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Old 11-24-2007, 11:03 AM   #101
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I can't understand how it is possible to favor progressive tax rates (which are designed to make the wealthy pay more taxes) while simultaneously defending the existence of complex loopholes/wealth sheltering schemes which allow the wealthy to avoid taxation. I can think of only two groups who benefit from this schizophrenic "tax more but give them ways to avoid the taxes" structure: CPAs and attorneys.
Give that man a gold star!

Throughout this thread, I really have not understood *what* Martha's position is. It does appear schizophrenic to me, so I tried to stick to the issues - but I just don't 'get it'. And add 'the wealthiest' to CPA's and attorneys. The bigger the estate, the more the incentive to find and fund the loopholes. Crazy stuff, I say.

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PS/edit: And all this defensiveness over tax code that provides a mere 1.5% of income? More 'I don't get it-ed-ness'.
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:17 AM   #102
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I can think of only two groups who benefit from this schizophrenic "tax more but give them ways to avoid the taxes" structure: CPAs and attorneys.
Hey hey hey, you think those re-election campaigns finance themselves? Why, if we had a flat tax or a national sales tax, where would anyone be able to identify contributions tax-reduction incentives for motivated entrepreneurs?!?

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Throughout this thread, I really have not understood *what* Martha's position is. It does appear schizophrenic to me, so I tried to stick to the issues...
OK, I've seen enough. A well-run debate with a defensible position would be able to stick to its own merits or at least to some basis of logic, and not have to resort to attacking the messenger. Especially after she bowed out.

Now that you've had the last word, at least we can hope that you're done with your noodging. I know that I'm done reading it.

You have a nice life now.
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:24 AM   #103
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Over the years I have spent at least 20 hours trying to come up with a cost basis of her AT&T stock before her tax guy and I concluded she can't sell your AT&T and spin offs while she is alive. Now I face the prospect I having to figure this out once again after her death ugh.
Have you tried AT&T investor relations? They can probably supply enough data to enable you to confuse/convince the IRA.
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:27 AM   #104
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at least we can hope that you're done with your noodging.
Fat chance of that. Some folks just dont understand the idea of gray areas or compromise. Some just dont have enough to do. Sometimes those areas overlap.
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:37 AM   #105
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They can probably supply enough data to enable you to confuse/convince the IRA.
Dang! I guess the gummint has decided to put tougher enforcement measures in place. "You thought an audit was bad, laddie--how'd ya like a carbomb!!"
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:47 AM   #106
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OK, I've seen enough. A well-run debate with a defensible position would be able to stick to its own merits or at least to some basis of logic, and not have to resort to attacking the messenger. Especially after she bowed out.
I am very sorry if that was interpreted as a personal attack. It was not meant to be.

I did say that the 'position' appeared schizophrenic. It was a response to samclem pointng out the schizophrenic nature of both supporting a 'tax the rich' scheme and also supporting the existence of that tax scheme with loopholes for those wealthy it is supposed to tax.

It is relevant to the discussion - the estate tax is a mess, and should be replaced with something simpler and fairer, IMO .

-ERD50
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Old 11-24-2007, 01:50 PM   #107
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ERD, you still haven't told me what you think are loopholes. You make it sound like there are a zillion of them and as a result really rich people don't pay estate taxes. That is not the case.

I would get rid of the no tax on giving to charity.... it might cost charities money as some would now not give to them since there is not incentive...

There are many 'loopholes'... it was 20+ years ago I did estate taxes, but I remember the lawyers coming up with many... and then there are elections you can make to reduce taxes further on the estate return... again, way to long to remember specifics..

Also, I thought the Gallo exemption also saved them a ton of tax, not just a payment plan... (or maybe the payment plan was without interest)...
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Old 11-24-2007, 01:51 PM   #108
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Old 11-24-2007, 04:51 PM   #109
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I understand the "taxes can be as simple as you want them to be" ratioale, and it sounds okay on the face of it ("if you want to save money on taxes, you can do t by engaging in complex, expensive machinations. Otherwise, just pay the tax. Hey, it is your choice!")

Here's what s wrong with a tax code that is set up this way:
- If you don't hop through all the complex hoops, you are a chump--you are paying more tax than you would otherwise owe.
- If you are poor/middle class, you likely
a) Don't even know about the available tax dodges.
b) Cannot take advantage of them at your income level.
c) Cannot afford the "overhead" (time and money) to hire lawyers, set up foundations, restructure your savings, etc.

