Rich people

Warren Buffett & Friends Talking Estate Tax Policy Now

A group of wealthy people that includes Warren Buffett, George Soros and former President Jimmy Carter is pressing Congress to roll back estate tax parameters, saying the current set-up leaves “too much revenue on the table.” The group of roughly three dozen people released a statement on Tuesday calling for both the current estate tax exemption […]

Understanding the Estate Tax: The Rich Lose Because They Have To Pay It, and the Poor Lose Because They’re Poor

If I've learned anything from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, it's that dead men tell no tales; however, the rich ones still pay taxes which is good news, especially for those who can't afford Disneyland. Some Americans are in favor of radically increasing the taxes on the rich while others want to […]

Chuck Schumer Won’t Have Any of This Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Talk

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that many of the reform plans that are under discussion in Washington would cut tax rates for everyone by eliminating or reducing deductions — the same model that was used during the last major rewrite of the tax code in 1986.  “But in the upcoming talks on the fiscal cliff, […]

All of Mitt Romney’s Fancy Schmancy Tax Planning Strategies Should Serve as a Reminder That We Really, Really Need Tax Reform

Yesterday, we told you about Jesse Drucker's stellar report on Mitt Romney's "I Dig It" trust and how it allows his family to pass along wealth to the younger generations with relatively little taxes being paid. It was the latest of many reports and scoops on Willard's finances and really, we shouldn't be surprised. He […]

All This Focus on Mitt Romney’s Taxes Could Ruin Things for All the Wealthy People

Today, a Bloomberg article by Jesse Drucker called attention to Mitt Romney's "intentionally defective grantor trust" aka "IDGT" or "I Dig It" trust. For the seasoned estate tax planning or wealth preservation professional, this is old hat, but for many people this is quite exciting. And by exciting I mean, "Holy shit, they can do […]

You Can Safely Assume That Jenna Jameson Is a Fan of Tax Cuts

And by extension, might be willing to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge should she ever run for office: "I'm very looking forward to a Republican being back in office," Jameson said while sipping champagne in a VIP room at Gold Club in the city's South of Market neighborhood. "When you're rich, you want a Republican […]

Poll: Americans Would Rather the Next President Get Some Jobs Up in This Piece Rather Than Stick the Rich with Higher Taxes

Surely most people wouldn't mind if the 1% were paying a little bit more in taxes but when compared to other issues, Gallup found that it's a pretty low priority: Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for […]

According to This Maryland Group, Rich People Don’t Like Taxes

Self-described non-partisan group Change Maryland is convinced the 31,000 individuals who left Maryland from 2007 to 2010 did so due to the state's increasingly burdensome tax rates. Surely it has nothing to do with Pepco's unreliable service, bad traffic, swampy summers, sandy crabs, the proliferation of Natty Boh or any other number of annoyances that […]

And Here You Thought It Was Just Peasants Not Paying Any Income Taxes

  Our income tax system is joke. This is known. One of the most controversial results of the current system is, with all its complexities, millions of people still manage to pay no income tax. And it's not just the poors getting away with it!   The percentage of U.S. taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income […]

IRS: Facebook Co-founder Is Gonna Take Off Now

So to speak. Bloomberg reports that Eduardo Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship ahead of Facebook's IPO. This has a number of obvious advantages – the lack of Kardashians, Nickelback, and NBA playoffs to name a few. But also, there are the tax advantages to consider, which it appears Saverin may have done: Facebook plans to […]

Stephen King Gives You a Frightening Visual of How The Rich Feel About Paying More Taxes

The man does know a thing or two about imagining ghastly scenes: The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. If you think you can one-up SK, leave your best effort below. Stephen King: […]

It Appears That the IRS Really Enjoys Auditing Millionaires

How do we know? Well for starters, the number audited tax returns with income over $1 million went up by nearly 50% last year. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said it audited 12.48 percent of individual tax returns (USCBTAXR) with income exceeding $1 million during fiscal 2011, a high that was reached at a time […]

H&R Block Founder Reminds Reporter That’s He’s Poor, Not Sure Why He and the Rest of Middle Class Aren’t Foaming at the Mouth

Earlier this week we were reminded that Warren Buffett is tired of being coddled and paying a lower tax rate (as a percentage of his total income) than his secretary. President Obama, not one to ignore an opportunity, called attention to WB’s comments that rich people should be paying more taxes while he was on the stump in Minnesota.

