With Harry Reid in deep negotiations with crony Republican fraud Mitch McConnell, the American public is surely in the process of getting royally screwed once again. Thus, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit an interview in which Mr. Reid claimed on camera that income taxes are “voluntary.” He must have accidentally described the way members of Congress view taxes, you know kind of like how they view insider trading.
As you watch, try not to get too distracted by Jan Helfeld’s tie. Where can you even buy something like that?!
While Europe, and especially Germany has been understandably “displeased” with having to provide billions in bailout upon bailout funding to Greece every year starting in 2010, all the more so following recent news that Greece has already spent some 75% of its bank bailout cash with no discernible improvement in its economy to show for it, Europes’ taxpayers will unlikely be any more pleased to learn that as of the end of June, a whopping €60 billion in past due taxes (an all time record) was owed by Greek businesses and individuals to the state. This is an amount that is 20% greater than the entire external cash handed over by the Troika to keep Greek banks afloat, and represents nearly 30% of imploding Greek GDP.
Perhaps instead of spending money on trips by its premier and/or think-tanks on how to mutually assure itself another few billion in Troika cash to plug this budget hole or that, Greece should invest a few grand to buy the ink it needs to print tax forms, streamlining its tax collection department (on those days it is isn’t on strike of course) and generate some real IRR.
Why did the U.S. government spend 2.6 million dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly? Why did the U.S. government spend $175,587 “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior”? Why did the U.S. government spend nearly a million dollars on a new soccer field for detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay? This week when I saw that the IRS was about to pay out 70 million dollars in bonuses to their employees and that the U.S. government was going to be leaving 7 billion dollars worth of military equipment behind in Afghanistan, it caused me to reflect on all of the other crazy ways that the government has been wasting our money in recent years. So I decided to go back through my previous articles and put together a list. I call it “The Waste List”. Even though our politicians insist that there is very little that can still be cut out of the budget, the truth is that the federal budget is absolutely drowning in pork.
The following are 66 crazy ways that the U.S. government is wasting your hard-earned money… Continue reading »
The latest casualty of Europe’s berserk pursuit of tax evaders everywhere: not some Russian oligarch with a $1 billion Cypriot bank account but famous Italian designers, Dolce and Gabbana. WSJ reports that a Milan court has convicted the designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of tax evasion. The pair were found guilty Wednesday of failing to declare €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in income tax to authorities. The court sentenced them both to one year and eight months in jail. Prosecutors argued that the pair had evaded taxes on income of €416 million each and €200 million through a Luxembourg-based company. The statute of limitations ran out on a charge of misrepresenting income. The designers have denied the charges.
At this point we have all heard of the IRS being caught redhanded with regard to its political targeting, but revelations of corruption and cronyism get worse and worse each day. Yesterday, we found out that the IRS has wasted tens of millions of dollars on hundreds of conferences over the past few years. Conferences where in one instance $17,000 was spent to make paintings of Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein and Bono. Believe it or not, the story gets even better.
We actually don’t even know how much taxpayer money the IRS has blown. Why? They didn’t keep their receipts. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
“Since Mr. Krugman tells us all this spending and debt issuance/guarantees are not only good and necessary but in the long run, painless, why are we bothering with personal income taxes?
The US government will collect approximately $2.0bn this year in Personal Income and Payroll taxes. But why? Why are we even bothering with this when today’s leading economists and politicians are telling us that debts/deficits don’t matter and running up astronomical debts is a long-term painless process? It’s practically patriotic. So why shouldn’t we just add our tax burden to the list of items the Fed should be monetizing? Seriously. Why not relieve the burden on every tax paying citizen in the United States (about 53% of us according to Mitt Romney)? You want an economic recovery? Reduce my taxes to zero and see how fast I go out and start spending some of that extra income.”
Thought Experiment: Why Do We Bother Paying Personal Taxes?
“Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way.”
– Chris Lowe
I will admit right up front, I am not a fan of the views of Paul Krugman. If Paul Krugman was to be given his way – and by and large he is being given his way – my children and grandchildren will be burdened in the future with paying back untold amounts of public debt just so his life and the lives of countless other Boomers can remain comfortable and embarrassment free today.
This is the essence of his grand plan for a US recovery – MOAR and MOAR debt.
Wow. Genius. Why I didn’t I think of that? Just keep borrowing and printing, borrowing and printing. Got it. Now that I understand it, do I get a PhD?
Who’s going to pay the money back? How will it effect future generations? How will it effect the markets? What will this do to civil society?
• Speaker: Nigel Farage MEP, Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Co-President of the ‘Europe of Freedom and Democracy’ (EFD) Group in the European Parliament – http://nigelfaragemep.co.uk
• Joint debate: European Council meeting (22 May 2013) – tax fraud and tax havens
“Thank you. Well there is a great degree of unity here this morning, with a common enemy – rich people, successful companies evading tax, which of course is a problem.
