Democrats back the extension of tax cuts benefiting the middle class, as well as protecting them from the alternative minimum tax. They would also like to keep the estate tax from reverting back to pre-2001 levels, when estates worth roughly $1.2 million were slapped with a 55 percent tax.
Most tax lobbyists expect Congress to extend these measure for two years, which some congressional sources say could cost more than $250 billion.
Also, under pay-as-you-go rules, a two-year extension of these provisions does not have to be offset.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
G-20 Fiddles; World Burns.
Meanwhile Germany and France, the two countries on whose close and strategic cooperation the entire EU system depends, have opposite views about how the current crisis should be addressed. The French think the Germans should pay through the nose to keep the euro going while increasing the German government deficit to bolster the European economy. The Germans think the French should shut up.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Wow. That will be the mother of all tax increases. Contrary to media spin, the Bush tax cuts included many critical breaks for the middle class, they weren't just about "the rich."
Sounds like a great way to extend and deepen the recession. I'm not easily surprised by politicians, but kicking this particular can down the road is breathtakingly reckless.
Monday, June 28, 2010
From Los Angeles this month, The Telegraph reports movie-makers see new hope for gaining the film rights to "The Catcher in the Rye." Their theory: a retroactive estate tax might force Salinger's estate to sell the rights to raise cash.
Could it happen?
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Sam's now serving 22 years, but Bayou continues to make news, as The Times reports:
Goldman Sachs has been ordered to pay $20.58 million to creditors of a failed hedge fund ….Other Wall Street firms serving as prime brokers, the Times observes, may now feel obliged to better scrutinize their hedge fund clients’ activities.
The award represents the first time that a bank has been held accountable for a Ponzi scheme because of its role as a middleman.
Goldman cleared trades and lent money to the Bayou Group, a Connecticut hedge fund that collapsed in 2005, when state and federal investigators said the firm defrauded investors of hundreds of millions of dollars.
A perhaps related question, born of ignorance: As directed trusts grow in popularity, could trust companies be called upon to monitor decisions of the trusts' investment advisers more closely?
Friday, June 25, 2010
Perhaps now the argument on estate tax reform can be joined.
Pres. Hoover's apparent recent stand against all capital gains taxes on grounds they intensify both booms and busts may be logical, but is probably too radical a change for the US tax system. Current concept of capital gains as income is so deeply ingrained in our income tax system that its elimination would require "pretty complete rewriting and reinterpretation of this complex law."
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Today more history was made in England. The Queen came to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years. And American John Isner won (70-68 in the fifth set) the longest tennis match we'll ever see.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The survey on which Michelle Singletary hung her recent column determined that one in five seniors were the victim of financial abuse because 20 percent answered "Yes" to
Have you or your spouse ever been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud?The majority who didn't say "Yes" must have been ashamed to admit being "taken advantage of."
If I'd bothered to read the survey, I would not have bothered to call attention to Singletary's column. Jim Gust was right on in suggesting we take it with a good helping of salt.
Language abuse such as this is unfortunate because it trivializes a limited but real danger. Some seniors will suffer serious financial harm because they are no longer able to look out for themselves. And as Lawrence A. Frolik, professor of law at Pitt, points out in Watching The Watchman, designating an attorney-in-fact doesn't necessarily solve the problem.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
New York State's two Senators, the New York Post reports, favor a different approach. They too want estate tax reform to be paid for – but with reductions in the federal income tax!
Great idea! Then the Senate could start worrying about how the income tax cuts are to be "paid for."
(With oil still spilling and with bankruptcy threatening a growing list of towns, cities and even nations, aren't you glad we have Congress for comic relief?)
Monday, June 21, 2010
No matter what you’ve heard, the recession is over when it comes to prospecting for millionaires.
So says The Trust Advisor Blog, in an interesting roundup of the current advertising executions by private banks and wealth managers. I particularly appreciated the justification for the expensive ad buys:
Figure one back cover of the New York Times magazine costs around $100,000. With a $10 million account minimum and roughly a 1% management fee, if Bessemer reels in even one new account and holds it for just one year, the ad buy breaks even.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
For each case of elder fraud reported to authorities, an estimated four or more go unreported, according to MetLife. Appallingly, family members and caregivers are the perpetrators in 55 percent of the cases.