On the other side, Grover Norquist, who has never met a tax he didn’t hate, offered up a Twitter rebuttal suggesting that the Oracle shut his Blizzardhole and cut the check to Tim Geithner.

Now another fairly well off dude, H&R Block co-founder Henry Bloch has come out in agreement with Buffett, telling the Kansas City Fox affiliate that “[the] current tax code gives too many breaks to the rich.” Bloch, a registered Republican also takes issue with the notion that rich people create jobs, saying that’s “baloney” and that “Rich people don’t create jobs. Companies create jobs.”

Bloch continued on his rant, wondering why the peasants are taking this so well and then reminded the reporter interviewing him that he was one of those people.

Bloch says the middle class should be furious that the rich pay so little in taxes, hiding money in trusts and with their kids. “You probably pay a higher rate than I do… and yet my income is probably many times what yours is.” Bloch said to FOX 4 Reporter Rob Low.

Unconfirmed reports have indicated Mr. Low then hung his head in shame while Bloch’s stepped away to maintain the space between them.

The Middle Class Should Be Furious, Another Millionaire Says [Fox4KC]

Patriotic Millionaires Implore Congress for Higher Taxes

And it doesn’t appear (at least on the surface) that Warren Buffett put them up to it.

[via TaxProf]

Rich-hating Legislation of the Day: The Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Yachts Act

Sorry for being a little to the game on this one but everyone seems to still be in their meat-induced comas and this type of proposed legislation has left us wondering: IS NOTHING SACRED? If the affluent in our society can’t write off the mortgage interest on their second home that also happens to be boat, haven’t the terrorists won?


The Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Yachts Act was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) with co-sponsors Reps Tim Walz (D-MN) and Gary Peters (D-MI):

“There’s absolutely no reason why taxpayers should subsidize luxury yachts,” said Quigley. “As we work to address our budget challenges, closing this frivolous tax loophole is a no-brainer.”

“We’re going to have to make some hard decisions to tackle our national debt, but this isn’t one of them,” said Walz. “Closing this tax loophole restores the Mortgage Interest Deduction to its original purpose; helping middle class families realize the American Dream through homeownership.”

Currently, taxpayers are allowed to deduct mortgage interest for up to two homes from their tax returns. Yachts equipped with bedding, toilet facilities, and a kitchen qualify even if they aren’t used as a primary residence. The Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Yachts Act would limit the tax deduction to only those who use their boats as a primary residence.

“We need to get the deficit under control, and that means simplifying the tax code and eliminating special interest tax giveaways like the Yacht Loophole,” added Peters. “Homeownership is part of the American Dream and we should encourage it, but yacht owners don’t need any special handouts, especially in the middle of a budget crisis.”

Also, it’s our understanding that the Reps will use the following footage to make a case for their bill:

[via DMWT]

Chuck Grassley Has Had It with the Hating on Wealthy People

Which makes a lot of sense since the Iowa Senator has a net worth reported to be anywhere from $2.3 million to $6 million.

The Hill reports that Senator Grassley made his annoyance known in a Senate Finance Committee meeting today, “I get sick and tired of the demagoguery that goes on in Washington about taxing higher-income people,” he said. “How high do taxes have to go to satisfy the appetite of people in this Congress to spend money?” Good question, Senator. Are you changing your tune on ethanol tax credits? [The Hill]

Rich People in the U.S. Seem to Be Pulling Their Tax Weight Relative to Other Industrialized Countries

The United States relied more on tax revenue from wealthy individuals and families than other industrialized countries during the middle of the last decade, the Tax Foundation said Monday. Citing data released in 2008 from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the nonpartisan group said that the ratio of what higher-income households paid in taxes compared to their share of market income was bigger here than in certain other countries. The richest 10 percent of American households paid a 45 percent share of the nation’s taxes in the mid-2000s, the OECD found, while having a 33.5 percent share of market income. That 1.35 ratio was higher than countries including Australia (1.29), Canada (1.22), France (1.1) and Poland (0.84). [The Hill]

IRS Announces New ‘Come Out with Your Hands Up Holding Your Offshore Bank Account Number’ Program

Back in 2009, the IRS ran a relatively successful program that encouraged those with offshore bank accounts to cop to their shady tax evading ways and all would be forgiven…with the exception of a small penalty of the assets stashed out of sight. This particular program was primarily focused on UBS customers and for those not willing to play ball, the IRS and DOJ put the screws on the Swiss bank and got them to name names.