Avoiding tax, which is not illegal, but it gives this whole chamber this morning a high moral tone.
And as Mr Barroso says it is all about the perception of fairness. Because there is the added bonus of course that it drives a wedge between the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Caymans.
But before we declare our virtues, perhaps we ought to look just a little bit closer to home.
And I hope that the taxpayers all over Europe listen to this. If we look at the EU officials who work for the European Commission and the European Parliament, the highest category [the most common grade is AD12] are people that earn a net take home pay of just over 100 thousand pounds a year. And yet under EU rules they pay tax of 12 per cent. It is tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale.
And Mr Barroso I would say to you, how can that be deemed to be fair? How can people out there struggling – the 16 million people unemployed in the eurozone – how can they look at these institutions, not only paying people vast sums of money but allowing them tax and pension benefits on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world? So I suggest we have a bit less of this high moral tone.
And what have these officials given us? Well, they were the architects of the euro, which is a complete disaster. Their obsession with global warming which chimes very strongly here means we are despoiling our landscapes and seascapes with these disgusting wind turbines and driving up energy prices.
But never let it be said that I cannot acknowledge success when I see it. And I am sure the citizens of Europe will all clap and cheer loudly that the grave, mortal danger of olive oil in dipping bowls has been removed by the officials. Well done everybody.”
Corporate tax avoidance has risen to the top of the political agenda in Europe following revelations in the past couple of years about how little big names like Apple Inc., Starbucks, Google and Microsoft pay in tax in markets where they reap billions of dollars in sales.
Canadians using bitcoins, the decentralized crypto-currency that recently went mainstream, must report their incomes and pay taxes as with other earnings, Canada’s Revenue Agency (CRA) confirmed following a media request.
The issue was clarified in response to a letter by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ahead of the country’s tax season.
Two separate tax rules are applicable to the electronic currency, CRA spokesperson Philippe Brideau told CBC in an email.
When bitcoins are used as money to buy goods and services, the transaction is treated as barter and is taxable as such. When they are traded at a market for profit, they may be taxed as capital gains.
“When bitcoins are bought or sold like a commodity, any resulting gains or losses could be income or capital for the taxpayer depending on the specific facts,” the CRA ruled.
The Internal Revenue Service issued more than $11 billion in improper payments through its Earned Income Tax Credit program last year, according to an inspector general’s report released this week. Treasury Department deputy inspector general Michael McKenney found that the IRS has failed to comply for two consecutive years with the Improper Payments Elimination Act, which President Obama signed in 2010. The law requires federal agencies to reduce erroneous payments to a rate of less than 10 percent.
The IRS estimates that at least 21 percent of its EITC payments in 2012 were faulty. That rate showed a decline compared to the previous nine years, but improper payments over the same period increased about 22 percent, rising to at least $11.6 billion, according to the inspector general’s report.
As we have vociferously warned since September 2011, and most recently as the Cyprus debacle exploded explained why it is just beginning, Germany’s Council of Economic Experts (or so-called ‘Five Wise Men’) just confirmed a wealth tax is coming. As the Telegraph reports, confirming our expectations, Germany warns that states in trouble must pay more for their own salvation, arguing that there is enough wealth in homes and private assets across the Mediterranean to cover bail-out costs. They further added that targeting deposit-holders is also a mistake, since the “resourceful rich just move their money to banks in northern Europe and avoid paying,” preferring instead taxes on property or other less-mobile assets, “for example, over the next 10 years, the rich should give up a portion of their assets.” As we noted here and here, the differences between mean and median wealth in the peripheral nations suggest that people in the bailed-out countries are often better-off than those in Germany – – “this shows that Germany has been right to take a tough line of euro rescue loans.” However, the implications of a wealth tax – implicitly impacting the pro-euro Southern European uber-rich – raises the specter of EU breakup once again.
Any serious move to a wealth tax could the erode the pro-euro ardour of South Europe’s uber-rich. The ECB bond buying policy has largely rescued the wealthiest strata while the full brunt of EMU austerity has fallen on ordinary people and the unemployed. Continue reading »
The number of people giving up their US citizenship to become British has surged thanks to complex tax rules introduced by the American tax authorities.
London-based American lawyers, who specialise in tax and immigration, report a threefold increase over the last five years in the number of American citizens who are giving up their citizenship – a process known as “renunciation”.
Across the world 1,781 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2011 compared with just 231 in 2008, when US tax laws changed, although it remains unknown how many are adopting British rather than any other nationality.
Many decide to give up their American citizenship after tiring of the lengthy US tax return process, which requires them to pay tax on their total income regardless of where they live.
