THE HOLY SPIRIT IS’NT THE ONLY THING SAINTS CARRY!! (FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVE THE SMITH & WESSON 354 MAGNUM ANOINTING) NEVAN GUN LAWS 2019 UPDATE

The open carry of firearms in Nevada is legal without the need of a license or registration. Though people are required to obtain a Nevada CCW permit to carry a concealed weapon in Nevada. There are specific locations where guns are prohibited, including:
*public schools,
*childcare facilities,
*VA facilities, and
*legislative buildings.

People face stiff Nevada State Prison sentences for violating specific firearm laws, including using a gun in the commission of a Nevada crime or being a felon in possession of a firearm in Nevada. But it is possible to pay a fine for other gun crimes, such as brandishing a gun in Nevada or possessing a firearm under the influence in Nevada.
Nevada requires background checks for all gun sales (unless the purchaser has a CCW permit). People who lose their Nevada gun rights might be able to get them back through a Nevada pardon. With some exceptions, children under 18 may not possess guns. And immigrants convicted of a firearm crime risk deportation.
Prohibited gun locations in Nevada
Nevada does not permit pistols, handguns, and rifles at the following Nevada locations:
* airports (past the secure areas) and planes,
*childcare facilities (without written permission),
*public schools and private schools (without written consent),
*Nevada System of Higher Education property (without written consent),
*legislative buildings,
*post offices,
*VA facilities,
*federal facilities,
*military bases (with some exceptions) and
*Hoover Dam.

Possessing a gun in a prohibited location is a Nevada misdemeanor, carrying:
*up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
*up to $1,000 in fines, and
*maybe community service in Nevada.

OPEN CARRY LAWS IN NEVADA

Open carry is legal throughout Nevada unless otherwise forbidden by federal or state law.

CONCEALED CARRY LAWS IN NEVADA

Concealed carry is legal throughout Nevada as long as the person has a valid carrying concealed weapons (CCW) permit. Nevada residents need a CCW permit from the county where they reside. For non-Nevada residents, the Department of Public Safety recognizes CCW permits from individual states. Otherwise, they need to get a Nevada CCW permit.
Concealed carry without a valid permit is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:
one to five (1 – 5) years in prison and
maybe a $10,000 fine.

BLUE CAMPAIGN ONE VOICE. ONE MISSION. END HUMAN TRAFFICKING

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Have you ever heard of the Blue Campaign? The Blue Campaign is a national public awareness campaign designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond to possible cases. Blue Campaign’s educational awareness objectives consist of two foundational elements, prevention of human trafficking and protection of exploited persons.
It is difficult to prevent or identify human trafficking if you don’t know what it is or its indicators. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States. It can happen in any community, and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.
Language barriers, fear of their traffickers, and fear of law enforcement frequently keep victims from seeking help, making human trafficking a hidden crime.
Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible to a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so significant that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help understand human trafficking. You can also download or order the Blue Campaign indicator card, which is a small plastic card that lists common signs of traffic and how to report the crime.
· Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
· Has a child stopped attending school?
· Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
· Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
· Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
· Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
· Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
· Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
· Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
· Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
· Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
· Does the person lack personal possessions and seem not to have a stable living situation?
· Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the signs is not necessarily proof of human trafficking. The best thing all of us can do for victims of Human Trafficking is to remain aware of the condition and, more importantly, if we see something, say something. Anonymity can be maintained. To report suspected human trafficking, there are many avenues of reporting:
–National Human Trafficking Hotline…1-888-373-7888;
–National Center for Missing & Exploited Children…1-800-843-5678;
–Call 911; or
— Text HELP or INFO TO BeFree (233733).

Ignorance is Not Bliss – New Auto Laws


While we are close to saying goodbye to 2019, I have discovered that many may be unaware of the implementation of 4 important new auto laws in 2018. While many may say ignorance of the law is bliss, there can be consequences to that ignorance. To avoid any cost consequences to your pockets, you should be aware of the following:

1.”Move Over” Law
As of July 1, 2018, Nevada drivers will have to extend the same safety precautions to the Department of Transportation vehicles as required for emergency response vehicles. Drivers will have to move over if possible and give way to NDOT vehicles with lights on or those displaying flashing lights and give them extra room on the roadway.

