"Customers wanting a RAL paid Jackson Hewitt a $24 application fee, a $25 processing fee, and a $2 electronic-filing fee, plus 4 percent of the loan amount. On a $2,000 refund, that meant $131 in charges—equivalent to an annual interest rate of about 170 percent—not to mention the few hundred bucks you might spend for tax preparation."
With the crackdown on smoking and higher cigarette taxes in New York City, people who sell individual cigarettes, also known as loosies, are rapidly gaining new customers.
Why Not a Negative Income Tax? "What kind of program could help protect every citizen from destitution without granting excessive power to bureaucrats, creating disincentives to work, and clogging up the free-market economy, as the modern welfare state has done? [Nobel-prize winning economist Milton] Friedman’s answer was the negative income tax, or NIT."
In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism - We venture to the very heart of the hell that is Scandinavian socialism—and find out that it's not so bad. Pricey, yes, but a good place to start and run a company. What exactly does that suggest about the link between taxes and entrepreneurship?
How Private Is 'Private Charity'? Private charity may be more accurately described as "private donations coupled with involuntary, tax-financed public subsidies." And it's not fair: "very low-income people paying only payroll taxes get hardly any leverage for their donations. Very high-income people in states with high income-tax rates – such as New Jersey and New York – can through the tax code virtually double the money funneled to a charity per dollar of their own sacrifice." (previously)
Jonathan Blattmachr, one of the country's leading estates and trusts experts, feels that helping his clients reduce their tax liability helps the IRS close loopholes that he and his colleagues use. As with most attorneys, there are some clients who weren't happy with his work, but Mr. Blattmachr pushes on with his efforts.
The Honourable Gordon Campbell has resigned as Premier of British Columbia. Citing his spectacular unpopularity, his resignation comes after almost a decade in power. His tenure has been dogged by scandal, and most recently, a barrage of protest over the newly implemented HST. His most lasting legacy may prove to be the implementation of North America's first carbon tax.
A former magazine writer in his late fifties moves to San Diego and lives on very little money indeed. In the October 1977 issue of The Atlantic, he describes the stratagems behind his thriftiness. [more inside]
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked federal permission to ban the use of food stamps to buy sodas and sugary drinks in New York City. In an op-ed in the New York Times, the city and state health commissioners argued in favor of Bloomberg's proposal, saying the practice amounts to "an enormous subsidy to the sweetened beverage industry." [more inside]
Earning $250,000 Does Not Make You Rich, Not in My Town. A controversial blog post from a University of Chicago Law professor makes its way around the web as the debates about president Obama's tax plan get louder. "Our combined income exceeds the $250,000 threshold for the super rich...The problem is, we can’t afford it. Here is why." [more inside]
Bruce Bartlett, senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House, speaks out against Republicans - The monumental hypocrisy of the Republican Party is something amazing to behold. And their dimwitted accomplices in the tea-party movement are not much better. They know that Republicans, far more than Democrats, are responsible for our fiscal mess, but they won't say so. And they adamantly refuse to put on the table any meaningful programme that would actually reduce spending. Judging by polls, most of them seem to think that all we have to do is cut foreign aid, which represents well less than 1% of the budget. [more inside]
Single Link NYT Post: A Tax-Form For The Marginally Employed.
This morning, in Austin, Texas, a Piper Cherokee single-engine plane [was] crashed into an office building partially occupied by the IRS. It appears to be the work of an individual, but the story keeps getting weirder. The suspected person may have also burned his house down this morning.
Where does my tax money go? From USA Today, a calculator and graph that lets you enter your salary and shows you how your tax dollars are spent. You can also change the year shown, so that you can compare now and then.
Alan Grayson (D - FL) has introduced a bill to tax corporate political campaign donations at 500% (via). The bill is called the "Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act."
Blow the whistle on the rich and powerful, go to jail, while they avoid jail. Tax Notes, the weekly publication on federal taxation, announced its "2009 Tax Person of the Year" - a whistleblower from Swiss banking giant UBS whom it called "the Benedict Arnold of the private banking industry." Bradley Birkenfeld came forward and exposed the tax fraud dealings of UBS which led thousands of millionaire tax cheats to come forward and pay billions in back taxes. His reward? Tomorrow he goes to jail. The Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington watchdog organization that has extensive whistle-blower experience, says a chilling effect is already apparent: a senior executive at a European bank that offers similar U.S. tax shelters is having second thoughts about going public because of the Birkenfeld case.