The IRS had been hinting that maybe Offshore Amnesty 2.0 was coming and today, they made it official.

From the Times:

The Internal Revenue Service announced a new initiative on Tuesday intended to lure tax evaders, but with stiffer penalties than those offered by a previous program. Under the initiative, Americans with hidden offshore accounts have until Aug. 31 to come forward voluntarily and report the accounts to the I.R.S. in exchange for penalties that, while below what they would ordinarily pay, are still higher than those offered in an earlier amnesty program.

The good news is that the IRS swears – SWEARS! – that you’ll come to no harm, in the criminal sense:

The program makes clear that Americans who come forward will not to face prosecution for tax evasion — something tax lawyers say was more of an open question under the previous program. “When a taxpayer truthfully, timely and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the I.R.S will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice,” the I.R.S. said.

So unless the possibility of jail time sounds inviting, we suggest you get on this. We’re all dreaming of August right now.

I.R.S. Offers New Amnesty Deal for Offshore Accounts [NYT]

Poll: This Balanced Budget Idea Starts with Higher Taxes for the Wealthy

Republicans take control in the House of Representatives this week and boy, are they ever ready. With the ink safely dry on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the GOP is moving on to spending cuts, supporting the troops, restoring honor, launching investigations and whatever hell else was in that pledge. Wait, that last one wasn’t in there?


Anyhoo, the idea of lower taxes and spending cuts to get the federal budget in ship shape has been the GOP song and dance long before Ronnie had his own float at the Tournament of Roses Parade but a recent poll has discovered that lots of people don’t agree with that sentiment:

Raising taxes on the rich beats out cuts to defense spending, Medicare and Social Security as U.S. adults’ top preference on how to close the deficit, according to a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll.

Sixty-one percent of Americans said that increasing taxes to the wealthy should be the first step toward balancing the budget.

By contrast, 20 percent of respondents preferred cuts to defense spending as the first option, while 4 percent said that cutting Medicare would be the best way to start cutting the deficit. Three percent said they preferred cutting Social Security.

Now you might expect a major backlash from the more affluent citizens, you know, grumbling at polo matches, yacht races and beside the swimming pools filled with gold doubloons but surprisingly, quite a few of them are okay with it:

Increased taxes on the wealthy tops those four options even among higher earners who might be most affected by a tax hike, the poll suggested. Fifty-eight percent of respondents making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year rated tax hikes as the best first step to balancing the budget, while 46 percent of those making more than $100,000 said it was their top choice, as well.

But as we have learned, the GOP isn’t really down with this. Besides, tax rates won’t be an issue again the until the second and third weeks of December 2012, so they’d prefer we concentrate on things that aren’t already safely chiseled into the political dogma.

Wealthy Canines Not Spared Democrat’s Ire During Tax Cut Debate

Somewhere in the whole mishmash of yesterday’s events leading up to the House’s passage of chicken crap, Joseph Crowley took to the floor to remind us know that it’s just not wealthy humans that stand to benefit greatly from tax cuts.

[via Gothamist]

Memo to the Wealthy: Death Is Looking Like a Good Option

“I have no confidence that this Congress will address the estate tax.”

~ Joe Kristan has a morbid outlook.

Warren Buffett Still Stuck in His Way Re: Taxes

You know how old people can get.

[via TaxProf]

IRS Unit Fully Intends to Make Rich People’s Audit Experience as Unpleasant as Possible

As you my have heard, being mega-rich these days has its disadvantages, including but not limited to – 1) governments getting overly reliant on the wealthy pitching in with revenues; 2) people giving you a hard time when you buy new toys; 3) your own kind selling you out.

Because times are tough and elected officials are having difficulty convincing anyone that higher taxes for the middle class are a good idea, the affluent are having the unfortunate luck to experience the rigor of the Global High Wealth Industry Group – a new unit within the IRS designed to perform the financial equivalent of a full rectal exam:

The reviews performed so far have been particularly harsh, say attorneys. Investors are being asked to turn over numerous hard-to-get documents in short order. These are “the audits from hell that your grandfather warned you about,” says Charles P. Rettig, a partner at Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez in Beverly Hills, Calif.

And don’t think for a second that the Service is putting scrubs on these assignments. Extra-special auditees deserve extra-special auditors:

Miriam L. Fisher, a tax attorney and partner at law firm Morgan Lewis in Washington, says the audit teams comprise “A-list examiners” drawn from around the country who are knowledgeable and experienced with various financial products and industries. The audits are so intensive that each team is handling only a few right now and they aren’t far along in the process, she says.

IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge says the group is looking at “individuals who have a complex set of situations, and looking at the complete financial set up.” She acknowledged that “these cases are full audits.”

Although you would never expect an IRS audit to be as delightful as, say, your average weekend in the Hamptons but haven’t rich people suffered enough? The least the IRS examiners could do is bring something from Maison du Chocolat to bring the tension down a notch.

[via TaxProf]

Washingtonians Mind Their Own Wallets

“Antitax voters clearly won a victory on Tuesday. But it would be a stretch to say that they don’t want higher taxes on the wealthy. More likely, they just didn’t want higher taxes on the nonwealthy.”

~ Robert Frank, on Washington’s rejection of Initiative 1098.

Study: Rich People Getting the Pleasure of Assisting Governments Increase Revenues Worldwide

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The worldwide decline in top personal income tax rates over the past seven years generally appears to have come to an end, as this year’s average rate increased 0.3 percent globally, according to KPMG International’s 2010 Individual Income Tax and Social Security Rate Report, released this we remained static in most locations, including the United States, the finding of an upward moving trend in the KPMG report suggests some governments are beginning to opt for a personal tax rate increase to help combat deficits and raise additional revenue.

“In the current economic environment, as many countries are faced with increasing budget deficits, they need funding for various economic stimulus packages,” said Ben Garfunkel, national partner in charge of KPMG LLP’s (U.S.) International Executive Services practice. “Our study indicates that many of these countries are levying tax increases on their highest earning taxpayers in order to increase revenue. We also see governments becoming increasingly sophisticated and rigorous in the framing and application of their tax rules.”


According to the KPMG report, the majority of rate movement in 2010 originated in Europe. The United Kingdom implemented a 10 percent increase raising its top rate from 40 percent in 2009-10 to 50 percent in 2010-11 — the highest rate increase seen globally this year.

Other Western European governments have followed suit in an attempt to increase tax revenues. Iceland, amid the collapse of the banking sector, replaced its flat tax regime with a progressive approach raising the top personal income tax rate by approximately nine percent.

Greece, in response to public deficit concerns, raised its top rate by five percent. Portugal, and, most recently, France raised top rates by three percent and one percent, respectively, to help address budget shortfalls. Ireland’s top rate also increased by one percent in 2010.

Striking the Right Balance

“Personal tax rates can be a crucial deciding factor when evaluating where to locate workforces or the costs associated with international assignment programs,” said Garfunkel. “Tax authorities are trying to strike the right balance as they face increasing pressure to identify and secure greater revenues, while also trying to attract businesses to set up operations in their country.

“High income earners typically have the talent and credentials to migrate to countries that have lower personal income tax rates and a need for skilled labor,” added Garfunkel. “Attracting such individuals — including their tax revenues and disposable income — using a competitive personal tax rate, while also trying to address budget deficits, is a challenge, especially in the current economic environment.”

Top Rates Decrease in Some Countries

Some countries are decreasing their top personal income tax rates. Denmark opted to introduce a stimulus package in hopes of increasing consumer spending and as a result, decreased its top rate by almost seven percent. Croatia, this past July, also dropped its top rate by five percent.

Other report findings include:

• The low flat tax initiatives of Eastern European governments have stagnated. Estonia has abolished its plan to reduce its flat tax rate to 18 percent by 2012, while Latvia increased its flat tax from 23 percent in 2009 to 26 percent in 2010.

•Average top rates in Asia-Pacific declined by 0.4 percent in 2010. New Zealand and Malaysia dropped their rates by five percent and one percent respectively.

•Although the average rates for Latin America jumped 0.8 percent in 2010, personal income taxes continue to remain relatively low in Latin America.

Accounting News Roundup: SEC at “Bottom of the Barrel” When it Comes to Diversity; More on Competition (or Lack Thereof) in the Audit Market; Define “Rich” | 10.01.10

SEC Plans to Hire More Women and Minorities Amidst Poor Rankings [FINS]
“At a recent panel discussion and networking event at the agency, Commissioner Luis Aguilar spoke about the need to hire ‘the best and brightest,’ while acknowledging that in the past it hasn’t done a good job of recruiting women and minorities.

In his speech, Aguilar said that as of FY 2009, 89% of the SEC’s senior officers were white, 4% African-American, 3% Hispanic and 2% Asian. Along gender lines, 67% of the officers were male and 33% were female.