So, for each 100 elderly persons we know that there are 20 reported frauds. For each one of these, there are four more frauds (or more), so that comes to 80 unreported frauds. So at a minimum, 100% of all the elderly are fraud victims.
I am not trying to argue that fraud against the elderly isn't a problem, but such unexamined exaggerations are not helpful. I'm surprised that the WaPo editors let this one by (or am I?).
Are there bright lines around the "fraud" by family members or caregivers, so we know what we are talking about? When the allegation of fraud incidence is that high, I wonder just how the crime is defined.
So, let's say I'm taking care of my elderly parent, and having seen all this reporting I've decided to get more aggressive, more protective. But that's also a red flag, according to the article, and now I will be a suspect.
The professionals are encouraged to probe and pay attention to any changes in an elderly person's behavior or the presence of a caregiver who appears excessively protective or dominating.No easy answers.
One of five Americans over the age of 65 -- that's 7.3 million seniors -- has been victimized by a financial swindle ….The one-in-five estimate does not include all the retired seniors forced to spend down their savings because the Feds keep interest rates at artificial lows.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Let's take the deficit reduction argument at face value.
Like nearly all observers of transfer tax policy, I never expected to have a year without federal estate taxes. I thought it was a clever ploy for manipulating the scoring system. If, in 2009, Congress had lifted the estate tax exemption to $5 million, the lost revenue in 2011 and later years would have been offset by the gain over having no estate tax in 2010. That would have made the change more palatable.
Now it looks increasingly as if there will be no estate tax for 2010, no retroactive changes. Any increase in the exemption amount above $1 million, even a restoration to 2009's $3.5 million, will be scored as a serious addition to the deficit. One that benefits only "the rich." I don't think it will happen.
We are preparing marketing materials based on a $1 million exemption in 2011 and later years.
BTW, once it becomes crystal clear that there will be no retroactive changes to gift tax rates, I expect a flood of taxable gifts this year to take advantage of the temporary 35% tax rate. Good revenue news short term, but long term it's the largest family fortunes that will take advantage of the opportunity, and so estate tax collections will be reduced for decades.
Does the iPad Change Everything? Yes. But not because it's a bookreader with multimedia capabilites. Steve Jobs is right. Magically, the iPad does remove a barrier between you and the Internet. I discovered as much that evening, when I revved up my old iMac. How frustrating to maneuver with keys or a mouse once you've experienced the iPad.
If the iPad – and the G4 iPhone – don't make Steve Jobs' year, Pixar's Toy Story 3 surely will. Reviewers for both the NY Times and the WSJ loved it.
Wrote A. O. Scott in the Times: "… perhaps only Pixar, a company Utopian in its faith in technological progress, artisanal in its devotion to quality and nearly unbeatable in its marketing savvy, could have engineered a sweeping capitalist narrative of such grandeur and charm as the “Toy Story” features."
Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if that devotion to quality spread around Wall Street . . . and oil drillers?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Between 1985 and 2003, some $100 billion—about 10% of reported trust assets held by federally regulated financial institutions—moved to states that allowed long-term trusts and didn't tax trusts created by nonresidents, according to a study by Robert Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School, and Max Schanzenbach, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, published in the Yale Law Journal.
Most of Merrill Anderson's trust marketing material is intended for multi-state distribution, and has no state-specific observations. Much of the material is sold into states that haven't entered the competition. Apart from emphasizing the value of local administration, how can we respond productively to this development?
Monday, June 14, 2010
The basic reasoning behind both dollar-cost-averaging and periodic rebalancing is that, when you do them both, you get a sort of automatic buy-low, sell-high strategy, and you get some medium-term protection from market volatility. In fact, simulations show that DCA actually improves your performance in volatile markets, mainly through buy-low.
Yes-- it's an imperfect, mechanical, and boring strategy …. *** Remember, your financial strategy should strive to be the opposite of sex: if it's exciting, you're doing it badly.
