Tuesday, June 30, 2020

This post is not about trusts or wealth management

Instead it's a heartwarming story about Carl Reiner. I enjoyed it, hope you do as well.

Lights! Camera! Online Art Auction!


Maybe art collectors' estates won’t have to borrow to pay the tax bills after all. Sotheby’s venture into online auctions shows promise. Yesterday's evening sale, which I watched, was a fascinating attempt to evoke live auction excitement. The auctioneer, animated as an orchestra conductor, faced three giant screens – New York, London and Online. Each screen displayed ranks of Sotheby’s employees relaying bids. Key bid takers got close ups as they proxy-dueled for paintings.

The sale offered 32 items, including lesser works by Picasso. Although six artworks did not sell, several fetched more than expected. The Frida Kahlo above, estimated at $500,000 or so, went for $2.66 million.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Though Rare,Tax Audits Follow the Money

IRS tax audits have become an endangered species. From 2010 to 2018, the overall audit rate for individual tax returns dropped by 47%. The audit rate for top taxpayers – those with incomes of $10 million or more – dropped by 64%.

Amount of taxes owed but unpaid
in last fiscal year
To make the most of limited resources, Barron’s reports, the IRS has relied on technology and carefully targeted collection efforts. Income stashed offshore, for instance. From 2009 to 2018, the IRS persuaded 54,000 offshorers to hand over more than $11 billion in taxes due.

Taxpayers dealing in cryptocurrencies are another IRS target. Are Bitcoin and such really currencies or just investments? Lately the IRS has leaned toward the latter view.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

CNBC is the New ESPN

On TV I watch sports, mostly. When Covid-19 closed down sports broadcasts, the least bad substitute was the daily stock picking game on CNBC.

Millions tired of sheltering in place seem to agree with me. With no sports to bet on, they're taking advantage of the free stock trading offered by Schwab, Fidelity and others to play the stock market.

Serious investors they are not. For these thrill seekers, it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Some juice up the excitement with options. Others just get weird, the NY Times observes: "Transactions that make little economic sense, like buying up the nearly valueless shares of bankrupt companies, are off the charts."

Serious or not, Barron's notes,  the stocks-for-sport crowd is big enough, and frantic enough, to influence stock prices.

Do you suppose there'll be playoffs at the end of the regular season?