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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

How to Beat the U.S. Tax Blues (Podcast)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Tax attorney Dave Wolf, a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Tax Section and a member of the appeal committee for Maror monies in Israel, tells Doug how to deal with U.S. tax laws when living abroad, which tax amnesties are available, and what would happen if you tried to renounce your American citizenship.

Are You a Tax Criminal?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Are you an American citizen now living in Israel or any other country? If so,have you been paying all your U.S. taxes? You might not be aware that you still have tax obligations to the IRS, even though you are paying taxes to your current country of residence. On this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Doug speaks to CPA Ron Zalben, who talks about the FBAR and FATCA tax forms, what they are, and why it is so important to file them.

Israeli Election Results Put Focus on Domestic Front

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Israeli elections last week saw a meteoric rise of a centrist party, and disproved near-universal forecasts of a rise of the religious right.

What do last week’s elections say about Israel’s future defense policies?

Israelis returned Netanyahu to the prime minister’s seat, meaning that the electorate would like him to continue to steer the country through this chaotic and dangerous era. The elections results also showed that voters backed Netanyahu’s hard work on tackling the Iranian threat, but remained deeply concerned over domestic issues, which Netanyahu’s last coalition of ultra-Orthodox and nationalist parties failed to address.

Lapid, located on the center-right of the political map, is no dove. He is pragmatic; he does not hold ideological or religious objections to an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, but has recognized, rather, that Israel has no peace partner.

At the same time, Lapid and his party have expressed displeasure over the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been able to score victories over Israel in the diplomatic arena. Lapid has therefore called for reopening talks with Abbas, if only to prove Israel’s willingness to pursue a peace plan.

Lapid has also advocated a unilateral dismantling of far-flung outposts in Judea and Samaria, while consolidating the major settlement blocs — with or without a peace agreement.

On the most critical question of all — whether Israel should launch a military strike on Iran — Lapid has limited himself to calling on Netanyahu to do a better job of coordinating Israel’s position with that of the U.S.

He expressed concern over the dysfunctional state of relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, and the ramifications of poor relations on future efforts to stop Iran.

In all likelihood, Lapid and his new party will join Prime Minister Netanyahu in forming the next coalition. If he joins the government, Lapid is expected to support Netanyahu’s main focus — stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

How did Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid [There Is a Future] party — whose members have never sat in parliament — overnight become the second largest political force in Israel?

The answer resides in the quiet and growing alarm mainstream Israelis are feeling over the way the country’s resources are diverted to serve narrow minority interests at the majority’s expense.

Lapid merely pointed out problems that were known to all, but also promised to repair the glaring flaws, while enjoying a clean-cut image, free of the political baggage that had tarred the old guard in the eyes of much of the electorate.

Lapid’s campaign highlighted the fact that middle class Israeli families — the engine of the country’s economy — are struggling to make ends meet, yet significant funds are being diverted to support a parallel ultra-Orthodox society, which has its own education system. Many of those who study at ultra-Orthodox seminaries do not end up joining the workforce, and remain dependent on state subsidies.

While a majority of secular and Orthodox national-religious Israelis risk their lives to serve in the military and protect their families, most ultra-Orthodox do not (although a growing number are.)

Lapid’s proposed solutions: A universal draft to the army or civilian national service for all Israelis, and limiting the number of state-sponsored seminary students to 400 (the current number of students is 60,000).

Lapid has also called for a change to Israel’s proportional representation system, to decrease the number of political parties, thereby limiting the ability of small parties to extort special privileges from ruling coalitions.

Israelis are also outraged by economic oligopolies, which are inflating prices of basic commodities, as well as the failure of past governments to protect citizens from exploitative corporations. The only exception to this is the outgoing communications minister, Moshe Kahlon, who reformed regulations and introduced new competition into the mobile phone industry, resulting in plummeting prices, and as a result became a national hero.