What about the alternative investment approaches, such as, for example, technical analysis? I must say Scott's observations are 100% in harmony with my feelings:
Technical analysis involves studying graphs of stock movement over time as a way to predict future moves. It's a widely used method on Wall Street, and it has exactly the same scientific validity as pretending you are a witch and forecasting market moves from chicken droppings.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
A billionaire dies, no taxes for the estate. Next year, a $1-million-plus estate gets taxed.Could that comparison put a little pressure on Congress?
"How can you let estates of a little over a million be taxed in 2011? You didn't bother to tax a billionaire's estate in 2010!"
The Times piece supports Jim Gust's supposition: Senator Kyl's latest potential deal involves an estate tax exemption of $5 million and a tax rate on additional wealth of 35 percent.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority have issued an investor alert about scams designed to exploit the BP spill.
"The sad thing is people haven't heard the warnings enough, because these scams continue to happen," said John Gannon, FINRA's senior vice president for investor education. "Today, it's the BP oil spill; before, it was Hurricane Katrina. The cover story changes, but the scam is basically the same."
Pump-and-dump schemes aren't the only financial hazard. Singletary adds that donors receiving heart-rending charitable appeals for money to help clean up the spill should investigate before they donate.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
T. Watson, IBM pres., speaking to the Financial Advertisers Assoc., calls for more active education on current investment opportunities: "Speaking to you toward the end of this depression we are going through - and in my judgment we are near the end - things generally are showing some improvement. It would help tremendously if the financial advertising profession could devise a plan ... for placing before the public the investment opportunities which exist today."
Friday, June 11, 2010
Apparently the lawyer's wife was not privy to the deal, because she now insists that the insurance proceeds be paid to the estate, not the investors. They didn't have an insurable interest, she argues.
However, one litigant has produced some paperwork suggesting that the wife signed off on the transfer of the policy ownership after it was in force for two years.
Per the Journal, the life settlement industry had been hot about five years ago, but cooled with financial crash in 2008.
My money is on no estate tax action for the rest of this year. I hope that I am wrong.
Back in 1937, the wealth left by John D. Rockefeller was hit by a 70% federal estate tax.
Redmond, who grew up near the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, observes that Rockefeller's kids seemed to thrive despite their tax-reduced circumstances. (New Roll Royces for their wives every year? Wow!)
How did they do it? The senior Rockefeller presumably spread a little wealth around the family before his death. And some of the kids, including banker David, did pretty well on their own.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
As the Times reported at length, digital gadgets are driving us to distraction. Exhibit A, the entrepreneur so distracted by an unending digital flood of instant messages, chats, posts, tweets and games that he overlooked one of the most important emails of his life. Not for a few hours or overnight. For twelve days!
Bet he would have noticed the handsome offer for his Internet startup if it had arrived by snail mail.
That's certainly how it works in our household. My wife wouldn't think of trying to read all the email offers she receives. But she browses a surprising number of catalogs delivered by our faithful snail. Likewise, often as not I neglect to follow the email link to an online pdf newsletter. But when the snail brings a newsletter, I look at it.
exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1999-2000.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
I wonder to what extent we can credit currency traders for the current situation?
Hat tip to the Instapundit.
Note the reference to separate returns. "Same-sex couples, even if they are legally married in their home states, may not file joint federal tax returns. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, defines marriage as between one man and one woman and bars federal agencies from interpreting it otherwise."
Will estate lawyers and accountants have related complexities to deal with when the federal estate tax revives? Could an "all-to-spouse-or-partner will" have one tax result in California (thanks to community property) and other in Massachusetts (where everything would be taxable in the absence of a marital deduction)?
Saturday, June 05, 2010
One million dollars isn't even worth what it used to be a decade ago. If the bad old estate tax reappears as scheduled next year, the $1-million exempt amount needs to be raised to at least $1.25 million to represent the same level of wealth as it did in the year 2000.
Friday, June 04, 2010
Liberals saying there's nothing to worry about in the economy? I'd call that a sell signal.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Now there's an idea – she might pay down her debt by going to work as a life coach at one of those organizations capitalizing on the trend to "teaching values."
US Trust, for instance. That unit of BofA now offers not wealth management but Worth Management.
Related post: What Children of Wealth Should Know.