If you don’t create pathways for yourself and find alternatives to the system, the system will find alternatives for you. And even being rich is no protection against betting on a bubble.
- Stanford Says Soaring Public Pension Costs Devastating Budgets For Education And Social Services
- Which American Cities Will File Bankruptcy Next?
I would hazard a guess that an increasing number of tax donkeys are considering dropping out as a means of increasing their happiness and satisfaction with life.
Since federal income taxes are in the spotlight, let’s ask a question that rarely (if ever) makes it into the public discussion: what if the tax donkeys who pay most of the tax rebel? There are several likely reasons why this question rarely arises.
1. Most commentators may not realize that the vast majority of income taxes are paid by the top 10%–and that roughly 60% are paid by the top 4% of households. (A nice example of the Pareto Distribution, i.e. the 80/20 rule, which can be extended to the 64/4 rule.)
As David Stockman noted in Trump’s 1,500-word Airball, “Among the 148 million income tax filers, the bottom 53 million owed zero taxes in the most recent year (2014), and the bottom half (74 million) paid an aggregate total of just $45 billion. So let me be very clear. There was still $4 trillion left in the collective pockets of these 122 million taxpayers — even after the IRS had its way with them!
By contrast, the top 4% or 6.2 million filers paid $802 billion in Federal income taxes. That amounted to nearly 58% of total Federal income tax payments.”
2. Few commentators draw a distinction between earned income (wages and salaries) and unearned income (dividends, interest, and more broadly, rentier income streams from the ownership of productive assets.
Here are a few examples to clarify the difference. Let’s say a couple earn $300,000 a year–a nice chunk of change, to be sure, but since this is earned income, it’s exposed to higher tax rates: 33% and up.
The primary tax breaks available to wage earners are mortgage interest and tax-deferred retirement contributions (IRAs and 401Ks). But there’s only so much income that can be sheltered with these deductions. The household earning $300,000 may not own much in the way of wealth, and might even devote much of that income to servicing student loans, paying private school tuition, supporting elderly parents, etc.
If this household is typical, its primary wealth/assets are home equity and retirement funds. A house doesn’t generate income, and any income generated by retirement funds is unavailable until retirement age, unless the owners are willing to pay steep penalties.
Now compare the hard-working folks earning $300,000 with a couple who don’t work at all, but live off a rentier/investment income of $300,000 annually. Long-time readers know I often distinguish between assets that don’t generate income (the family home, etc.) and assets that produce income, i.e. productive assets such as family businesses, stocks, bonds, commercial real estate, etc.
If these wealthy folks are typical, much of their income is taxed as capital gains at 15%, not 35%, and they also avoid the Social Security/Medicare payroll taxes paid by wage earners and the self-employed.
If we separate out these sources of income and types of wealth, we can distinguish two separate classes of high-income taxpayers: those who earn a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes, but who don’t get much income from productive assets/wealth. Furthermore, any increases in the value of their primary assets (the family home and retirement funds) are not available in the same way as gains registered in stocks, bonds, and other income-yielding assets.
These high-earners are tax donkeys–they pay much of the nation’s income tax but have to work hard for that privilege. While they typically have considerably more wealth than lower income households, their wealth is either inaccessible or unproductive, i.e. doesn’t generate income.
The top 9.5% of households are tax donkeys to some degree, while the top .5% are typically rentiers who live very well off the income streams flowing from productive wealth (apartment buildings, ownership of businesses, stocks, bonds, etc.)
At some point, tax donkeys may decide that it’s no longer worth it to work so hard, and so they downsize, retire, sell the business, etc.–get out while the getting’s good. The average wage earner may reckon that those making the big bucks and paying the big taxes would never stop slaving away because their net income would drop–and who would voluntarily let their income decline?
I would hazard a guess that an increasing number of tax donkeys are considering dropping out as a means of increasing their happiness and satisfaction with life. When the often overworked tax donkeys start bailing out, there may be no substitute source of taxes.
Those who reckon some new tax donkey will quickly take the place of the retiring tax donkey overlook the fact that many are entrepreneurs and/or highly experienced professionals who can’t be replaced as easily as a typical salaried person.
