Monday, September 29, 2008

The Four R’s – The Reasons We Pay Taxes

The concept of taxation dates back to ancient times and it had a large impact on the creation of the United States. I mean, who hasn’t heard the phrase “no taxation without representation,” at least a dozen times in grade school? But how often do we stop and think about the real reasons we pay taxes? In fact, there are four main ideological reasons we pay taxes, and in this entry I have examined each of those four reasons.

1. Revenue

The most important purpose, taxes raise revenue for the government to spend on education, transportation, jobs, local governments, military, and judicial systems. Without taxes finding funding to build schools and buy books for them would be incredible difficult. Our country, as well as many others, is literally funded by our own taxes. Individuals, companies, and small businesses all get taxed for certain endeavors and those funds then go back into our economy.

As long as a country is thriving, there should be revenue coming in through taxes. However, concerns have arose in the past few years as to whether or not the United States is meeting expected revenue. Experts claim the economy is protected enough to let the low revenue affect taxpayer’s day to day lives.

2. Redistribution

Many debate the purpose of using taxes for redistribution, but the main idea is to tax those who can afford it (i.e. the wealthy) and use the money to fund programs for lower income families. Debate rages on as to whether or not this tactic is fair or if our government is even properly redistributing in the first place. Current presidential candidates disagree on the President Bush tax cuts in particular, which democratic candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden feel give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, completely defeating the purpose of redistribution in our tax system.

3. Re-pricing

The tax system is also used to discourage and encourage. Taxes on things such as cigarettes and liquor discourage the intake of substances. The idea of implementing a carbon tax encourages fuel efficiency, but again is much like a penalty. Re-pricing is another main purpose of the inner workings of our tax system, because it is a large and equal flat tax, given to any and everyone indulging in such taxable items. Re-pricing happens all over the market in multiple ways in order to keep a sort of balance and subtle control on spending.

4. Representation

American revolutionists often coined the phrase “no taxation without representation,” so taxpayers know the government may be able to tax them, but accountability is mandatory. It is important for United States citizens and the government to be on even terms with taxes, and that all reasons and uses for said collected taxes are available to the public in multiple forms. It’s hard to remember that taxes are there to help us, but representation will always keep the information available.

House Votes Down Bail-Out Package

The House voted down a $700 billion plan aimed at bailing out Wall Street.

The rescue plan, a result of tense talks between the government and lawmakers, was rejected by 228 “nea” to 205 “yea” votes. About two-thirds of Republican lawmakers refused to back the rescue package, as well as 95 Democrats.

Shares on Wall Street plunged within seconds of the announcement, after earlier falls on global markets.

President George W. Bush was "very disappointed" by the result. He would meet members of his team in the coming days to "determine next steps", spokesman Tony Fratto said.

The BBC's Adam Brookes, in Washington, said Democratic leaders in the House were likely to try and convince a number of their members who voted against the bill to change their minds in coming days.

Speaking after the vote, Republican leaders suggested the Democrats were to blame, accusing them of failing to mobilize their majority in the chamber.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke shortly after the vote, saying it was an outrage that ordinary people were being asked to clean up Wall Street's mess.

Property Taxes: High in Blue States, Low in Red States

The Tax Foundation has published a study reviewing new census data on property taxes on homeowners. As Tax Prof pointed out, it is interesting to “note that 26 of the 30 highest-tax states in the three categories are Blue States that voted for John Kerry in 2004, and that 24 of the 30 lowest-tax states in the three categories are Red States that voted for George Bush in 2004.” Below is an embedded image of the study’s findings.

McCain Questions Obama's Tax Votes


Sen. John McCain told voters Monday that Sen. Barack Obama isn't being honest about his tax votes and said the Democrat is "always cheering for higher taxes."

In response, the Obama campaign called McCain's remarks "false attacks" and an "angry diatribe."

The economy is the No. 1 issue on the minds of voters, polls show, and both candidates are trying to convince voters that they will do a better job of getting the financial crisis under control.

"Two times, on March 14, 2008, and June 4, 2008, in the Democratic budget resolution, he voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000 per year. He even said at the time that this vote for higher taxes on the middle class was 'getting our nation's priorities back on track,' " McCain said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio.

"Then something amazing happened: On Friday night, he looked the American people in the eye and said it never happened. My friends, we need a president who will always tell the American people the truth," McCain said.

McCain said a vote for Obama would "guarantee higher taxes, fewer jobs and an even bigger federal government" and charged that "these policies will deepen our recession."

Shortly after McCain finished his speech, the Obama campaign accused the Arizona senator of lying.

"Sen. McCain's angry diatribe today won't make up for his erratic response to the greatest financial crisis of our time. John McCain knows that the budget he's talking about didn't end up raising taxes on a single American, and the lie he told the American people today is all the more outrageous a day after he admitted that his health care plan will increase taxes on some families," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

In McCain's speech, the Republican presidential candidate was referring to votes on a resolution (Senate Concurrent Resolution 70) meant to outline the Senate's budget priorities through 2013, but the measure had no practical effect.

According to a CNN review of the resolution, it assumes that most of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts pushed by President Bush will expire in that time, which McCain says amounts to a tax increase. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, voted "yes" on the resolution. McCain did not vote.

Tax Related Inaccuracies Of The First Debate

Last Friday was the first of the presidential debates. Although the topic was supposed to be foreign policy, the financial crisis became a large topic in the debate.

When watching the debates, it can often be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately The Tax Foundation took the liberty to review the debate’s transcripts and identified “gaffes” made by both Senators Obama and McCain. I have posted their findings below.

Obama's Gaffes

First, Obama says this comparing his own tax plan to Sen. McCain's:

“And in his (Sen. McCain's) tax plan, you would have CEOs of Fortune 500 companies getting an average of $700,000 in reduced taxes, while leaving 100 million Americans out. So my attitude is, we've got to grow the economy from the bottom up. What I've called for is a tax cut for 95 percent of working families, 95 percent.”

