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Who knew? Tax talk can be used for more than just political debates

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Knowing how states collect taxes can help individuals and companies decide where to start or where to move. Do you know about your state?

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Time to talk about taxes

Don’t run! I promise, this will be neither a) a godawful political screed on how The Fedral Gubmit should or should not be dealing with your funds nor b) a dust-dry finance tract riddled with the kind of economic obscurities that would make Andy Dufresne doze off.

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Instead, courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts, here’s an easy-to-read breakdown of how and how much every state in the Union bring in their taxes.

8 flavors of taxes

Per Pew, state taxes come in eight conveniently color-coded flavors:

Personal income, the “ouch” that comes with the paycheck, the money taken out of what individual citizens earn.

Corporate income, the literal cost of doing business.

General sales, a little bit of extra money charged for (almost) everything. When by some weird, wee little number the price tag matcheth not the receipt, this is your guy.

Licenses, the little extra fee you pay for your official license to do anything worth licensing. Hunting, marriage, surgery: if you want the government to recognize that you can do it, pony up.

Other, where the tax code honors what makes your state… what’s a nice word? Special. What makes it special. Nevada skims about 8% of its annual revenue off casino and lottery winnings. That kind of thing.

Property, tax paid for the privilege of actually owning a thing, rather than borrowing it, renting it, or just generally hanging out with, on or by it.

Selective sales, tax applied to particular products as opposed to just everything. Rates are usually higher than general sales, and they’re frequently applied to things your state would rather you use less of. Alcohol, gasoline and tobacco are the big hitters.

Severance, the tax you pay for pulling nonrenewable resources out of a state so you can sell them, because then they’re not there anymore.

Matt’s Glossary of People Taking Your Money

What’s the value of Matt’s Glossary of People Taking Your Money, you ask?

The value is that understanding how the tax structure works, and above all what places do it in which ways, is how you keep as much of your coin as possible.

Try it like this

Imagine, if you will, the life of a prospector in North Dakota. I assume you have a mule, some overalls, one of those helmets with the little light on it (I have never been to North Dakota).

Like any self-respecting member of your profession, your dream is a comfy digging operation where you can cook your sourdough and play your harmonica in profitable peace.

Before you pound in your tent stakes, it might just be worth your time to know that your home state makes 41.8% of its tax revenue in severance tax, which is to say, taxes levied on your business model. Hop the border to Montana? 6.3%. Oh, and if you can find something to dig up in Iowa, guess what? No severance tax. At all.

That’s how it works everywhere

AG’s beloved home of Texas lives and dies by general sales tax: 62% of state tax revenue. There is no, repeat no, personal income tax at the state level. Instead, we charge 6% extra on everything. That makes Texas utterly rad if you roll with comparatively high income and comparatively few purchases.

By contrast, Oregon gets 70% of its state income from personal income tax.

Ouch, right?

But there’s no sales tax. If your lifestyle, business plan or both involve a whole lot of buying and selling, going Evergreen rather than Lone Star, much as I hate to say it, could be what it takes to bring your business to life.

That’s why this matters

“Taxes” aren’t one thing. They’re a field, a complex interaction of policies, and understanding how – and where – they work is make-or-break knowledge for any serious entrepreneur.

Dig in the right spot.

#MattsGlossary

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Business Finance

COVID-19: Governors fail renters, a 90-day rent freeze is the only option now

Independent contractors whose only sin is renting instead of owning, are facing evictions even as Governors put tiny bandaids on the situation. A 90-day freeze is the nation’s only option to avoid mass migrations or spikes in homelessness.

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2020, it seems, is the year of rebranding—even when it comes to our impromptu recession brought on by a variety of factors (but largely thanks to COVID-19). Despite the negative connotations of widespread economic disaster, some people, such as St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard, are regarding this instance as “an investment in U.S. public health.”

Should we all be so optimistic? Bullard seems to think so.

To be fair, James Bullard’s “optimism” also accounts for taking a “$2.5 trillion hit” to the economy, so it’s not all sunshine and dancing unicorns (this time). However, the long-term outcome of handling this crisis correctly—a process which involves bailing out small businesses, matching wages, and contributing to rebuilding and supporting our healthcare infrastructure—will be, according to Bullard, positive.

