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Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.
CASE 145: Taxes & The Mysterious Dowry!
Blessed with five charming daughters, Dr. and Mrs. Marvin and Hilda Neuberger raised their remarkable children on Manhattan's Upper West Side with a sense of responsibility from an early age.
While many of their girlfriends would fritter their babysitting money and pocket change freely, Dr. Neuberger challenged his daughters to invest their well-deserved earnings for the future. He promised to match any of their childhood savings as a bonus to their dowries. As they matured, the girls accrued sizeable savings.
A natural economist and mathematician, Mrs. Neuberger invested each of her daughter's earnings in numerous long-term CD's and gladly handled the bookkeeping. While Dr. Neuberger kept his side of the deal, Hilda continued to offer her accounting services to her daughters, long after they wed. Hilda alone remained privy to the bank information.
As five families of rambunctious grandchildren began to leave noticeable footprints on Marvin and Hilda's mahogany furniture, as well as joyous handprints on the Neubergers' once immaculate off-white living room walls, Grandma Neuberger's mind slowly began to become more suited for spontaneous fun loving grandmother-hood than accurate financing. She realized that by now her daughters matched her once celebrated precision, and responsibly decided that the time had come to hand over the appropriate bankbooks to each of her five daughters.
Four years later, Grandma Neuberger was cleaning her walls and furniture for Passover. As she was rummaging through the papers on her desk, her eyes beheld a windfall - a recently matured CD worth $9,000. Judging by the date on which she had opened the account; Mrs. Neuberger reckoned the CD belonged to one of her two youngest - either to Tammy Stern or to Naomi Adler - both of whom taught math in the local elementary school. All of Hilda's efforts to identify the true owner were to no avail.
- What should Hilda do?
- May she write a check payable to the school's DDF (Dean's discretionary fund), with a request to add the amount to Tammy's and Naomi's holiday bonuses and receive a receipt for a tax-refund in return?
What is the law?
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Read next week's issue for the answer!
LAST WEEK'S CASE
CASE 144: Sited?
Sara Portman ran a popular family dentistry on East Main Street in Norfolk, Virginia. Sara was a compassionate woman who cared for her patients as though they were her own family members. Tragically, her husband Gil succumbed to a fatal illness three years before. At thirty-three, she still had a life full of opportunities ahead of her.
Sara's patient, Rebecca Green was a community activist. At the helm of numerous ongoing volunteer ventures, Rebecca became familiar with Abe Katz, a considerate middle-aged CPA from Queens, N.Y. Rebecca thought that Abe and Sara could make a good match.
When Rebecca felt that her dentist was ready to move on, she contacted both Sara and Abe and suggested that they consider meeting each other.
Sara was seriously interested in meeting Abe. However, Abe was too busy at the time. April 15th was approaching and Abe had his plate full. Yet, he gave Rebecca his word that he would consider listening to her suggestion after tax season. All the while, Rebecca and Sara stayed in touch.
Two months later, Abe phoned Rebecca and expressed interest in pursuing her idea. "By the way, would you mind reminding me of her name?" asked Abe. "Sara Portman", replied Rebecca.
"Funny thing, we are actually seeing each other tomorrow night. I was impressed at what I saw about her on a matchmaking site. I contacted her and we decided to meet."
Half a year later, Sara Katz was moving part of her practice to Queens, N.Y.
- Does Rebecca receive remuneration?
- If she does receive remuneration, how much should she receive?
- Assuming matchmaking rates are generally higher in Queens than in Norfolk, how does Rebecca configure the value of her services?
What is the law?
[Submitted by: Rabbi Avi Hess, Member Fellow - Yesharim Research Center]
We present you here with a concise ruling. For a more intricate elucidation, please see the detailed explanation below.
Abe Katz pays Rebecca 1/6 of the gross Norfolk matchmaker's rate.
Sited? implicates the following three laws.
- I. A matchmaker generally provides brokerage services for two sides. The matchmaker persuades the bride to meet the groom and the groom to meet the bride. Bluntly, the matchmaker markets the groom to the bride and the bride to the groom. Thus, each side owes the matchmaker the accepted brokerage fees for the received services.
Conversely, a matchmaker who provides his or her services for merely one side may only ask for remuneration from the side that received his or her services.
- II. We noted in Issues 42 and 43, [to receive these issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org] that a matchmaker receives one third of the going rate for merely introducing the two parties [Pischei Teshuva, 185: 10]
- III. Unless otherwise stipulated, terms of employment are based upon the local custom where the work was performed. [Choshen Mishpat 331: 1,2].
I. Rebecca convinced Sara to meet Abe. Rebecca provided a service for Abe by marketing him to Sara.
However, Rebecca did not persuade Abe to meet Sara. Instead, Sara affectively marketed herself to Abe through her post, which he read on the website.
As Rebecca did not successfully provide a service for Sara, she cannot legally demand remuneration from Sara for her efforts. (Of course, it would be more than decent of Sara to display her appreciation to Rebecca for her efforts in some meaningful fashion).
Consequently, Abe is required to pay Rebecca for her services, while Sara is absolved from doing the same.
II. Rebecca convinced Sara to meet Abe, yet Sara and Abe carried out the rest of the process on their own. As such, Rebecca deserves one third of Abe's half of the going rate (1/6).
III. Rebecca rendered her service in Norfolk. Although Abe lived in Queens, she sold Abe in Norfolk to a girl from Norfolk. Abe must therefore configure Rebecca's payment according to the rate in Norfolk [Igros Moshe].
In conclusion, Abe must remunerate Rebecca for one third of his half or one sixth of the going Norfolk rate.
[Answered by the Fellow-Yesharim Research Center]
Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.
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