On January 1st, the U.S. estate tax will disappear. For exactly one year. Then it will come back higher on Jan. 1, 2011. Will lots of old rich people die? [more inside]
Secrecy Jurisdictions: Mapping the Faultlines highlights research on 'the jurisdictions and mechanisms used to facilitate illicit financial flows worldwide, including especially flows from developing countries. Those flows, from developing countries alone, are estimated at $850 billion - US$1 trillion per year. At the core of this project is the biggest survey of tax havens, or secrecy jurisdictions as we prefer to call them, that has probably ever been undertaken.' A project of the Tax Justice Network.
But most years were pretty close to $24,000. Despite his high income, he was not able to save or, as he said, “amass capital.” Fitzgerald reported every dollar he had entered in his ledger. He was impeccably honest in his reporting. But Fitzgerald did press tax conventions on some occasions. On his 1924 tax return, he deducted $2,450 as a business expense for a “trip to Europe for the purpose of obtaining material for stories, etc.” The American Scholar examines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns.
Tax authorities using social networks to find tax cheats Yet another reason to be careful who you accept a friend request from.
Economists Matthew Weinzierl (HBS) and Gregory Mankiw (Harvard) make a utilitarian case for a height tax. [more inside]
[E]ven if you are unemployed you still receive a base amount of [vacation money] from the government, the reasoning being that if you can’t go on vacation, you’ll get depressed and despondent and you’ll never get a job.After a year and a half of living in the Netherlands, American writer Russell Shorto compares the Dutch "welfare state" to the tax, health care and social security systems of the United States.
But does the cartoon image of [the Dutch system] — encapsulated in the dread slur "socialism," which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring? [...] I think it’s worth pondering how the best bits might fit.
The Average Man's Tax Dollars from thetoiletpaper.com
The Tax Gap - "The Guardian will examine the extent of tax avoidance by big business, day-by-day over two weeks. We are naming more than 20 major British companies, and analysing their secretive tax strategies to ask: are they paying their fair share?".
The Next New Deal With the vaunted post-Cold War "Peace dividend" evaporating, the United States found itself unable to invest adequately in either its infrastructure or its children. Eventually people began to talk of another Great Depression, before the coming of the next New Deal.
Hillary and Bill Clinton's tax returns 2000 - 2007
The Every Child Matters Education Fund, a non-profit organization that lobbies for better education and services for children, released a report (audio accompanies link text) this week that reveals that geography is as important as race and class in determining which children succeed, and which fail. The five highest ranking states, based on such factors as child poverty, infant mortality rates, juvenile incarceration rates and the like, were all in New England, with Vermont on top. The bottom five were all in the central South, with Louisiana coming in last... States with a high tax burden did a far better job of minimizing childhood poverty than low-taxing states. Via John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail [more inside]
A very special 'This American Life' about an administration with the endemic belief that laws only apply to the little people, and a limitless refusal to concede on even petty issues, no matter the costs. The highlight is about immigrant widows of US citizens (30:50). The program also discusses the constitutional beliefs of the presidential candidates. [more inside]
Chicago adds a 5-cent-per-bottle tax on bottled water. Will this reduce bottled water consumption?
The poll tax caused massive rioting in the UK. Will the pole tax move Texans to do the same? There's an interesting class-war aspect to the story. The bill specifies that the revenue generated will support sexual assault prevention programs, though the bill's legality is being litigated.
A new U.S. Treasury Report (press release) reports that tax returns from 1996 to 2005 show that income mobility in the U.S. is "considerable," with rising earnings, and top earners who often stumble. The WSJ crows. Pew releases its own research (reports, press release) on income inequality today with a multi-decade outlook, but summarizes the findings as that American families' income mobility is still highly dependent on their parents' position. Forbes and a The New Republic blog try to reconcile the reports. Meanwhile, blacks appear to be downwardly mobile.
New York State goes after Amazon "affiliates." So if you, as a New Yorker, link to your book on Amazon, you are now an independent contractor and shall be taxed accordingly (PDF). [more inside]
Valentino Rossi is a very successful, well-compensated motorcycle racer and winner of numerous Grand Prix World Championships. He is under investigation by Italian authorities for tax evasion, which The Doctor allegedly accomplished in part by relocating to London and possibly taking advantage of the Non-domicile classification [link to google cache to avoid registration] for tax purposes. According to UK authorities, in 2003, for instance, his declared income was £650. Even a priests is becoming vocally upset at Rossi and the public's reaction. On a far larger scale, the UK was earlier this year identified as an Offshore Financial Center in an IMF white paper [34 page PDF]and there are those who think the purported tax-haven monster should be confronted. The Norwegian government agrees and wants to "facilitate the recovery of assets illicitly stacked away in tax havens" by way of a global coalition, of which the UK is not part.
