Economy Feed

Would a tax break be enough to change your shopping habits? One Scandinavian country is hoping to test that theory, and possibly permanently reshape consumers' attitudes, when it comes to many common household goods. Brian Beatty of Zen Cog Bicycle Company in Jacksonville, Florida, repairs a bike. (Photo by Jax REcycle via Flickr) It's not a new idea. Taxes have been used for, well, forever to try to encourage or discourage certain behaviors. That's why we have sin taxes on things most of us agree are not good, like smoking. And that's why we get tax benefits for actions perceived... Read more →

Special tax treatment for businesses has received a lot of attention this week in the wake of the European Commission's ruling that Apple received illegal tax breaks from Ireland. Philadelphia, whose skyline is shown here, offers more business tax breaks than other major U.S. city. Now it must decide if that foregone tax money is worth it. (Photo by Massimo Catarinella via Wikimedia Commons) Daniel Shaviro, law professor at New York University and author of the tax (and more) blog Start Making Sense, notes that Apple's $14.5 billion of under-taxation over 10 years divided by 60,000 jobs (6,000 per year... Read more →

I'm a big movie fan. I also am a personal finance/tax nut. So it's a big day for me as those two worlds converge. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association today announced its nominees for its annual Golden Globe awards. Two financially-themed movies, "99 Homes" and "The Big Short," were tabbed. Christian Bale, nominated for a Golden Globe as best lead actor, rocking out in a scene from "The Big Short." Both films are based on the housing industry collapse that followed the reckless subprime mortgages banks handed out right and left during the 2000s. That led to the disastrous (and... Read more →

If you thought you just watched the Republican presidential candidates go after each other (and the moderators), you're right. They debated, so to speak, economic issues, sort of, on Oct. 28. But they're back tonight. The eight top-polling Republican presidential hopefuls will face each other in Milwaukee in the fourth GOP debate. And the announced topic is, once again, economic issues, including taxes. Ben Carson has been on a book signing tour (pictured at an event in Wichita Falls, Texas; click image to view News Talk 1290's YouTube video, which includes Carson comments on the tax code), but he's made... Read more →

Last week's jobs report for October was surprisingly good. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent, its lowest level since 2008 and half of the 10 percent rate in the wake of the financial crisis. If predictions are correct for seasonal hires this year, even more workers could be having a merrier than usual Christmas. Businesses in San Antonio are following the national trend in hiring for the holiday season. Click image to see KSAT-ABC's report. But that holiday joy could be dashed at tax filing time if you don't pay attention to how you are classified by your temporary... Read more →

Greece, despite another bailout from Eurozone lenders, is still struggling to get its economy together. Now it faces another internal threat: bartering. The New York Times reports that as the Mediterranean country "grapples with a continued downturn, bartering is gaining traction at the margins of the economy" because money is just not readily available. Liz Alderman writes: "Graphic artists are exchanging designs for olive oil. Accountants swap advice for office supplies. In the agricultural heartland and on the Greek islands, informal bartering, which has historically helped communities survive, has intensified as more people exchange fruits, vegetables, other crops, equipment, clothing... Read more →

Many workers, me among them, enjoy being independent contractors. Businesses also like these arrangements. It relieves them of having to pay the employer's portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes, state unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. Plus, there are no workplace benefits to cover. All those costs of hiring a person as a full-time employee can, by some estimates, increase a company's payroll costs by 30 percent or more. So it's not surprising that sometimes companies improperly categorize theirs workers as contractors when they really treat them as employees. Uber, the popular transportation option available contracted via its smartphone app,... Read more →

Today is the day this year when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total 2015 tax bill, according to data analysts at the Tax Foundation. Are you partying? Economists at the Washington, D.C., think tank have been calculating Tax Freedom Day since 1990. They use federal budget projections, data from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and projections of state and local taxes. Click image for a larger view. Tax Freedom Day 2015 is one day later than last year, notes the Tax Foundation, primarily because of the United States' continued... Read more →

The U.S. economy finally appears to be on an upward track. That's good news for the millions of folks who took serious financial hits during the persistent recession that began in 2008. Things were so bad back then that even the Internal Revenue Service decided to lend a helping hand. In 2009, the IRS showed its more compassionate side to taxpayers facing financial challenges, which included having difficulty paying their tax-due balances. The IRS committed to being more flexible in working with taxpayers having trouble paying Uncle Sam because of factors related to the weak economy. Thus began the Fresh... Read more →

It's a dual Groundhog Day this year. There's the traditional meteorological news, which, by the way, is bad. Punxsutawney Phil says we're looking at more winter. An apparently sleepy Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his weather prediction. The final word: Phil saw his shadow, so we're in for six more weeks of winter. Full story and video at Weather Underground. This year, we also get the federal fiscal replay on official Groundhog Day. This is the one where the president issues his annual budget and the members of the opposing political party declare it dead on arrival. Political process replay:... Read more →