Sen. Obama is mixing baselines here and the three figures aren't really comparable. First, the $700,000 in reduced taxes for CEOs comes from McCain's extending of the lower tax rates that those CEOs benefit from that were in place under the Bush tax cuts. So when Obama says that number, he is citing it relative to a baseline that assumed the Bush tax cuts were repealed. But when he talks about the "leaving 100 million Americans out" figure for McCain's tax plan, he is assuming that the Bush tax cuts are left in place with an AMT patch too (and he ignores McCain's health care tax credit and corporate income tax cut). When it comes to the 95 percent will get a tax cut under his plan, Obama includes the tax cuts that many relatively high-income (100k-300k) families would receive from an AMT patch, something he doesn't give McCain credit for in the 100 million figure, which only assumes McCain would increase the personal exemption.

Now this may seem like a technical and geeky point, but it's really not. Obama is basically comparing apples and oranges, and thereby misleading the American people. It's kind of like Obama telling you that the Georgia Bulldogs are 4-0 and the St. Louis Rams are 0-3 without telling you the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs play college football and the St. Louis Rams play professional football. He is implying that the two figures are comparable regarding the quality of the tax plans (football teams), but in reality, it is like comparing apples and oranges.

Obama also said this:

“[H]ere's what I can tell the American people: 95 percent of you will get a tax cut. And if you make less than $250,000, less than a quarter-million dollars a year, then you will not see one dime's worth of tax increase.”

That's not entirely true. According to Tax Policy Center, only 81.3 percent of tax units would receive a tax cut under Pres. Obama. The 95 percent of working families figure mentioned earlier in the debate is fairly accurate, but it's not 95 percent of the entire population. As for those making less than $250,000 not seeing a "dime's worth of tax increase," technically some households or tax units that benefit little from Obama's individual tax cuts could pay more due to Obama's closing of what he calls corporate tax loopholes, under the assumption that owners of capital would bear such a tax increase. This is not that significant a tax hike for those making under $250,000, but there are still some tax units or households making under $250,000 that could pay more in taxes under Obama's tax plan. Also, if you counted Obama's windfall profits tax and assumed that was borne in the short-run by owners of oil company stock, then some tax units that own a disproportionate amount of oil company stock either directly through stock ownership or indirectly through a pension fund could pay more in taxes, possibly exceeding the benefit that tax unit would receive from the energy "rebate" that Obama proposes to use the windfall profits tax money to fund.

McCain's Gaffes

Now McCain was also giving misleading information on taxes in the debate Friday night. The first instance was when he talked about his health insurance tax credit yet didn't bother to tell people that employer-provided health insurance benefits would be taxed. Obama was sure to point that out, and to his credit, he didn't say it was a massive tax hike like running mate Joe Biden has done on the campaign stump.

McCain also made this claim about his tax plan:

“I want to double the dividend from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent child in America.”

When McCain uses the term "dividend," he is referring to the personal exemption. It's unclear where that word dividend came from, and it's funny because he has made this error on multiple occasions throughout this campaign when he talks about this proposal publicly. (At least he didn't say credit as he has done in the past.) But that's not the issue here. McCain's claim is misleading because he never really doubles the personal exemption.

The current personal exemption in 2008 for a dependent is $3,500. McCain's plan calls for making it $7,000 by 2016 (eight years down the road). But even if McCain left it alone, the personal exemption would likely be near $4,600 in 2016 because of the annual inflation adjustment that is done to most tax parameters (assuming average 3.5 percent inflation). Therefore, instead of increasing it by 100 percent (double), it is safer to say that he is increasing by around 50 percent. McCain is exaggerating it by almost a factor of two. So in summary, the personal exemption would not be doubled due to McCain's policy. And even if this is passed, a $2,400 exemption increase in 2016 per child for a traditional family of four in the 15 percent bracket (truly middle-income) would only save them $720 in 2016 (assuming two children), which is only about $547 in 2008 dollars (again assuming 3.5 percent inflation). Many Americans who don't understand the difference between an exemption and a credit may have thought they were going to save $3,500 more per child.

McCain also brought up his optional flat tax plan, which is something that nobody analyzing his tax plan has really taken seriously because it will costs a lot in revenue, and they don't want to have that counted against them when debating the fiscal impacts of tax cuts. (In other words, the campaign wants it both ways as Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee once said at an event comparing the two candidates' tax plans: McCain can say one thing on the stump, but tell organizations like the Tax Foundation and Tax Policy Center something else when we score the lost revenue effects of his policies.)

Finally, McCain accused Obama of voting for tax hikes on those making as little as $42,000. That was a non-binding Senate vote earlier this year, and it's different from what Obama is proposing as a candidate. Very few households making $42,000 per year would pay more in taxes under Obama's tax plan. You may say that Obama is voting one way and proposing something else on the campaign trail. If that's fair, then McCain's drastic change of heart on the Bush tax cuts is fair game as well. McCain voted against the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, but now supports extending almost all of them with the exception of the full repeal of the estate tax.

Other Gaffes points out some other errors as they relate to fiscal policy:

McCain tripped up on one of his signature issues - special appropriation "earmarks." He said they had "tripled in the last five years," when in fact they have decreased sharply.

Obama mischaracterized an aspect of McCain's health care plan, saying "employers" would be taxed on the value of health benefits provided to workers. Employers wouldn't, but the workers would. McCain also would grant workers up to a $5,000 tax credit per family to cover health insurance.

McCain misrepresented Obama's plan by claiming he'd be "handing the health care system over to the federal government." Obama would expand some government programs but would allow people to keep their current plans or chose from private ones, as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Latest from the Candidates on 10 Important Economic Issues

Election day is only a few weeks away, and although I’ve blogged recently on the Vice Presidential candidate’s tax views, it has been a while since I have spent much time researching the latest on Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama’s views on economic issues. In my efforts to decide which candidate to cast my vote for I gathered the following list of the candidate’s views on 10 important economic issues, and I hope the information will help all of you make an informed decision this November as well!

1. Small Business


By helping small business owners afford new equipment and technology, McCain hopes to promote growth in new and small businesses. He has also proposed a small business health care plan that would take the form of a tax credit that would be purchased personally and could be transferred to a different job if the employee where to leave their current position.


