouse, the contractor begins the cleaning and restoration process.

Insurance companies do not like to replace personal property. They would rather clean or repair it and give it back to you. That drastically slashes their claims cost, which makes them happy.

I’ve been an insurance adjuster for over 16 years, and in the insurance business for over 35 years. I’ve seen very few instances where seriously damaged personal property can be just cleaned or repaired successfully. Most fires burn or infuse toxic chemicals into personal property, like wood or textiles. Same goes for a flood loss. My personal opinion is that replacement of damaged personal property is better than repair or cleaning.

So, what is the trap?

Insurance adjusters like to swoop in with their favorite approved restoration contractor and do a “pack-out.” But your insurance policy has a limit on Personal Property. All of the money that the insurance adjuster authorizes to have your contents cleaned is paid against the policy limit. So, if the restoration contractor cleans a bunch of your damaged property, but you reject it as damaged, the contractor still gets paid. But you have less money now to replace your damaged personal property.

The trap is that a pack-out can penalize you when you are submitting your insurance claim!

Here’s the Escape Strategy

1. You own the personal property…not the insurance company and not the restoration contractor. It is YOUR DECISION what gets repaired and what gets replaced, not the adjuster.

2. Call in your own restoration contractor for a second opinion. It shouldn’t cost you anything, but even if it did, it would be money well spent.

3. Make sure every single item that gets removed from your home is listed on an inventory sheet.

4. Based upon your contractor’s opinion, negotiate the replacements with the adjuster and settle the claim.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

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Four Unconventional Ways to Land a $5K Loan With Bad Credit

A lot of folks got lifted high during the early part of the 21st Century. Times were good and promised to be so for a long time. Fearless about future debt, many consumers over-extended themselves. The economy fell flat thanks in part to this vast over-extension and the banking and mortgage industry that fed off of it.

As a result, loans came due with no cash flow to pay them. Foreclosures became normal. Credit card companies felt the pinch as members defaulted. Credit ratings suffered greatly. Presently, those folks have no recourse to any venues that could offer them any financial relief. A minimal $5,000 bad credit loan is unreachable.

People in this situation do have some options that they should consider while they try to rebuild their financial lives as well as their financial credibility. These options are perhaps not those that they would normally consider, but the times are not normal.

One: Familiar Loans

In one way this is the best scenario to get a much needed cash injection. In another, it could be the worst. Embarrassment is probably the biggest bar to approaching friends or family members for cash to get you through tough times. On the other hand, the terms for repayment can be quite flexible and interest rates can be low or nonexistent. Certainly, a loan such as this does not require a credit check. It would be wise and friendly to draw up a contract so each party knows what is expected.

Two: Salary Potentialities

Should a person in need of cash be to uncomfortable approaching family or friends, they might look to the workplace. Some progressive companies have opportunities for employees who have hit on hard times. A credit union may serve the company and it may be very happy to extend a loan at low interest rates and easy payback terms. If there is no credit union, sometimes an employer can be approached for a loan that can be deducted directly from future paychecks. Sometimes this sort of loan is available to promote loyalty and productivity.

Three: Non-Traditional Bad Credit Loans

Should the previous venues turn up dry, unsecured personal loans are available, either locally or via online lenders. Traditional lenders such as banks are not going to be forthcoming with any help for borrowers with poor credit. Online lenders do not consider credit scores and are usually eager to grant unsecured loans in the range of $500 to $10,000. The requirements are few; having steady employment and a bank account are often enough. The application process is easy and you can usually have cash in your account within 24 hours.

Four: Neighborhood Pawnshops

Do not cringe. For centuries shops such as this have been able to offer affordable loans to people in the community who find themselves a little shy of cash from time to time. Your loan will require security in the form of personal property offered as collateral that is equal to the worth of the loan. You will sign a document acknowledging your obligation. If you do not return to redeem the collateral, the shop is allowed to sell it to cover the loan.

No matter what sort of credit history you may have, you should be able to put your hands on some cash using the outlets described above. Just be sure you do not allow yourself to become a victim to any sort of fraud. Just be sure any money you do get is used responsibly and paid back according to the terms of any agreements.

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Last Will And Testament Provision For Burial

A will or testament provides information about the transfer of property, ornaments or land, from the testator to his beneficiaries, after his death. Everyone, regardless of age, needs a will. Without a will people wouldn’t know to whom their assets would go. A will is a general term and is used as the instrument in a trust, while testament applies only to dispositions of personal property.

Besides mentioning, as to who would own the property, after the death of the testator, the last will and testament also provides details about, carrying out the burial of the testator. He appoints an executor, as his personal representative who takes over the responsibility of paying his left over debts, obligations as well as pays for his funeral expenses. However, the executor is not entitled to get any surety bond connected to the last testament.

A testator may mention in his last will, the name of a particular organization that would conduct the rites of his burial or transference. He may also put a clause, which specifies that, his body be sent without autopsy or embalming, to a funeral home designated by the organization. A copy of the last will is given to the funeral home by the organization, as it helps in preparing and facilitating the transportation of the body.

The last will and testament carries details about the testator’s wishes, including whether or not his body be enshrined or entombed at a chosen place after death. Since the rites of burial and transference can be very elaborate, detailed, thorough, and lengthy, the organization may incur an extensive cost to carry out the rites. In such a case, the testator can make pre-arrangements with the organization, by donating money that would assist them in carrying out his last wishes. The appointed executor is responsible to pay for the burial expenses in case the testator has not made such arrangements. The last will and testament provision for burial gives details of performing the final rites as per the wishes of the testator, soon after his death.