Back in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis began, homeowners were literally walking away from their residences. Predatory lenders lured unqualified buyers with subprime mortgages that backfired horrendously for financial institutions and homeowners alike. Those who managed to stay in their homes were deep underwater on the mortgage loan amount. It seemed for the last five or so years that the American homeownership dream, while not dead, was on life support. The patient, however, appears to be making a recovery. Housing markets are picking up in some parts of the country. A recent survey by housing... Read more →

The hubby and I performed our annual holiday ritual today. We bought some toys for Austin area kids who might otherwise find no presents under their Christmas trees on Dec. 25. Our December contributions are to the Blue Santa program, which partners with several local businesses to raise money and collect the toy donations. We always drop ours off at our neighborhood Chuy's restaurant. That way we get to eat Tex-Mex as a reward for our good deed. Presents price tag: We noticed that the goodies jammed in our shopping cart were a bit more expensive than last year's batch.... Read more →

My personal measurement of wealth usually depends on how close (or far) it is to payday. Not that the hubby and I live hand to mouth. We're doing pretty well, both in meeting day-to-day expenses and in saving for unexpected costs and our retirement. We basically consider ourselves securely part of the U.S. middle class. Or we did until recent stories informed us that the middle class no longer exists in America. Instead, we've become a more economically polarized country. And the great middle class goal, popularly known and the American Dream, is rapidly vanishing. It's been derailed, writes Nicholas... Read more →

Friday's jobs report was not good. The Labor Department's Feb. 7 numbers showed only 113,000 jobs were added in January. Was it the polar vortex effect or is the economy really heading backwards? There are many components to the reports, so economists and politicians will continue to debate the employment figures and their meanings. And Congress apparently will continue to debate whether to extend unemployment benefits. No additional jobless benefits yet: So far, the word from Capitol Hill has been sorry, out-of-work Americans, but you're still on your own. Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) for 1.3 million folks expired on... Read more →

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is expected to discuss income inequality and the problems facing those trying to climb up the economic ladder. He has lots of material from which to draw any remarks he makes. A recent global report by Oxfam found that almost half of the world's wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population. Worldwide, the 85 richest people on the planet own more wealth than the combined assets of the 3 billion poorest people. Closer to home, the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States captured 95 percent... Read more →

Last year was tough for lots of folks. The good news is that people were more generous than ever. In 2013, Americans donated more than $416 billion, an almost 13 percent increase over the prior year, according to the Atlas of Giving. Were you part of the reason that charitable giving increased last year? If so, thanks! Now don't miss out on a possible tax deduction for your good deeds. Increasing goodwill: Last year was the third straight year of philanthropic growth since 2009's low point of $316.5 billion, according to the Atlas of Giving's latest report. The uptick in... Read more →

Will the handouts to Boeing ever stop? Apparently not. Washington State leaders reportedly are ready to push through $4 billion in possible transportation projects that they deemed "key to Boeing's success in Washington state." The added state spending is detailed in a 164-page proposal obtained by the Associated Press under public disclosure laws. The $4 billion added tax money also is this week's By the Numbers figure. Boeing announced it would keep production of its new 777X jet in Washington after a second machinists union vote earlier this month caved to most of the company's demands. Artist's image of 777-9X... Read more →

LBJ's war on poverty, aided by the Earned Income Tax Credit

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered his war on poverty speech. It was LBJ's first State of the Union Address on Jan. 8, 1964, just seven weeks after he moved to the Oval Office following John F. Kennedy's assassination. "This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America," the new president announced to the joint session of Congress and all of America in his Texas drawl. And for LBJ, the war was personal. Johnson's specific war on poverty section begins at 12:48 and runs to 22:39. (Hang on through the test screen; the... Read more →

It's good to be aviation king. Just ask Boeing. States are falling all over themselves, promising tax subsidies to get the aircraft manufacturer to move some of its production facilities to their jurisdictions. Boeing's home state of Washington has enacted $8.7 billion in tax breaks, believed to be the largest corporate tax break any state has ever given to a single company, to try to get Boeing to make its new 777X jets in the Evergreen State. Boeing 777X image courtesy Aircraft Recognition A fight with the International Association of Machinists, however, has sent the aerospace giant looking for a... Read more →

Tax reform isn't happening any time soon. One group of researchers says that's not so bad. In fact, their study found that a key component of tax reform -- a lower corporate tax rate -- wouldn't deliver promised rewards to the rest of the country. It's been almost an article of faith for some time now that the United States needs a lower corporate tax rate for businesses to be more globally competitive. That, in turn, will help rev up a sluggish economy and produce much needed jobs for American workers. Supporters of cutting business taxes point to data showing... Read more →