Taxing the Sin of Luxury

Tax Act

The luxury tax and it’s close relative the sin tax are concepts that are up for debate. Depending on which economist you speak to you will get a wide range of opinions on whether this type of tax is helpful or hurtful to the economy. The luxury tax pretty much affects only the wealthy (i.e. those who can afford to buy luxury items) and consist of a tax that is applied to goods that are deemed unnecessary or nonessential. The sin tax applies to things can be seen as extreme, sinful and unnecessary to the individual and to society, like cigarettes and alcohol. Another example of the sin tax is the increased rate at which lottery and game-show winnings are taxed.

The luxury tax was originally imposed during times of war as a way to increase government revenue and to have wealthy families pay more, since theoretically they could afford it. But in reality is it helpful or harmful?

One way of looking at it is to take the concept of Veblen goods. These are items that go up in popularity as their price increases. The reasoning behind this is that it increases the items ‘snob appeal’ and gives the purchaser greater status. Examples of items that could be a Veblen product are fancy cars, expensive wines, designer-handbags, decadent jewelry, furs and yachts. When the price of these items go down then certain people don’t want to buy them as much. These goods are often sought out to increase social status, as a way to show-off to peers and to give the owner a feeling of satisfaction. It all comes down to exclusivity, aka the ‘Snob Effect’.

Those against it argue that adding a luxury tax to an item may curb demand, which will then end up hurting the middle class, i.e. the workers, as their products won’t be sold. If buyers seek other items, when this happens the middle class lose there income and this leads to increased unemployment benefits, so the government actually loses money. For example when a 10% federal surcharge was enacted on luxury goods in the US in 1991, sales of the effected products decreased drastically. Since it led to such a negative effect on the economy through job loss and tax revenues from lost sales it was quickly dropped.

This also happened is Canada in the late 1980s, when a large luxury tax was added to cigarettes. Instead of seeing tax revenue increase, there was actually a decrease as people stopped buying them legally and cigarettes started appearing on an oftentimes violent black market. This led to more government resources being used to fight this crime, and so the tax was soon repealed.

On the other side, the consumers that can afford non-necessities are usually rich and lead extravagant lifestyles. In 2007, luxury goods in the US were a $157 billion dollar industry. Between 1979-2003, income grew 49% for the top 5% of earners and 111% for the top 1%, and it has been shown that even in a slow economy there will always be a luxury market. This is an enormous tax base that could bring much needed revenue to the government.

 

Sarah Parker is a writer and blogger from Greensboro, NC. She enjoys all things outdoors, especially camping, gardening, and swimming. Her favorite time of the year is summer (of course!) and she aims to leave as tiny of a carbon-footprint as possible throughout her daily life.

 

 

What are Our Income Taxes Used For?

Tax Act

No one likes to pay taxes. In fact, you may even wonder where your hard earned money goes. It’s especially upsetting to hear that government money was used to fund some insane research, like whether or not mice like cheese. Regardless, you have to pay them. Still, it helps to know where that money goes. This April, maybe you’ll be a bit more at ease knowing that your tax dollars are actually be used for some pretty amazing things.

How Are Federal Income Taxes Used?

It may surprise you, because our military gets paid so little, but over 50% of our federal tax dollars in 2009 went towards our current military members, veterans and the current wars that we’re fighting. This includes the costs of weapons, housing, etc. The rest of our tax dollars are spent on human resources (education, medical), general government (government officials’ salaries) and physical resources (agriculture). The government includes Social Security in their figures. However, many point out that Social Security is collected separately from federal income taxes and is thus a trust fund. When we think of what the government does individually with our income tax dollars, defense and wages for government employees eat up a large chunk of our income taxes, but it’s important to remember that our taxes cover the costs of thousands of expenses. While our government does spend money on unwise decisions, it also spends money on Pell grants for college students, food for needy families and other important expenses.

How Are State Income Taxes Used?

State income taxes may be used differently in different states. However, many states use state income taxes to pay for education, government officials’ salaries, police forces, EMTs, health and social services and even public transportation. What a state uses it’s money on will depend on what the state’s government determines needs the most help. However, not all states have state income taxes. States like Tennessee only charge federal income taxes, but have a much steeper sales tax than states that do have an income tax.

While paying federal and state income taxes may not be ideal, chances are these taxes have paid for something in your life. It may have been the schools you attended or the roads you drive on. Either way, income taxes are a necessary evil. After all, if we were given the chance to pay for these items, instead of being forced to, chances are many people wouldn’t shell out their own money willingly.

About the Author: Manuel Phyfe is a volunteer with an organization that helps senior citizens find free tax support. He finds that many are angry at tax time not because they have to file a return, but because they don’t understand where their money has gone.