2. Use of the fast lane
Slow drivers in the fast lane holding back traffic behind them may be subject to a ticket under another new law coming in to effect in July. This law is intended to keep traffic flowing smoothly and cut down on the instances of road rage.

3.Pets in hot cars
Animal rights supporters will be happy to learn that under another new law in 2018, law enforcement, animal control, and other public safety workers are now allowed to use reasonable means to remove pets left unattended in vehicles in extreme weather conditions without fear of civil liability. Another law raised the penalty for leaving a pet in a hot locked car to the same level as leaving a child in the car.

4.Minimum Insurance Limits
The minimum insurance limits each driver is required to carry is increasing later this year from $15/30/10 to $25/50/20. This means a driver will be required to carry insurance of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $20,000 for property damage only. Nevada was only one of six States that carried such a low limit and increasing the minimum limits will hopefully go some way in helping to protect innocent victims injured in car accidents. However, it is still important to look at your insurance coverage and check whether you have med-pay (medical payments coverage) or UM/UIM (uninsured/under insured coverage) in case the driver who causes an injury accident has no insurance or not enough insurance to cover your losses.

Our Love/Hate Relationship with HOAs

Homeowners have a love/hate relationship with their Homeowner Associations (HOAs).   You rarely hear someone say, “I love my HOA Board.”  The purpose of an HOA is to preserve, maintain and enhance the homes and property within the subdivision.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  But not all HOAs are equal.  An HOA that regulates that neighbor with a weed-ridden front yard or a broken-down Chevy in the driveway is a blessing.  However, when that same HOA tells us that when and where we can put our trash cans out, we aren’t appreciative.  I am not a fan of someone telling me what I can do with my property and land.  But I do understand the utility of an HOA Board.

Community living comes with its own dynamics. Close quarters and shared spaces can—and often does—lead to conflict: a conflict between neighbors, the association board of directors, and members; and also between the board or members and management.  Unlike other locales, Nevada requires that members of common interest communities go to the Office of the Ombudsman of the Nevada Real Estate Division for conflict resolution before filing a lawsuit.

Before any civil action can be taken regarding a dispute relating to governing documents of a common-interest community (homeowners association), the disputing parties must complete the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 38. Further, if a homeowner association provides a scheme of dispute resolution, that procedure must be exhausted before submitting an ADR claim to the Nevada Real Estate Division, Office of the Ombudsman.

The ADR programs include: 
• The Referee Program
• Mediation
• Arbitration

  1. The Referee Program – The referee program allows disputing parties to present their case to an independent referee. Both parties must agree to participate in the program to proceed. The referee can bring the parties together, listen to both sides of the dispute, review the evidence and governing documents and then make a non-binding decision on the matter. The referee is authorized to make monetary awards of up to $7,500. The referee may not award attorneys’ fees. The parties may then proceed to civil court if they wish to pursue the matter further.
  2. Mediation – As of October 1, 2013, NRS 38 mandates that mediation is the default method of resolution, should both parties not agree to participate in the referee program. The parties to the mediation provide the mediator a statement and relevant documents about the dispute, including a statement concerning an acceptable resolution. The mediator works with the parties to resolve the dispute with a written agreement.
  3. Non-Binding or Binding Arbitration –This option is available if mediation fails and both parties agree to proceed through either form of arbitration in place of initiating a claim through civil court. Each of the parties has an opportunity to present his or her case and witnesses if any. The arbitrator upon conclusion of the hearing renders a decision, after which either party may proceed to civil court.

For more information, please contact the Nevada Real Estate Division, Las Vegas,
realest@red.nv.gov, P: (702) 486-4033.

 

Tanika M. Capers, Esq.

ARE THERE RENT INCREASE REGULATIONS?

As we are seeing daily, construction is booming in Las Vegas.  This has led to an increase in property values and taxes, and for some tenants, an increase in rental prices.  This article addresses rent increases in dwellings under Chapter 118A and manufactured home parks under Chapter 118B of the Nevada Revised Statutes.

