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LEGAL TERMS

CREDIT BUREAU

A private, profit-making company that collects and sells information about a person's credit history. Typical clients include banks, mortgage lenders and credit... (more...)
A private, profit-making company that collects and sells information about a person's credit history. Typical clients include banks, mortgage lenders and credit card companies that use the information to screen applicants for loans and credit cards. There are three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, and they are regulated by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

CHAPTER 13 PLAN

A document filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in which the debtor shows how all of his or her disposable income will be used over a three- to five-year period to ... (more...)
A document filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in which the debtor shows how all of his or her disposable income will be used over a three- to five-year period to pay all mandatory debts -- for example, back child support, taxes, and mortgage arrearages -- as well as some or all unsecured, nonpriority debts, such as medical and credit card bills.

DISCHARGE (OF DEBTS)

A bankruptcy court's erasure of the debts of a person or business that has filed for bankruptcy.

SETOFF

A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a countercl... (more...)
A claim made by someone who allegedly owes money, that the amount should be reduced because the other person owes him money. This is often raised in a counterclaim filed by a defendant in a lawsuit. Banks may try to exercise a setoff by taking money out of a deposit account to satisfy past due payments on a loan or credit card bill. Such an act is illegal under most circumstances.

LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER (LDW)

Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is a major consumer ripoff, as it ofte... (more...)
Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. This insurance is a major consumer ripoff, as it often duplicates coverage provided by the renter's regular car insurance and/or the credit card she uses to rent the car. Nevertheless, hard-sell practices by rental car agents often dupe people into buying LDWs they don't really need. LDW is also called 'collision damage waiver.'

NONDISCHARGEABLE DEBTS

Debts that cannot be erased by filing for bankruptcy. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these debts will remain when your case is over. If you file for Chap... (more...)
Debts that cannot be erased by filing for bankruptcy. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these debts will remain when your case is over. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the nondischargeable debts will have to be paid in full during your plan or you will have a balance at the end of your case. Examples of nondischargeable debts include alimony and child support, most income tax debts, many student loans and debts for personal injury or death caused by drunk driving. Compare dischargeable debts.

SOLE PROPRIETORSHIP

A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, m... (more...)
A business owned and managed by one person (or for tax purposes, a husband and wife). For IRS purposes, a sole proprietor and her business are one tax entity, meaning that business profits are reported and taxed on the owner's personal tax return. Setting up a sole proprietorship is cheap and easy since no legal formation documents need be filed with any governmental agency (although tax registration and other permit and license requirements may still apply). Once you file a fictitious name statement (assuming you don't use your own name) and obtain any required basic tax permits and business licenses, you'll be in business. The main downside of a sole proprietorship is that its owner is personally liable for all business debts.

FDCPA

See Fair Debt Collections & Practices Act.

CURRENT MONTHLY INCOME

As defined by the new bankruptcy law, a bankruptcy filer's total gross income (whether taxable or not), averaged over the six-month period immediately preceding... (more...)
As defined by the new bankruptcy law, a bankruptcy filer's total gross income (whether taxable or not), averaged over the six-month period immediately preceding the bankruptcy filing. The debtor's current monthly income is used to determine whether the debtor can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, among other things.