The federal income tax is a bad joke and it needs to be abolished. All over the nation, hard working American families are being absolutely crushed by oppressive levels of taxation, and our politicians are constantly coming up with new ways to extract money from all of us every single year. Meanwhile, many ultra-wealthy Americans and many of the most profitable corporations in the country pay little to nothing in taxes. In fact, as you will see below, there are dozens of very prominent corporations that make billions of dollars in profits and yet don’t pay a dime in taxes. Tax avoidance has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Those that have the resources to “play the game” use shell companies, offshore tax havens and the thousands of loopholes in our tax code to minimize their tax burdens as much as possible. Meanwhile, the rest of us get absolutely hammered. This is fundamentally unfair. The federal income tax system is irreversibly broken at this point, and it is time to abolish it. If you think that the federal income tax system can be “fixed”, then you probably have never studied it. Our tax code is nearly 4 million words long and it is absolutely riddled with thousands of loopholes that favor big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. We should come up with a better, fairer way to fund the government. The United States once prospered greatly without a federal income tax, and it could do so again.
A California man born in Israel agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with people at Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. to hide offshore accounts and income from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, according to court filings and people familiar with the matter.Zvi Sperling was accused Feb. 14 by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles of conspiring with people at two Tel Aviv-based banks, identified only as Bank A and Bank B. The charging document and plea agreement didn’t identify the banks. Bank A is Mizrahi, according to a person who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case. Bank B is Leumi, according to a second person, who similarly asked not to be identified.
Since 2008, U.S. prosecutors have cracked down on offshore tax evasion, charging at least 83 U.S. taxpayers or foreign bankers, lawyers or advisers with tax crimes. UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, avoided prosecution in 2009 by admitting it aided tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over account data on 250 clients. It later disclosed information on about 4,450 more accounts. Wegelin & Co., a Swiss bank, pleaded guilty last month. No Israeli bank has been charged.
It hasn’t drawn much attention, but Facebook’s first annual earnings report contains an accounting gem:a multibillion-dollar tax deduction for the cost of executive stock options and share awards.
Even though Facebook (FB) reported $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits from U.S. operations in 2012, it will probably pay zero federal and state taxes—and even receive a federal tax refund of about $429 million—according to a Feb. 14 statement from Citizens for Tax Justice.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault himself presided over Monday’s meeting of the National Anti-Fraud Committee—“a first for a head of government,” he said at the press conference afterward, to hammer home just how important this was. But he wasn’t worried about run-of-the-mill fraud that might fleece some old lady of her life savings. He was worried about people not paying their taxes.
Everyone knows that for the better part of the past year Apple, Inc. (“AAPL”, or “The Company”) was the world’s biggest company by market cap, with Exxon finally regaining that title on Friday, following AAPL’s latest price drop in the aftermath of its disappointing earnings. Most know that AAPL aggressively uses all legal tax loopholes to pay as little State and Federal tax as possible, despite being one of the world’s most profitable companies.Many also know, courtesy of our exclusive from September, that Apple also is the holding company for Braeburn Capital: a firm which with a few exceptions (Bridgewater; JPM’s CIO prop trading desk) also happens to be one of the world’s largest hedge funds, whose function is to manage Apple’s massive cash hoard, with virtually zero requirements, and whose obligation is to make sure that AAPL’s cash gets laundered legally and efficiently in a way that complies with prerogative #1: avoid paying taxes.
What few if any know, is that as part of its cash management obligations, Braeburn, and AAPL by extension, has conducted a mindboggling $600 billion worth of gross notional trades in just the past four years, consisting of buying and selling assorted unknown securities, or some $250 billion in 2012 alone: a grand total which represents some $1 billion per working day on average, and which puts the net turnover of some 99% of all hedge funds to shame!
Finally, what nobody knows, except for the recipients of course, is just how much in trade commissions AAPL has paid over the past four years on these hundreds of billions in trades to the brokering banks, many (or maybe all) of which may have found this commission revenue facilitating AAPL having a “Buy” recommendation: a rating shared by 52, or 83% of the raters, despite the company’s wiping out of one year in capital gains in a few short months.
The past and present bailouts of each and every bank (and ‘important’ industry) will, one day, be seen as a generational offense is how MEP Daniel Hannan begins this thoroughly British demolition of the three critical myths surrounding the crisis, that despite market optics, we are still living through. From the idea that capitalism has failed (it has not in his view, it has been ravaged by political pandering), to the crisis being caused by lack of regulation, and that greed is the single-driver of the mess that we remain in; Hannan suggests in a brief but extremely eloquent debate that there is a world of difference between being pro business and pro market as he destroys any semblance of credibility that the political (and elite) class has echoing a young Ron Paul in his thoroughly libertarian free-market sensibilities.