Bullard’s optimism does come with an important message: As with pretty much anything, the simpler we can keep solutions to this problem, the better the outcome will be. We’re not off to a great start; between states’ varying responses to COVID-19 procedures and mixed congressional support for a stimulus package, the process of dealing with economic fallout has become more complicated than some—Bullard included—would consider “ideal”.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really an “ideal” outcome here that is also practical without requiring a heretofore unseen level of cooperation and cohesion between political parties and state-based cultures. In the event that we can actually pull together and actively invest, as Bullard suggests, in our infrastructure, the implications for our economy will ultimately be positive—even if only in a pyrrhic victory kind of way.

In unprecedented times of crisis—you know, like right now—a little bit of optimism doesn’t hurt. Over the course of the next few months, you’ll hear all sorts of different takes on the situation; some people—those who identify as “realists” but really just enjoy bumming people out—will actively speak out against positive attitudes, while others will avoid “getting their hopes up” because they don’t want to be disappointed.

But, if Bullard’s optimism is to be believed—and we’re choosing to think it is—you have full permission to let yourself hope, at least for now.

Remember, there are a couple of things you can do to bolster your immune system without medicine during this time. One of them involves keeping a positive outlook, and the other one is eating plenty of garlic; we’ve found that one accompanies the other.

This story was first published in our Real Estate section.

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Business Finance

Gov. Cuomo first to issue 90-day moratorium on commercial, residential evictions

(NEWS) NY Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state leader to put a halt to all commercial and residential payments in an effort to stem the COVID-19 crisis.

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New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo is the first state governor to put a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, specifically hitting pause for 90 days in his state. This is part of a $10B relief package that includes utility payments missed during this outbreak as the state (and all states) are strained by the global pandemic.

This will not only help renters to find stable footing as so many have lost their jobs overnight, but commercial renters (like restaurants) that are worried about being evicted during a time that they were shut down by the government.

Reactions have mostly been positive, but many are still pushing for a freeze on rent, essentially rent forgiveness during this period since mortgage holders can roll their 90 days on to the end of their loan term, but renters cannot.

For many landlords, rent is their exclusive income and they have very few units, but they too will be under a mortgage freeze on their buildings under this Order, providing some relief. Not to mention Tax Day just moved from April 15 to July 15.

Meanwhile, a state group, Housing Justice for All, is calling for the rehousing of every homeless individual using emergency rent assistance and in vacant homes. They cite the risk of viral spread through the homeless shelter system, as well as viral possibilities among homeless people living on the streets.

There is no known answer in this time of being tested, but a freeze on rents and mortgages in New York will likely lead to other governors taking the same route, and renters might be able to breathe a little better soon, especially those who have lost their jobs and independent contractors whose business immediately died on the vine.

We’ll be watching for other states’ reactions to rents and mortgage payments.

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Business Finance

COVID-19: Self employed Texans get some relief benefits

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Self employed? Worried about the corona virus hurting your business? Texas says you’re STILL eligible for cash-related COVID-19 coverage!

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When I heard ‘It’s hard being your own boss’, I thought people meant employee reviews were harder to do since you have to carry both parts of a tough conversation in your home office.

Now, watching as self-employed artists, caterers, events specialists and more are struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the image is less ‘Ha!’ and more ‘AH!’.

It’s bad out there, y’all. And my heart goes out virtually, as per CDC guidelines. But in every viral cloud, there’s a colloidal silver lining. In the great state of Texas, that lining is: You’re probably eligible for disaster-based unemployment.

Yes, really!

Straight from the Texas Workforce Commission’s mouth: If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

Now how does that cover the self-employed? Simple…kinda.

You’ll need to apply through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance and then take the extra steps of providing different proof than your 9-5 friends.

Firstly, you have to prove you’re self employed. If you’ve been paying you under the table, this is where the poop hits the fan, I’m afraid. The government will need things like (any given one of these): Insurance bills, business license, a recent ad, an invoice, or sales records.

Were you just about to start your own business when all this went down? Fortunately you’re covered too, so long as you have proof of prospective self-employment, say: The deed to a building you just bought, loan documents, ‘Grand Opening’ announcements, and so forth.

For the full list of documents that suffice, visit the TWC site directly and check what proof your pudding needs.

This situation is a Corona-cluster-cussword, but there’s help out there.

Reach out. Grab it. And then wash your hands.

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