money

Avoiding Gift Tax – Make Sure The Checks Clear!

Recently, I discussed the issues surrounding the estate of Aretha Franklin. From the sources that I reviewed, it appears that she did not intentionally reduce the size of her estate through gifting to her heirs before her death. It isn’t required that people reduce their estates through giving, however. . . With an annual ceiling of $15,000, affluent individuals of advanced age may prefer to distribute a portion of some inheritances before their death, to avoid taxes to both themselves as well as the recipients.

For those that choose to give before death, whatever you do, make sure your heirs cash those checks as soon as they receive them! A recent tax case (Estate of de Muth v Commissioner) determined that if a check isn’t cleared before a person dies, the checks become part of the estate, and therefore subject to estate tax. Of course, gifters can’t force recipients to quickly cash checks given to them, but if the intent is to ensure that the size of the estate is reduced, then time is truly of the essence.

I was interested in Estate of de Muth because it was always my understanding that it was the date of gifting, and not the date of cashing, that determined when a gift was given. But with the tax courts determining that the act of gift giving occurs upon cashing the check, I now have a different perspective regarding gifts and what constitutes receipt. This is why I love staying aware of the changes with the tax law: you never know what you’ll learn!

I Bonds – A Less Explored Investment Vehicle

Merry Monday, friends! I stumbled upon an investment option late last week, and I was so excited about it that I wanted to share it here with you all.

The Treasury announced that the initial interest rate on new Series I savings bonds is 9.62 percent. You can buy I bonds at that rate through October 2022, and for the first six months that the bonds are held, you will get that interest rate. Bonds usually have much lower interest rates, so this is a great way to get a better return on your investment. I used to buy I bonds with my tax returns, but I’ve gotten away from the practice. I’ve decided to invest in a few bonds before the cutoff date (October 2022).

Please don’t interpret this as investment advice: I encourage you to do your own research and determine whether this is an investment strategy that works for you and your goals. As for me, I’ll be investing some of my discretionary income and holding the bonds until I’m ready to invest in something bigger.

That’s it for today, friends! Check out the I bonds over on Treasury Direct, and see if this is something you want to add to your investment portfolio!

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Aretha Franklin’s Messy Estate – Key Takeaways

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Aretha Franklin’s estate has settled a nearly $8 million tax bill, and the way has been cleared for her four sons to start receiving payments from the revenue generated from the use of her image and music. This outcome was a long time coming: Franklin passed four years ago, and her heirs have been unable to settle the estate issues until recently. This development is excellent news, as this opens the way for her sons to start receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

I won’t rehash all of the details of the case, however, I will highlight some key takeaways that I gleaned as I learned about the messy estate left behind by the Queen of Soul:

  • Destroy previously executed wills. For most people, their end-of-life planning only covers the execution of a will (if they’re proactive). Sadly, some people don’t even do that much planning: far too many people die intestate, leaving their estate planning in the hands of the state where they lived and died. But I digress . . . Leaving a will clarifies how you want your property to be distributed after your death. However, this distribution becomes unclear if you have multiple versions of your will floating around. So, consider destroying previously executed wills whenever you make a revision. The estate is currently comparing 3 different versions of Ms. Franklin’s will, and I’m sure the probate courts will have a field day trying to figure out which one is the one that will be honored.
  • Set up a trust. If you only have a will, you’re doing better than many people. But if you really want to simplify how your assets will be handled, a trust is what you need. Trusts can be established to distribute assets before and after death, they can help avoid certain types of taxes, and they can provide an extra level of clarity that may not be accomplished through the execution of a will alone. Consulting with a trust attorney is a great idea, even if it turns out that a trust isn’t advantageous for your specific circumstances. These attorneys can answer many of the questions you may have related to other estate or end-of-life financial issues.
  • Consider gifting some of your possessions while you’re still alive. The current ceiling for tax-free gifting is $15,000 per person that you choose to gift. Even if you aren’t giving everyone you know $15,000, you can certainly gift some of your possessions now, so that your heirs can avoid gift and estate taxes later.

Those are three of my takeaways from the tax agreement between IRS and Aretha Franklin. I’ll keep an eye on this case to see if any additional developments arise, and if so, I’ll be back with updates. Take care!

Start Selling Shovels

Has the current economy caused you to start panicking a bit? I know that we’ve all been hearing about recessions, experiencing inflation, and living in a world that is more confusing than ever. It’s easy to see why some of us may be uneasy, or even fearful, when discussing financial security. But preparation is always the best antidote to fear, and this post will (hopefully) give you ideas for how to create more security and stability in your finances.

It is never too late to start creating financial freedom. It’s always never too late to adjust current behaviors in order to be more resilient in times of financial difficulty. That being said, you can do one thing, today, to ensure that you have more financial flexibility in the future.

Start selling shovels.