In dwellings under Chapter 118A, a landlord must give the tenant 45 days written notice of the intended increase prior to the first rental payment being due.  If there is a written lease agreement with a specified rent amount, the landlord is not permitted to increase the rent during the term of the lease.  However, if the lease provides for a rent increase at the end of the term or if the landlord gives written notice to the tenant 45 days before the lease is due to expire, the new rate will apply at the expiration of the term, provided the tenant continues to occupy the premises.  In a periodic tenancy with a term of less than one month, the landlord is only required to give 15 days’ written notice (NRS 118A.300).

In addition to the requirements of the above, a landlord may not increase rent in retaliation against a tenant (NRS 118A.510(1)).  For example, if a tenant complains of a health code violation, joins a tenant’s union, or terminates their rental agreement as a result of domestic violence, the landlord may not increase the rent in retaliation.  There is a similar to statute relating to retaliatory conduct by a landlord under Chapter 118B.  For a complete list of the prohibited retaliatory conduct, refer to NRS 118B.210.

Currently, Nevada does not have any “rent control” laws and landlords may increase the rent to any amount which the market will bear.

For space rentals in manufactured home parks under Chapter 118B, a landlord must give written notice to the tenant 90 days prior to the first increased payment (NRS 118B.150(1)(a)(3)).  The notice must be given to the tenant either by personal service or by first-class mail (NRS 118B.030).  Any rent increase must result in the same rent charged for manufactured homes of the same size or lots of the same size or of a similar location within the park (NRS 118B.150(1)(a)(1)).  Landlords under Chapter 118B should also be aware that when a service, utility or amenity is decreased or eliminated, the rent must be reduced proportionately (NRS 118B.153).  For instance, if a manufactured home park offers landscaping services included in the monthly rent, and later decides to eliminate this service, the rent must be reduced proportionately.

If you have questions about rent increases, required notices, or retaliatory conduct, contact an attorney.

Mental Health Pt2

Last month, we noted May is “Mental Health Month” and that Nevada has a substantial shortage of mental health professionals but ranks near last in access to mental health care (Mental Health America, 2018). News 4 and Fox 11 in Reno on February 21 of this year, ran a story by Kim Burrows, named “Nevada is Dead Last for mental health, State working on a fix.”How mental health services are limited across Nevada. In Reno, one of the largest behavioral health service providers closed its doors last year. It cited a financial shortfall with government funding partners as a reason why. Since then, Renown opened the Stacie Mathewson Behavioral Health and Addiction Institute.
Charles Duarte the Chief Executive Officer for the Community Health Alliance says there’s a stigma associated with a mental health condition and there shouldn’t be. He runs a non-profit organization that has six community health centers in Washoe County that provide primary medical, dental and behavioral health and nutrition services for 30,000 patients every year.

Duarte is on one of four regional behavioral health policy boards created in 2017. Each submitted bills for this legislative session to address mental health care.
AB47 – Creates a pilot approach in rural Nevada to train law enforcement officers and first responders in crisis intervention training. It also provides funding to transport those people for evaluation and treatment.
AB66 – Proposes to create crisis stabilization centers in Washoe and Clark County. There would be eight-bed facilities and patients would stay no more than 14 days.
AB85 – Enhances the 72-hour legal hold to evaluate and stabilize a patient. Part of the bill would allow for transportation by someone other than law enforcement.
AB76 – Allows the four regional behavioral boards to hire additional staff to gather research.
Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, is the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services. He says Nevada needs to step up its game when it comes to mental health services. “It’s horrible for the state of Nevada and what we need to be doing as state leaders are really addressing this issue,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with this since the 1980s and finally we’re having honest conversations about how important this is.”
A stabilization center in AB66 was modeled after a program in Maricopa County, Arizona. “The reports out of Phoenix for 2016 for this program suggested that over 300 million dollars in hospital savings were achieved by having these types of services available,” Duarte said. Maricopa County also reports that it saved the equivalent of 37 police officers who are no longer tied up dropping off patients at the hospital or jail.
Things are definitely looking up for our State. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said he’d make mental health a priority. He mentioned it in his State of the State address. “That’s why I recommend adding new staff that will focus on mental health and substance abuse,” he said earlier this year.