Moreover, in a recent survey published by the Partnership for Public Service, the SEC fell from 11th to 24th place on a list of the ‘Best Places to Work’ rankings. With regard to diversity, the SEC ranked 24th out of 28 agencies when it came to diversity. In other words, the bottom of the barrel.”

PCAOB Fires Shot on Audit Issues, Calls for Enforcement [Compliance Week]
“The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has published a report summarizing its observations after inspecting audits performed while credit market seized and the economy plunged into depression. The report says auditors generally didn’t adhere adequately to PCAOB standards when it came to some of the toughest areas in financial reporting through the credit crisis – namely fair value measurements, goodwill impairments, indefinite-lived intangible assets and other long-lived assets, allowances for loan losses, off-balance-sheet structures, revenue recognition, inventory and income taxes.”

Viacom Names New CFO [WSJ]
Controller James Barge succeeds Tom Dooley who jumped over to the COO seat.

Accounting niches [AccMan]
Are accountants doing enough to leverage their professional expertise?

Investors unhappy with lack of competition in audit market [Accountancy Age]
“The Association Of British Insurers (ABI), whose members account for almost 15 per cent of investments in the London stock market, is worried about the audit structure and said it has made its views known in a submission to a House of Lords inquiry into audit competition.”


H&R Block sees 5-cent hit from IRS policy change [AP]
Fewer rapid refunds doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

KPMG’s Fuzzy Math on Atlantic Yards [NYO]
The completion of the Atlantic Yards project remains on a timetable that runs parallel to the adoption of IFRS in the United States.

Tax the rich, whoever they are [Don’t Mess with Taxes]
Come out with your hands up!

Accounting News Roundup: How Secure is SaaS?; Highest Marginal Tax Rates by State Under Dem, GOP Plans; Familiar Rich People | 09.23.10

Blockbuster Files for Bankruptcy After Online Rivals Gain [Bloomberg]
“Blockbuster Inc., the world’s biggest movie-rental company, filed for bankruptcy after failing to adapt its storefront model to online technology pioneered by rivals such as Netflix Inc.

The company listed assets of $1.02 billion against debt of $1.46 billion on a Chapter 11 petition filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. The company said it reached a deal with a group of bondholders on a plan of reorganization and secured a $125 million loan to finance operations.”

SaaS security: McAfee’s response [AccMan]
“One question that gets raised time and again: Is SaaS secure? The answer depends on with whom you speak. My take is that any vendor that cannot answer a set of well defined questions is probably not going to meet the minimum requirements for me to recommend a service.

Earlier today I attended a Salesforce.com presentation and among the speakers were Dell, Wells Fargo and McAfee. Both companies are deploying Salesforce and in particular its Chatter service to thousands of users. I put the question to Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce: ‘How do you demonstrate to users that services such as yours are secure without going down technical rat holes?’ ”

Friended for $100 Million [WSJ]
“Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder and chief executive of Facebook Inc., plans to announce a donation of up to $100 million to the Newark schools this week, in a bold bid to improve one of the country’s worst performing public school systems.”

Senate Holds Hearing Today on Lessons from the Tax Reform Act of 1986 [TaxProf Blog]
“Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will convene a hearing [today] to examine the lessons from the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and look at ideas for tax reform that will make the code simpler and fairer, while helping American businesses compete in the global economy.”


Top Marginal Effective Tax Rates by State under Rival Tax Plans from Congressional Democrats and Republicans [Tax Foundation]
The big winner is Hawaii with California taking first runner-up.

The Richest People in America [Forbes]
The usual: Gates, Buffett, Ellison, a lot of Sam Walton offspring, a pair of Kochs and Hizzoner.

Did an Accountant with a Penchant for Sex Chats with Underage Girls Rip Off a Wealthy Heiress?

[caption id="attachment_16785" align="alignright" width="260" caption="He's a pervert, dude"][/caption]

Maybe! That’s what the Manhattan’s DA office would like to know.

In a story that Dick Wolf is certain to get ahold of, an accountant – who is admitted perv – and a lawyer are being “probed” for their management of a wealthy heiress’s fortune.

You see, Irving Kamsler – the accountant – apparently got bored managing multi-millions for copper heiress Huguette Clark and got to poking around on the Internet. He ended up pleading guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to probation, “for engaging in sexual Web chats with detectives whom he believed were girls as young as 13 and sending porn to one of them,” (plot-line twist!).