I can't understand how it is possible to favor progressive tax rates (which are designed to make the wealthy pay more taxes) while simultaneously defending the existence of complex loopholes/wealth sheltering schemes which allow the wealthy to avoid taxation. .
I don't see how this really applies to the estate tax. First lets start with one simple fact. 98+% of estate don't pay the tax. If you have an estate of $2 million (4 million for a couple) you are by no means poor, in fact you'd be hard pressed to argue that somebody in the top 2% of all American is middle class. The estate tax is very progressive because it only applies to wealthy Americans poor and middle class americans

You can set up a simple by pass trust for a couple of thousand ( I spent less before retiring) even if you spend $20,000 for an elaborate trust, we are talking a maximize of 1% of your assets. An amount no different than a typical "managed mutual fund" or a financial advisor spends each year. A trust is something you set up once and then spend a bit updating once a decade or so.
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Old 11-24-2007, 05:37 PM   #110
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Have you tried AT&T investor relations? They can probably supply enough data to enable you to confuse/convince the IRA.
I have pretty much exhausted the online resource, and I actually have a figure recorded that is probably within a few thousand of the actual basis.

But in the days before computer kept track of the basis of your mutual funds and DRIPs this is no easy chore.
It involved getting out 32 years of my parents 1040 to see the amount of dividends paid each year. Using AT&T website to check on the various historical stock price . Then figuring out the basis of the original spin off US West, Bell South, and SBC. (Note these companies don't exist any more). Finding out who acquired them reading the investor relation pages and allocating the basis. Then going through each merger and spin off 3 baby bells, plus later Bell Labs/Lucent/Algera/ALU etc. Since my mom didn't have a computer at the time I used a calculator and paper for this work.

If I had access to the orginal stock certificate I guess I could use the service Nord refer to. However all of this work is unneeded, as long as you don't sell the stock before you die, and the basis of all assets is stepped up when you die.

The paperwork nightmare facing many of us and/or heirs when the estate tax is fully repealed in 2010 is the elimination of the step up basis. In 2010, if you have an estate worth more than 1.3 million, which I believe applies to many of us on this board, while you won't owe estate taxes you will owe capital gains. This will require your heirs (or for those of us who are executors for our parents) to determine the cost of all of your assets. Those classic cars, antique guns, surfboards, sailboats, stamp/coin/gun collection, the art on your walls. I hope everybody has saved all of their receipts and has them nicely labeled for your executors. I know I haven't. In fact prior to the law change I was planning on throwing out tax returns before the mid 90s.

You can of course punt and just declare 0 as the cost basis for all of the assets, which will mean you will in effect pay an estate tax of 15% on all assets over 1.3 million. I suspect that many on the board would be better off with current 4 million exemption. In fact in most cases you'll pay less tax if you die in 2008 with an estate worth ~<5.5 million than if you die in 2010 when the estate tax is "repealed".
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Old 11-24-2007, 08:30 PM   #111
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Everyone wants the rules to optimize their personal situation........

Greed speaks with a loud voice!
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Old 11-24-2007, 08:48 PM   #112
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1. The death tax is double taxation because you already paid income taxes on the money. Status mostly false.
The majority of very wealthy estates (10 million+) and virtually of all the billionaires in the country didn't accumulate their wealth by earning 6 and 7 digit salaries socking away a big chunk in CDs and benefiting from compound interest. Rather they gained their wealth through the massive appreciation of assets. Now in many cases these assets appreciated due to their hard work, but in most case the appreciation has never been taxed.

Warren Buffett is a classic example, Berkshire has never paid a dividend and he has sold very few of his Berkshire share, hence Uncle Sam collects taxes on 50 million a year that is reported not the literally billions he gains each year from Berkshire stock appreciation. (Obviously Berkshire has paid corporate income tax.) But it isn't just Billionaire Buffett who has benefited from this, I suspect there are tens of thousands of former employees of Apple, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft Walmart etc, who will go to their grave never having paid a dime on the massive run up of their stock.

A even more common wealth creator is real estate. Virtually every town in American has one or more real estate mogul. This the guy or gal who over the years has accumulated a couple dozen pieces of property: houses, apartment building, commercial real estate etc. Due to the highly favorable tax treatment of real estate, e.g. depreciation and 1031 tax free exchanges, the mogul can accumulate 10+ million in Real Estate while paying very little tax over their lifetime.

The "small" business owner is another example of untaxed assets. One of the biggest proponents of repealing the estate tax is car dealership association. Car dealership range in value from 1 to 8 million and it is common for a single family to own several dealership in a community. Again the increase in value of the dealership has never been taxed. It is bad enough that car dealership provide everybody in the extended family (included the 16 year old nephew) with a taxpayer subsidize company car, do we need to give them more tax breaks?
Good examples, but to me bad thinking... the 'death' tax does not matter how you got there, but that you got there... so someone with $10 million estate that did it the 'hard' way of working and saving with little capital gain would still pay the same amount of tax as someone who got stock of BIGGAIN Inc. and paid no taxes... does not seem fair does it?


