Monthly Archives: November 2011

Step One in Tax Shelter Reform, a (Very) Modest Proposal for Transparency

Today’s NYT article on how the Estée Lauder heir Ronald S. Lauder uses tax shelters to protect his billions reminded me of An Investment Manager's View on the Top 1%:

A highly complex set of laws and exemptions from laws and taxes has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules. I am not optimistic.

(Incidentally, there’s some other interesting stuff there, including a rich-person’s view of why the 99.5% and up are so different from the bottom half of the top 1% (ie. 99.0 – 99.5). That group is mostly very successful professionals who find their retirement prospects to be better than most, but still less certain than they would like. The top 0.5%, on the other hand, the writer says, are or were in finance.)

While it would be good to do some serious reform of the tax system, the vested interests are in fact all pushing hard the other way (e.g. the quiet concerted action to destroy the inheritance tax).

Perhaps, therefore, as a first step we could require that anyone who uses a tax credit or deduction that saves them more than, say, $250,000 in tax liability, must disclose what tax credit/deduction they used, how much they saved and have it recorded along with their names on a registry published online, in a nice searchable format, by the IRS. There is a long tradition of having tax returns private, but perhaps for this we should change it: if you want to keep your privacy, don’t take the tax shelter. Note that my proposal does not require that the taxpayer disclose either income or total tax liability, just the size of the savings and its source.

As I’ve said before, I’m not at all a tax lawyer. I invite people who know more about tax law to explain why this idea is unworkable, pointless, or fattening.

Posted in Econ & Money, Law: Tax | 8 Comments

OK, This Looks Like a Plan

Combine Frank Pasquale, Understanding Wealth Defense: Direct Action from the 0.1% with Paul Krugman, Taxing Job Creators and Where The Money Is.

Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment

How Authors from Different Countries Write Novels About Unhappy People

The English write tales of quiet desperation.

The French write about frantic, desperate love affairs.

The Norwegians write about drinking in the long dark.

The Japanese write about suicide.

The Americans write about shopping.

Please add to the list (and lets hope Patrick Nielsen Hayden still visits here).

Posted in Completely Different, Kultcha | 4 Comments

Syms Is Closing

Where will I buy jackets and suits? Syms was a great barn of a discount house, an east coast chain of cut-price remainders and seconds on clothing. It had normal clothes, a great deal of wacky clothes, and a good if erratic selection of suits and jackets. The women’s clothes, but alas not the suits, had time-sensitive price tags. The longer the stock stayed in the shop, the cheaper it got.

You would think that a deep discounter of clothing, even if some of it was fairly fancy clothing, would thrive in a recession, but apparently not. One might argue that it sure must be one awful recession if it takes down even Syms. One report suggests that Syms’s problem was that it just wasn’t as big as some of its competitors in the designer clothing trade.

Then again, I remember talking to an old hand in one of the shops about a year ago, who was bemoaning how the stores just hadn’t been getting as good a selection of stock as when Sy Syms, the founder, was still alive. At the time I wrote it off as likely prejudice against having a woman (Sy’s daughter, Marcy) at the helm. Now, though, I wonder.

Meanwhile though, I’m running out of discount houses: Sussex and Moe’s closed in New York over a decade ago (I got married in a suit from Sussex). Will I have to…buy at retail? I think I’ve forgotten how.

Posted in Econ & Money, Shopping | 2 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy low-sodium, low-sugar, low-cholesterol, low alcohol, measured Vitamin K Thanksgiving!

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

The Fixer (of Broken Security)

Nice profile of Christopher Soghoian in WIRED, entitled “The Pest Who Shames Companies Into Fixing Security Flaws”.

I’ve run into Chris at a few conferences, and read a good bit of his stuff, and I think he’s every bit as good as this profile makes him sound.

Posted in Cryptography, Law: Privacy | Leave a comment