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Monday, August 31, 2020

MYTH : Trump's Social Security Tax Holiday Will Help Employers and Their Employees

The United States Capitol Rotunda

Well, this is a solid myth, that's for sure.  Smart and ethical CPAs are recommending that their clients not just walk, but sprint away from the Memorandum Deferring Payroll Tax Obligation.  Let me preface this by declaring that I'm not an attorney and that all of this is my opinion.  But I can read and think. 

First, a little background.

The current IRS Commissioner is Trump appointee Charles Rettig, who, during his confirmation hearing, "told lawmakers he would ensure that the agency is 'impartial and non-biased from top to bottom' and follows the law."  

This seems unlikely, given that Rettig's Beverly Hills law firm specialized in defending wealthy clients against taxing authorities.  Since taking over the IRS, Rettig has slashed 4000 employees, including 19% of enforcement and compliance staff.  Like every single other Trump appointee, Rettig was selected for his ability and enthusiasm to vandalize the very agency to which he was appointed.

So Trump's Memorandum Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations allows any employee with bi-weekly pay of less than $4000 to defer paying of their 6.2% share of Social Security tax.  This appeals to two kinds of Trump supporters:  the wealthier ones who hate Social Security and, including this group, the less well-off supporters who hate taxes and government in general, despite all the benefits they enjoy as a result.

The key word here is "deferring".  What could make this tax easier to pay in the future?  Some tax people are rightly claiming that only Congress has the ability to waive such taxes.  But they've already granted that right to the President in the event of a national emergency, which Trump declared in April due to the [fake, according to him] pandemic.  

In fact, it will simply put employers at risk of fees and penalties.  On top of that, I've seen nothing in the regulations that prevents employers from going after former employees for reimbursement. According to our Senator & Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, "Donald Trump's scam is obvious — juice paychecks before the election and sock workers with a massive tax bill early next year when he’ll be out of office or never have to face voters again. While many businesses are unlikely to go along with Donald Trump’s fake tax cut, billions could be drained from the Social Security trust fund. This scheme is designed to give Donald Trump a talking point — it won’t benefit workers in any way.”*

Whether you're an employee or an employer, don't be seduced by this nonsensical campaign trick.


*Thanks to Think Advisor for their excellent article on this and choice quotes.

Your Constructive Comments are Welcome!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Karl Marx, Jay-Z & SGI Funds have a lot in common

Usually the title of these posts IS a myth.  But believe this one is true.  Where did I come up with these seemingly completely unrelated topics?  Oddly, they were in the top 10 financial search words last month.

Karl Marx

Karl-Marx-Monument in Chemnitz
Karl Marx Monument in Chemnitz

First, what he was not.  Marx was neither Russan nor capital-C Communist, despite having written The Communist Manifesto.  He was a law student from a wealthy Jewish family headed by his attorney father.  I'm guessing his unpopularity with the authorities from whom he fled Germany, France & Belgium was due to his central belief that theology would eventually succumb to philosophy.

A prolific journalist & author, Marx was admirable in his focus on fair & efficient political and social processes (such as his belief in a "constitutional republic with freely elected assemblies".  Like I, he felt wealth and merit needed to be reconnected, without which there would be constant struggle between the economic classes.


Streetart in Katoomba

The first hip-hop billionaire, Jay-Z (aka Shawn Corey Carter) holds the fascination of millions around the world.  We obsess over our billionaires, that's for sure.  But as perfectly stated in this recent USA Today article, Jay-Z epitomizes what every investor should emulate:

1. Diversify across several sectors and industries.  Jay-Z has his own champagne and congac brands, sports promotions, investments in fashion, Uber & his own Uber-like jet sharing app as well as his own venture capital firm

2. Invest in what you know and love.  This is important because if you don't love your work and your place in the world (e.g. your investments) you probably won't be motivated to put in the effort and commitment necessary to be successful.

3. Commit to your goals.  Not everyone can be a billionaire.  In fact, hardly anyone can be.  I would restate this as "pick goals that inspire your commitment".

Would Marx have liked Jay-Z?  I think so.


Experiencing heavy in-flows of new capital, ESG funds mirror the growing awareness that sensible and ethical companies are more likely than the liars and cheaters to flourish in the future.  ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance & the funds and companies that pass those screens.  

ESG is supposed to be a more evolved, stringent screen than SRI (socially responsible investing) or sustainable investing.  Here's what they mean, in a nutshell:

  • Environmental- conserving, protecting and even enhancing local and global natural environments
  • Social- treating employees, clients, partners and the communities in which the business operates with respect by following the law, providing quality safe products & services, & contributing to the needs of local communities.
  • Governance- operating in a compliant, equitable and transparent manner.

So I find it encouraging that people are interested in these three topics.


Your Constructive Comments are Welcome!