Obama has long been a supporter of raising minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living. To help those struggling with the uneven difference between the cost of living and wages Obama plans hopes to continually index the minimum wage with the cost of living. His small business health plan also includes a refundable credit of 50% for employers that pay their employee’s health insurance premiums.

2. Personal Taxes:


Extending the Bush tax cuts that were put into place in 2001 and 2003 is something McCain has been clear on from the beginning. He’s also dedicated to eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, as he feels it is unnecessary and completely replaceable. In its place, McCain hopes to put into place a two-rate income tax code that would greatly simplify our tax system.


Although at first he supported repealing the Bush tax cuts, Obama now claims that he would not fully repeal the cuts but adjust them. However, he does not support extending the cuts past their expiration date. Obama also once claimed that he wanted to double the capital gains rate, but has since lowered his stance leaving many to wonder if he actually intends to target capital gains taxes or not. Obama is a strong supporter of tax cuts for low wage and middle class families, and has proposed numerous tax cuts aimed at helping American families.

3. Energy Security


McCain is well known for his adamant support of nuclear energy has strong views about energy and the conservation of it. While he recognizes the threat of global warming, he still feels that nuclear energy is a safe and efficient way to go. McCain also supports offshore drilling as relief for high prices at the gas pump, and feels exploring other expensive energy options is simply not smart or affordable for our economy at this time.


Taking pains to look into any and all alternative energy sources, Obama is not the biggest fan of nuclear energy as a main source. He is honest about gas prices, and has admitted that he understands the strain Americans are under. However, he does not support offshore drilling as a solution. However, in an attempt to push through some of his own policies on energy independence, he voted for limited offshore drilling in addition, as a compromise.

4. Real Estate & Foreclosures


Though both candidates agree the real estate market is in trouble, they have slightly different takes on how the governments should intervene. McCain wants to offer limited financial aid and advice to borrowers, but with strict rules, restrictions, and guidelines. He also feels home rescue efforts are dealt with best within local communities and would provide additional funding to make that possible.


Taking a strong defense against predatory loans, if elected Obama would work to create a $10 billion fund to help victims of such loans. He is appalled by the government’s willingness to bail out large investment banks in trouble, but reluctance to help individual citizens. In order to counteract this, Obama would create a 10% tax credit, awarded to any homeowner who does not itemize their taxes, and allow subprime borrowers to fight abusive lending practices. He would also set aside an additional $10 billion to maintain local government structures and authorize bankruptcy judges to reduce mortgage principal.

5. Health Care


His voting record is limited on healthcare, but McCain still seems to have pretty strong views on the subject in this election season. His plans for overall healthcare seem to pertain especially to children without insurance as well as senior citizens. He has claimed that he would like to get health insurance to the 11 million children in this country without it, and also hopes to match funds for senior citizen’s prescription drugs. He did however vote against including prescription drugs under Medicare, a decision that has upset a lot of voters hoping to see large change in the healthcare system.


Obama feels so strongly that healthcare should be available to every American, that he would like it to be a universal right, like our neighbors in Canada. Obama hopes to use money from ending the Iraqi war to make healthcare more affordable for every American. He also feels strongly about obesity, stating that by reducing the obesity rate we can save billions in wasted health care. Obama knows taking on insurance companies is a messy but necessary job in making healthcare as well as prescriptions reasonable. He also feels the terminally ill should never have to worry about money, and the right to live should be clearly theirs regardless of their financial status.

6. Mortgage Giant Rescue


Although he missed the senate vote to give aid to Fannie and Freddie through temporary authority from the Treasury, McCain still supports the decision. He would like to replace the agencies management as well as end their lobbying and stop company dividends. Like so many others, McCain feels it is necessary to make sure companies like this do not collapse.


Although he also supports providing aid to Fannie and Freddie, Obama does not support protecting the investors or CEOs involved with them. In addition to missing the vote for the federal bailout, Obama also missed voting for the housing bill president Bush signed into law in July.

7. Balanced Budget


Well known for his strong dislike of earmarks, McCain vows he is very dedicated to cutting wasteful spending and balancing the budget. He was one of two republicans who voted in 1995 and 1997 to take social security off budget, and supports the balanced budget amendment, which would require an annual balanced budget. With the money he plans on gaining from cutting taxes, McCain plans on putting the money into Medicare, social security, debt reduction, and tax cuts. However, he also wants to enforce existing spending caps later on.


By ending the war on Iraq, and taking away tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Obama plans to save billions of dollars and use the funds towards debt and budget crisis within our own country. Although Obama voted against a bill to reduce overall federal spending by $40 billion he claims he did not support the bill because it reduced funding for Medicaid, conservation, Medicare, agriculture, employee pensions, and student loans.

8. Free Trade


John McCain feels globalization is an opportunity, and in 1999, he stated “we are in a global marketplace, and that is exceptionally good news for American families. Withdrawing from it is not just inadvisable, it is impossible. Free trade is indispensable to our prosperity. In other words, the less America trades the poorer America will be.” McCain thinks we need to reduce, not restrain, barriers to trade with other countries so we can profit from such goods. He supports NAFTA, GATT, and WTO. However, some critics feel McCain’s feelings towards free trade are too open, and that he is not fully taking safety measures and foreign policy issues into account.


Obama feels free trade is a great opportunity, but one that needs to be fairly regulated. He has said he feels it is important to keep safety, strong labor, and environmental standards in mind. In February of 2008 he explained, “it is absolutely critical that we engaged in trade, but it has to be viewed not just through the lens of Wall Street, but also Main Street, which means we've got strong labor standards and strong environmental standards and safety standards, so we don't have toys being shipped in the US with lead paint on them.” Obama also feels NAFTA needs to be amended, and is a strong fighter for not just free trade, but fair trade.

9. The War in Iraq


Due to it’s high costs the war has become a top economic issue in this election season. It is also an issue the candidates strongly disagree on. McCain is a strong supporter of the war, still calling it a “war on terror.” He even went as far to say Obama would “rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." Not as concerned about what the war is costing the country, McCain feels it is well worth it for the safety if our citizens.


