Urgent Tax Moves to Make Before Dec 31

URGENT tax steps to take before year-end!
Starting 2018, the tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law this past Friday caps the deductions for state and local income and property taxes at $10,000 combined. This is a significant blow to homeowners in expensive housing markets like California. If you pay more than that and itemize your taxes, it makes sense to try to pay as much of your California and local tax bill before 2018, when you can still use the old rules to take a larger deduction.
 

The Rock Star, The Nude Estates and the Lithuanian Shopping Mall

We've all got an image in our minds of who uses "offshore tax havens" to host their business. Let's say you're a junior-varsity Russian oligarch. You've spent a lifetime looting your country's resources like an all-you-can-steal buffet, and now it's time to take some of your chipskis off the table. You buy a flat in London's posh Mayfair, or maybe a condo overlooking New York's Central Park. Then you stash the rest of your rubles in some sunny flyspeck of an island like Bermuda or the Caymans, where Putin's goons can't steal them back.

But most people who do business offshore aren't crooked billionaires. They're perfectly legitimate multinational corporations, business owners, and investors just like us. If you've worn shoes from Nike, made calls on an iPhone, or downloaded music from Sheryl Crow, you've even done business with them!

Hitting a Tax Gapper

Summer is almost here, and sports fans across America have a lot to look forward to. Basketball's 13-month-long season is (finally) starting to heat up. Hockey playoffs are coming to a close. Baseball is in full swing, and NFLers are about to report to training camps. Stop at any bar or water cooler in the land, and you'll hear talk of wins, losses, and plays that you just have to see.

Fans and analysts have all sorts of statistics they can use to measure (and argue about) their teams' performance. "Turf investors" have relied on The Daily Racing Form for over a century. Baseball is famed for legions of "sabermetricians," who obsess over statistics like WAR (Wins Above Replacement), BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), and LWCT (Largest Wad of Chewing Tobacco). Football and basketball too, even hockey, all lend themselves to measures far beyond the mere score at the end of the game.

But there's one more sports statistic we might need to evaluate our favorite team by, and that's SITR (State Income Tax Rate).

Fixed This for You

For generations, Americans fostered a culture of thrifty self-reliance, especially where it comes to taking care of our stuff. It started all the way back in pioneer days, and living on the frontier's edge. Back when Pa Ingalls lived in that little house in the big woods, if his saw broke, he couldn't just order up a replacement on Amazon. He had to fix it, or he would have a tough time heating his house for the winter! Ma had one nice dress, for Sunday church, and when she got home she spent the rest of the day taking care of it. Folks mended and darned and repaired until household items had more lives than the family cat.

More recently, though, we've become a throwaway society. Maybe it's the flood of cheap, shoddy stuff from Walmart and China. Even formerly big-ticket purchases like TVs are cheap enough now that it rarely makes sense to repair them. (Think about it — your family room TV may have cost less than your phone.) Even real estate has become disposable, as thousands of Americans buy perfectly serviceable houses for the land they sit on, then tear them down to replace them with something bigger (and usually gaudier and not as well built).

Names!

Every year, the IRS gives us a peek inside the wallets of the highest-earning 400 Americans. It's full of juicy facts like their average income ($318 million in 2014), how much they give to charity ($37 million each) and how much they pay Uncle Sam ($73.5 million). But there's one set of facts the IRS guards as carefully as the secret formulas they use to decide who gets audited — the top taxpayers' names.

That wasn't always the case. Back in 1924, the stock market was soaring, flappers were dancing the Charleston, and

Survey Says...!

The people who work at the IRS can be proud to do an important job. They're the "accounts receivable" department for the federal government, and whether you think we need more government or less, we should collect the revenue to finance it as effectively as possible. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has already stated that the incoming administration's ban on new government hiring shouldn't apply to the IRS — perhaps because he's seen the research showing every dollar invested in tax enforcement yields seven dollars in tax. (If you could spend one dollar to make seven, you might do it all day long!)

At the same time, IRS staffers understand the work they do isn't especially popular. As Louis XIV's Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert once said,