Author: Quentin Fottrell

When was the last time you saw Paris? As the EU relaxes travel restrictions, American tourists still face these hurdles

European Union ambassadors agreed Wednesday to relax travel restrictions and allow in fully vaccinated visitors — but roadblocks remain for Americans who can’t remember the last time they saw Paris and wish to see it again.

EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said that the 27 member states should ease restrictions. “The Council should also soon expand the list of non-EU countries with a good epidemiological situation from where travel is permitted,” he said.

Currently, the U.S. does not qualify under EU guidelines for travel access (no more than 25 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people within the previous 14 days). EU officials are expected to settle on a limit of countries that have no more than 75 cases per 100,000.

What’s more, no date has been given for the relaxation of existing measures, and individual countries can still set their own requirements for whom they allow in and what kind of quarantine arrangements, if any, they will be subject to upon arrival.

EU countries can still set their own requirements for who they allow in and what kind of quarantine arrangements, if any, they will be subject to upon arrival.

Case in point: While Greece allows vaccinated tourists from the EU, the U.S. and several other countries in order to provide a lifeline to the country’s economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism, Ireland still does not recommend tourists from other countries.

Vaccinated travelers to Ireland do not have to undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine; however, they must still quarantine upon arrival. (Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said unrestricted travel for people flying from the U.S. could happen by July.)

“A person who is exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine or released from hotel quarantine early is still legally required to have a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test and to complete a period of self-quarantine at home/at the address given on the Passenger Locator Form,” Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs says.

As for Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that France will be open to vaccinated U.S. tourists on June 9 with a “Pass Sanitaire” (Health Pass) to prove they’re vaccinated with an approved vaccine. For those booking tickets, these rules can also be revoked.

Coronavirus vaccines currently authorized by the European Medicines Agency include those made by Pfizer-BioNTech PFE, -0.55%   BNTX, +2.35%,  Moderna MRNA, -0.97%, AstraZeneca AZN, +0.63% and Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -0.22%.

One more cautionary note for travelers: Most airlines allow travelers to book the middle seats on flights, despite a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that blocking the middle seat reduces exposure to viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19.

“Physical distancing of aircraft passengers, including through policies such as middle seat vacancy, could provide additional reductions in SARS-COV-2 exposure risk,” the report noted. The CDC recently released new travel guidance for people who are fully vaccinated.

The Moneyist: My wife and I defrauded the government by hiding income. Now we’re divorcing, and she’s digging into my assets

Dear Quentin,

This story is going to sound strange.

Throughout our entire marriage, my wife and I jointly, upon our accountant’s advice, defrauded the government by hiding income. We are self-employed. We do have retirement accounts, but also bought properties and a second home and made as many cash payments as possible.

My wife — again, under the advice of an accountant — continues to claim unemployment during the pandemic, and only takes cash from her customers. We are now divorcing after she left me for her pandemic boyfriend. She was caught at our vacation home with him.

‘I know, we could both be in jail. I recommended no one do any digging, but she’s adamant that she gets more, and damn the consequences.’

I owe her some sort of spousal maintenance due to our longstanding marriage. But I believe it is far less than she thinks, and now she wants to dig up all of our prior assets that are held in my name or in my other businesses’ name.

I say she’s only entitled to our joint retirement, properties and holdings, and half of our joint business assets. She has an equal amount of assets in her own name. All our children are out of the home, done with college or secondary school and/or married.

Yes, I know. This sounds ridiculous and yes, I know, we could both be in jail. I recommended no one do any digging, but she’s adamant that she gets more, and damn the consequences of both our actions during the marriage to mutually defraud the government.

Future Jailbird

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Dear FJ,

A couple that lies together is less likely to stay together. The same, of course, is true of bandits. Your wife lied to Uncle Sam and now she lied to you. You’re in good company. Of course, you also lied to Uncle Sam. To quote the late Princess Diana in her infamous interview with Martin Bashir, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

You can try calling your wife’s bluff, of course, but that may land you both in hot water where the money is ultimately returned to the Internal Revenue Service and you lose your properties, pay hefty fines and face down criminal charges. Good news for Uncle Sam; bad news for you and your wife. She appears to be acting consistently, which is about the nicest thing I can say about this entire mess.

‘She appears to be acting consistently, which is about the nicest thing I can say about this entire mess.’

High-income tax evasion is on the rise. Unreported income as a fraction of true income rises from 7% in the bottom 50% of earners to more than 20% in the top 1%, researchers from the IRS, Carnegie Mellon University, the London School of Economics, and the University of California, Berkeley concluded in a paper released earlier this month.