Presumably Kamsler was out of hobbies and he refocused his energy on managing the money of Ms. Clark.

Kamsler, along with Clark’s attorney, Wallace Bock, have been overlooking the heiress’s fortune for years but now the Manhattan District Attorney’s office was curious why the “elderly eccentric” had spent ‘forever’ (according to one aide) at Beth Israel hospital.

This all came about after MSNBC got to wondering aloud about Huguette’s whereabouts. More or less asking, “Why on Earth is she in a dingy hospital (have you been to Beth Israel?) and not in her 42-room 5th Ave. apartment or sprawling estates in Santa Barbara or Connecticut?”

The DA’s probe into whether Kamsler and Bock were properly managing Clark’s money is ongoing but if you’re going by Kamsler’s looks alone, you can easily conclude that they’ve got every reason to be suspicious.

Empty mansions are legacy of mystery heiress Huguette Clark [MSNBC]
‘Princess’ of Beth Israel [NYP]

Accounting News Roundup: EisnerAmper Partner: GM Balance Sheet ‘Stronger’ Ahead of IPO; KPMG Moves on From New Century, Countrywide; No Bookie Needed for Betting on Grades | 08.19.10

GM’s balance sheet draws praise ahead of IPO [MarketWatch]
“Peter Bible, partner-in-charge at accounting firm EisnerAmper LLP, said General Motors is now carrying a much stronger balance sheet than its predecessor, based on the company’s initial public offering filed late Wednesday. ‘Their debt-to-equity ratio looks handsome,’ Bible said in an interview. ‘This thing has gotten restructured quite a bit. GM’s health care liabilities have fallen significantly. As I look at the balance sheet, it is much healthier.’ ”

Move to converge just exported crisis [Re: The Auditors]
KPMG has put two major lawsuits behind them – Countrywide and New Century. One major difference between these two cases was that New Century had a bankruptcy examiner’s report while Countrywide did not.


Judge Denies Online Religious Group’s Bid for Church Status [WSJ]
A virtual “church” gets denied the whole “church” thing.

For the rich, ’tis better to give than wait [Reuters]
“With U.S. taxes almost guaranteed to rise next year, the rich have a rare opportunity to distribute some wealth and preserve their fortunes.

A weak economy has led to razor-thin interest rates and beaten-down valuations, which make giving less costly for and potentially more rewarding to heirs. Moreover, the U.S. government is widely expected to rein in a popular tax-avoidance scheme.

‘This is a golden era for shifting estates and giving assets away,’ said Bill Fleming, a financial planner for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Hartford, Connecticut. ‘If you have an estate plan, keep going: Uncle Sam soon will be back in your pocket.’ ”

Wager 101: Students Bet on Their Grades [WSJ]
“The website attracted wagers by 600 students from two colleges last year, said Mr. Gelbart and co-founder Steven Wolf, graduates of Queens College. This month, the site expanded to let students on 36 campuses—including Harvard, Stanford and Brigham Young University—place bets. More than 1,000 new bettors have signed on.

Lisa Lapin, a Stanford University spokeswoman, said school officials were ‘appalled’ when they learned Stanford students could place bets on their grades, adding, ‘the concept of betting on academic performance is contrary to academic development.’

Lance Miller, a finance major at the University of Pennsylvania, says the criticism misses the mark. Mr. Miller, with a GPA of 3.6, won about $80 on two $40 bets that he would earn A’s in business courses.

‘We’re acing classes to make money—isn’t that what they call a win-win?’ said Mr. Miller, 20.”

Facebook’s Places Feature Lets Users Share Their Whereabouts With Friends [Bloomberg]
“Services that help Web users share their whereabouts and find nearby friends could generate as much as $4.1 billion in annual ad sales by 2015, according to Borrell Associates. The features can help marketers more easily target customers — say, by reaching shoppers when they’re close to making a purchase.”

Warren Buffet Will Bring His A-game Next Time

“It was a very soft sell, but 40 signed up.”

~ The Oracle of O probably didn’t even mention the fact that the estate tax will eventually come back.

Filthy Rich Guy Loses Fight with IRS, Remains Filthy Rich

Phil Anschutz, like most multi-billionaires, didn’t get rich being a passive dude. Case in point, Mr Anschutz just lost a battle with the IRS over $143.8 million in capital gains taxes that the Service argues he and his company, Anschutz, Co. owed for for transactions related to Union Pacific and Anadarko Petroleum.

