Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Law and You: Federal Environmental Law

Environmental law is one of the last legislative areas where the public and the administrators of the law show a significant difference of opinion in the severity of crimes. Where environmental law infringements can be seen as not really mattering by the general public, the broad view that legislators have of the total impact of all crimes leads them to take quite a dim view of those caught. Today we are exploring the key areas of federal environmental law that people must be aware of, through the eyes of Florida criminal lawyers.
Federal Water Pollution Control Act
This controls the dumping of waste in waterways. While the main focus of the law is on controlling industrial waste, even small agricultural operators are often caught out by this law.
Clean Water Act
This was passed in 1977 as an adjunct to the Water Pollution Control Act. This aims more specifically to protect fish, shellfish and wildlife, by preventing discharge of toxins into the water and stopping major sources of water pollution.
Your car's emission control system is regulated by this piece of legislation, which also controls emissions from all stationary, mobile, and large-area sources. There are quite a lot of proactive measures in this act, as opposed to some other acts which are mostly prohibitive - for example, it promotes employer-sponsored carpooling, use of bicycles etc.
Noise Control Act
Florida criminal attorneys spend a substantial amount of time defending people charged under this act. It aims to reduce or eliminate noise that jeopardizes health and welfare, including from appliances, industrial machines, and vehicles.
Endangered Species Act
This also covers threatened species, which are seen as likely to become endangered at some stage in the future. The law provides a program for their conservation, and occasionally hunters or people keeping certain animals as pets need a criminal lawyer to defend them from charges under it.
Fortunately, the government sees their own actions as subject to environmental control laws also, and all federal projects must comply with the same type of laws that ordinary citizens must. This is regulated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Law and You: Tax Evasion versus Tax Avoidance

To the person on the street, tax avoidance and tax evasion are one and the same -- it means that you haven't paid the taxes you were supposed to. However, for a small section of the population and their criminal attorneys, the difference is enormous -- it possibly represents the difference between spending some years in jail, and going about your life as usual.
What is tax avoidance?
There are literally thousands of legal ways to avoid paying tax on some of your income. In some cases being able to avoid tax might depend on:
  • What you spent the income on; if it was for business purposes or a charitable donation, you avoid paying tax on that income -- but this is obviously legal
  • The country you derived the income from
  • Transferring assets to another jurisdiction
  • Changing the structure of legal entities
The term "tax mitigation" is sometimes used by criminal attorneys and legislators to avoid the negative connotation of the term "tax avoidance".
What is tax evasion?
The most typical ways that ordinary citizens evade paying tax which they are legally subject to, include:
  • Failing to report income -- being paid in cash
  • Claiming deductions which are not authorized, in the hope they will not be investigated
  • Claiming personal deductions as business expenses, or vice versa
  • Falsely claiming charitable contributions
  • Overestimating the value of property donated to charity
  • Underestimating the value of assets that have been received
Ordinary citizens can sometimes be caught up in tax evasion charges without any knowledge that they were engaging in unethical or illegal conduct -- this most often occurs when an accountant makes illegal deductions or underreports income or assets on the defendants behalf.
Of course, the question of intent factors enormously in the outcome of trials for tax evasion. It may not reduce the likelihood of getting a guilty verdict, but it has definite potential to reduce the sentence or penalty that is imposed. This is where expert Florida criminal lawyers are a necessity if you have been charged with tax evasion.