Strongly opposing the war, Obama feels it is not only disrespectful and embarrassing occupying Iraq, but a complete waste of money. At a primary debate Obama claimed, “we have spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives. Thousands more have been maimed and injured as a consequence and are going to have difficulty putting their lives back together again. This has undermined our security. In the meantime, Afghanistan has slid into more chaos than existed before we went into Iraq.”

10. Recession


Up until very recently McCain was against the term “recession”, stating earlier that “part of the problem in any recession is psychological. I'm still optimistic that nothing is inevitable.” He felt by doing things like eliminating the AMT and permeating tax cuts we could prevent a recession. However, just this past week both candidates claimed within 24 hours of each other that the term “recession” is exactly the term you could use to describe our economies status at this point.


Taking a strong opinion on the economy, Obama feels it’s very weak and a recession is a reality we all need to face. “The news with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, I think, along with the unemployment numbers, indicates that we’re fragile,” Obama stated earlier in the month. However, he arose both applause and criticism when he stated he still dislikes Bush’s tax cuts and feels his must take place regardless of recession “even if we’re still in a recession, I’m going to go through with my tax cuts,” Obama said. “That’s my priority.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama to Drop Biden?

Over the past week there have been rumors circulating that Sen. Barack Obama might seek to drop Sen. Joe Biden as running mate and replace him with Sen. Hillary Clinton. Many agree that these are in fact just rumors, and there is little evidence to support that this is a move Obama is actually considering. However, there have been a few events in the past few weeks that have led people to question whether Biden even supports Obama’s agenda.

According to, “Barack Obama and Joe Biden stepped out of sync again Tuesday, as the Democratic presidential nominee criticized his running mate for voicing opposition to the government bailout of American International Group early last week.

It was the third off-message moment for the Democratic team in two days. Biden had to ratchet back his own rhetoric Monday after an interview aired in which he called one of his own campaign ads “terrible” and said that he did not support clean coal technology – even though Obama is a big proponent.

The lack of harmony suggests the Obama team, for months a rancor-free institution, is running into the kind of message discipline problems that John McCain’s campaign faced before he started to cut back his interaction with reporters.”

Also adding fuel to the fire, Biden was as quoted as saying, "make no mistake about this, Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Let's get that straight. She's a truly close personal friend, she is qualified to be president of the United States of America, she's easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me. But she's first rate.”

However, when Bill Clinton appeared on “The View” he claimed that Hillary did not want to be Vice President. When NBC'S Today Show's Matt Lauer asked her about what Bill said, Hillary replied, “you know, Matt, there's no point in going back and, you know, talking about something that didn't happen. I want to keep focused on the future and to talk to those people who are worried about their jobs, their home, affording gas and groceries, you know, thinking that the government has just turned its back on them, making them feel almost invisible.”

So does Obama feel his choice was a mistake? And more importantly, will Joe Biden drop out of the race? With the election only six weeks away it does seem rather unlikely, but only time will tell.

Policymakers: Congress Must Move Quickly to Avert Damage


Consensus is building in Congress that a version of the bailout will be passed, and quickly, but that it will involve considerably more oversight and other provisions than were in the Bush administration's original plans.

In their most vigorous public defenses of the planned bailout to date, Paulson and Bernanke almost seemed to echo the outrage from their questioners. But they argued that the plan is necessary to protect ordinary Americans from the economic fallout of clogged markets for credit.

"I'm not only concerned, I'm angry about the things that got us here," said Paulson. "It makes me angry, and it makes you angry. You talk about taxpayers being on the hook? Guess what? They're already on the hook. If the system isn't stabilized, they're going to bear the cost."

He said later in response to a question, "I share the outrage that people have. It's embarrassing for the United States of America."

Both Paulson and Bernanke stressed that they are still working through details of how the government would price the troubled mortgage assets it buys under the $700 billion plan. But they asked that Congress leave them maximum flexibility to design those auctions or other procedures as they and their expert advisers see fit.

60 Minutes Gives Biased Coverage

According to, and many other political news sites, ABC’s news program 60 Minutes was biased of the candidate’s tax proposals during their interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain. In the broadcast the correspondents praised Obama’s plan, while intentionally saying nothing good about McCain’s. Bellow is the summary of Media Matter’s findings, but you can read their full report by clicking here.

During interviews with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft characterized Obama's economic agenda as "ambitious and expensive," citing the costs of Obama's infrastructure, alternative energy, and health care plans, but there was no similar characterization of McCain's tax agenda by correspondent Scott Pelley, who interviewed McCain, even though, according to the Tax Policy Center, McCain's tax plan would likely add $1.5 trillion more to the federal deficit over 10 years than Obama's tax plan.

CA Legislature Approves New Compromise Budget

From the Associated Press:

Bringing an end to the state's longest-ever budget fight, California lawmakers approved changes to their $143 billion spending plan and gave in to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's demands for a more robust rainy day fund.

Still, the governor said elected officials failed to fix California's ongoing fiscal imbalance that allows the state to spend more money than it takes in.

"There's nothing to really celebrate," Schwarzenegger said at the Capitol Friday. "As I said, great things were accomplished, but there are certain things that were not accomplished."

Democrats, who hold a majority in the Legislature and had proposed tax increases to help fill the state's $15.2 billion shortfall, countered that it was the governor who lacked leadership.

California is one of three states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget. Democrats needed a handful of Republican votes in both houses to accomplish the task.

"The real question was, could we have done any better without a tax? The answer was no," said Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. "The governor couldn't get anybody to support his tax in his party. Republicans had the final say. They said no."

Schwarzenegger said he will sign the compromise plan next week, allowing California to resume payments to schools, medical clinics and state vendors that haven't been paid since the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

The governor said he was pleased legislative leaders agreed to stronger controls on the state's rainy day fund and gave him the authority to make spending cuts during the year.

The impasse dragged on because Republicans opposed any tax increase, while Democrats sought to combine budget cuts with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Californians. Schwarzenegger proposed a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax that would drop after three years.