According to Forbes’ latest Billionaire list, Phil is worth $6 billion. Before you reach for your 10-key, we’ll just tell you – this little capital gain issue amounts to less than 2.5% of his net worth.


In a similar vein, these transactions occurred in 2000 and 2001 so this particular battle is entering it’s second decade if you consider the birth of the transaction that gave life to the IRS’ beef.

Yes, he’s appealing ruling. See you in another 10 years.

Billionaire Anschutz Loses Capital Gains Ruling Over $144 Million Tax Bill [Bloomberg]

Accounting News Roundup: Rangel Found to Have Violated Ethics Rules; Friends of “Miami’s Go-to Forensic Accountant” Ask for Leniency; A “Refreshing” Settlement | 07.23.10

Rep. Charles Rangel broke ethics rules, House panel finds [WaPo]
“A House ethics subcommittee announced Thursday that it found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will prrobably beginning in September. The panel is expected to make the details of his alleged violations public next Thursday.

Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been under the House ethics committee’s microscope since early 2008 after it was reported that he may have used his House position to benefit his financial interests. Two of the most serious inquiries have focused on Rangel’s failure to declare $239,000 to $831,000 in assets on his disclosure forms, and on his effort to raise money for a private center named after him at City College of New York using his congressional letterhead.”

Geithner: Taxes on Wealthiest to Rise [WSJ]
“The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases.

Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year.

‘We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,’ Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters.”

FASB Requires More Disclosures Around Credit Risk [Compliance Week]
Accounting Standards Update No. 2010-20, Receivables (Topic 310) calls for more credit risk disclosures to give investors a better view of the credit risk in a company’s portfolio of receivables as well as the adequacy of its allowance for credit losses. Under the update, companies will be required to say more about aging receivables and credit quality indicators in particular.

The new disclosure requirements affect financing receivables and trade accounts receivable, including loans, trade accounts receivable that are greater than a year old, notes receivable, credit cards and receivables for certain leases. The new disclosure requirement does not affect short-term trade accounts receivable, receivables that are measured at fair value or the lower of cost or fair value, and debt securities.”


Convicted accountant Lewis Freeman’s friends urge leniency [Miami Herald]
“Miami’s go-to forensic accountant” Lewis Freeman is to be sentenced today for stealing nearly $3 million from victims of fraud who he was appointed to protect. He faces a dozen to fifteen years in prison but his friends and supporters have turned on the pity party, sending nearly 300 letters to Judge Paul Huck, asking for leniency.

“[E]very one of those letter writers also asks the judge to show mercy, emphasizing that the affable New York native should not have to languish in prison because he has done so much for institutions like his alma mater, the University of Miami, Miami Children’s Hospital and the Miami Children’s Museum, among others.”

No need for non-audit ban, regulator claims [Accountancy Age]
“Accountants will not have to give up their non-audit work for audit clients, under proposed guidelines released today, which have not recommended an outright ban, suggested by politicians in the wake of the financial crisis.

The Auditing Practices Board, of the Financial Reporting Council, which publishes guidance for auditors, does not believe an outright ban on non-audit services should be enacted and has instead proposed to tinker with present disclosure requirements.”

Could This Be a Real Deterrent? [Floyd Norris/NYT]
Despite the usual fare in the SEC’s settlement yesterday, Floyd Norris writes that the $4 million fine for Michael Dell and other executives is “refreshing.”

Billionaire’s Heirs May Beat the Estate Tax and They Have Congress to Thank

The New York Times has interesting story on Dan Duncan, a Houston billionaire who couldn’t beat death but his heirs may just beat the taxes thanks to Congress falling asleep at the wheel.

Duncan did all right for himself. He became the richest man in Houston and was ranked 74th on Forbes’ latest list by creating a natural gas empire that he started with a couple of trucks and $10k. Getting self-made crazy rich involves a little bit of luck so now it appears that he has passed on a little of that luck on to his heirs who may be inheriting his $9 billion fortune tax-free.

In case you estate tax mess continues to drag on, and on and on.


The Times story says that the Treasury collected $25 billion in estate taxes in 2008. With that kind of haul how could Congress let this happen? Joe Kristan passed along a little background to us from a Tax Analysts report 2001, some time ago that explains:

Although President Bush is scheduled to sign the tax bill into law next week, the bill contains a sunset provision that invites further debate in Congress during the next decade on whether many of the provisions will become permanent or take effect at all.