A significant numbers of hardworking Israeli families are in perpetual debt, while others — due to the inflated housing prices as a result of the state owning 93% of all lands, as well as bureaucratic red tape slowing down the construction process — are unable even to dream of owning their own home.

The old guard of Israeli politics is perceived as being out of touch, and tinged by cronyism, as well as by apathy to the common person.

Police Gear Up for Arab Riots in Musmus

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Police are preparing for Arab riots, as Otzma L’Yisrael political leader Michael Ben-Ari and his party’s supporters are planning a march inside the Arab town of Musmus in the Wadi Ara region on Tuesday.

They will be marching under the slogan of, “Without duties, there are no rights.”

Ben-Ari claims that many Israeli Arabs, and even entire villages are not not paying taxes, building illegally, and generally ignoring the laws of the state.

Police are expecting a large, and potentially violent counter-protest in the village. Residents of the village have called for a general strike today, and hundreds have been reported as protesting at the junction at the entrance to the village.

Musmus is located just north of Um El Fahm, and 13 miles east of Zichron Yaacov.

Drinking for the State

Monday, January 7th, 2013

There was a time when the United States government ran on hooch. Hard up for cash, taxes on whiskey and beer funded the Civil War. With 40 percent of government revenues coming from liquor taxes, alcohol made the dramatic post-war expansion of government possible so that by the 20th Century, the Federal government would have been unrecognizable in scope and function to a man of the 1800s, but would have been all too familiar to us.

The Department of Education was created in 1867, the Department of Justice in 1870, the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. Within that time, the Federal government had become concerned with every aspect of life throughout the country. After the Civil War, the same whiskey taxes that had paid for cannons, aerial balloons and widows’ pensions began paying for the transformation of the government into a booming engine of social change.

During the same period that the government was being unrecognizably reshaped, the major cities were being transformed by a tremendous immigration boom. Immigration had made it possible for the Union to win the war by providing an endless supply of fresh bodies to throw into the fight. German, Irish and Jewish immigrants came by the hundreds of thousands and made the Union victory possible.

Republican Progressives had looked forward to freeing the slaves, but were far less enthusiastic about filling the country with Catholics and Jews, who were not only bound for Democratic precincts, but did not share their faith. Germany had produced a liberal variant of Judaism that was rather close to Unitarianism and had prospered nicely among upper class Jews in the United States, but the Jewish immigrants who were arriving were members of a more traditional faith in Russia and Eastern Europe. But it was the Catholics who truly worried them.

The Draft Riots during the Civil War had to be put down with the military and the armories were a hulking reminder that the cities could go up in flame at any moment if the Democratic Party’s radicals chose to light a match. Those same Catholic immigrants had been invaluable to building the Union, but with the South defeated, and the expansion of the Union underway, they had become a problem.

Progressive reformers cast an uneasy eye on the slums and the Democratic political machines that ran them and pursued a grab bag of strategies for curing their ills, from birth control to temperance to socialism.

The progressive vision of a New America was being funded by liquor taxes, but a combination of bigotry and health-nuttery, which was another of the elements of the modern country taking off, brought quite a few reformers around to temperance. Associating Catholics with liquor, they went after liquor itself. But liquor could not be outlawed, without also outlawing big government.

For the practical politician the link between liquor and big government was a web that should not be touched. The drinking American was making big government possible and should be left to drink in peace. But progressive reformers are ever deaf to such logic and quick to cut Gordian knots. Faced with a liquor revenue problem, they contrived a solution in the form of the personal income tax.

The personal income tax was unconstitutional, but with the end of the post-Civil War era and the revival of the Democratic Party as a progressive political movement, the country had entered a period where the Constitution meant very little. During the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations, that document, then not very much more than a century old, had come to be regarded as an outmoded work with very little relevance to modern times.

The Anti-Saloon League, rising out of the mists of an uncertain time, had assembled a coalition encompassing Klansmen, Suffragists, Socialists and Preachers focused on a single-minded agenda, but pushing whatever laws it had to along the way to reach its goal. And the road to Prohibition lay through such policy territories as the personal income tax.