While the Legislature is at work in addressing our dire mental health needs in Nevada, there are some resources available. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy organization helping to get people in touch with services and provide information about mental illness. If you need behavioral or mental health information or help, NAMI has a helpline. The HelpLine is a free service that provides information, referrals, and support to people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. A well-trained and knowledgeable team of volunteers, interns, and HelpLine staff will respond to your call or message.
The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is “Mental Health Month” and I was surprised that not only does Nevada have a substantial shortage of mental health professionals but ranks near last in access to mental health care (Mental Health America, 2018). “We have a huge shortage of psychiatrists here in Las Vegas,” Dr. Gregory P. Brown, a psychiatrist in Las Vegas who runs the Psychiatry Residency Training Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, reported.  See, The Cut, Science of Us, Oct. 4. 2017.  “There’s a crisis-level shortage right now.” Las Vegas has five psychiatrists per 100,000 residents while similarly-sized metro areas like Kansas City and Sacramento have double that figure. New York City has about six times the figure.

In addition, we rank near the bottom in the country for higher prevalence of mental illness (Nevada Hospital Association)–  a ranking that encompasses six metrics ranging from mental illness and substance-abuse rates, to the number of citizens who’ve considered suicide or suffered a depressive episode — yet offers the least access to mental-health care compared to every other U.S. state.  About 68 percent of people in Nevada who suffer from impaired mental health do not receive treatment.  The Cut, Science of Us, Oct. 4. 2017.

In a psychiatric emergency, the more you know about your state’s laws and treatment options, the better prepared you will be to respond in the most effective way possible.  Nevada law allows for admission to mental health facilities through three procedures: emergency admission, voluntary admission, or involuntary civil commitment. The last of these procedures require judicial involvement.  Emergency Admission and the special circumstances pertaining to the commitment of minors will be discussed next month.

 

Voluntary Commitment

The law allows for individuals to apply for voluntary commitment or admission to any facility for treatment. NRS 433A.140. This procedure entails an individual presenting themselves to a facility and submitting to an examination by admission personnel, who determine whether such an individual would benefit from treatment. A person who voluntarily admits himself to a facility must be immediately released upon submitting a written request. The facility has 24 hours after the request is filled to change the status of the person to an emergency admission pursuant to NRS 433A.145.

Involuntary Commitment

The most frequent arena where mental health and law intersect in the area of involuntary civil commitment. A mentally ill individual may be detained in a mental health facility for up to 72 hours on an emergency, non-court ordered basis for evaluation and treatment. A person must be released by the end of the 72 hour evaluation period, including weekends and holidays, unless during the 72 hour period, a petition is filed with the court for involuntary admission.  NRS 433A.150.

A mentally ill individual is involuntarily committed when an individual with standing files a petition with the court. The petition must be accompanied by:

(a)        A certificate of a physician or licensed psychologist stating that he has examined the person alleged to be mentally ill and has concluded that as a result of mental illness the person is likely to harm himself or others; or

(b)        A sworn written statement by the petitioner that:

(1)            The petitioner has probable cause to believe that the person is mentally ill and, because of that illness is likely to harm himself or others; and

(2)            The person has refused to submit to examination or treatment by a physician, psychiatrist or licensed psychologist.

A court must hear an involuntary commitment petition within 14 days of the emergency admission or filing of the petition, whichever is less. The individual is entitled to counsel, either private or court appointed. The court must order two psychologists or psychiatrists (one must be an M.D.) to examine the individual and submit their findings to the court 48 hours prior to the hearing. In order to find that an individual may be involuntarily committed, the court must find, by clear and convincing evidence that the individual is mentally ill or exhibits observable behavior such that he is likely to harm himself or others if allowed to remain at liberty.  NRS 433A.200 to 433A.310.

An involuntary commitment automatically expires at the end of 6 months if not terminated previously by the medical director of the public or private mental health facility.  At the end of the court-ordered period of treatment, the Division, or any non-division mental health facility, may petition to renew the detention of the person for additional periods not to exceed 6 months each. For each renewal, the petition must set forth to the court specific reasons why further treatment would be in the persons own best interests.  NRS 433A.310.