Just after H.R. 1836 becomes fully phased-in and estate taxes are repealed, the entire tax cut bill would expire as of December 31, 2010, under the bill’s sunset provision unless Congress enacts new law before that date.

The sunset provision opens up a new arena for debate among conservatives who are eager to make the provisions permanent and liberals who would prefer to postpone phasing in the provisions to pay for other government programs. Meanwhile, tax planners are left questioning the final outcome as they examine the new law.

As originally designed, the bill would have extended through 2011 and made the tax cuts permanent. However, that bill would have been subject to a budgetary procedure known as the “Byrd Rule,” which requires 60 votes in the Senate to alter revenue beyond a 10-year period. To avoid the procedure, Republican taxwriters adjusted the tax cut agreement for H.R. 1836 by allowing the provisions to sunset by December 31, 2010.

Democrats have argued that the sunset provision masks the true cost of the bill because the revenue loss accounts for only nine years of the budget window and less than one year of the bill’s full effect, including repeal of the estate tax. “Not only have they increased the back-loading to hide the true cost of this tax bill, but they have actually eliminated a year from the calendar,” said Senate taxwriter Kent Conrad, D-N.D., in a May 26 floor statement. “What they have done is graduated to a whole new level of accounting gimmickry to disguise the full cost of this tax bill.”

Joe’s emphasis. He then wrote to us, “Stupid? Well, it’s Congress, what do you expect?”

Blame who you want – George W. Bush for signing the expiration into law in 2001 or the Democratic controlled Congress for letting it expire – but at this point in time, regardless of your political persuasion, Duncan’s family and other wealthy families (some wealthier than others) are catching a huge break.

The Duncans didn’t talk to the Times for the story but it does state, “Many lawyers say Mr. Duncan’s heirs have the means and motivation to wage a fierce court battle to challenge the constitutionality of any retroactive tax.”

Good for them. If Congress tries to pull a fast one on them with a retroactive tax they should fight it tooth and nail. Despite the fiscal situation facing the country, Congressional incompetence and inaction shouldn’t get a mulligan.

Hillary Clinton Sounds Like She Would Be Supportive of the Wealth Squads

“The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues [that America is] – whether it’s individual, corporate or whatever taxation forms are.”

~ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Accounting News Roundup: Why Did Power Integrations Fire Their CFO?; Spain Making ‘Sweeping Austerity Measures’; GM May Want GMAC Back | 05.12.10

Power Integrations fires chief financial officer [AP]
Not to worry Power Integrations investors, Bill Roeschlein’s firing “was not related to financial statements or regulatory issues,” according to the company. However, he is currently the “subject of a felony domestic assault criminal complaint filed in Missouri,” which he denies and naturally he will “defend himself vigorously.” Unfortunately, that might cut into the job search.

Spain joins euro zone austerity bandwagon [Reuters]
Spain has agreed to “sweeping austerity measures,” cutting civil service pay 5% and freezing it for 2011. The country will also cut approximately 13,000 public sector jobs.


Minority Owner Sues Cuban, Calls Mavericks ‘Insolvent’ [NYT]
Ross Perot, Jr. is suing SEC target Mark Cuban, accusing him of turning the Dallas Mavericks into a financial catastrophe. The Times reports, “Perot is seeking damages, the naming of a receiver to take over the team and the appointment of a forensic accountant to investigate its finances. Perot said that Cuban’s actions had diminished the value of his investment in the team and violated his and other minority owners’ rights.”

Cuban, as you might expect, isn’t impressed with Charts Boy, Jr.’s loserness. He wrote in an email to the Dallas Morning News, “There is no risk of insolvency. Everyone always has been and will be paid on time. Being in business with Ross Perot is one of the worst experiences of my business life. He could care less about Mavs fans. He could care less about winning.”

Failed Bomber’s Resume Fail [FINS]
Faisal Shazad’s resumé sucks.

Is G.M. Looking to Buy Back GMAC? [AP]
Sources say that GM is interested in buying back GMAC (now known as Ally Financial) “so they can offer more competitive lease and loan deals.” The U.S. Government currently owns 56% of GMAC and 61% of GM, who plans to announce its first quarter earnings next week.

Quote of the Day: Rich People Unite for Higher Taxes | 04.07.10

“We’re calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us to send the message to Congress and President Obama that it’s time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers.”

~ Mike Lapham, paper-mill heir, would like to pay more taxes.