Prohibition today is remembered mainly for the quaint scenes of smugglers and lawmen chasing each other on dark roads, speakeasies where liquor made in massive illegal stills was served and the end of national integrity as an age of national hypocrisy was ushered in by wet politicians who voted dry. But Prohibition as a phenomenon matters little compared to the ways in which the campaign to achieve it and then hold on to it transformed the country.

How Obama is ‘Saving’ the Middle Class

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

President Barack Obama won re-election by selling the idea that he was the champion of the middle class.  Now he is forcing them into poverty and driving them from their homes.

That is the effect of new taxes going into effect on Jan. 1, regardless of how negotiations on the fiscal cliff turn out (unless, as seems unlikely, Congress decides to extend all of the Bush tax cuts to everyone).  The new marginal rates on dividends and interest (43.4%) and capital gains (20%, or 23.8% including the ObamaCare surcharge for high earners) will be devastating for the middle class.

Not only will it apply to those not-so-rich high earners who breach the $200,000 level, but it will harm those under the limit by undermining their desire to get ahead.  Why work longer or harder with 43.4% of marginal income going straight to Washington, another 15% to 20% going to state and local taxes, and 55% of whatever’s left going to death taxes when you pass on?  It’s easier to do what Obama wants and just stay poor.

New tax rates are just the beginning.  There’s the failure to address the Alternative Minimum Tax.  And with the president’s unwillingness to negotiate, there’s the restoration of higher tax rates on all earners.  There is also a host of indirect taxes, such as an onerous tax on medical device makers and lower reimbursements to doctors and hospitals, that will be passed on to consumers one way or another.

Altogether, Obama is “saving the middle class” with a $494-billion tax hike, three-fourths of it on the middle class.

Those who will be hurt the most are small businessmen, professionals, and modestly affluent retirees.  Many of these filers claim more than $200,000 on their tax returns, but they are hardly the evil 1% that Obama vilified during the campaign.  They operate family farms and small construction companies.  They are dentists and accountants.  They are the hardworking owners of retail stores and fast-food outlets.  In short, they are middle-class Americans.

Granted, they are successful.  But isn’t success what Americans aspire to?  By raising taxes on the middle class and especially on those among the middle class who are more successful than others, Obama is sending the message that Americans might as well not aspire to anything.  If they do, they too can expect to be taxed back into dependency.

That has been the plan all along.  That’s why the president exudes such spite toward those who aspire to be rich (while the Buffetts and Zuckerbergs who support him get a free ride).  As far as the left is concerned, all Americans should be dependent on government.  When’s the last time Obama celebrated the success of anyone other than someone like Christopher Brian Bridges (aka “Ludacris”)?  When’s the last time he spoke in a heartfelt manner about the great gift of capitalism and the everyday sacrifices of those in the middle class who make it work?

Never.  What he constantly proclaims is the glorious benefit of Big Government, with the implication that those who control Big Government possess an absolute right to rule over the middle class.  That is why he insists that Congress hand over control of the debt ceiling.  And to make government bigger, Obama demands bigger revenues.  Why should he negotiate?  On January 1, he gets up to half a trillion more in revenues to force more Americans into dependency.

Next week, all or part of that half-trillion in taxes is going into effect, including the Obama death tax.  Just think of those family farms whose owners pass away in the new year.  With Obama blocking reform, rates will return to 55% of assets over $1 million (in addition to whatever state death taxes are due).  At current prices, a typical 200-acre Midwestern farm is now valued at nearly $2 million.  That farm will have to be sold or mortgaged to pay estate taxes.  It will be difficult for surviving family members, who may be dependent on the farm for their livelihoods and may already have been operating the farm for years, to continue operating “half a farm.”  But that’s what Obama wants.

