Monday, September 29, 2008

A trillion here, a trillion there

While Congress debates the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, I've heard nothing in the press reminding us that this is coming on the heals of a $300 billion housing bill signed by the President back on July 30th. That is a staggering $1 trillion spent on this fiasco. Add to that the nearly $1 trillion we've spent in Iraq and it is no wonder our standard of living is declining.

I currently oppose the bailout for the following reasons:

1. It is being rushed through with little discussion, debate or analysis of alternatives. This is the Bush/Paulson plan.

2. It contains no reforms and simply gives the money to the same players who created the crisis.

3. It provides not a single dime to homeowners or want to be homeowners. What would $700 billion do for the economy if we targeted this money towards the housing needs of citizens?

4. I don't trust President Bush or his administration. I hate to say it but I'm also skeptical of both McCain and Obama here as well. Both are being advised by Wall Street insiders who will benefit from this bailout.

5. The negotiations have been secretive.

I've just been reading the latest news and the House is going to debate this massive bailout for a total of 3 hours before they vote.

I would love to see our country invest $700 billion in a green economy. That type of investment would go a long ways toward creating a post-carbon economy. Instead, I'm worried that we are doing nothing but temporarily propping up a decaying system.

Friday, September 26, 2008

CPE class on sustainability for CPAs

I am proud to announce that I'll be teaching a Continuing Professional Education (CPE) class for CPAs entitled "Sustainability: What it means for the profession, you and your clients."

The class is scheduled in Vancouver, Washington on December 10th from 1-5pm. It will qualify for 4 hours of CPE credit.

This may be the first CPE class for CPAs to focus on sustainability and what it means for the profession and their clients. I'm currently working on the outline but here are some of the points I intend to cover:

** Get up to speed on sustainability and what it means for business
** Understand the business case for sustainability
** Get an Introduction to triple-bottom line accounting
** Discover the opportunities and risks in this rapidly emerging paradigm
** Discover resources to help your clients
** Look at evolving metrics
** Look at changing reporting requirements and initiatives

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why I don't trust corporate media

Last night CBS Evening news did a story that purported to compare the impact of Obama’s and McCain’s tax plans on three separate Ohio families.

If I recall, all three families had three children. The story discussed some of the details of each candidate’s plan (special credits, deductions, rate changes, etc.), then used an Ohio CPA to crunch the actual numbers of these three families.

The first family had an income of $32,000, the second family had an income of $64,000 and the third family had an income of $213,000.

The CPA determined that the first family would see no change in their taxes under McCain’s plan but would get a refund of $2,200 under Obama’s. The second family would save $225 under McCain’s plan and $500 under Obama’s.

Unfortunately, we never found out how the plan would impact the third family. Instead, rather than provide a specific answer as they did with the first two people, the story focused in on Obama’s plan to raise the top two marginal rates from 33% to 36% and from 35% to 39.6%, respectively. Due to deductions and exemptions, these top rates would only apply to people with income of $225,000 or more. It should also be noted that these are marginal rates and not effective tax rates, meaning the higher rate only applies to the income earned above the $225,000 threshold. All the income below that threshold would be taxed just as it is now.

Rather than give us the actual numbers, the CBS Evening News story pointed out that the third family was nearing the line where the new marginal rates on Obama would kick in. “If this business owner were to make more next year, they could find themselves in the 33% bracket which under Obama will become the 36% brackets” said the reporter. They then cut to the taxpayer who says he’d be hurt if his taxes went up 8% (from 28% to 36%).

This is dishonest and deceitful reporting for a couple reasons. First, why didn’t they compare apples to apples and just tell us how the plans would effect the three families? Additionally, as I pointed out above, the rate increase Obama support is at the margin, so the third family’s taxes wouldn’t be going up by 8% even if they got that $12,000 bump in income.

I believe CBS Evening News has enough resources to get this story right and that this was a blatant attempt to distort the information and change the impression on viewers. There can be no other explanation other than media bias.

I’m not a member of the Democratic Party or an Obama partisan, but I believe we need accurate and truthful information to make good decisions. I was particularly interested in this story so I could learn something relevant to my profession, unfortunately, CBS let me and the rest of America down.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Domestic Partner Tax Filing in Oregon

The Oregon Dept. of Revenue (ODR) is preparing forms and special instructions to accommodate domestic partners in 2008 due to the new law finally recognizing these relationships.

Two new “statuses” have been added: Registered domestic partner filing jointly and Registered domestic partner filing separately. For ODR tax purposes, if domestic partners register in an Oregon county, they will be able to file as registered domestic partners. If the domestic partners are registered outside of Oregon, they will need to register in an Oregon county.

Because the federal government does not recognize domestic partners, it gets a little convoluted going from federal Form 1040 to the state return.

The partners will need to file their single federal returns and then prepare another federal return “As-if” a combined federal return were allowed for domestic partners. This “As-if” return will drive the amounts on the state return except for one major difference. The federal tax subtraction shown on the Oregon return will be the amount of the actual federal tax liabilities, less any economic stimulus rebates received.

While this solution isn't perfect, it should help many couples save money by filing together.

Wouldn't it be nice if the federal government would move into the 21st century and allow consenting adults to marry and/or partner up in anyway they so choose?