I agree that having the capital gain not taxed is a problem...


Now.. if your family was smart and rich a long time ago.. you could have set up a partnership before the tax law was passed... and the partnership interests were valued at 'book' value... and the partnership had the right to buy all shares back at 'book'... So, when you died, the value of your partnership interest was very very low (like .01%) of the real value so you did not have to pay estate taxes.... but your partnership interest could be passed on to your heirs at 'book' value... I am not sure, but I think the partnership was started in 1880 or so... has withstood the IRS... Great tax planning is essential
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Old 11-24-2007, 09:10 PM   #113
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Everyone wants the rules to optimize their personal situation........

Greed speaks with a loud voice!
NO NO NO NO!

As I have said and so has Martha (and of course Buffet and Gates Sr.).

I support keeping the Estate Tax despite the fact having an estate tax will cost my heirs hundreds of thousands if not a million dollar. If the rules that go into effect in 2010 (i.e eliminating both the estate tax and the step up basis) remain in effect after 2010 my Nephew and Niece will be richer than if I die today with the current rules and 2 million exemption. Trust me I just ran the number today. I think a system that lets me not pay any state or federal tax last year, this year and probably next year is already way too skewed in my favor. I don't need any more tax breaks.


There is something strange and yet wonderful that many people in this arguement are taking the side opposite of their economic self interest.

The majority of American favor repealing the estate/death tax despite the fact that 98% are unaffected. The loss of revenue from its repeal (admitly not huge source of revenue) means the majority who favor repealing it will see their taxes and/or government debt increase. Now a lot of folks don't understand that they won't have to pay an estate tax, but many American favor the repeal based on a simple issue of fairness. "It seems unfair to tax somebody because they died." I understand this reasoning, but I think it is too simplistic.

In contrast many wealthy favor keeping the estate tax despite the additional money it will cost their heirs, because as far as we are concerned our heirs our going to get plenty of money. The estate tax provides a modest revenue source for the government keeping it allows other taxes to be kept lower, it encourages charitable giving, and decreases dynastic wealth in the country.

However, if the majority of American want to see my nephew, niece get more money, along Gates and Buffet's kids and grandkids, the son of the local auto dealer, and the Paris Hiltons of the world that is fine with me.

I am curious of the participants of the thread how many will have heirs benefit by the repeal of the estate tax?
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Old 11-24-2007, 09:39 PM   #114
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NO NO NO NO!

I am curious of the participants of the thread how many will have heirs benefit by the repeal of the estate tax?
Which estate tax are you referring to? The 2006 estate tax? This years estate tax? The 2008 estate tax? The 2009 estate tax? A reversion to the $600k exclusion?

Are you referring to the actual estate tax, or the tax after I've bought a new BMW for a tax attorney to set up a pass through trust, a life insurance trust or a special trust for business ownership?

My only dog in this fight is that I don't like the idea of paying big bux to attorney's to set up trusts that shouldn't be needed. Just set up the rules to allow, automatically, what attorneys and tax accountants charge to do routinely. The simple way to do this is to make the exemptions high enough so that only your buddies Paris, Warren or Bill need to call in the high priced paper pushers.

Frankly, for me, the 2009 exemption and tax rate would be fine. If they change some of the loophole rules so that fees to attorneys and tax accountants aren't necessary, that would be icing on the cake.

But, what set of estate tax rules are you referring to? :confused: Or, are you just trolling since there is no way to answer your question without you being more specific?
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Old 11-24-2007, 11:08 PM   #115
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I will say that the proposal for a $3 mill exemption seems OK, but I think it should be higher... and also indexed...

And the tax should be in the 15% to 25% range... this would 'tax' the capital gain that some have said has not been paid, but would not be so much for the ones who has already paid taxes on their estate...

As someone else has pointed out, a majority of Americans think the estate tax is just not fair... Like the Beetle's song (and I know this is not the exact words)... but they tax the nickels in your eyes...

Also, remember that the really rich also do offshore stuff to help lower income taxes.... I never dealt with someone with assets offshore, so I don't know what happens with an estate..

BTW, I remember one guy who had property all of the US.... had to fill out MANY state estate tax returns... some don't care that you are paying money to the feds and other states.. maybe this has changed, but I don't know.
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Old 11-25-2007, 12:26 AM   #116
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Which estate tax are you referring to? The 2006 estate tax? This years estate tax? The 2008 estate tax? The 2009 estate tax? A reversion to the $600k exclusion?
The full repeal comes on 2010 and of course goes back to the old day in 2011. So the 2010 law was what I was refering to.


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My only dog in this fight is that I don't like the idea of paying big bux to attorney's to set up trusts that shouldn't be needed. Just set up the rules to allow, automatically, what attorneys and tax accountants charge to do routinely. The simple way to do this is to make the exemptions high enough so that only your buddies Paris, Warren or Bill need to call in the high priced paper pushers.

