Governor Cuomo has been widely criticized for the modest achievements of the “Start-Up NY” economic development program. In a report released on Friday of the July 4 weekend (timing that raised eyebrows), the state attributed only 332 jobs to the program during 2015, thus a total of 408 jobs since the program’s inception.
If you’re not familiar with the program, here’s a quick summary: Firms can qualify for an exemption from most taxation—sales, property, even personal income taxes owed by individuals hired to work in the venture. And the benefits last up to 10 years. It’s a sweet deal if you qualify. Read more »
Our nation’s fiscal house is held together with duct tape and Crazy Glue. The porch roof is teetering—left unrepaired, it may collapse onto our economy at the end of the year. And our home’s foundation has a crack in it. While this structural gap between revenue and spending—largely caused by Baby Boom retirements—won’t be dramatically worse next year, the crack will get larger and larger until we make major repairs.
A wide array of tax cuts are due to expire at the end of 2012. As the Bush White House couldn’t muster the 60 votes required for a permanent tax change, the 2001 tax cuts were passed using the Senate’s arcane “reconciliation” procedure, which forced a 10 year “sunset” provision. (The vote was 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaker.) Unable to reach consensus on much of anything in 2010, the President & Congress kicked the can down the road another 2 years. In February, the 2 percentage point reduction in the payroll tax rate originally passed in 2010 was extended to the end of the year.
So, what happens if Congress & the President don’t do a deal? Read more »
There is nothing like the IRS Form 1040 and NYS Form 201 to get you in the mood for tax reform.
We need a simpler system. Complexity is expensive by itself—we spend money simply keeping records and paying professionals to figure out what we can and can’t claim. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Service (TAS) of the National Taxpayer Advocate (appointed and funded by Congress) estimated in 2010 that taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours filling out taxes each year (down from an estimated 7.6 billion hours in 2008, probably courtesy of tax software). 60% of Americans pay someone else to complete their tax forms. In 2008, TAS put the total cost of compliance at $163 billion, about 11% of total tax receipts. Read more »
Consolidating local governments in New York is a hot topic across the state. Proponents maintain consolidation is a way to make local governments more efficient and less costly. Opponents argue that services will be cut, local representation will be lost, and savings will be minimal at best. Every week, I receive calls from local government officials across upstate asking what is involved in studying how to share or consolidate services. Almost invariably, the caller starts out by saying, “I’m not necessarily in favor of dissolving or consolidating, but I feel it is my responsibility to the taxpayers to look at every avenue to reduce our local taxes.”
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I’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.
Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.
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Originally published in Rochester Business Journal
1/9/2009, 1/16/2009, 1/23/2009
Early signals from our health insurer led us to expect another double-digit increase in our insurance premiums—perhaps a 15% hit. Frankly, I thought that we were just being softened up for something lower—If I were led to expect 15%, then a mere 11% bump should make me (relatively) happy. I was stunned when the final price of the most popular of our plans would go up 21% in 2009.
The big increase in price led us to explore cheaper plans, particularly a policy that includes a “Health Savings Account” (HSA). The discussion below refers to the specific plans we were offered by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
CAUTION: The remainder of this column discusses insurance premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket maxima and other arcane health insurance jargon. Readers looking for lighter fare might prefer IRS Publication 17 or, perhaps, a William Faulkner novel.
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Albany parishes should find other uses for buildings after churches close
Restructuring. Consolidation. Mergers. And now, layoffs. Those words have been used to describe the current state of affairs in the area’s Roman Catholic churches. Last week Bishop Howard Hubbard previewed the pain to come. He said that about 20 percent of the 190 worship sites will close or be reorganized across the 14 counties that make up the Diocese of Albany. Some of the lay staff who work at the parishes involved might lose their jobs. The decision on which churches will close is expected this weekend, but it is likely that urban parishes will suffer the most.
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I did it! I got my taxes filed on time AGAIN. This may not seem so miraculous to many of you, but I’m on a 12 step program for late filers. Early each year I seek out a group of my fellows for support in my struggle: “Hi, my name’s Kent. And I’m addicted to Form 4868.” If you don’t know what Form 4868 is, well, I’m begging you, PLEASE, don’t start. You’ll tell yourself it will just be just this once, but . . .
In honor of having stayed on the wagon for another year, I figured I’d write about taxes.
Some weeks ago I received an email containing a comparison of taxes paid under Clinton v. Bush II. Sent by a good friend, I was one of many names on the list. In the message, my friend challenged someone to confirm these figures, which claimed to show deep reductions in taxes paid under George Bush, deep reductions that became proportionately smaller as income rose.
The subtext of the message was something like, “I know that Bush cut taxes. But only for the fat cats, not for regular people.”
When no one else replied, I took on the task.
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