Tax Guru – Ker$tetter Letter

Helping real people win the tax game.

Archive for April, 2004

Posted by taxguru on April 30, 2004

Time to transform Social Security into a wealth-creating vehicle. – Instead of the IOUs that disappear when you die.

Tax & Fiscal Information for Senator John Kerry – Of course, this is rapidly becoming a moot point, as my prediction of someone else taking his place on the DemonRat ticket looks more likely every day of his totally inept and incompetent campaign.

Stop the Spree – Tax cuts don’t cause deficits. Out of control spending does.

Sanford tax plan moves to Senate floor – A possible reduction in the state income tax rate for South Carolina.

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Posted by taxguru on April 30, 2004

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Conservative Dividing Lines

Posted by taxguru on April 30, 2004

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting look at the dilemma conservatives have in supporting RINOs and other members of the GOP who are violating basic conservative principles. He voices a common concern many of us have:


Many conservatives, myself included, are fairly outraged that President Bush is spending taxpayer dollars like a pothead teenager with a stolen credit card.

However, Jonah is making the same mistake as Rush Limbaugh in assuming that there are only two choices in an election and choosing the lesser evil is the only option we have; when in fact, there is a political party that is still true to the belief in small constitutionally authorized government, the Libertarians.

People who are upset about RINOs, such as PA’s Arlen Specter, would make a more powerful statement in support of conservatism by voting for the Libertarian candidate than by voting for the RINO or by sitting the election out. Otherwise, Bush and the RINOs will continue to take conservatives for granted and will see no downside to usurping even more of the DemonRat agenda.

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Posted by taxguru on April 30, 2004

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Posted by taxguru on April 29, 2004

Senate OKs Bill to Ban Web Access Tax

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ License – Realtors in the PRC aren’t too happy about people advertising their own properties on the web. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Vote Quiets Anti-Tax Clarion Call In Virginia

House, Senate Gridlocked Over Tax Cuts

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IRS Mileage Rates

Posted by taxguru on April 29, 2004

Back last October, when IRS established the standard rate for 2004 business miles as 37.5 cents, the price of fuel was much lower than it is now. Normally, when we have a large increase during the year, as long as it appears to not be a temporary spike, IRS issues a new higher rate for the later months of the year. They have not done so as of yet. My inquiries to IRS personnel have yielded no time frame for such a new rate. In the meantime, trucking companies and airlines have been adding fuel surcharges to their rates.

If IRS doesn’t issue a new higher rate soon, it will be another perfect example of how important it is to keep track of actual out of pocket vehicle expenses so they can be claimed instead of the standard rate, if they turn out to be higher, which they could very well be for 2004.

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Posted by taxguru on April 29, 2004

Typos On New $50 Bill “Security Features,” Insists Treasury

In Class, the Audience Weighs In – Interesting look at the high tech tools being used in law school and college classrooms, featuring Paul Caron, whose TaxProf blog has gotten off to an amazingly quick start. Things have changed quite a bit in the 30 or so years since my days as a college student.

Permanent tax cut OK’d – It’s very premature to celebrate this as an actual victory. It’s only the token marriage penalty reduction as passed by the House. While I have no doubt that Bush would sign this if it comes to him intact, the Senate has far too many RINOs (including the recently victorious PA Senator Arlen Specter) to guarantee its survival there.

Social Security Time Bomb, and the Candidates Aren’t Talking – Standard operating procedure for our rulers here. Just ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

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The Jersey Two-Face

Posted by taxguru on April 29, 2004

McGreevey Looks to Wealthy to Fix New Jersey Property Tax

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Invest In Yourself

Posted by taxguru on April 28, 2004

A common scenario I have seen countless times. A person leaves the employ of a large company (sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not) and has a very substantial amount of money in the former employer’s retirement plan. This is a very tempting source of money to use to start up a new business or expand an existing one. Unfortunately, if the person is under 59.5 years old, there are heavy penalties (10% Federal plus something for State) for touching that money. Added to the Federal and State income taxes, I have frequently seen the effective rate on such withdrawals exceed well over 50% of the account balance. I have normally advised people to roll their retirement funds into an IRA account and then take out an equity loan against their real estate in order to avoid the huge tax and penalty hit.

Once cash and stocks are rolled over from a company plan to an IRA, there is still a question as to how to invest that money. Most people think that the only options are cash and stocks. However, the options are wider than that. We have long used the concept of “prudent investments” to designate what are suitable for retirement accounts. Some things, such as collectibles, are statutorily ineligible investments. I can remember about a dozen years ago, when the prices for ostriches and emus were escalating and promoters were claiming that those birds were suitable investments for IRAs and other types of retirement accounts. As I predicted back then, the market prices for those flightless birds collapsed and anyone stupid enough to fall for that get rich quick scheme saw their retirement nest eggs fly away.

About a week ago, I received an email from a reader referring to a company in San Diego, BeneTrends, that has established a certain type of retirement account, called Entrepreneur Rollover Stock Ownership Plan (ERSOP), where the funds are invested into shares of stock of closely held C corporations. S corporations do not qualify; one more benefit to using a C instead of an S.

This actually addresses a couple of very big problems that I have discussed over the years; how to safely invest retirement funds and how to obtain working capital for small businesses.

Safe investments of retirement money. I have long ridiculed people who invest their retirement money in super risky stocks. I have frequently had the unpleasant task of informing people that, because their retirement accounts were pre-tax money, which give them a cost basis of zero, there was no deduction allowed for the losses they suffered in those accounts.

Whether it’s a dot-com stock, fueled by pure speculation frenzy, or what are considered to be blue chip stocks, I have never been a big fan of playing the stock market because you have no control over the management of those companies. Recent corporate accounting scandals have illustrated how valid those concerns were. Investing in your own company fixes that problem. If you end up losing the money, you only have yourself to blame.

According to the service fee schedule I was sent, BeneTrends charges $4,000 to establish the ERSOP plus a $700 IRS User Fee to register the plan, and annual maintenance fees of $800 plus $40 per participant. While at first blush, this may seem like a lot of money, it is a small fraction of the taxes that would be payable if the money were withdrawn from the account and used directly. It is also much less than the fees routinely charged for small business loans. I have also seen small companies pay well over $10,000 to establish more conventional defined benefit retirement plans; so $4,000 is quite reasonable. BeneTrends also offers incorporation services for $800 plus the state fees; but I still think my earlier suggestions for setting up a new corporation are the best way to go.

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Posted by taxguru on April 28, 2004

House Pursues Permanent Tax Break for Married Couples

Senate Vote on Net Taxes Looms

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