An individual may be conditionally released when the medical facility deems it appropriate. However, if an individual was held as a danger to others, he may be conditionally released only if, at the time of the release, written notice is given to the court which admitted him and to the district attorney of the county in which the proceedings for admission were held.

PATIENTS RIGHTS

Every individual admitted to a mental health facility is entitled to enumerate and basic rights. Every patient has the right to treatment, to participate in his treatment plan to the extent possible and receive considerate and respectful care. Every patient has the right to refuse treatment to the extent permitted by law and to refuse to participate in any medical experiments conducted at the facility. Although a patient has the right to refuse medication, this decision may be overridden by the physicians’ medical opinion that the individual is a danger to others or himself and that the medication will be beneficial. All individuals, however, have the unfettered right to be free from unnecessary medication or over-medication.  NRS 449.720.

Every individual admitted is entitled to full confidentiality of his medical records, condition, and treatment. Notice of procedures, hearings and enumerated rights must be given to the patient in a timely fashion.

NRS 433A.350 – 433A.360.

This month is intended to raise awareness about mental health and related issues. Although attitudes appear to be changing around the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, negative attitudes have existed since the late 1940s, when the first National Mental Health Awareness Week was launched. In the 1960s, the campaign was extended to an entire month in May. During this month, let’s educate ourselves on mental illness.  As the good book says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”  Stay tuned for next month’s mental health awareness article.

GANGA AND WORK

If you don’t know what Ganga means, good for you.  It’s also known by the names, Mary Jane, Weed, Dope, Grass, Mary Jane & Reefer.  If you still don’t know what  I am speaking of…I am speaking of MARIJUANA.  Marijuana has made its way into every facet of our lives whether we want it too or not. And yes, this includes the workplace.

While the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), criminalizes marijuana, at least 44 states, including Nevada, have enacted medical marijuana laws purporting to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Nevada’s medical marijuana statute decriminalizes medical marijuana usage and purports to create significant employee protections.

NRS 453A.800 requires that employers attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the medical needs of an employee who engages in the medical use of marijuana if the employee holds a valid registry identification card if such reasonable accommodation would not:

  • Pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property, or
    • impose an undue hardship on the employer;
    • or prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his
      • or her job responsibilities.

Notably, this statute does not require any employer to allow the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace. The statute also does not require an employer to modify the job or working conditions of a person who engages in the medical use of marijuana that is based upon the reasonable business purposes of the employer.

Nevada also recently joined the growing number of states that have decriminalized recreational marijuana usage. Nevada’s recreational marijuana law, however, provides no affirmative employment law protections.  These developments have left both employers and employees in a haze of uncertainty regarding their rights and obligations to regulate and/or use marijuana in and outside of the workplace, with some employees mistakenly believing the decriminalization of marijuana invalidates employer policies prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace. Some of that haze can be clarified, but some will remain until the Nevada Supreme Court provides definitive guidance.

 No Protection for Possession or Use of Marijuana on Company Premises or While on Duty

Nevada’s laws permitting marijuana for both medical and recreational uses make clear that employers can prohibit the use or possession of marijuana while on duty and in the workplace. Nevada’s Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, regarding the legalization of recreational use, provides that the act does not prohibit an employer, “from maintaining, enacting, and enforcing a workplace policy prohibiting or restricting actions or conduct otherwise permitted under this chapter.” NRS 453D.100(2). Likewise, in 2013 the Nevada Legislature clarified that Nevada’s medical marijuana legislation does not require an employer to allow medical use of marijuana in the workplace. NRS 453A.800(2).

No Protection for Recreational Use

Nevada’s decriminalization of the recreational use of marijuana did not in any way impact Nevada employers’ ability to maintain substance abuse policies, including those that call for the termination of employees testing positive for marijuana. Employers that maintain policies prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana in the workplace, or being under the influence of marijuana in the workplace, remain free to enforce those policies and take disciplinary action against employees violating those policies through recreational use of marijuana.

