Anybody Want to Fight?

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Tips for battling it out with debt collectors, TV-Internet-phone providers, the IRS, and more.
Fight Your Property Tax Assessment! The key is to build your case in documented, lawyerly fashion, with a presentation of sales prices of several comparable properties—and the sales must have taken place around the same time of the assessment. It’s tricky, but can be done.

Fight the Debt Collector! This NY Times piece covers the “revenge of the (alleged) deadbeats,” in which consumers are confronting—and often suing—unscrupulous debt collectors. Among the tips: Keep a paper trail of interactions with collectors, and record all conversations. Such records will come in handy if and when you wind up in court. Speaking of which, radio host, author, and personal finance guru Bob Brooks says that simply getting a lawyer shows that you mean business—and often that action alone is enough to scare debt collectors away. (Of course, paying a lawyer may put you further into debt, but you can worry about that later.)

Fight the IRS! Again, having solid documentation is your best weapon. But this WSJ story warns that squaring off with the IRS isn’t for the meek:

Even if you are sure you are right and have all the records to prove it, fighting the IRS, one of the most powerful government bureaucracies on the planet, can be the ultimate nightmare. Seemingly routine struggles can drag on for years, leading to endless frustration and sleepless nights. Even those who eventually triumph may wonder if the fight was worth all the time, effort and expense.

Perhaps a better preemptive strike against being audited is to go public with a proclamation stating that you totally love paying taxes.

Fight Bill Creep! The only way to stop your cell phone, Internet, pay TV, and insurance bills from rising is to shop around for better deals, call your company and demand cheaper rates, and, if necessary, cancel the service. It’s a chore than no one enjoys, but there’s plenty of evidence it’s worth your while.

Fight the Big Banks! Instead of getting hit with endless fees and stashing your money in an account that yields little or no interest, take your business to a way-more-consumer-friendly community bank or credit union.

Fight Employers Who Won’t Pay You! This is a particular concern among the ever-growing ranks of independent contractors, and the WSJ linked to above notes that freelance contracts aren’t covered by most federal laws. That means freelancers who are stiffed for work they’ve done might have to deal with small claims court as a last resort. Well before then, it’s best to follow up again (and again) with invoices for your work. Many times, offices are disorganized or just behind on their paperwork, and it’s up to the freelancer to heckle and harass the employer for payment. From the WSJ:

After a payment deadline has passed, immediately try to connect with the person responsible for payment by phone. If they don’t respond, send a revised invoice with the agreed-upon fees or interest charges added on.

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