I don’t mean that literally, of course. I mean that you should look at examples of exemplary people who thrived in the past, and use those examples as models for your business and success. The shovels metaphor refers specifically to the California gold rush of the late 1840s. If you recall from history, you realize many of the gold miners actually never got rich. But there was one group that made lots of money, and had no problem securing their financial futures . . .

It was the shovel salesmen. It actually goes beyond the shovel sales, though: anyone that offered secondary or tertiary goods and services to the gold rush hopefuls thrived during this period. Levi’s jeans can still be found in big box retail stores, despite Levi Strauss being deceased for over 100 years. The first shop opened by Strauss in California was in 1853, two years before the gold rush ended. His shop was under the umbrella of the shop his family owned in New York, but he moved to San Francisco in order to provide goods to the thousands of people that relocated in hopes of finding gold.

Strauss found gold without striking one shovel against dirt nor panning in rivers. The gold was in the shoppers, not in the mines. He provided tents, blue jeans (though this particular invention really didn’t hit its stride until the 1870s, 20 years after the end of the rush), bedding, as well as unlikely luxuries, like handkerchiefs and purses. An under-served but eager group of buyers were women, who, moving to California with husbands or male relatives, missed the comforts of their homes. There were also women who moved to California with the hopes of landing a wealthy husband that could provide the comfort and luxury they desired. So, while the miners may have been men, there were other customers that needed to be served.

Sometimes, you have to sell a purse along with a shovel.

What does all of this mean for you, dear reader? You aren’t living in the 1840s, or 1870s. You can get shovels, purses, and blue jeans from Amazon, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a local in-person retailer. So, what can you do with this story?

Look for the gold rushes, then serve the hopefuls. Start by looking at the “hottest” ways to make money, and come up with businesses and solutions that serve the people that aspire to be the “Next Great” whatever. Give them the goods and services they need, and they’ll make you rich. I’d also advise to lean more toward services, since goods are often easier to find and harder to price competitively without taking a loss initially. But, if your heart is set on offering goods, then do what you must.

No matter whether you focus on goods, services, or a combination, find the shovels you need to offer, and start making money. You can do it!

That’s it for today. Please let me know if this helped, or if you have any questions or ideas that you’d like to flesh out with me. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

Why Recessions Are NOTHING To Fear

Last week, President Biden announced that we are not in a recession, though the data indicates that we have experienced two consecutive quarters of declining economic activity. There have been many discussions surrounding the topic of recessions, and since I’m not an economist, I won’t pretend to be an expert in this topic AT ALL. However, I will share my thoughts as someone that reads regularly, and that has lived through several decades and seen a thing or two.

Practically every decade since the 1920s has experienced recessions. For those that don’t know, the 1970s was marked by record-high stagflation, which has a combination of recession and inflation that put economists in a quandary (proposals to correct one element – either the recession or the inflation – could negatively impact the other element). People have weathered tougher economic times. Of course, not everyone survives severe financial hardship – indeed, the most vulnerable populations offer suffer the greatest – and this post isn’t designed to make light of that. It’s a warning to those that have ears to hear.

In each decade, there have been people who won BIG and set themselves and future generations up for financial ease and freedom. They had a host of varying advantages and disadvantages, but every person that has WON in previous periods of recession had one thing in common: a will to act. Staying paralyzed in fear over possible things to come is a surefire way to remain stuck or to regress.

There is absolutely nothing to fear, if you’re wise, strategic and prepared.

Be wise – Continue to live within your means and reduce extraneous expenses. Live with moderate conservation as your guiding energy: conserve energy, conserve resources, conserve time, all in a moderate way. Excess or gluttony is no one’s friend in these times. Remember to act wisely with what you have and to treat your resources with reverence, neither being indiscriminate nor anxious.

Be strategic – Plan to grow your resources: expanding your financial kingdom, adding valuable individuals to your personal network, cultivating healthy, reciprocal relationships, and positioning yourself to be in communities that are vibrant and abundant. Master multiple skills so that you offer a plethora of value to your networks. Never stop learning: your skills may open doors for you that you didn’t know were possible. Explore as much free online learning as you can. Never forget that resources go beyond cash and tangible assets: PEOPLE are resources, ENVIRONMENTS are resources, OPPORTUNITIES are resources. Expand all of your resources for the best outcome.

Be prepared – I don’t like to post alarmist content, so please take this with the reasonable grain of salt that is intended. Stockpile resources that you suspect may drastically increase in price in coming months (within reason: hoarding is dysfunctional and should be avoided!). Learn practical skills that can help you reduce expenses or that can be traded for other resources within your network. Learn the full benefits of the physical and digital tools you possess, and start leveraging those tools to your advantage. Inventory assets that you have, so that you can have a record of the items of value you possess, in case you decide to trade or sell these to purchase something of exceeding value. And it should go without saying that bug out bags, fully fueled vehicles, and maintaining a full supply of emergency items should be non-negotiable.

