To some, following the law is as simple as filing your taxes, not stealing and not inflicting bodily harm to others, and etc. But, the law can elude even the most honest and conscientious of individuals.
Breaking the law comes as second nature to some, but the perpetrators in question aren’t necessarily the masked bandits or wheeling and dealing bankers you’d suspect. Here are just some ways you may have already inadvertently broken the law.
Fantasy Football Dreams Could Turn Into Legal Nightmares
Fantasy sports has grown to become one of the most popular forms of online gambling, with 32 million individuals actively playing in a league in the United States and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Luckily for those who like to build winning teams through these leagues, the practice isn’t considered illegal in the eyes of federal government. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006 made many forms of online gambling illegal, but created a carveout allowing for gambling on fantasy leagues. Still, you’ll want to consult your state and local legal texts to make sure you’re following the law.
One state that’s taken a fairly hard stand on fantasy football leagues is Florida, which passed a legislation this past September barring the practice and labeling it a second-degree misdemeanor. Prior to that, a Colorado attorney attempted to use a more than 100 year old state law to bar professional sports organizations from forming fantasy leagues in the state. In New Jersey, legislators debated over the legality of fantasy sports leagues based on whether such practices are either games of skill versus just pure gambling.
Similar to online sales tax, the rules for participating in fantasy sports leagues varies based on the state, so consult your state’s statute to make sure you’re operating within the limits of the law.
Did You Pay Tax On That Online Order?
The online sales tax battle has been brewing since 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that retailers were exempt from collecting sales tax in states they don’t have a physical presence in. What this means is that a consumer can make purchases and avoid paying sales tax in states that don’t have laws explicitly require online retailers to collect it.
To date, only a handful of states actually require online retailers to collect sales tax (Arkansas, California, Illinois, South Dakota and Colorado are some examples). For those that don’t require online retailers to collect the tax, the burden shifts to the consumer. This basically means that if you’ve ever purchased products online from retailers like Amazon.com and not been forced to pay sales tax then you’ve probably committed a crime if you didn’t account for the purchase on your tax return.
Don’t Let March Madness Turn Into Into Legal Madness
March Madness may be a couple of months away, but if your workplace likes t0 get an NCAA bracket going then you may want to consult your state’s (or city’s) statute to make sure you’re operating within the confines of the law. Chances are that if your workplace runs a pool then they are breaking the law, since gambling in the United States is mostly illegal except for in casinos and or authorized charitable organizations.
There are, of course, some exceptions. The state of Vermont passed a law back in 1999 allowing for noncommercial forms of gambling, which includes NCAA brackets. Other states may allow for limited gambling, meaning that the total pool amount can’t rise above a certain dollar value.
If you do decide to take part in a gambling pool and are declared the lucky winner (provided the pool was run legally, of course) you’ll want to make sure to declare your winnings on your federal income taxes.
Sharing Netflix Account Information Could Cost You
Forget illegal downloading: the new crime afflicting online media proprietors is subscription-sharing. Have a Netflix account you’ve been sharing with your friends/roommates/family? You could be breaking the law in a major way.
This past June, the state of Tennessee declared it illegal to share your personal account information for subscription-based entertainment services. Those that steal media of $500 or less would be charged with a misdemeanor that could land them in prison for one year and $2,500. Any higher than $500 is considered a felony and comes with heftier fines and jail sentences.
Gifts And The Workplace: Tread Lightly
Do you work for the government? If so, it’s quite possible that you’ve broken the law by accepting a gift from an unauthorized source. Government workers are automatically barred from accepting gifts from anyone or entity that does business with your place of work, seeks official action from your place of work, or has any sort of interests that can affect the way that you perform your duties.
In certain circumstances, government employees can accept gifts from outside business associates only if they have a market value of $20 or less. For more exemptions to the rule make sure to consult the Department of Justice for more information on gift giving.
Even if you’re not a government worker, you should try to be aware of the gift giving polices of your particular company, since many also bar the exchange of gifts to business associates outside of the company.
More than likely, you’ll read this article and think to yourself “Wow! I didn’t know that was illegal.” Or, you may you already knew and chose to partake regardless. Whatever your particular situation, it’s never bad to know the rules so you can avoid becoming a legal target. Or, so that you can find a more efficient way of breaking them at the very least.