Frankly, for me, the 2009 exemption and tax rate would be fine. If they change some of the loophole rules so that fees to attorneys and tax accountants aren't necessary, that would be icing on the cake.
You know what I agree completely the 2009 exemption (with periodic inflation adjustments) and rate 45% I think would be an excellent compromise. IIRC this still provides the government with a lot of revenue, would eliminate the need for fancy trust for millions of wealthy families, and relieves their heirs of having to figure out how much mom spent on art work over the decades.

On this rare area of agreement, I'll bow out of the discussion.
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Old 11-25-2007, 11:31 AM   #117
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I really honor the idealism I see here, but I think I see the problem.

You guys havent figured in that the guys with money pretty much run the country and make the rules. The idea is to make it complicated so that the average guy doesnt understand it and thinks that the big bad rich guys are paying their share, but that the wealthy can actually just pay a fee to another rich guy to set up a contraption that helps them avoid the tax.

Simplify it? Make everyone pay their share? Eliminate sketchy loopholes that allow wealthy and/or crafty people to avoid paying a big tax bill?

Not going to happen. "Fair" isnt a part of capitalism and imperial republics.

I think my gramma summed it up with the simple phrase "Spit in one hand and wish in the other".
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Old 11-25-2007, 06:09 PM   #118
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I really honor the idealism I see here, but I think I see the problem.

You guys havent figured in that the guys with money pretty much run the country and make the rules. The idea is to make it complicated so that the average guy doesnt understand it and thinks that the big bad rich guys are paying their share, but that the wealthy can actually just pay a fee to another rich guy to set up a contraption that helps them avoid the tax.

Simplify it? Make everyone pay their share? Eliminate sketchy loopholes that allow wealthy and/or crafty people to avoid paying a big tax bill?

Not going to happen. "Fair" isnt a part of capitalism and imperial republics.

I think my gramma summed it up with the simple phrase "Spit in one hand and wish in the other".

LOL, I figured it out. Although, I didn't really understand how much rich people run the country until after I retired. The icing on the cake for me was the high tech tax credit in Hawai.. Essentially, for every dollar I invest in Hawaii technology company I eliminate $1 in Hawaii income tax. If the company does well and gets bought or goes public, I just owe capital gains.
If the company goes broke, I didn't lose anything because of state income tax credit, plus I get to take a loss on my federal income tax. Basically it is a head I win big, tails I win small. I know similar scheme exist at the federal level. Of course when the Hawaii legislator made noises about repealing the technology tax credit, the lobbying by the rich folks in the state was intense (and worked).

As for my idealism, notice I am not offering to pay more of my money in the interest of fairness. Instead I am offering to reduce my Nephew and Niece inheritance!
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Old 11-25-2007, 08:38 PM   #119
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Oh I was sure you had it. Others not so much.

We're at the phase where most of us are smart enough to perceive the unfairness, yet not rich enough to bend it to our whim. But well enough off to feel comfortable with making broad statements about changing tax laws that might crush people with a bit less money than we have.

I didnt know about that tax credit situation in hawaii. What tech companies are in hawaii?
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Old 11-25-2007, 10:13 PM   #120
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The icing on the cake for me was the high tech tax credit in Hawaii.
Hey, remember during the post-DESERT STORM drawdown of the 1990s when hundreds of contractors lost their jobs due to the base closures and reduction of military infrastructure? Remember Cayetano duking it out with the state employees unions? Remember after 9/11 when Waikiki was a ghost town?

Anything that reduces Hawaii's economic reliance on the top three (state govt, military, & visitors) is a good idea. But it's hard to convince VCs to fund Hawaii tech companies when they think that all the parents are midgrade civil bureaucrats servants and their kids drop out of high school to pick pineapple, wear coconut bras & pluck ukulele at the luau, and drive tourist buses.

I bet the state avoids spending a dollar on welfare/healthcare/benefits for every dollar they give to the tech companies. I also appreciate that the state & federal govts credit back 65 cents of every dollar I spend on solar systems.

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I didnt know about that tax credit situation in hawaii. What tech companies are in hawaii?
Well, gosh, there's... uhm... gimme a minute here... jeez.

Oh, yeah-- Hoku Scientific (HOKU), getting a rep for researching fuel cells and trying to build PV panels at a Mainland factory. Enova has a contract on Hickam AFB to convert their flight-line vehicles to fuel cells. Maui has a high-performance computing center. Incubators have sprung up on several islands. Lots of web-design businesses around here, although that may not count as high-tech. Entrepreneurs who are trying an extreme telecommute from Silicon Valley.

Now I'm curious... I'm going to have to poll our local techies for a more complete list.
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