U.S. Insurers Urge Swift Adoption of Legislation to Reduce Unfair Tax Advantages

From Market Watch:

The Coalition For A Domestic Insurance Industry, a group of 14 major U.S.-based insurance groups, applauds the introduction of a bill by Rep. Richard Neal (D – Mass.) to level the playing field and close the current loophole that provides foreign-based insurers a competitive advantage over domestic insurers in underwriting U.S. risks. This unfair tax advantage arises because foreign insurance groups operating in the U.S. are presently allowed to strip the bulk of their profits out of the U.S. merely by reinsuring risks to affiliates located in tax havens, and thus avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes. The tax treatment of these transactions undermines the ability of domestic companies to compete and ultimately threatens the future of our domestic insurance industry.

"The tax advantage, which originated in practice around 20 years ago, has already caused significant migration of insurance capital abroad," explained William R. Berkley, chairman and chief executive officer of W. R. Berkley Corporation and spokesman for the Coalition For A Domestic Insurance Industry.

Growth in related-party reinsurance written to foreign affiliates has been dramatic. In 2007, $58.4 billion of U.S. premiums went to foreign insurance companies, with nearly 60 percent ($33.8 billion) of those premiums going to related foreign reinsurance companies. Since 1996, U.S. premiums going to affiliated foreign reinsurers have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 21.4 percent.

"With the stroke of a pen, foreign-based groups can shift their profits overseas to affiliates in tax-advantaged locations. The principal incentive for this increased related-party reinsurance activity has been the avoidance of U.S. income tax," Mr. Berkley concluded.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Biden Links Tax on Wealthy to Patriotism


Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden acknowledged yesterday the wealthy would pay more taxes if he and Sen. Barack Obama are in the White House, but he put an interesting spin on it.

"It's time to be patriotic… time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut," Biden said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Republican Sen. John McCain pounced on the remark. "Raising taxes in a tough economy isn't patriotic," he said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "It's not a badge of honor. It's just dumb policy."

Trying to find the right tone on the Wall Street crisis, McCain also went for the tried and true in a new TV ad yesterday: Warn voters that his Democratic opponent is a tax-and-spend liberal. The ad warns of huge spending increases, pork-barrel projects, and "painful taxes." "Can your family afford that?" the announcer concludes.

Obama's proposals, however, would lower the tax bill for the vast majority of taxpayers, and by letting President Bush's tax cuts lapse would raise income taxes on those earning $250,000 or more a year.

Another Misleading McCain Ad

Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain has put out yet another misleading ad about Sen. Barack Obama, according to the non-partisan site Embedded below is a video of the commercial, via McCain’s YouTube channel, and FactCheck’s summary of the distortions.

The McCain-Palin campaign has released a new ad that once again distorts Obama's tax plans.

  • The ad claims Obama will raise taxes on electricity. He hasn't proposed any such tax. Obama does support a cap-and-trade policy that would raise the costs of electricity, but so does McCain.
  • It falsely claims he would tax home heating oil. Actually, Obama proposed a rebate of up to $1,000 per family to defray increased heating oil costs, funded by what he calls a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
  • The ad claims that Obama will tax "life savings." In fact, he would increase capital gains and dividends taxes only for couples earning more than $250,000 per year, or singles making $200,000. For the rest, taxes on investments would remain unchanged.
The McCain campaign argues in its documentation for this ad that, whatever Obama says he would do, he will eventually be forced to break his promise and raise taxes more broadly to pay for his promised spending programs. That's an opinion they are certainly entitled to express, and to argue for. But their ad doesn't do that. Instead, it simply presents the McCain camp's opinion as a fact, and it fails to alert viewers that its claims are based on what the campaign thinks might happen in the future.

CA Budget Deal Secured, Say Legislators


Legislative leaders said yesterday that they have an agreement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that will end a record 81-day budget deadlock, allowing payment of billions of dollars owed schools, health care providers and others.

Schwarzenegger threatened to veto a compromise budget sent to him Tuesday because it increased paycheck tax withholding for individuals and did not include a strong reserve fund to help close future budget gaps.

Republican and Democratic leaders, after meetings with the governor yesterday, said the Legislature will send him legislation today that they believe meet his demands.

“There appears to be an agreement,” said Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary. “We will be able to confirm that once the governor meets with the legislative leaders tomorrow.”

The Democratic-led Legislature and the Republican governor had wanted to raise taxes to help close the $15.2 billion deficit. But they could not get the required handful of votes from Republicans who said a tax hike would harm the economy and cost jobs.

Tax Credit to Aid First-Time Homebuyers

Earlier in the week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a new press release regarding a new tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Below is a snippet form the release, but you can check out the full text including questions and answers by clicking here.

First-time homebuyers should begin planning now to take advantage of a new tax credit included in the recently enacted Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Available for a limited time only, the credit:

  • Applies to home purchases after April 8, 2008, and before July 1, 2009.
  • Reduces a taxpayer’s tax bill or increases his or her refund, dollar for dollar.
  • Is fully refundable, meaning that the credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax that they owe.

However, the credit operates much like an interest-free loan, because it must be repaid over a 15-year period. So, for example, an eligible taxpayer who buys a home today and properly claims the maximum available credit of $7,500 on his or her 2008 federal income tax return must begin repaying the credit by including one-fifteenth of this amount, or $500, as an additional tax on his or her 2010 return.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Biden and Palin – Comparing and Contrasting their Tax Views

Over the past week there has been a lot of media attention on the United States economy. With huge government buyouts, and record-breaking drops in the stock market, Americans are looking to the Presidential candidates for more information on their tax and economic plans.

In the past week weeks I have given an in depth look at both Vice Presidential candidate’s (see the entries on Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin), and with the recent developments in our economy I thought it prudent to also compare the differences in their respective tax views on a few key issues.

