Capital Gains

State of the Union 2015

Hopefully you were not waiting until President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20 to hear about his plans to shake up the tax laws. After all, the details of his tax plan had been leaked days earlier and the entire text of his speech was posted online before the event.

Apparently we have a new State of the Union address tradition. In each of his six previous State of the Union addresses he also proposed tax hikes.

Here are the more significant tax provisions that were proposed.

The verdict is in... Bitcoin will be taxed as property, not as currency

We have had more than a few clients this past year ask about Bitcoin and trading in Bitcoins from an income tax perspective.  There has been a lot of urban legends out there that claim, since the IRS has not given any formal guidance, that income taxes don't apply. Like most urban legends, that is simply wrong and making that assumption can land you in some real tax trouble.

When we delivered that news it was sometimes not what our client, or prospective client, wanted to hear. We've had to remind everyone that the primary premise of the U.S. Tax Code, Section 61, is pretty simple. It says that "gross income means all income from whatever source derived." So, unless there is a specific exclusion from taxability for the income source, you're on the hook for taxes.

"Like" This

America's economy continues to sputter. But stocks are picking up steam and flirting with four-year highs. We're even seeing new "dot-coms" hitting the market. Last May, the social networking site LinkedIn went public at $45 per share, then leaped to $94.25 in its first day of trading. Internet coupon vendor Groupon opened in November at $20 per share, then jumped 31% on its first day of trading. And earlier this month, Facebook filed registration papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission for what may be the hottest IPO since Google.

Companies typically go public to raise money to expand. But Facebook doesn't really need cash from an IPO. The company made nearly $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2011. So why go public?

How To Pay Zero Tax

Years ago, comedian Steve Martin gave us an easy formula for making a million dollars without paying tax. "First . . . ya get a million dollars." Then, when the tax man comes to your door and says you never paid taxes, just tell him "I forgot!" That's a great plan, assuming you can get your hands on the million bucks and you're willing to take your chances with the tax man. But what about those of us who don't have a million dollars and those of us who remember we have to pay taxes? Are there better ways for getting that tax bill down to zero?

The Washington-based Tax Policy Center estimates that a full 46% of Americans pay no federal income tax. And those non-payers represent a surprisingly broad cross section of Americans. Over 10% of them report incomes over $50,000. And in 2008, there were 18,783 who earned over $200,000 and owed no federal income tax. So, how do they do it?

IRS Hits Homer, Too!

Last Saturday, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became the 28th major leaguer — and only the first Yankee — to achieve 3,000 career hits. Jeter's third inning solo home run to left field wound up in the hands of a 23-year-old fan named Christian Lopez. Souvenir baseballs are big business, so team officials immediately whisked Lopez out of the stands, escorted him into the president's office, and asked him what he planned to do with his windfall. (The fan who caught Barry Bonds's 715th home run ball sold it on Ebay for $220,100. And Mark McGwire's record-breaking 70th home run ball sold for $3 million in 2006. Nice timing, too — in 2010, McGwire admitted using steroids while he played, and that ball's estimated value dropped faster than a pop fly!)

Lopez showed a bit of class that some would say is surprising from a Yankees fan. He passed on the chance to auction the ball, which some experts estimate would have fetched as much as $250,000. Then he told reporters he thought the ball belonged to Jeter and gave it back to the legendary slugger. But he still walked off

Fuel for Tax Rate Increases - The Capital Gain Tax Debate

With the recent release of some IRS statistics that the 400 highest-earning U.S. households reported an average of $345 million in income in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier and  the average tax rate for these households fell to the lowest in almost 20 years you can imagine the political hay that may be made.

Each household in the top 400 of earners paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992, the Internal Revenue Service statistics show. Their average effective tax rate was about half the 29.4 percent in 1993.