As you probably know, in 2010 the US government passed one of the most arrogant, destructive, poorly conceived pieces of legislation in history, now known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
FATCA heaps all sorts of reporting requirements on US taxpayers with foreign financial accounts. This is in ADDITION to form TDF 90-22.1, which is due to the Treasury Department each year by June 30th, and IRS form 1040 schedule B.
(Nothing says ‘government’ like passing along the same information on different forms to the same department multiple times…)
Another major provision of the law requires ALL financial institutions on the PLANET to share personal customer information with Uncle Sam.
The hubris is overwhelming. Imagine what would happen if the Chinese government passed a law requiring US banks to share customer information with Beijing. People would go nuts. But in the Land of the Free, it’s normal. Crazy.
Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James’s Square and Pall Mall.
But these office blocks in one of London’s most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.
Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.
Since then the international value of Mussolini’s nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James’s Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.
After more than two months of political grandstanding, finally the $60 billion pork-laden Sandy relief aid bill has passed through the House in a 241-180 vote (with 1 democrat and 179 republicans voting no), with the vote passing courtesy of just 49 republicans who voted with the democrats. The reminder objected in protest “against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut” Politico reports. Specifically, the House approved a $50 billion relief bill, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts. $9.7 billion had been already voted on January 4th for a flood insurance lending facility.The biggest winner today? Chris Christie whose anti-Boehner soapbox rant drama two weeks ago may have been just the breaking straw that forced the passage of this porkulus bill.
Republican and Democratic supporters of the bill argued throughout the day that everyone should support it, or run the risk of losing votes for future disaster bills that might help people in their districts.
It’s been a while since the Syntagma square riotcam was broadcasting live from Athens. After all, despite the ongoing collapse in its economy, where only 3.7 million people have jobs compared to 4.7 million who are unemployed or inactive, the general sentiment was that “austerity” measures have been put on hiatus, and no more tax, pension, or benefits cuts are on the table. That changed last night when Greece was the latest country to become the US, following a tax hike on its highest earners. However, unlike the US, this increase in “rich” taxes is being offset by at least some spending cuts such as tighter control of the budgets of ministries and state utilities, and the reduction of parliamentary employees’ wages in line with cuts to the wages of other civil servants. In other words, it is almost time for the Syntagma square daily pay-per-view daily webcast. The good news, at least for Greece, is that it does not have a debt ceiling to worry about. Then again, when all your debt is zero coupon perpetuals in the hands of the ECB and other “official” institutions, the balance sheet is the last thing you have to worry about. It’s the income statement, one where not even all the one-time charges or loan loss reserve releases in the world will do any difference, that suddenly matters far more.
Greek lawmakers voted late Friday to increase taxes on middle- to high-income earners, self-employed professionals and businesses despite vehement objections by the political opposition and several ruling coalition deputies who said austerity-weary citizens should not be subjected to further pain.
When it comes to the impact of the just enacted 2013 tax hikes (payroll tax cut expiration affecting everyone together with the tax hike on those making over $400K), economists are in broad agreement on one thing: the first half of 2013 will be impacted by roughly a 1.0%-1.5% drop in GDP. However, a big question emerges when attempting to quantify the adverse impact on US growth as the year progresses past June 30. Most strategists and economists ignore this issue, and instead chose to believe that all shall be well as by July, the US population will be habituated to getting a smaller paycheck and general consuming behavior will no longer be impacted relative to a previous baseline.
The final fiscal cliff deal does not touch oil and gas subsidies, confirms Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Ending the costliest tax breaks for oil and gas companies would have raised tens of billions of dollars in revenue. Trimming just a handful of these breaks for the big five companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell—would’ve raised $24 billion over the next decade. President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal called for ending 13 breaks benefiting oil and gas companies of all sizes; it would have saved $46 billion over 10 years.
Fifty-four House Republicans on Thursday reintroduced legislation that would terminate the IRS and replace the system of income taxes on people and corporations with a consumption tax.
The FairTax Act, from Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), would abolish the 16th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this February. That amendment gives Congress the power to impose income taxes without having to spend the revenues evenly among the states.
Many Americans have long known that accounting practices in the nation’s capital are, to put it mildly, “creative.” Pay increases tend to come automatically, money can be printed and valued out of thin air, and spending “cuts” generally don’t mean actual cuts to budgetary line items – only reductions in the amount of spending increases.
It is in this context in which voters should actually view the recently completed “balanced tax-and-spending deal” reached by lawmakers and President Obama this week that ostensibly avoided the impending “fiscal cliff,” because there was nothing balanced about it.
Why? Because there literally were no spending cuts at all – again, only reductions to the growth of current line items – and most of the legislation involves increasing taxes on a whopping 77 percent of Americans.
Wait – didn’t Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all claim that Congress and the administration would not be raising taxes on anyone but the most well-to-do wage earners (the ol’ class warfare card)?