You have nothing to fear: you are closer to financial freedom than you know. A few good choices today can mean abundance and ease for years to come. If you aren’t sure where to shore up your defenses, I’ll be offering consultations on my Services page (I’m currently updating it, but it should be live at the time of this posting). Take care, and please let me know the ways that you have been preparing for an upcoming recession!

Tax Changes May Be Coming – The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

Hey dear readers! I hadn’t planned to post anything else this week, but when there’s breaking news, I have to share it!

I recently learned that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is gaining traction, and Senators Chuck Shumer and Charles Manchin reached an agreement on the terms of this bill. That is exciting news, considering how Manchin had originally pushed for limited terms. Manchin’s decision to back the bill – without limiting it to the areas of concern, namely, pharmaceutical prices and continued health care subsidization – was unexpected, but an exciting turn that means this bill will be moving forward sooner than expected.

For those that are curious, there are tax implications in this bill (I mean, why else would I be posting about it?). For starters, $124 billion is set aside to fund increased tax enforcement. This means that, if the bill is passed, there will be enhanced enforcement, starting with a little over $3 billion for taxpayer services, $45.6 billion for enforcement (think revenue agents and officers, auditors and specialists, attorneys, and appeals unit employees and resources to support all of the functions), $25 billion for operations support (the other employees that work behind the scenes outside of the enforcement functions), and $4.75 billion for business systems modernization, among other things. The funding is designed to cover 10 years, so the financial gravity of these provisions can be staggered over time.

For taxpayers (individuals) this means that IRS may be getting more help in the months and years to come (the bill provides for more “direct hire authority” capabilities, meaning faster hires). This also means that the previous weakened collection and enforcement function will be beefed up, so the scams and schemes that may have slipped through the cracks before may be identified and examined faster and more efficiently (in other words, wrap up your scams now, if you have some!) For tax practitioners, prepare for more clients that want to clean up their tax records before the enforcement units have the staff and resources to pursue collections on more individuals. There is also an opportunity to offer modernization services and products once various IRS contracts become available.

Now, the bill, as it’s written, indicates that the increased funding isn’t designed to target anyone that earns less than $400,000 annually. However, I think that some taxpayers that earn under the $400K amount may end up getting caught up in the random audits, especially when the more specialized agents and officers are hired and assigned to higher dollar cases, freeing up the overall caseload for less technical (but still effective) specialists and auditors. This will all take a bit of time, of course, but it’s something to look for on the horizon.

The other tax implication discussed in this bill is enforcing a minimum corporate tax of 15% for companies that have over $1 billion in profits. The actual corporate tax rate is a statutory 21%, but these highly profitable companies often pay far less than the proposed 15% amount, because they have the best attorneys and accountants that exploit all of the loopholes currently in the tax code (which is EXACTLY what good practitioners are supposed to do on behalf of their clients, and within the confines of the law). With these new proposals, corporations that qualify will have to pay no less than 15% tax on profits. According to the bill, the minimum corporate tax rate would go into effect after December 31, 2022.

This may sound like a groundbreaking move, but to be clear, the minimum corporate tax rate was a standard issued by the OECD at the last G20 summit (October 2021), and already standard tax practice in multiple other countries. The 15% minimum rate was proposed as part of the two-pillar plan to address digital economies and the tax avoidance that is prevalent in that realm. This segment of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is simply mirroring the accepted standards already in place in other OECD member countries.

Also, the minimum corporate tax rate would only affect 200 companies. So the targeted parties are small in number but account for billions of dollars in the economy. For this reason, there is already criticism from some representatives, regarding the fact that this could affect jobs. Indeed, billion-dollar companies usually employ a lot of people, so there is a possibility that the workforce may be affected. Time will tell what the overall effect will be once the most profitable companies are forced to fork over a minimum amount of their earnings.

Whew, that’s it for today! I hope this got you all caught up on the latest tax happenings, and I’ll be sure to share more of my thoughts as the situation develops. Take care, and I’ll talk to you all soon!

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Articles reviewed: Yahoo, OECD, Business Insider

Save $120 Instantly – Amazon Prime and GrubHub Plus Perks

I know it’s been a while since I posted, and I promise, I’ll be back more consistently (I’ve already pre-written 5 posts, so you can be sure that more content is coming your way!) But, for today, I have a little money-saving tip for you, in case you missed it.

If you haven’t heard, Amazon and GrubHub (GH) have partnered to offer one year of free GrubHub membership to all Amazon Prime members. I used GH frequently during 2020 and 2021, so I was delighted to see that my Prime membership will include GH free deliveries (at least, for the next 12 months). If you have Amazon Prime and you’re currently a GH member, go ahead and turn on your free membership, so you can save $120 this year. And if you’re not already a GH member, consider activating your free membership during the upcoming months, as you may want the convenience of having food delivery instead of having to go out into inclement weather.

You can read more about the partnership here. Enjoy!