Balanced Budget:

Joe Biden:

Senator Biden feels strongly that a balanced budget should be high up on the next president’s priority list. On top of consistently voting for what he believes were fair and balanced budget amendments since 1997, Biden has also voted against bills he felt would lead to an unbalanced budget. In 1990, Biden voted against George H. W. Bush’s budget bill, which aimed to raise taxes drastically over a five-year period. In 2000, Biden also voted against making tax cuts a priority over national debt reduction.

Biden’s own budget plan for the next few years includes cutting funding for the war (by which he hopes to generate over $100 billion in federal revenue), and eliminating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He also plans on eliminating tax cuts for investment on dividends – which he claims could generate $195 billion in revenue over time.

Sarah Palin:

From the moment Palin took office as the Governor of Alaska, she began looking for ways to cut spending in all areas of the government. By cutting local project programs, selling a corporate jet, firing unnecessary government staff, and directing state agencies to reduce excess spending, she was able to reduce the states spending by $124 million. However, a $7 billion education and savings plan, new ice rink, and other local investments eventually led her state into debt. While the governor made many positive changes to Alaska and provided youth and cultural opportunity, debate rages at to whether her cuts were effective or not.

The difference:

Both candidates obviously agree that balancing the budget is an important task, though possibly on different levels. While Biden has experience working as a Senator to fix the national budget, Palin’s experience is limited to the state level. Without further statements from Palin herself, it’s hard to tell exactly what her plans for the budget are on the national level.

Gasoline Prices, Taxes, and Solutions:


Knowing our dependence on oil and need for change, Biden has outlined multiple ways to help fix our countries current energy crisis. While other candidates have supported a gas tax holiday, Biden opposes the concept claiming that is merely a temporary solution. By pushing to reduce our dependence on oil entirely, Biden hopes to ease the demand for fossil fuels and also fight global warming. In 2005 he voted yes to bills that aim to significantly reduce oil by 2025, and for tax incentives to encourage energy production and conservation. He also voted against multiple bills promoting oil leasing programs in Alaska’s ANWR.


A strong supporter of a gas tax holiday, Palin feels there is plenty of oil available for drilling in this country. Alaska has some of the highest gas prices in the country, and to help out citizens of her state Palin signed a gas tax holiday into law, and also pushed to get one time energy rebates sent out to Alaska taxpayers. Another one of Palin’s energy programs was known as Alaska’s “energy efficient month,” where the government provided incentives for reduced energy consumption. Although Palin has achieved some success in helping Alaska’s energy problems many wonder whether or not she will be able to do the same on the national level as the programs were made possible by windfall taxes from oil companies drilling in Alaska.

The Difference:

The only real similarity between the candidates is the fact that they both realize we are in an energy crisis. While Biden plans to make our nation less dependent on petroleum, Palin is very vocal about her support for increased offshore drilling. Palin does claim she supports green energy projects, but views them of secondary importance.



It is no secret that senator Biden has quite an earmark record. His FY09 requests total about $330 million, and it has caused a lot of bad publicity for Biden. Although it is not uncommon for members of Congress to take advantage of earmark spending, it is not helpful for a campaign running on the idea of change in a time of economic uncertainty.


Although she’s taken stride to criticize both Obama and Biden on their earmark spending, Palin does have a record of wasteful spending. The infamous “bridge to nowhere” project, which she first embraced and then, later, dropped, was estimated at about $398 million. Obama criticized Palin for the first time ever on September 6th, and on her earmark policies in particular:

"I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she's change, and that's great," Obama said. "She's a skillful politician. But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion anti-earmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can't just make stuff up."

The Difference:

While no one tries to say straight out they “favor” earmarks, Biden is, if at all, more open and honest about it. It was a considered risky move on Palin’s part to be so critical on earmarks when she had does have some history of them herself.

Stocks Sink After Government Bailout of AIG

From the Associated Press:

Wall Street stumbled again Wednesday, with anxieties about the financial system still running high even after the government bailed out the insurer American International Group Inc. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped about 300 points.

The Federal Reserve is giving a two-year, $85 billion loan to AIG in exchange for a nearly 80 percent stake in the insurer, after it lost billions in the risky business of insuring against bond defaults. Wall Street had feared that the conglomerate, which has its tentacles in various financial services industries around the world, would follow the investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. into bankruptcy.

"People are scared to death," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist for PNC Wealth Management. "Who would have imagined that AIG would have gotten into this position?"

He said the fear gripping the market reflects investors' concerns that AIG wasn't able to find a lifeline in the private sector and that Wall Street is now fretting about what other institutions could falter.

The two independent Wall Street investment banks left standing — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley — remain under scrutiny, as does Washington Mutual Inc., the country's largest thrift bank. Morgan Stanley revealed its quarterly earnings early late Tuesday, posting a better-than-expected 7 percent slide in fiscal third-quarter profit. It insisted that it is surviving the credit crisis that has ravaged many of its peers.

Lehman filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, and by late Tuesday had sold its North American investment banking and trading operations to Barclays, Britain's third-largest bank, for the bargain price of $250 million. Over the weekend, Merrill Lynch, the world's largest brokerage, sold itself in a last-ditch effort to avoid failure to Bank of America Corp.

The troubles in the financial sector could exacerbate the problems facing the weak U.S. economy, given that individuals and businesses rely on the nation's money centers.

Details on Biden’s Tax Returns

Although his Republican counterpart Gov. Sarah Palin has yet to release her tax returns, Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Joe Biden has published his returns dating back ten years. You can download the PDF version of his returns at Obama’s campaign website.

The returns appear to be pretty straightforward, the Bidens had an annual income of around $200,000 - $300,000, which is about average for a member of the Senate. However, the percent of their income that was deducted for charitable contributions was very low considering the Biden’s income level.

“I wonder, though, if the move might backfire because the returns show that the Bidens have been amazingly tight-fisted when it comes to their charitable giving,” claims Paul L. Caron of the Tax Prof blog. “Despite income ranging from $210,432 - $321,379 over the ten-year period, the Bidens have given only $120 - $995 per year to charity, which amounts to 0.06% - 0.31% of their income.”