Millions of tax dollars melting away... guess Katrina victims didn't need ice after all.
In 2005, the Supreme Court of British Columbia decided that taxing the legal services of the poor "constitutes indirect taxation and is a tax on justice contrary to the Magna Carta and the Rule of Law." Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the decision, rejecting "the respondent’s contention that there is a broad general right to legal counsel as an aspect of, or precondition to, the rule of law." The case was largely the initiative of Dugald Christie, a Vancouver lawyer and political activist who devoted his life to the cause of improving access to the legal system, before dying on a cross-Canada bicycling fundraiser ten months ago. He is well remembered by lawyers and cyclists.
Telephone excise tax refund
Get your $60 + bucks back from the government... and do something good with it (beware talking website). Via the always excellent Ian Masters today.
Get your $60 + bucks back from the government... and do something good with it (beware talking website). Via the always excellent Ian Masters today.
Taxgirl is a tax lawyer who invites you to ask her offbeat and unique questions about federal taxation in the United States, as well as Philadelphia-specific tax questions. She also covers the fun side of taxation and the not-so-fun side of tax evasion, usually the domain of Posse Comitatus and white supremacist groups, but lately extending in bizarre ways to celebrities like Wesley Snipes and Ron Isley.
Ethically in my opinion, Bono’s tax arrangements are entirely inconsistent with his calls upon government to support anti-poverty drives,” said Richard Murphy, one of three co-authors of the SOMO report (.pdf) on Dutch tax shelters. “You cannot be demanding that resources be allocated to anti-poverty drives and then deny those resources to government.”
The Tax Man Cometh:
"They believe, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that their citizen's understanding of the written law should, and in some Platonic sense does, trump the realities of dealing with the government. This makes them uniquely American rebels--more true, they maintain, to the nation's core values than those of us who follow the pragmatic advice . . . "You mess with that shit, you are going to jail."Brian Doherty analyzes the tax resistance movement (from 2004). Meanwhile, another ugly confrontation is brewing in New Hampshire, and violence is in the air. Mr. Brown, of course, has his views.
Many people want to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana and other drugs, however, few know that many U.S. states are content simply to tax. In fact, even the federal government wants a share (middle of p. 89 of the PDF), and used tax stamps in early prohibition, but only the states have recently issued issued cool stamps (be sure to click "exhibit"). The point, of course, is not to actually tax the drugs, but to penalize the drug dealers for tax evasion as well as drug sales. They have brought in some money, though. A few interesting state government pages: Conecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina and their tax return form, and Kansas.
Jan 1st, Texas to increase tax on cigarettes by $1. Texas will increase the sales tax on cigarettes from 41 cents to $1.41 on Jan 1st. Hoping to fund schools and fight the 1.5 billion dollar health care bill from smoking related illnesses.
Cost of Government Day - "n. the date of the calendar year, counting from January 1, on which the average American has earned enough in cumulative gross income to pay for his or her share of government spending (total federal, state, and local) plus the cost of regulation."
As virtual worlds economic activity and populations grow, the importance of Real Money Trade comes to the fore. When does fraud inside game worlds become illegal? when do earnings from online worlds become taxable? [discussion], and what happens when real day traders get interested? [more inside]
Aaron Russo releases America: Freedom to Fascism on the net!
The Neon Philharmonic consisted of members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, a producer of country & western records named Don Gant (who produced Jimmy Buffett's first hit), and a jazz pianist named Tupper Saussy. Strangely enough, this odd combination produced an unexpected Top 20 hit, Morning Girl. The group was briefly mentioned as an obscure music hipster reference in a devastating indie-rock takedown of current critical darling Sufjan Stevens, but such a throwaway reference to the Neon Philharmonic does not do justice to the bizarre life of its founder, Tupper Saussy.(more inside)
Is the U.S. Bankrupt? [332Kb PDF] Laurence Kotlikoff, writing in this month's Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, says "yes" - to the tune of $66 trillion! [more inside]