Courtesy of my esteemed colleague Lance Roberts, here are some charts that illuminate the widening disparities of income and wealth that differentiate those who pay little income tax, the tax donkeys and those who pay lower rates of taxes on unearned income: (Fed Admits The Failure Of Prosperity For The Bottom 90%):
Family Financial Assets:
The Trump Administration just released its Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code. This Framework outlines general principles for tax reform. There is still a long way to go in the legislative process, but based on what we have seen so far, here are some general thoughts on how these policies might affect you or your business:
Lowering the Tax Burden on the Middle Class
The proposal seeks to consolidate the current seven tax brackets into three brackets of 12%, 25%, and 35%. Currently the highest individual rate is 39.5%. The proposal provides tax relief to middle class families by roughly doubling the standard deduction to $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly (up from $12,600) and $12,000 for single filers (up from $6,300). The standard deduction is the amount of income that is not subject to federal income tax. A tax filer may choose to take the standardized deduction or to itemize his or her deductions.
Increases in other tax credits such as the child tax credit and additional tax relief will be decided through the legislative process. While most itemized deductions will be eliminated, tax incentives for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions will remain. The proposal also leaves the door open to add an additional top rate above the 35% rate if necessary.
The Proposal aims to eliminate the alternative minimum tax (“AMT”). The AMT is a federal supplemental income tax imposed on certain taxpayers in addition to their regular income tax. It was first enacted to prevent those with very high incomes from using special tax benefits to pay little or no tax. However it has since been expanded to reach individuals without very high incomes or those who do not claim special tax benefits and creates significant complexity in the Tax Code.
Elimination of the Death Tax and Generation Skipping Tax
The proposal also repeals the federal death tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax. However, currently the estate tax exemption is $5.49 million for an individual and $10.98 million for a married couple and applies to a limited number of people. The threshold amounts for an estate to go through probate in California still remains at $150,000 in assets or $50,000 in real property value.
New Tax Structure for Small Businesses
The proposal creates a new tax structure for small businesses including limiting the maximum tax rate applied to business income of small and family-owned businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations to 25%. The proposal also reduces the corporate tax rate to 20% which is below the average corporate tax rate of the industrialized world and would allow businesses to immediately write off the cost of new investments in depreciable assets other than structures made after September 27, 2017.
Other goals of the proposal include to partially limit the deduction for net interest expense incurred by C corporations, eliminate the current-law domestic production (section 199) deduction, preserve business credits in research, and development and low-income housing, and modernize the rules for certain industries and sectors.
Repatriating Foreign Assets
The proposal exempts foreign profits repatriated to the United States and 100% of dividends from foreign subsidiaries in which a U.S. parent owns at least a 10% stake. Foreign earnings that have accumulated overseas will be treated as repatriated. Accumulated foreign earnings held in illiquid assets will be subject to a lower tax rate with payment of any tax liability being spread out over several years.
As mentioned, this proposal is likely to change as it goes through the legislative process. But, it’s a good starting point to understand how the proposed reforms may affect you.
Don’t Blame Hurricanes
The Census Bureau reports New home sales are down again, with median prices weakening sharply.
Net sales revisions for June and July were negative. In addition, year-over-year sales are negative.
Sales were down in the South, the West, and Northeast, so don’t blame the hurricanes.
Economists Surprised Again
Economists were surprised by another month of weak new home sales.
The Econoday consensus estimate was 583,000 at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) but sales came in at 560,000 SAAR.
Weakness in the South pulled down new home sales in August as it did in last week’s existing home sales report. New home sales fell sharply in the month to a 560,000 annualized rate vs an upward revised rate of 580,000 in July and a downward revised 614,000 in June (revisions total a net minus 7,000).
Sales in the South, which is by far the largest region for housing, fell 4.7 percent in the month to a 307,000 rate for a year-on-year decline of 9.2 percent. But importantly, sales in the West and Northeast were also lower, down 2.6 and 2.7 percent respectively, with sales in the Midwest unchanged.
September, in fact, was a weak month for housing demand, evident in this report’s median price which fell a very sharp 6.2 percent to $300,200. Year-on-year, the median is up only 0.4 percent which, in another negative, is still ahead of sales where the yearly rate is minus 1.2 percent.
Builders, despite late month disruptions in the South, moved houses into the market, up 12,000 to 284,000 for a striking 17.8 percent yearly gain that hints at a glut. But supply had been so thin that the balance is now at a traditional level, at 6.1 months vs 5.7 and 5.3 months in the prior two months and 5.1 months a year ago.