“It is jarring that a couple earning over $200,000 per year would give as little as $2 per week to charity. This giving compares very unfavorably to John McCain, whose tax returns show that he gave 27.3% - 28.6% of his income to charity in 2006-2007. During the same period, the Obamas' tax returns show that they gave 5.8% - 6.1% of their income to charity.”

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McCain Embraces Regulation After Many Years of Opposition

From Washington

A decade ago, Sen. John McCain embraced legislation to broadly deregulate the banking and insurance industries, helping to sweep aside a thicket of rules established over decades in favor of a less restricted financial marketplace that proponents said would result in greater economic growth.

Now, as the Bush administration scrambles to prevent the collapse of the American International Group (AIG), the nation's largest insurance company, and stabilize a tumultuous Wall Street, the Republican presidential nominee is scrambling to recast himself as a champion of regulation to end "reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed" on Wall Street.

"Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interest, and that's exactly what I intend to do," a fiery McCain said at a rally in Tampa yesterday. "In my administration, we're going to hold people on Wall Street responsible. And we're going to enact and enforce reforms to make sure that these outrages never happen in the first place."

McCain hopes to tap into anger among voters who are looking for someone to blame for the economic meltdown that threatens their home values, bank accounts and 401(k) plans. But his past support of congressional deregulation efforts and his arguments against "government interference" in the free market by federal, state and local officials have given Sen. Barack Obama an opening to press the advantage Democrats traditionally have in times of economic trouble.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bush Acknowledges Financial Pain

President Bush spoke at the White House Rose Garden this morning acknowledging that the country is facing financial pain. However, he was reluctant to mention Dow’s massive plunge, and did not provide many details on the administration’s plan to ease the countries pain.

"I know Americans are concerned about the adjustments that are taking place in our financial markets," noted President Bush. "We are working to reduce disruptions and minimize the impact on the [broader economy]. In the short run, adjustments in the financial markets can be painful, for people worried about their investments, and for employees of the firms."

Below is a list of recent economic developments from

Lehman: Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) filed for the biggest bankruptcy in history after it failed to find a buyer, triggering a 95% stock plunge to 19 cents a share.

Merrill: Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) said it would buy Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) for $50 billion in stock, or $29. Merrill's stock surged 24% on the news to $21.20 a share, while Bank of America plunged 15% to $28.59 a share.

AIG: The stock plunged 44% to $6.89 a share for AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), after the insurance giant said it was getting ready to announce a restructuring.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co., described this as the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and the railroad bankruptcies of the 1800s.

"We've never witnessed this before," said Hogan earlier in the morning, before Bush's speech. "There's no road map for this.”

Details of Lehman Brothers's Employees Political Donations

With the announcement that Lehman Brothers would file for the biggest bankruptcy in history they have been all over the new headlines. One of the more interesting stories that I came across takes a look at the political support, and donations, of the company’s employees. Below is a snippet of the article, but you can read the full text at Brothers Grim: Is Lehman Next?

Since 1989, Lehman Brothers's employees and political action committee have given $9.2 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, with 54 percent of that going to Democrats. In the current Congress, 271 lawmakers have collected nearly $3 million since 1989, with 72 percent going to Democrats. Democratic presidential candidates and senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama top the list of all-time recipients for the company, collecting $410,000 and $395,600 respectively. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, hauled in $181,450, while Sen. Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate banking committee, has collected $165,800. The top recipient of PAC money from Lehman Brothers has been Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over banking and the securities industry. Castle has collected $38,500 from Lehman's PAC since 1993.

This election cycle, Lehman employees have given about $1.3 million to presidential candidates. Only fellow financial giants Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have given more to the presidential hopefuls this election cycle. Lehman employees have made their firm one of the top contributors to both Obama ($370,500) and John McCain ($117,500) this election cycle. The company is also on track to spend more than $800,000 on federal lobbying this year.

Greenspan: No McCain tax cuts without reduction

From the Associated Press:

Alan Greenspan says the country cannot afford tax cuts of the magnitude proposed by Republican presidential contender John McCain — at least not without a corresponding reduction in government spending.

"Unless we cut spending, no," the former Federal Reserve chairman said Friday when asked about McCain's proposed tax cuts, pegged in some estimates at $3.3 trillion.

"I'm not in favor of financing tax cuts with borrowed money," Greenspan said during an interview with Bloomberg Television. "I always have tied tax cuts to spending."

McCain has said that he would offset his proposed cuts — including reducing the corporate tax rate and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax that has plagued middle-class families — by ending congressional pork-barrel spending, unnecessary government programs and overhauling entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Democrats pounced on Greenspan's comments, in part because McCain professed last year that he was weaker on economics than foreign affairs and was reading Greenspan's memoir, "The Age of Turbulence," to educate himself.

"Obviously he needs to go back to that book and study it some more," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said during a conference call arranged by the campaign of Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

McCaskill said eliminating congressional earmark spending — estimated at $17 billion annually — cannot offset McCain's proposed tax cuts.

An Updated Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates' Tax Plans

The Tax Policy Center has updated their analysis of the Presidential candidate’s tax plans. Below is the abstract from their analysis, but you can read the full text, or download the study as a PDF, by visiting their website.

Tax and fiscal policy will loom large in the next president's domestic policy agenda. Nearly all of the tax cuts enacted since 2001 expire at the end of 2010 and the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) threatens to ensnare tens of millions of Americans. While a permanent fix palatable to both political parties has proven elusive, both candidates have proposed major tax changes. This report describes how we performed our modeling and analysis, outlines the major tax proposals, and discusses the implications of their policies for the revenue raised, taxpayer economic activity, and the distribution of the tax burden.

How to Avoid Common Errors that Delay Stimulus Payments

In their newest press release, the IRS has identified a list of common mistakes that may have caused an delay in your receipt of an economic stimulus check. If you are expecting a check, but have still not received it, then be sure to carefully read the following list and check out the IRS’ “Where’s My Economic Stimulus Payment?” Web tool.

File only one tax return — People should file only one 2007 tax return. It takes the IRS up to 12 weeks to process paper returns and issue the stimulus payments. However, some people are filing more than one tax return in an effort to receive a stimulus payment, which could further delay their stimulus payment. The IRS is concerned there will be more multiple filings as the Oct. 15 deadline approaches for filing a return in 2008.

