Tax Rascal

Wachovia and Washington Mutual Customers: Moving on

Categories: Uncategorized

While employees of the former Washington Mutual and Wachovia are busy fixing embarrassingly apt broken signs and fairly awkward ads, their depositors are wondering: what next? Although their deposits are protected by the FDIC, many people would just prefer not to be a customer of JP Morgan Chase or Citigroup — they want their old bank back!

I can’t offer that, but I can offer a few tips on choosing a new bank:

  1. Try to find someone a little less trendy. Wachovia bought one of the biggest providers of adjustable rate mortgages, at the peak of the property boom. And WaMu cleverly reasoned that, at a time when people are beginning to mistrust big financial institutions, and to

Major stories you didn’t hear about yesterday: Hurricane in Canada, Ron Paul tells it how it is, people in South can’t get gas!

Categories: Featured

While yesterday, most people were (rightfully) concerned about the 777-point Dow crash, many stories were largely ignored, or at least, barely mentioned. Here is a list of those stories that you probably missed yesterday (in no particular order):

1. Canada Gets Hit by a Hurricane

Hurricane Kyle went through parts of Maine and hit Canada, bringing heavy rain and wind.

2. Ron Paul says it how it is: corporatism – not free markets led to crash

3. For the past 2 weeks, people in Tenesse, George, & North Carolina have limited access to gas

People in these states are getting ever more aggravated as they are being forced to wait in long lines to gas up their vehicules. This may … Read more...

Debates, Bailouts, Tax Evasion, and Other Taxosphere Tidbits

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The taxosphere is abuzz with news as the bailout continues to be debated and revised. Meanwhile, day-to-day tax issues still dominate the discussion.


Stock Options: A Quick Tax Guide

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Whether you’re sitting on an employee options grant or day-trading puts and calls, taxes play an important part in determining how much money you keep from every trade. Here are some quick tips to get you started:

When you are granted employee stock options, you won’t pay taxes on the initial grant. This is one of the reasons options have been so popular. They’re a great way to show someone that their work is recognized, but to give them an incentive to stick around for the long term. Since they’re valuable from day one, they provide a nice incentive, but unlike other forms of incentive, they don’t burden anyone with a cash outlay.

When you do cash in your …

The Swiss Banker, the Real Estate Billionaire, and the Smuggled Diamonds

Categories: Featured

Tax evasion is usually less exciting than it might sound. Often, it just amounts to shuffling some papers to create fake losses or shift profits — or, more often, ‘forgetting’ to do the paperwork that might cause a taxable gain.

Not so with the case of Igor Olenicoff and Brad Birkenfeld. Everyone in this deal tells a different story (one thing every version has in common is that the narrator is innocent), but it looks like it went something like this:

Birkenfeld was a middling banker at a very well-reputed bank, with exactly one great client. Igor Olenicoff was a billionaire with office space and apartments in Vegas, Arizona and Florida — he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the performance … Read more...

Today in the Taxosphere

Categories: Uncategorized

Many bloggers are still processing the effects of the recent financial meltdown and bailout. Here are a few fresh views on that and other matters:

  • Five Cent Nickel explains what happens to your mortgage if your bank goes under. Part of the trouble with the mortgage boom was that the mortgage was disconnected from the people who originated it — you might live a block away from your mortgage broker in Dubuque, and have no idea that your mortgage was being traded back and forth between hedge funds in Greenwich, bankers in London, and sovereign wealth funds in Dubai and Beijing. But that disconnect works out in your favor when the bank you have a relationship with collapses.
  • An

Today in the Taxosphere

Categories: Uncategorized

Interesting Tax blog links from around the Internet:


The Candidates, Compared: Health Care Taxes

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As part of their Presidential campaigns, Barack Obama and John McCain have both proposed serious revisions to health care taxes. Since health care is a large and growing expense, and one subject to fairly Byzantine tax treatment, it’s interesting to consider how each candidate’s proposals will affect the average taxpayer.

Obama’s proposal calls for grafting some new systems onto our existing health care system: in addition to employer-provided plans, he would offer extra guarantees for children. He’d also create a Federal insurance program offering a minimal level of coverage, and require that all health plans meet the same minimum criteria as the national option. This proposal would also require insurers to either provide insurance for their employees or pay into … Read more...

New Energy Bill is More of the Same

Categories: Uncategorized

Congress is debating a whole slew of new energy proposals, including adjusting or abandoning ANWR and coastal drilling restrictions, raising emissions standards, and adopting a new tax-and-credit scheme to encourage a shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy.

It’s all decent, well-meaning stuff, but the problem with these tax incentives is that they’re just not as dramatic as the ‘tax’ Americans pay when oil prices rise. This tax creates a huge incentive to find alternative energy sources, with or without a subsidy — and as long as no viable alternative is in sight, the prospect of using up oil reserves pushes prices that much higher.

It’s tricky to analyze a balanced situation like this, particularly when turmoil in the … Read more...

Tax Consequences of the Great Unwinding

Categories: Uncategorized

In retrospect, we’ll view the last forty years as a bizarre aberration: during that time, speculation on an enormous scale was tolerated, celebrated, and even subsidized. The fact that this speculation occurred in residential real estate made it all the more insidious and dangerous.

Looking over the last forty years (from when Fannie Mae was privatized to when it collapsed), it’s clear that tax incentives played a huge role in creating the mortgage market, and in inflating the value of the real estate that fueled this market.

The mortgage interest tax deduction made it seem smarter to invest money in a home rather than another means of savings. Of course, a tax exemption doesn’t make homes any more comfortable, or … Read more...


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