Small business owners are in the same boat. In order to pay that 55% death tax, many who inherit a franchise, a retail operation, or even a service station will be forced to sell the business.  And everyone who worked at that business loses his job.

US Taxes and the American Citizen Abroad (Podcast)

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

This week, Anne Hornung-Soukup, finance director of the ACA (American Citzens Abroad), comes back to Goldstein on Gelt to tell us more about the American government’s taxation policy and how it relates to U.S. expats. Taxation for American citizens abroad is a complicated story. Listen to this week’s show to find out how U.S. taxes still affect you, even if you haven’t been back to the States for years or have never been there but have American parents…

Obama’s Priorities: Immigration, the Economy, Energy, Taxes; Hagel Still Front Runner for Defense (Video)

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Because we’re the Jewish Press, we’ll start with the Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense, and move down from there. Speaking with David Gregory on Sunday’s Meet the Press, President Barack Obama voiced strong support for the former Republican Senator from Nebraska. The president insisted, however, that he was yet to make the final decision on the nomination.

In preparation for the nomination dance, Hagel released a statement Friday apologizing for comments he made in 1998 about a gay ambassadorial nominee. Hagel had come under fire in recent days for calling James Hormel, President Clinton’s nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg, “openly, aggressively gay.”

Sounds dangerous…

Hagel’s statement was published by the Washington Post: “My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

Emphasis on “military.”

Last week, Miami Beach’s Jewish elderly population’s favorite presidential candidate Pat Buchanan endorsed Hagel’s nomination.

Among Hagel’s many qualifications, Buchanan wrote, are his views on Iran, and if the president himself decides against going to war, he’ll have to make the case regardless of whether he nominates Hagel: “If Obama does not want that war, he is going to have to defeat the war party. Throwing an old warrior like Chuck Hagel over the side to appease these wolves is not the way to begin this fight. Nominate him, Mr. President. Let’s get it on.”

Buchanan admitted that Hagel had a few Jewish skeletons in his closet. Like when he told author Aaron David Miller that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up” on the Hill. Or when he urged the U.S. to talk to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Or when Hagel said, a few years back, that “a military strike against Iran … is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”

Both Buchanan and Hagel have been accused of anti-Semitism, Hagel for saying the Jewish lobby wields too much influence on Capitol Hill and Buchanan for—oh, take your pick…

He’s how the president approached the subject of Hagel nomination on Meet the Press, courtesy of policymic.com:

GREGORY: “Former Senator Chuck Hagel has come under criticism for some comments he’s made including about a former ambassador nominee during the Clinton years that being gay was an inhibiting factor to being gay to do an effective job. Is there anything about Chuck Hagel’s record or statements that’s disqualifying to you, should you nominate him to run the Defense Department?” …

OBAMA: “Not that I see. I’ve served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate. Somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job.

“So I haven’t made a decision on this. With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it. And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country. And that’s something that I’m very proud to have led.”

* * * And now, because there are other things of concern happening in the world other than the question of whether a non-ally of Israel replaces Leon Panetta, here are some quotes from today’s interview:

GREGORY: “If you go over the cliff, what’s the impact in the markets?”

OBAMA: “Obviously, I think business and investors are going to feel more negative about the economy next year. If you look at projections of 2013, people generally felt that the economy would continue to grow, unemployment would continue to tick down, housing would continue to improve. But what’s been holding us back is the dysfunction here in Washington. And if people start seeing that on January 1st this problem still hasn’t been solved, that we haven’t seen the kind of deficit reduction that we could have had had the Republicans been willing to take the deal that I gave them, if they say that people’s taxes have gone up, which means consumer spending is going to be depressed, then obviously that’s going to have an adverse reaction in the markets.”

* * * GREGORY: “How accountable are you for the fact that Washington can’t get anything done and that we are at this deadline again? … You’ve had a tough go with Congress.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/obamas-priorities-immigration-the-economy-energy-taxes-hagel-still-front-runner-for-defense-video/2012/12/30/

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