Cigarette Smuggling Increases in Maryland and Virginia

March 26, 2014

Higher cigarette taxes are causing an increase in the smuggling cigarette trade along Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia, and all over the east coast of the United States. Maryland and Virginia lawmakers have passed various bills in the last few months making the penalties for smuggling harsher and so these states can crack down on the trafficking of cigarettes and regain lost revenue.

States and the federal government have all raised tobacco taxes and therefore the profit incentive for smugglers increased. There are huge differences in cigarette costs from one state to another. There’s a difference in costs for cigarettes from one state to another as high as $4.18 per pack. 57% of cigarettes smoked in the state of New York alone are smuggled by cigarette traffickers. Therefore the entire east coast is cracking down and making the needed changes to prevent the loss of billions of dollars of revenue and increase the fight against the increase of organized crime.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), there are many types of tobacco trafficking and schemes, actively trying to avoid taxes. The most common is the smuggling of cigarettes between states due to tax differentials between states along the East Coast of the United States. From $7 billion to $10 billion in state and federal tax revenue is lost each year because of tobacco smuggling. These amounts are much higher than the $5 billion it was just a few years ago, according to the ATF.

The per pack tax on Tobacco ranges from .17 cents in Missouri and .30 cents in Virginia to $4.35 in New York, where there is an additional charge state charge of $1.50 per pack. In total, there have been about 113 tax increases on Tobacco in 47 states, the District of Columbia and New York City since 2000.

According to the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the state of Washington, every time there is a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes the overall consumption lowers by as much as 5% and lowers the number of children who smoke by about 7%.

On the other hand, this increase in Tobacco tax leads to a huge profit for smugglers. For example, Tobacco smugglers buying 200 cases of cigarettes in North and South Carolina to sell illegally in New York can clear as much as $500,000 in profits. Buying illegal and untaxed cigarettes, for as low as $6 a pack instead of the legal $12 to $13 per pack, is as easy as walking into any convenience store in Brooklyn, or any part of New York.

In recent months, over 12 recommendations have been made to various crime commissions on the east coast. One of which includes, dedicating more funding for enforcement, as well as increasing penalties for tobacco smuggling. Besides the lost revenue, organized crime is a growing problem, according to the Virginia State Crime Commission. Crimes that include: gangs stealing peoples’ identities, to buy cigarettes in large quantities, using fake credit cards. These schemes can be expansive. Maryland was included in an indictment in the state of New York, after it was discovered that a ring of smugglers were flooding New York city and Albany, New York with more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes imported from Virginia. The investigation found $55 million in unlawful cigarette sales and more than $80 million in lost state sales-tax revenue.

No matter how one looks at this, it is a crime to smuggle Tobacco from one state to another. Taxes and loss of revenue by states and the federal government are affected.

What to Do When You Are Involved In An Automobile Accident

March 4, 2014

More than 5 million automobile accidents occur each year, nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you were involved in an accident, would you know what to do and what information to obtain in order to set up an insurance claim? Well here are some helpful hints and tips for you to do following a crash.

1) Be Prepared – this means that before you hit the road, it is important that you understand your automobile insurance policy and the coverage that you have. Your automobile insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. Therefore; it is important that you carry a current insurance card in the car along with the registration to your vehicle. If needed, have your insurance agent explain all the coverage you have and the specific elements included in our policy. Such things as: your deductible, collision coverage, what your liability coverage limits are, Personal injury protection or medical payments coverage, uninsured and underinsured limits, etc. All these items help protect you when you are involved in an accident and the other driver is held at fault or responsible for the collision.

2) After you are involved in an accident, it can be a hectic and stressful situation. It is sometimes difficult to remember what to do, but the most important thing is to obtain the following information from the other person or persons involved in the accident: their name, their insurance information; which should include; name of the insurance carrier and policy number.

3) The following should be done immediately after the accident occurs:
– Assess the scene and try and remain calm.
– Call the police and inform them of any injuries. If the police cannot be immediately dispatched to you, make sure and file and incident report over the phone.
– Do not admit fault at the scene. Be courteous to the other party, but do not admit fault.
– Take photographs of the damage to all vehicles involved and damage to any property surrounding the area.
– Exchange your name and insurance information with the other party; and – Obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses.

4) Filing a Claim – It is important to file a claim with the insurance company as soon as possible. It is at this time that details of the accident are still fresh in your mind. When you make the initial call to your insurance carrier make sure and have all the information you obtained from the other party, witness information and if available; the incident or police report number, so that a copy of the police report can be obtained. Once the claim has been set up you will be given a claim number and the contact information for the representative assigned to your claim. Your insurance company should be able to contact the other insurance company involved and establish liability. Once it has been determined who was at fault for the accident your property damage can be taken care of. You will be given information for body shops and collision centers the insurance company deals with directly, if not you can chose your own shop, but it must be certified and have all the proper licenses to operate. A rental vehicle may be given to you, depending on the coverage, while your vehicle is being fixed. If your vehicle is deemed a total loss you will have the option of keeping your vehicle as a salvage or to turn over your vehicle to the insurance company. The choice is yours. As far as your medical expenses and treatment, that is covered by the at fault insurance carrier. Make sure and keep copies of all medical bills, records, prescription receipts and any other out of pocket costs you may have to submit to the insurance company so your claim can be properly examined.

5) Retain an attorney that specializes in automobile accidents and personal injury cases. Once you obtain an attorney they will handle all aspects of your claim directly with the insurance company. Your only job, after you obtain an attorney, is to get better, get the proper medical treatment and make sure you reach maximum medical improvement.

When a person is involved in an automobile accident and is injured, it is important to seek the aid of an experienced attorney. It will be the attorneys’ responsibility to get you the best possible monetary settlement in order to cover all your medical expenses and compensate you for your pain and suffering. So, when you have been involved in an automobile accident, make sure and contact our office and we will do all we can to get you the best possible result.