Two important issues related to marijuana usage by employees in Nevada remain less than clear. First, it is unclear whether NRS 613.333 protects employees’ lawful, off-duty use of marijuana, both medical and recreational. That statute makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant or to terminate or discriminate against an employee because the employee “engages in the lawful use in this state of any product outside the premises of the employer during the employee’s nonworking hours, if that use does not adversely affect the employee’s ability to perform his or her job or the safety of other employees.” Nevada attorneys practicing in the area of employment law continue to debate whether this statute prohibits the termination of an employee for off-duty use of marijuana, largely focusing on the meaning of the “in this state” language in the statute, given that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  For Nevada employers, until this issue is definitively resolved there will be some risk associated with the termination of an employee for off-duty use of marijuana.

The second issue that remains unclear arises from an employer’s obligation to accommodate medical marijuana usage in Nevada as required by NRS 453A.800.  Significantly in July 2017, in the first case of its kind nationwide, Barbuto v. Advantage Sales, 2017 Mass. LEXIS 504 (Mass. 2017), the highest court in Massachusetts determined, though the state medical marijuana law provided criminal protections only, a cause of action was available for disability discrimination under state law for employees using marijuana lawfully.

Because of the remaining uncertainty, Nevada employers struggle with issues related to:

  1. Employees or applicants that use medical marijuana off duty and test positive for marijuana on pre- or post-employment testing;
  2. Determining when off-duty medical marijuana usage impairs an employee during work time, such that an adverse action, like termination, can lawfully be taken; and
  1. Employing workers in safety-sensitive positions that use medical marijuana.

Employers struggle with these issues because the appropriate course of action for an employee often depends upon whether the employee’s medical marijuana usage results in the employee being impaired at work.

Practically speaking, there is no universally accepted method of proving whether, or to what extent, an individual is impaired by marijuana because there is no consensus as to what THC concentration correlates to impairment.  Drug tests do not measure impairment.  Therefore, taking adverse action against an employee creates a risk of violating Nevada’s laws. Meanwhile, not taking action and allowing an employee that could be impaired to continue to work, particularly in safety-sensitive positions, creates risks of its own (for example, negligent hiring or retention claims relating to employees who regularly drive for their jobs).  Consequently, employers faced with such issues should consult with knowledgeable counsel prior to taking action

New Tax Laws – What You Need to Know

New Tax Laws – What You Need to Know

It’s been almost a year since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brought sweeping changes to the American tax system. Sitting down to do your taxes in the next few weeks – or talking with your tax preparer – will involve tackling the most sweeping changes in the federal income tax rules in more than 30 years. Let’s look at some of the changes.

–All individual taxpayers will now use the same 1040 simple form. It replaces the old 1040, the 1040A and the 1040EZ.  You may need to file supplemental schedules with your 1040 in certain cases, such as if you itemize deductions or qualify for a variety of tax credits other than the basic child tax credit.

Should you Itemize this Year?

“You still want to run your numbers both ways,” said Jackie Perlman, tax research analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute, meaning you should try itemizing and comparing the outcome with just taking the standard deduction.

Families who own a home, in particular, will want to review whether they’d still itemize to lower their tax bill. You’d need deductions to exceed the new higher, standard deduction, which is nearly double from a year ago. And you’ll face new limits relating to the deduction you can take on property and income taxes.

Married couples filing jointly are looking at a standard deduction of $24,000 on their 2018 federal income tax returns —  $11,300 up from the old amount of $12,700 on the 2017 tax returns.

Single filers are looking at a standard deduction of $12,000 — up by $5,650 from the old amount of $6,350 on 2017 returns.

But there also is an additional standard deduction for those who are 65 or older, or blind.

If married filing jointly, and you or your spouse are 65 or older, you may increase your standard deduction by $1,300. If both of you are 65 or older, the additional standard deduction goes up to $2,600.

If you file under single or head of household and are 65 or older, you may increase your standard deduction by $1,600.

Child Tax Credit

Most parents across the country with young children or teens will be able to tap into the child tax credit on their 2018 federal income tax returns – even if they couldn’t use that credit in the past.

To claim the credit, the child must be 16 years old or younger, as of Dec. 31, and claimed as a dependent on your tax return. The child also must have a valid Social Security number.

The maximum credit has gone up to $2,000 from $1,000.

