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How About Some Politics

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Here’s the thing… I stayed up too late last night. I went to to the Washington Wizards game and then I watched the election returns unfold on my iPad, on the way home. (I wasn’t driving. I promise.) And I am going to do something that I rarely do in the blog. Talk politics!

I think election returns are like watching a sporting event. In the end, you feel true victory or loss. And every election, the candidates always say that “this is the most important election”. Is that possible?

All I know is that Democrats feel pretty happy about New Jersey and Virginia. Republicans in Virginia…not so much. (It is uncertain based on recounts, but Democrats may have erased a 16 delegate Rebublican majority in the house of delegates. Unexpected!) I think New Jersey republicans had already braced themselves for the outcome. The true test of an independent is whether last night caused mixed emotions.

But here is a reminder on how politics works. The Trump tax bill is a good example. In that bill, there is a tax credit for “unborn children” that applies under the college saver tax break. Do you see what that does? The bill summary specifically recognizes “a child in utero”. Abortion advocates are being impacted by a tax bill.

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Why would that be part of a tax bill? Because including that can motivate the base to support the tax bill, just to support an anti-abortion piece of legislation. And that’s how politics works! Legislation and laws determined the real wins and losses.

As application to the elections yesterday, what does it mean? Well, I personally don’t think it means anything to the national stage except that those two states did exactly what they wanted to do. No national message is being sent, despite what is being reported.  Just my thought.

Virginia had already previously voted for Hilary in the national election. Why is the election of a democrat for governor (Northam) all that telling? I think it’s just a reminder that Virginia is going to do what it wants to do. And the pendulum will swing back republican again soon. And that’s politics!

In the end, It kind of makes me miss the simplicity of Forrest Gump. In the movie, Forrest tells people, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump“. Wouldn’t life be simple if that’s how it really worked! I crave real!

 

And for pic o’ day, a reminder that no matter what happened in the elections, it’s no time to panic. Or maybe it is!

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Chasing the Gold

The Olympics on NBC have been a bit of a disappointment in viewership, until Michael Phelps started chasing more gold.  Then, Usain Bolt grabbed some attention with his historic third consecutive gold medal in the 100-meter dash.

On top of that, U.S. gymnast Simone Biles helped lift ratings to a 17.4 household rating which also meant that there was a 9.0 share in that important 18-49 demographic that advertisers are chasing. (Variety)

We watch… and then we forget. We don’t even care if someone ends up on a Wheaties cereal box anymore. But, Uncle Sam cares. He is waiting at the end with his tax bill. Bet you didn’t think about that!

 Olympic athletes who win medals also win cash from the U.S.:$25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Actually, it’s paid by the United States Olympic Committee. Those “winnings” subject them to a tax, like any prize winner. These athletes are taxed because Olympic medals and cash bonuses are considered income.

Best to focus on the donut, not the hole!

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I just mention this just in case it might impact your exercise regiment in the morning. If you are getting ready for 2020… remember that your morning gymnastics could lead to taxable winnings. It might make it easier to turn that alarm off and catch a few more z’s!

 

An IRS Loss

This is one of those few stories about an IRS loss. You might want to write this down!!!

From a San Francisco Judge:

Public.Resource.org asked the Internal Revenue Service to provide some 990 forms. These forms show non-profit expenses had been filed digitally by nine tax-exempt organizations. The request was made by the organization to see what kind of expenses and write-offs had been claimed by these nine.

In response, the IRS said no. Claimed it would be too expensive to comply with the Freedom of Information Act request. They specifically claimed that it would cost $6,200 in needed training and technology to comply. According to the IRS response, it would be an undue burden to provide the documents, due to its “sequestration level” funding (Courthouse News). That  IRS denial became a true cost!

Once the IRS denied their request, Public.Resource.org sued for enforcement of the request, and costs and attorney fees associated with the filing and request.  In January, a federal judge in San Francisco said the expense didn’t excuse the IRS from complying with the FOIA request.

Here’s the kicker: Last Friday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick awarded almost $239,400 in attorney’s fees and costs to the nonprofit organization.

As the Judge put it, “I am persuaded that the outcome of this case is likely to enhance the public’s ability to analyze and understand information in Form 990s, and that this represents a meaningful advancement of the public interest.”

Note to the IRS… this blog is just noting the facts :<)

And for pic o’ day… because I like pictures!

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Cornwell Verdict Plus A Coffee

     This is a follow-up blog on the Patricia Cornwell trial. Plus, I am throwing in a story about the most expensive drink at Starbucks. The only thing they have in common is… well, I’m not sure there really is anything. But, I guess “Big” could be the one common factor. First, let’s look at the verdict.