Your wife appears to have you over a barrel. She knows you well enough to take this gamble. The worst that can happen is you say no. What your wife does next is anyone’s guess. She may do nothing but hold this over you for months and years to come. It’s not the kind of sentence the government might give you both (anywhere from one year to 20 years in New York).

You need an accountant (a new one), a lawyer and a mediator. You were the marital equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde, hiding revenue, buying properties with cash, and doing so on the advice of an accountant.

That piece of the puzzle provides no escape for either of you. You both signed your tax returns, and you must take equal responsibility for that.

The Moneyist:My siblings live in our late mother’s home. They’re forcing me to sign over my share if I don’t pay for renovations. What can I do?

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The Moneyist: My siblings live in our late mother’s home. They’re forcing me to sign over my share if I don’t pay for renovations. What can I do?

Dear Quentin,

My mother passed away six years ago. She was divorced, and owned her home. I have six living siblings of which four reside in the home. The four residing in the house are trying to force me to sign over my rights to my mom’s house.

My older brother who resides in the house pays the taxes. I was told if I will not help get the house renovated and help pay the taxes, I have to sign my portion over to him. I believe if I help pay the taxes and renovate the house, I should receive monthly rent or they can buy me out.

Quentin, what are my legal rights? Is it true if my brother can show proof that he has paid more than his share of the property taxes, he can force me to sign my rights away unless I pay him my portion of the taxes?

I do not want to sign away the only thing my mom left me. How can I settle this argument with my siblings and keep my share of my mother’s home?

Tired of Fighting

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Dear Tired,

This situation reminds me of those signs you see in stores selling chotskies, except this one goes something like this: “If I live here, if I’m bold, if I put my trinkets in the window, I say sold.” That’s not how life works. It’s not how inheritance works. And it’s not how probate works.

Your siblings are wrong, wrong, wrong. They have no right to delay probate. They have no right to live in the home as if it is their own and lay claim to it. And they have no right to force you to pay for renovations while they live there rent free, and give you an ultimatum.

You need to contact your family attorney or an estate attorney. He or she will issue a partition action for the probate court to force the sale of your mother’s property; the taxes, however, should be paid from your mother’s estate and, if not, the children/beneficiaries must pay for them.

‘It seems unlikely that your siblings will agree to you buying them out and, if they did, they will continue to bully you.’

With a partition action, “the parties will typically get appraisals of the property and see if they can work out some form of arrangement to sell the property on the open market, rather than by a judicial auction,” according to RKLaw, an estate attorney firm in New York.

When the parties cannot work out the situation, the court will appoint a referee, says Regina Kiperman of RKLaw. “The court, after a ‘trial,’ will order a judicial sale of the property, and have a referee compute how much each party gets as and for the net proceeds of sale.”

It seems unlikely that your siblings will agree to you buying them out and, if they did, they will continue to bully you into paying less for your share and/or paying money for other renovations, money you would in all likelihood never see again.

Typically, a parent can bequeath a property to their children through a revocable living trust, a transfer-on-death deed (roughly half of U.S. states permit this) or through a living will. You don’t want to spend your life fighting over rent and unpaid bills with your siblings.

This is a cautionary tale in how not to leave a property to siblings. They have treated your mother’s house like the Wild West. It’s not. There are laws in your state to manage the fair transfer of this property. It’s not some kind of land grab.

You need to take the appropriate legal action to resolve this situation.

Otherwise, it could drag on for years.

The Moneyist:I have crypto FOMO! ‘I’m too old to sit and hope I can make up for the lost time by safely investing my little bit of money’

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Almost half of parents say they’ll take on credit-card debt to pay for child care — others avoid daycare due to COVID

Child care is weighing on parents’ minds, and their bank accounts.

Almost half (45%) of parents who plan to pay for summer child care will incur credit-card debt from the expenses, according to a survey released Wednesday by personal-finance site Bankrate.

What’s more, 56% of parents with children under age 18 said they or their spouse/partner altered their work schedule, or stopped working to care for their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This summer will be a struggle,” Jen Brady, a working mother in Florida who runs GreenBabyDeals.com, told the researchers.

Given that children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated, Brady said she is nervous about putting her children in a child-care facility, and has been relying on her in-laws to take care of her children and do school lessons in the morning, so she and her husband can work from home.

‘People who quit their jobs or scaled back their hours could experience lasting effects, including reduced wages and delayed promotion.’

— Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.

She’s not alone. About half of parents (52%) with children aged 12 and under said in an October 2020 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center that it’s been a challenge to handle child-care responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic. That was up from 38% in March 2020, when shutdown orders first closed schools and child-care centers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance to child-care centers. “Reports have shown that children in child care settings can become infected and spread COVID-19 to others in the child care program, at home, and in the community,” it said. “Some staff and household family members might be at increased risk of severe illness.”

“Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all.(5) The symptoms of COVID-19 in children are similar to symptoms of other common illnesses, like colds, strep throat, influenza, or allergies,” the CDC added.

Over half of parents with children under the age of 18 have altered their work schedule to take care of their children. “Monthly child care costs can feel like an extra mortgage payment, especially if you live in an expensive area or have more than one kid,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate.

“People who quit their jobs or scaled back their hours could experience lasting effects, including reduced wages and delayed promotions,” he added.

Fertility has been on a downward trajectory in the U.S. for the last half century. There are approximately 1.78 births per woman in the U.S., down from 2.12 births per woman in 2007, but up from a low of 1.73 births per woman in 1976.

Women have been leaving their jobs during the pandemic in part because of child-care demands and lack of access to affordable child care.

However, those figures pale in comparison to 1960 when there were 3.65 births per woman. Many families require two paychecks and must postpone buying a house — and starting a family — while they save for a down payment.

What’s more, Denmark and all other highly industrialized nations have some form of countrywide paid parental leave in effect, but the U.S. has no such federal law. As of 2021, five states have paid-leave laws in effect and Washington D.C.’s paid family and medical leave benefits start in July. Federal workers receive 12 weeks of paid leave.

Denmark’s paid parental leave laws give mothers four weeks of wage replacement before birth and 14 weeks after that. They may also extend their parental leave for 14 weeks if either the child or parent becomes ill. They then have an additional 32 weeks, which they can split with the father, though past research showed mothers typically took most of the time.

Women have been leaving their jobs in part because of child-care demands and lack of access to affordable child care.

“Without these systems, mommy will forever be stressed and vulnerable to career scarring during any major crisis like this pandemic or any other event that triggers an increase in domestic tasks within her household,” wrote U.S. Census Bureau principal economist Misty Heggeness in a separate paper about how parents balanced work and home duties early in the pandemic.

Some economists fear the trend could reverse some of the gender equality gains women have made in the workplace.

“I’m really hoping that COVID cases will be really low or there will be a vaccine available for younger children so I’ll feel comfortable sending them back to school in the fall,” Brady added.

(Leslie Albrecht contributed to his story.)

The Moneyist: I share custody with my ex-wife 50/50, but our daughters live with me full time due to her boyfriend’s addiction issues. What happens to the child-tax credit?

Dear Quentin,

My ex-wife and I were divorced in August 2020 after 21 years and 4 children. In our custody agreement, we have 50/50 custody of the 2 children who are still minors, including splitting them as tax deductions.

However, things have not turned out that way. I have them 100% of the time due to her live-in boyfriend’s meth-addiction issues. I am grateful for the opportunity to care for them and keep them safe.

I pay child support; however, she does give it back to me for their care. I am very careful in spending it only on them, and not mixing it with my other finances. Will she still be able to use our daughters as a tax deduction?

She contributes nothing to their care and they never stay with her. My concern is also with the coming child-tax credit this summer.

Father

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Father,

The Internal Revenue Service has clear rules about who qualifies as a custodial parent, and why. “The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child lived for the longer period of time during the year,” it states. “Generally, only one person may claim the child as a qualifying child for purposes of the head of household filing status, the child tax credit/credit for other dependents.”

Talk to your ex-wife about these issues, and attempt to come to an amicable agreement to prevent you both claiming your children for tax deductions and the child-tax credit. If she reimburses your child support this is unlikely to be a problem, as no doubt she appreciates you taking the kids 24/7. One caveat: People are unpredictable.

“Even in the most amicable dissolutions, I like to inform my client how a judge would likely rule should an agreement not be made, if only for them to better understand what is fair, or more accurately put, what the Ohio legislature and courts believe is fair,” according to Olivia K. Smith, an attorney practicing in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The courts will exercise its discretion where parents do not agree. “The Ohio Legislature has given the courts a large amount of deference when it comes to divorce/dissolution agreements,” she adds. “However, in regards to claiming dependents, the code uses the word ‘shall,’ a word fairly obscure in Ohio domestic relations statutes (as opposed to ‘may’).”

You currently have a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Given that your kids are not safe at your ex-wife’s house due to her partner’s addiction issues and given her decision to live with that partner, you may wish to consider filing for joint custody to afford yourself the peace of mind you deserve, plus the legal protection and stability your kids deserve.

The Moneyist:I care for my mother and sold her house. My sister says half the home belongs to her, and now she wants a loan. What do I do?

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By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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