How to Avoid Meeting the Inheritance Tax Threshold

Tax Act

Did you know that whenever anyone dies, the money and the property which is left to the beneficiaries are subject to an inheritance tax? This tax is usually 40% of anything above the threshold, which in the UK at the moment is £325,000.

However, if you are like most people you will not want to see a large chunk of your inheritance go towards taxes. Luckily, there are ways that you can avoid meeting the inheritance tax threshold and not have to pay. Effectively planning your inheritance can save your family hundreds of thousands of pounds.

As house prices have increased over the years but the inheritance tax threshold has not, more people than ever have been liable to pay it. To avoid this, you will need to split up your estate in your will so that you can make sure that each of your loved ones inherits an amount which is under the threshold.

Leaving Money to Your Spouse or Civil Partner

Did you know that if you leave your money to your spouse or civil partner, they will be exempt from paying inheritance tax on any of it? This can be a way for you to pass along your estate without having to worry about meeting the inheritance tax threshold. In the future when your partner dies, the estate will be subject to an inheritance tax threshold again, but the threshold will be higher at $650,000.

Setting up a Trust

Many people place their money in a trust fund in order to avoid paying inheritance tax. Although this was a very popular method in the past, the HMRC has become aware of this practice and has been cracking down on using trusts for this purpose. However, you still might be able to exempt your money from inheritance tax in some cases, such as trusts for someone who is disabled or certain trusts for your children. To make sense of the complicated rules and restrictions, you should talk to someone who specializes in these types of trusts.

Give it Away

One of the simplest ways of protecting your assets from inheritance tax is by giving your estate away in the form of gifts. Any money that you give to your benefactors is exempt from inheritance tax as long as you continue living for more than 7 years after giving the gift. You will also be able to give away £3,000 per year of your assets, and this will be exempted from your inheritance tax threshold. This concession allows parents and grandparents to give money to their children without fear of exceeding the inheritance tax threshold down the line.

These are just a few ways that you can deal with the inheritance tax threshold and make sure that more of your worldly possessions get passed along to your loved ones.

Simon Grant produced this content on behalf of Access Legal solicitors, whose site has pkenty of advice on the subject of making a will.

Interhitance Advance and your Taxes

Tax Act

Nothing feels worse than when a loved relative passes away, especially when you have money problems during that time. Even thought you’re getting a nice chunk of money, there are tax issues that you’ll have to work out and put money away to prepare. The best thing that you can do to ease the burden during this difficult time is to get an inheritance advance. Unlike bank loans, an inheritance advance gives you all the money you need, with no waiting on a bank to approve your request. In order to qualify for a bank loan you have to spend days waiting on people to look over your credit, financial and work history, prior loans, and a hundred other things before they can even think about lending you the money that you need. But an inheritance advance company only needs proof that you are going to receive an inheritance; and they can get you that money quickly and efficiently.

Inheritance Advance and Loans Will Create Tax Issues

The worst part about having to take out a loan is that huge cloud of debt over your head. It seems that banks are just out there to take advantage of us at every turn. You are going through some rough times; why can’t they take it easy on you and give you a loan with some decent terms? An advance on your inheritance makes all of these questions go away. You get the money you need up front; there are no monthly payments, and when the inheritance finally comes through; the money goes to the company who gave you the advance. It’s so simple!

You have options when it comes to getting your inheritance money when you need it. A bank will tell you that a loan is more secure and that the agreement protects you as well as them. Do not go with a bank. You want your money without the complications from a loan. An advance will get you what you need when you need it.

Income Tax Credits You Might Qualify For

Income Tax Credits You Might Qualify For

A number of tax credits which reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar that you might not have known about or might not have qualified for before are now worth taking a look at.

Recovery Rebate Credit

If the rebate checks that were sent out last tax season didn’t find their way to you because you made too much on your 2007 1040 tax return, you have a second opportunity to receive the credit for the 2008 tax season. Therefore, if you income has decreased for any reason during 2008, make sure to … Read more at 2008 Taxes.

Income Tax Credits You Might Qualify For

A number of tax credits which reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar that you might not have known about or might not have qualified for before are now worth taking a look at.

Income Tax Sappy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recovery Rebate Credit

If the rebate checks that were sent out last tax season didn’t find their way to you because you made too much on your 2007 1040 tax return, you have a second opportunity to receive the credit for the 2008 tax season. Therefore, if you income has decreased for any reason during 2008, make sure to double check your qualifications this year so you can now claim the $600 per taxpayer credit.

First-Time Homeowner Credit

This is an interest free loan to anyone that purchased a house for the first time between April 9th of 2008 and June 30th of 2009. Loans are equal to 10% of the value of the home or a maximum of $7,500. You’ll have to pay back the loan over the next 15 years but a no interest loan from the government cannot be beat.