     Previously, I wrote a blog on the lawsuit and trial of Patricia Cornwell, where she had sued her financial “gurus” for the mismanagement of her money. (previous blog) Well, after a six week trial the jury has spoken. A 51 Million Dollar Verdict!

     She had sued CPA firm Anchin, Block & Anchin for mismanaging her money on real estate, vehicles and a helicopter. Plus, she said that her tax returns were filed in such a way that triggered audits and caused the FBI to investigate her campaign contributions. As previously discussed, the CPA firm defended the lawsuit by saying that her losses were based on her lavish choices in lifestyle. 

     In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight. Maybe not the CPA’s  who tried to pass the blame.

     And in connection to a BIG verdict, this coffee story caught my attention.  

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     Beau  Chevassus decided to give himself a special birthday gift… the most expensive Starbucks drink ever. He sauntered into his local Starbucks and ordered Forty-eight shots of espresso, some protein powder, two bananas, a few caramel drizzle Frappuccino chips, some vanilla bean and some soy. Soon, he had the above coffee bill totaling $47.30.

     The real question, “did he drink it”?”. He reports only taking a few sips in the store. Then, he drank about half of it over the course of the next few days.

     See, I couldn’t figure out how to work that in a legal blog. It works if it’s combined with a big verdict. Well, maybe a little!

     Pic o’ day is a bit of hiding:

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Cash Only… Medical Marijuana

The Social Media team at the firm is always reminding me to use titles and wording that will help optimize my blogs. Then, I’ll write a blog and realize that I have a real boring title and that I have gone off in so many directions with the blog, that there is no optimization hope! I now imagine that you are nodding “yes”.

This time, I figured I had a title that would optimize. Then, I realized that I was wandering off topic again.

OK… here’s the real topic. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Californians are now learning that they have to pay cash for their medical marijuana. Visa and MasterCard will no longer honor their purchases. Maybe ATM machines are going to see a new influx of business fees.

This topic has always interested me because it’s a State versus Federal issue. Marijuana for medical use is legal in 17 states plus the District of Columbia. However, it is still against federal law to “distribute or cultivate marijuana” and such properties are subject to forfeiture.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo to U.S. attorneys around the country,  that they should “not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana”.

Some of these marijuana dispensaries are facing problems with the IRS because they have attempted to deduct business expenses from their tax returns, like payroll and office rent; and the government will not allow such deductions for “the trafficking of controlled substances”. Guess they will have to hit the ATM a few more times for that too.

This is an interesting addition to the Politics of States’ rights!

For pic o’ day, I thought I would post something on “how to improve a golf game”.

The Dancing Legislation Process

     In the early 80’s, some one-hit wonder band released “The Politics of Dancing”. I’m guessing that you really don’t care, so I’m not attaching their amazing one hit from YouTube.   As the State and Federal legislalors are “hunkering down” by voting on and compromising  bills, it is a reminder of how the reverse of that song is constantly in play.

     In Virginia, Tobacco legislation always brings out some amazing stories and quotes. On one hand, no one fights the harms and addictions of Tobacco. In the alternative, it seems to always come down to the money. A recent “eyebrow raiser” fits that description.

     Virginia’s Pilot Online reports that three bills that had been introduced, that would have raised taxes on cigarettes, were defeated by not making it out of committee. They had all been assigned to the House Finance Committee. That means that Virginia currently ranks #49 in its tax on cigarettes, despite the possible outcome of raising much needed revenue for Virginia.

     HB 1815 would have raised the per-pack rate to $1.45 per pack. That is currently the national tax average. HB 2118 would have allowed all Virginia Counties to determine whether to impose a tax increase. Currently, Fairfax and Arlington are the only counties with such authority.

     The specifics of the first bill would have directed most of the tax increase directly to Medicaid, to help fund the federal and state health insurance of low income people. Right now, Medicaid funding represents 20% of Virginia’s general-fund budget 

     Why was there no outcry for this new revenue? Well, as Del. Bobby Orrock (R-Caroline County) told his co-committee members during the bill discussion, “You don’t want to restrict the chicken so much to the point that people quit smoking”. He pointed out that the state should not tax cigarettes to the point that people quit smoking.

     Some blogs just simply need no real comment.  Delegate Orrock is a teacher at Spotsyvania High School and has served as an EMT with LadySmith Volunteer Rescue Squad.

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