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Advantages of Bus Travel

Bus is the most popular transport nowadays. Many people choose bus as the best transport for them because of the many advantages they find in it. Others never get on a bus, thinking only of the disadvantages, which are truly a lot. Here I will tell you the reasons why it is better to choose travelling by bus rather than travelling with your car for example.

The good standpoints for travelling by bus

Many people choose bus transport because it is cheap. This is the main reason why when you get on a bus you will see mainly students and old people. The tickets for long destinations are much cheaper than the flight tickets. You can also by a card for every month and travel at reduced fare. This is also a good advantage to choose bus transport, because it saves you money that you can spend on your next vacation.

Another good advantage of bus transport when going on short travels is that bad weather won’t be a problem for the bus driver. If you are planning to go to the nearest village with your bicycle and it starts raining or snowing, you will get wet for sure. If you choose the bus, you can save yourself this uncomfortable situation and it also can save you money because it won’t get you sick. Also if you choose to take a flight and the weather surprises you and a storm comes out, you may be waiting for hours because of delayed flights.

However, this won’t happen if you choose bus travel. In modern buses, you will have an air conditioner, toilet, the bus-hostess will offer you drinks and snacks to make your trip more enjoyable, and there are also at least two TV sets in new travel buses. So you can enjoy your trip watching a movie and having a snack without worrying when will be the next stop for the toilet. Also if you are travelling on a bus for more hours or even days, you can always make new friends there. So, the new social contacts are the other advantage of the bus. And if you have to choose between a plane or bus, remember that you will see much more if you are travelling with a bus. The bus also stops at many places during the travel and in that time, you can have a coffee or a cigarette if you are a smoker. In the plane this could not be done.

Another good advantage of buses is that they reduce the traffic jams in the rush hour in big cities. Imagine that everyone uses cars. The traffic jams will be a lot bigger than they are now. In some countries like India, a bus can gather more than 150 passengers. Imagine that all these people were using their cars instead of bus transport the cities will be crowded.

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BCIN? Difference Between Designer, Architect and Engineer According to the Ontario Building Code

As I meet with new clients and friends every day, I commonly hear the same questions “What is a BCIN?” “When is a BCIN required?” etc. Here is some clarification to the public on some important issues about choosing a company to provide you with plans. Please note that this information applies only in the Province of Ontario.

What is a BCIN?

A BCIN stands for ‘Building Code Identification Number’. This number is assigned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to successful applicants who have completed the requirements outlined in Division C Section 3.2 of the Ontario Building Code. There are two distinct types of BCIN number, individuals & firms. Individuals are people who have completed the exams and have received a BCIN from the MAH; however, they do NOT carry any insurance. As a result this limits the types of projects that the person can do. Firm BCIN’s on the other hand MUST carry valid liability insurance, and depending on the amount of designs fees that a firm charges in a year will dictate the required amount of insurance coverage they must have. Insurance is expensive but it is there to protect you so avoid working with companies who do not have it. For most people, a home is your single largest asset; do you really want to get plans from someone without insurance?

How do I know if I am choosing a registered company?

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing maintains a database of all registered BCIN holders. The registry is available through a system called QUARTS. Once on the Public Registry, this system allows you to search by the individual’s name, the company’s name or the BCIN #. Once you have found a business or individual, it will bring you to a page with details on the company. It lists the mailing address of the business & contact details. At the bottom it should also show the Registration as ‘Registered Designer’ and the Status as ‘Current’. If it shows up as ‘lapsed or expired’ then this means that they either do not have valid insurance for that year, or that they are late in filing their paperwork.

Do I need an architect or engineer for my project?

Probably not! There have been massive changes to the system in the last few years, opening the doorway for a new title; designers. Architects & Engineers are NOT required for any project less than 600m² (6,458 sq.ft.) and less than 4 storeys. For most residential and small commercial projects, you do NOT need an architect or an engineer. However, and this is important, if the project involves severe structural modifications, an engineer may be requested by the municipality to review the plans. On this note, there is a BCIN exam which will supersede this requirement! If your design company is a registered company in the Category of ‘Building Structural’ then they can complete the plans.

When do I need a BCIN ‘stamp’ for my project?

Depending on the type of project you may or may not need a BCIN number on your drawings. You do not need a BCIN number if the project relates to the construction of a house that is owned by the person who produces the drawings or if it relates to a farm building less than 3 storeys. There are a few other instances, but these are probably the two most important. Often I hear homeowners ask for just the drawings to submit for permit (no stamp). This is allowed, but as the homeowner you must be knowledgeable of the drawings (after all, you are claiming that you have produced them). It is okay to admit to the municipality that you hired someone to draw them for you, but at the end of the day you will be responsible to ensure that the drawings meet code. If the city has approved your building permit based on the drawings and you proceed to build your project to the drawings only to later find out that there is a problem, you will be on the hook to make any necessary adjustments to pass inspection. Most companies will charge from $200 to $2000 for the use of their BCIN number on the drawings. This may seem expensive but it is the security blanket that will keep you safe and ensure that your drawings meet code! I also personally apply for the permits and handle all the paperwork on my client’s behalf when I charge this fee; which most people prefer as nobody likes to stand in line for half a day to submit paperwork to the City.

I hope that this will help to clarify any questions you may have had regarding the requirements of having someone produce building permits for your project. I look forward to working with you, and if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask!

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