List qualifying income — Some people are listing their monthly income instead of annual income. People must list their annual amount of qualifying income to be eligible for the minimum payment of $300 ($600 married filing jointly). The qualifying income required by law is at least $3,000 in benefits from Social Security, Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement, earned income and/or combat pay.

Review your tax liability — Some people who have either small amounts of tax liability or no tax liability are getting smaller stimulus payments than they expected or none at all. Generally, the law provided for a maximum stimulus payment of $600 ($1,200 for married couples) or an amount equal to a taxpayer’s tax liability, whichever was less. Tax liability is the net amount of federal income taxes paid after deductions and credits. If people had no tax liability but had at least $3,000 of “qualifying income” from specific sources, they would be eligible for $300 ($600 for married couples). There also is a $300 payment for each qualifying child.

Amended return — Generally, people cannot file an amended return solely to get an economic stimulus payment unless they are a retiree, veteran or have other “qualifying income.” While amended returns will be processed to correct the income, deductions and income tax as appropriate, the economic stimulus payment amount will not be adjusted based on an amended return. If people do not receive a payment this year, they can claim it when they file their tax return in 2009.

Use most current address — People must use their most current address in order to receive a timely payment. People who change addresses after filing should complete Form 8822 and a change of address card with the U.S. Postal Service. If the postal service is unable to deliver the payment, it is returned to the IRS.

Some Facts on McCain's Health Care Tax Credit

From the Tax Foundation:

The Obama campaign and many in the leftist blogosphere are in the process of pulling a John McCain on tax policy: don't tell the whole truth about your opponent's tax plan.

Today in a speech in Kansas City, Joe Biden said, "They want to tax your health-care benefits; I am not making this up."

While it's true that McCain's plan would tax the value of employer-provided health insurance (as it should be under a true income tax), Biden ignores the fact that McCain's plan also provides a refundable tax credit that for most would exceed the tax increase induced by the taxation of employer-provided health insurance (over time, this value of this credit could erode, see below). In summary, for most, it's a tax cut. It is true that for some (mostly very large families and high-income families), taxes could go up. But for the vast majority of tax returns, tax liabilities would actually decrease over the next five-to-ten years.

A common misinterpretation among voters who Biden misleads will likely come from a misunderstanding of the difference between a credit and exclusion. The value of an exclusion equals the amount excluded multiplied by your marginal tax rate, which is why exclusions and deductions tend to disproportionately benefit higher income taxpayers who are in higher tax brackets. A refundable credit's value to the taxpayer is exactly the value of that credit. So a tax return in the 25 percent bracket would have to receive an exorbitant amount ($20,001) in health insurance income to actually have its tax bill go up in 2009.

Even a family earning $50,000 who had an expensive $15,000 health care plan would actually pay less tax under McCain's health tax credit plan. Their income tax before credits would rise by $2,250. But they would get a $5,000 credit that would more than offset that higher tax before credits.

A family earning $100,000 who has a huge $20,000 health care plan (which is much more than the national average) would actually break even. If that family had a more reasonable $10,000 health care plan, it would receive a tax cut.

A family earning $200,000 who had a $15,000 health care plan (28% bracket) would even get a tax cut. If that family had the expensive $20,000 health care plan, it would face a tax hike of around only $600.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Billed Taxpayers for Nights Spent at Home

From Washington

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Dividend Tax Abuse: How Offshore Entities Dodge Taxes on U.S. Stock Dividends

Earlier in the day, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a new report titled, “Dividend Tax Abuse: How Offshore Entities Dodge Taxes on U.S. Stock Dividends.” Below is the introduction, but you can download a PDF of the 77-page study by clicking here.

Each year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues due to offshore tax abuses. The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has examined various aspects of this problem, including how U.S. taxpayers have used offshore tax havens to escape payment of U.S. taxes. This Report focuses on a different subset of abusive practices that benefit only non-U.S. persons, have been developed and facilitated by leading U.S. financial institutions, and have been utilized by offshore hedge funds and others to dodge payment of billions of dollars in U.S. taxes owed on U.S. stock dividends.

Using phrases like “dividend enhancement,” “yield enhancement,” and “dividend uplift” to describe their products, U.S. financial institutions have developed, marketed, and profited from an array of transactions involving multi-million-dollar equity swaps and stock loans whose major purpose is to enable non-U.S. persons to dodge payment of U.S. taxes on U.S. stock dividends. In addition, many of the offshore hedge funds that have benefited from these abusive transactions appear to function as shell operations controlled by U.S. professionals who are helping them dodge U.S. dividend taxes. Six case histories illustrate the scope and nature of the offshore dividend tax abuse problem.

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Tax Court Refuses to Follow 9th Circuit

From Tax Prof:

The Tax Court yesterday refused to follow the Ninth Circuit's decision in Boise Cascade Corp. v. United States, 329 F.3d 751 (9th Cir. 2003), holding that § 162(k) precludes a deduction for Ralston Purina Co.'s payment to its ESOP in redemption of its preferred stock, where the proceeds were distributed to employees terminating their participation in the plan. Ralston Purina Co. v. Commissioner, 131 T.C. No. 4 (Sept. 10, 2008). Two district courts have followed the Ninth Circuit's opinion in Boise Cascade (Conopco, Inc. v. United States, No. 2:2004cv06025 (D.C. N.J. Dec. 8, 2004); General Mills, Inc. v. United States, No. 06-3547 (D. Minn. Jan. 14, 2008)), and those cases are on appeal in the Third and Eighth Circuits, respectively.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Money for Breakfast

I was yet again invited to be a special guest on FOX Business Channel’s Money for Breakfast. In the first video, which aired yesterday, I discussed the Vice Presidential candidate’s finances and how their own finances have impacted their views on the economy with host Alexis Glick.

In the second video, which aired earlier today, I again spoke with Alexis Click. This time we discussed the tax-impact of the Government’s bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie May.

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