I leave you at the end of this year with a link to this entertaining post at the Cato blog, in which the writer points out a number of indicators that the condition of human progress is better than you might think.
Back in February 2013 I wrote in my newsletter about a state legislator who introduced legislation that would have imposed a “hoarder’s tax.” The tax would have been levied on liquid assets held by businesses. The proposal apparently went nowhere.
I’m not claiming any credit, but I’m happy to learn that the legislator who introduced that legislation was defeated in her run for a state senate seat in the 2014 election. During the campaign, she claimed that the “hoarder’s tax” bill was introduced at the request of a constituent and that it was not something that she “necessarily supported.” I wonder if she ever said that before it was brought up in the campaign.
As I said at the time, the “hoarder’s tax” was a singularly lame idea, with significant secondary, and perhaps not unintended, consequences.
The treaty for the Gadsden Purchase was signed on December 30, 1853. I’m not sure you can really call December 30 the anniversary, however, because the history is actually a little more complicated. The terms of the treaty were later changed somewhat. A revised version of the treaty was signed in 1854. You can read about it on the web site of the Office of the Historian of the U. S. Department of State.
As anyone who took Arizona history knows, the purchase made the land south of the Gila River to what is now the U.S.-Mexico border part of the United States. The purchase also included contiguous land in New Mexico stretching east to the Rio Grande. According to the Official Web Site of the Gadsden Purchase(!), the purchase encompassed a total of nearly 30 million acres, and the price paid works out to about 33 cents per acre.
This personal injury lawyer thinks that the self-driving car will eventually put him and his fellow travelers out of business. Most people would probably consider that a positive effect.
I don’t think I said anything about it at the time, but this item on Overlawyered brings up another issue that, like the “can they sue me” question, comes up regularly: “Should I sue them?”
Maybe, but don’t expect it to make you feel better, because even if you prevail, it probably won’t.
FOLLOWING UP ON THE STORY ABOUT THE GUY WHO FELL ASLEEP AT A YANKEES GAME, THEN SUED ESPN
Funny, I didn’t find any updates on the lawsuit against ESPN by that guy who fell asleep at a Yankees game back in July. I posted about it shortly after it was in the news. Looks like (surprise, surprise) it never went anywhere. I was figuring maybe I’d find an item about it being dismissed.
Unfortunately, it also appears that the blogger I linked to because I liked his comments about that lawsuit, and because I liked his resume, has quit blogging (at least, at that address). That’s too bad.
I want to take off on something that blogger said in his post about the lawsuit against ESPN, because it deals with an issue that I have to explain to people regularly:
You might be asking yourself, right now, whether I’m worried about whether [the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against ESPN] is going to sue me for defamation. The answer is no. Could he sue me? Sure, he could file a frivolous lawsuit against me, just like he did to ESPN and the other defendants in this lawsuit. Unfortunately, anyone can file a lawsuit against you, for anything, or nothing at all. That doesn’t mean they’ll win.
Yes, unfortunately, anyone who is willing to pay the court’s filing fee can file a lawsuit against you, whether the lawsuit has any merit or not. If the lawsuit obviously has no merit, it should get dismissed. If someone files obviously meritless lawsuits in the same court enough times, some courts will enter an order that says the clerk can’t accept any future filings by that individual unless the court approves, but that’s pretty rare.
So, when I’m asked by someone who has been threatened with a lawsuit, can they really sue me, my answer has to be: yes, anyone who can find the courthouse and pay the filing fee can file a lawsuit. Then I quickly move on to what can be done about it if they do.
I CAN’T BELIEVE CONGRESS DID THIS THE WAY THEY DID, BUT THEY DID: EXCLUSION FROM INCOME FOR FORGIVEN MORTGAGE DEBT IS EXTENDED THROUGH END OF 2014
It’s a concept I have touched on in my newsletter, but it’s not an easy one to explain or to absorb: if a debt is forgiven, the amount that is forgiven is generally treated as taxable income. In the past, there has been a provision in the federal tax code that excluded forgiven debt from taxable income when the forgiven debt arose from a mortgage on a borrower’s principal residence. That exclusion was for a limited period and was allowed to expire at the end of 2013.
Except now, in the 2014 Tax Increase Prevention Act, that was signed into law by President Obama on December 19 (!), the exclusion has been retroactively extended from January 1 through December 31, 2014.
So, if you already had a foreclosure (or a short sale) in 2014, you can now get the benefit of that exclusion. If you have been contemplating a short sale or facing a foreclosure, you can get the benefit of the exclusion if the foreclosure or short sale happens before the end of this year.
Congress might play the same game again next year, but I wouldn’t count on it.
MORE ON THE TAX DECODER
I posted a few days ago about Senator Tom Coburn’s report on the complexity of the federal tax code. Titled the Tax Decoder, the report should at least start serious consideration of federal tax reform. That’s what I think, and at least one blogger at the Cato Institute agrees.
I’m not sure when (or if) I will find the time to read the whole thing, although I know I should. I will at least find time to read the highlights. For the attention-span challenged, there’s a one-minute video about it on You Tube.
Some of the “tax expenditures” that are highlighted in the report are things I just can’t get that excited about, for example, the fact that Native American tribes don’t pay income tax on the revenues generated by their casinos. On the other hand, Kevin Jonas (I think I know who he is) is highlighted as a “rich and famous” homeowner who supposedly rented out his mansion at $20,000 per night for the Super Bowl, but wouldn’t have to pay tax on that income because of a code “provision [that] allows homeowners… to rent out their property tax-free for short periods of time.”
I keep telling you, the completely driverless car is coming to consumers sooner than you think. BMW has announced that it will demonstrate at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show what is described as “fully automated parking in multi-storey car parks – dynamic and safe without the driver.”
You can read about it in a press release that also describes other “control technology” that has already been unveiled, or will be soon.
Via Antiplanner, who has a long post that includes video of a driverless Audi on a test track going 190 mph.
Sign me up!
In recognition of the fact that you probably will have other things on your mind toward the end of this month, we got busy and mailed my newsletter early this month. As always, you can read it in the publications section of deconcinimcdonald.com (which is also accessible via the button on the main page of this web site).
This month’s newsletter is a discussion of a commonly asked question (at least it’s one that I get asked a lot): is a gift tax taxable income? Your feedback is always welcome.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.