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Matt Carter, who helped organize this year's inaugural Chocolate Festival in Port Orchard, is planning to open another store in Tacoma. (Tim Kelly Photo)The owner of Carter’s Chocolates in Port Orchard has plans to expand his business with a store in Tacoma, and he’s running a Kickstarter campaign to give that effort a boost.

Matt Carter, whose store is on Bethel Avenue near downtown Port Orchard, said he’s been a vendor before at a couple Tacoma community festivals. He thinks his business would do well there because there’s no purveyor of handmade chocolates, fudge and ice cream there. read more »

Tax Planning

Net revenues by local jurisdictions 2013The topic of an online sales tax is as old as e-commerce itself and has been debated in Congress for years. Currently, there’s no federal law requiring online and mail-order retailers (collectively called remote sellers) to collect taxes from customers in those states where the companies have no physical presence. Shoppers have become savvy too: Many drop by their local retailers to window shop, then order online to take advantage of the tax-free buying.

Many states, including Washington, have a so-called use tax — imposed on tax-free purchases that would normally have a sales tax — but compliance is usually voluntary. read more »


WASHINGTON — The federal government’s consumer-financial watchdog will require lenders to issue shorter, easier-to-understand mortgage disclosure forms to homebuyers that more clearly show the costs and terms of the loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued the rule Nov. 20, following through on an initiative launched in 2011 as the then-fledgling agency’s first major action.

The early Know Before You Owe forms were welcomed by consumer and industry groups as an improvement over the more complex disclosures required under federal law for more than 30 years. The bureau said the new forms would make it easier for homebuyers to compare loan offers. read more »


WASHINGTON — For the growing numbers of home purchasers who care about energy efficiency, it’s the ultimate “green” goal: Lenders should recognize the net savings that energy improvements provide to property owners and take them into account when they underwrite and set the fees for mortgages.

Appraisers should also recognize the added value.

The rationale: Owners of homes that reduce energy use pay lower utility bills than owners of energy guzzlers, so why not factor these out-of-pocket savings into household debt-to-income ratios and appraised valuations?

This might permit larger mortgage amounts for energy-efficient homes and help qualify more first-time buyers for loans. read more »


WASHINGTON — After months of tense negotiations, the Justice Department finalized a record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase to resolve allegations that the bank knowingly sold faulty mortgage securities that contributed to the financial crisis.

This marks the largest penalty ever levied against a single company and represents a colossal win for the government after years of public criticism over its struggle to hold Wall Street accountable for crisis-era sins. It is also a tremendous black eye for a bank once lauded as the nation’s strongest financial institution to emerge from the crisis.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is a member of President Obama’s mortgage task force that helped negotiate the deal, announced the details of the settlement Nov. 19. read more »


WASHINGTON — Haven’t we seen this movie before? On Capitol Hill for the second year in a row, key federal tax assistance for homeowners is heading for expiration within weeks. And there’s no sign that Congress plans — or has the minimal political will — to do anything about it.

In fact, the prospects for extension of popular mortgage-forgiveness debt relief and deductions for mortgage insurance payments and home energy-efficiency improvements appear to be more dire than they were last year at this time, when at least there was a bill pending to extend them.

This year there is none, at the moment. The House and Senate are spending their time trying to figure out a budget, but are also considering overhauling the entire tax system, which could mean that a long list of special-interest tax preferences — including for housing — might be sucked into the tax-reform vortex and never revived if they expire as scheduled Dec. 31. read more »


WASHINGTON — The federal government paid $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies from 1995 to 2012 to 50 billionaires or businesses in which they have some form of ownership, according to a report released by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research organization.

The billionaires who received the subsidies or owned companies that did include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, investment titan Charles Schwab, and S. Truett Cathy, owner of the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain. The billionaires who got the subsidies have a collective net worth of $316 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The Working Group said its findings were likely to underestimate the total farm subsidies that went to the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list because many also received crop insurance subsidies. Federal law prohibits the disclosure of the names of individuals who get crop insurance subsidies, the group said. read more »


WASHINGTON — The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced new measures to help get small business loans into the hands of veterans by setting the borrower upfront fee to zero for all veteran loans authorized under the SBA Express program up to $350,000. This initiative will start on Jan. 1 and continue through the end of the fiscal year.

Of all SBA loans that go to veterans, 73 percent are $350,000 and below. The Express Loan Program is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method, with nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being authorized through the program. Since the program’s inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran borrowers. read more »


Liberty Bay Bank in Poulsbo reported a profitable third quarter ending Sept. 30.

Loans increased by 5.4 percent for the first nine months of 2013, with loan totals of $44 million at the end of the quarter.

The bank, which opened in 2009, reported total deposits of $ 54.1 million. Non-interest bearing checking deposits increased by 54.5 percent for the first nine months of the year, and business checking deposits increased by 67.5 percent. The bank’s total risk-based capital ratio is 17.9 percent.

Liberty Bay Bank (www.libertybaybank.com) is a full-service community bank based in Poulsbo, providing services for businesses, nonprofits and consumers in Kitsap County.

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