Hurricane effects are likely in the next report for September with the South to continue to suffer. But today’s data do mark a shift, one of softening sales nationally, which is a short-term weakness, and a re-balancing in supply which is a long-term strength. Yet for the 2017 economy, the housing sector looks to be ending the year in weakness, some of it hurricane-related.
Expect downward revisions in GDP estimates for the third and fourth quarters.
QUESTION #1: [_____] says that the dollar will collapse because with the debt ceiling gone – no more buyers of Treasuries in the markets and only the Fed Reserve buying – inflation goes to the wazoo. All over USA. care to comment?
ANSWER: Total nonsense. The USA debt of $20 trillion is a tiny fraction of global debt at $160 trillion. This entire theory does not hold up. Just where is all the money going to run? Gold? Institutions do not buy gold and cannot function with gold, which is not legal tender for even paying your taxes. The only thing that matters is the general public confidence. When the average person on the street no longer trusts government, that is the tipping point.
There is a whole series of people given a choice between a bar of chocolate and a bar of silver. They take the chocolate. Kids line up in Starbucks and pay with their phone – not even cash. Not until you shake the confidence of these people will you see the explosion in markets. That is what took place in the late 1970s. I was there. OPEC created the image of wholesale inflation. People were hoarding toilet paper.
QUESTION #2: What will Fed Balance Sheet Shrinkage do to Gold?
ANSWER: The opposite of what people think. Shrinking the Balance Sheet will be anti-inflationary to the standard reasoning and thus gold should collapse with deflation. However, the Fed has turned away from QE because pension funds are at serious risk. They have run off to emerging markets and bought very long-term paper desperately trying to get their yields up. As the stock market rises because there is no alternative, the Fed politically will be forced to raise rates. They will end up creating inflation with rising rates that will blow interest expenditure through the roof.
QUESTION #3: Since we bounced off the reversal again, obviously this still does not negate a break of $1k and then the slingshot up. But it just seems as if gold is on its deathbed. If nuclear war could not get it to exceed last year’s high, is there anything left in this bag of fundamentals we have been hearing about forever?
ANSWER: I understand. This is what the Reversal System is good at. We stopped within a dime of that number. What will be will be. We are running out of fundamentals to keep buying gold. It’s like the fake news about the storm in Florida that a 15 foot wall of water would destroy the coast. It never came and many people are really angry at the media. How many times can they do this before people no longer listen. Gold is a confidence game – plain and simple. This number is just incredibly important far more than most people dare to consider. I will be doing the gold report soon. It is very critical at this point.
CLOSING COMMENT: The number of long positions verse net shorts in gold reached about 5:1 and you saw what happened – it simply bounced off of the reversal and did not exceed last year’s high. I am always amazed at how people get so bullish and say I am wrong and then within 2 days they lose their shirt. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Some people judge the next 10 years by a few days of price movement. That is how the market separates traders from fools.
Curve watchers anonymous has taken an in-depth review of US treasury yield charts on a monthly and daily basis. There’s something going on that we have not see on a sustained basis since the summer of 2000. Some charts will show what I mean.
Monthly Treasury Yields 3-Month to 30-Years 1998-Present:
It’s very unusual to see the yield on the long bond falling for months on end while the yield on 3-month bills and 1-year note rises. It’s difficult to spot the other time that happened because of numerous inversions. A look at the yield curve for Treasuries 3-month to 5-years will make the unusual activity easier to spot.
Monthly Treasury Yields 3-Month to 5-Years 1990-Present:
Daily Treasury Yields 3-Month to 5-Years 2016-2017:
Daily Treasury Yields 3-Month to 5-Years 2000:
One cannot blame this activity on hurricanes or a possible government shutdown. The timeline dates to December of 2016 or March of 2017 depending on how one draws the lines.
This action is not at all indicative of an economy that is strengthening.
Rather, this action is indicative of a market that acts as if the Fed is hiking smack in the face of a pending recession.
Hurricanes could be icing on the cake and will provide a convenient excuse for the Fed and Trump if a recession hits.
- Confident Dudley Expects Rate Hikes Will Continue, Hurricane Effect to Provide Long Run “Economic Benefit”
- Hurricane Harvey Ripple Effects: Assessing the Impact on Housing and GDP
- “10-Year Treasury Yields Headed to Zero Percent” Saxo Bank CIO