Another plus: Now, up to $1,400 per child is available as a refundable credit. Families can claim the credit if they earn the income of $2,500 or more in income. As a result, some families can get refunds even if their taxes are $0

Exemptions

In the past, taxpayers could take an exemption deduction for themselves, spouse and each of their dependents.  Each personal exemption reduced gross income by $4,050 on 2017 returns.   A new credit, often called the Credit for Other Dependents, offers $500 for each qualifying child or other dependent relatives, such as older relatives in your household, if they do not qualify for the child tax credit.  Now exemptions have been eliminated.

What Else Has Been Eliminated?

Business Expenses:  If you have unreimbursed business expenses from last year, you won’t be able to deduct those anymore. Depending on your job, this could be a big loss. This can include travel expenses from business travel your employer didn’t pay for, scrubs or uniforms you paid out-of-pocket; or continuing education classes you took for your profession.

Job search expenses: You can no longer deduct for expenses related to finding a new job. Before those expenses could include travel costs incurred for a job interview, fees for resume and cover letter services, or fees for job-placement services. “Even if you didn’t get the job,” said Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant and tax expert at TurboTax.

Tax preparation fees: You can’t write off any costs from getting help with your taxes from 2018 through 2025 under the new tax law changes. There’s one exclusion: Self-employed workers can still deduct these services as a business expense.

Charitable contributions: Since the standard deduction claimed by individuals or couples has nearly doubled, fewer people will itemize and you must itemize in order to deduct charitable donations from your taxes.

Help During The Shutdown

As the longest shutdown in U.S. history continues, furloughed and government workers wonder can they be evicted? Can their lights be disconnected? Will their water service be shut off? Unfortunately, all these things can legally occur. But don’t fret, legislation is being introduced to protect said workers from the legal consequences of being unpaid. Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson submitted a Bill which would provide federal employees and their families with protections from foreclosures, evictions, repossessions and credit defaults during a federal government shutdown. This legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The Bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection against landlords, utility companies and creditors during a government shutdown. Prayerfully the shutdown will end before voting takes place.

In the meantime, many nonprofits and businesses have stepped up to help affected workers.

** Workers can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP), which is a government assistance program. You can apply online at dwss.nv.org or call 800-992-0900.
** Federal employees can grab a free meal and nonalcoholic drink at Beer Park Las Vegas in Paris Las Vegas, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South during the shutdown. The Beer Park is open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
** Romano’s Macaroni Grill is offering federal employees a free plate of Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs with spaghetti for as long as the shutdown lasts. Employees can get the dish for free by showing a valid federal ID.
** Federal workers can get a sweet treat from the Milk Bar at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The dessert and coffee bar is offering a free coffee or Cereal Milk soft-serve ice cream to federal employees.
** Federal employees can collect food or get meals from food banks across the valley. Pantry program and community meal locations, as well as distribution days and times, can be found on Three Square’s website. Locations distribute food at various times and are open on differen days of the week.
** Street Dogz, a nonprofit that distributes food for homeless pets, will give cat or dog food to any furloughed government employee with a federal ID. Distribution sites and times are listed on the group’s Facebook page.
** Federal employees can ride Regional Transportation Commission buses for free by showing their federal ID to the bus driver. The free rides will last as long as the government is shut down.
** Wells Fargo will automatically reverse federal employees’ monthly service and late fees on deposit accounts, waive late fees on credit accounts and will not apply late charges for mortgage and home equity customers for up to 90 days.
** NV Energy will protect furloughed workers’ accounts during the shutdown by waiving late fees and other penalties. When the shutdown is over, workers will have time to pay the outstanding balance. Workers affected by the shutdown can call NV Energy for more details at 702-790-7777.
** The city of Henderson is deferring water and sewer bill payments for furloughed federal employees who can present a furlough letter or pay stub showing they work for the government. Federal workers can submit a request online at Contact Henderson or by calling the Department of Utility Services at 702-267-5900. Henderson residents also can defer payments at the city’s recreation centers by showing their federal ID or calling 702-267-4000.
** North Las Vegas is also deferring utility payments, allowing federal workers to pay what they can during the shutdown and then pay off the balance interest-free after the government reopens. Workers can contact the North Las Vegas utility department at 702-633-1484.