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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.

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Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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Business Finance

VCs don’t have a pipeline problem, they have a Harvard/Stanford crisis

(FINANCE) With 40% of all VCs graduating from just two schools, the diversity challenge of Silicon Valley is leaking out of The Bay.

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If you’ve pitched or even spoken with a venture capitalist before, odds are one of them went to Stanford or Harvard (and in some cases, they don’t let you forget it).

A new study shows out of a survey of over 1,500 VCs (venture capitalists,) a whopping 40 percent of them attended either Harvard or Stanford. We knew it was a big number, but 40% from just two schools?! Dang.

Although these programs are without a doubt impressive, this study spotlights the ever-present issue of diversity of VCs in Silicon Valley and technology in general.

As far as other stats go, still 70% of VCs are men (60% of VCs are white men), Asian representation climbed from 23% to 26% from 2016 to 2018, women jumped from 11% to 18% from 2016 to 2018, and Hispanic representation still remains at 1%.

Woof. The industry is slowly progressing, but there’s much more improvement to be made.

So why does this matter?

It’s no shocker that technology and especially VC firms struggle with both gender and ethnic diversity.

As a female founder myself, I’m not surprised that only 3% of founders receiving venture capital funding are women. Out of the dozens of VCs that I’ve met and also pitched to, I’ve only met two that are women.

However, educational diversity is a topic where we’re only beginning to skim the surface, and honestly, it’s long overdue.

In the workplace and even in the VC world, humans are just as prone to implicit and explicit biases: people want to work with people that look and think like themselves. It’s a huge part of how Silicon Valley operates.

Schools like Stanford and Harvard have relatively small alumni bases compared to other large universities in the US and around the world. (For instance, my alma mater, Texas A&M has 640,000 living alumni, and Stanford has 220,000.)

According to Richard Kerbey, an African-American VC who performed this study, believes: “Not only is our industry lacking in gender and racial balance, but we also suffer from a lack of cognitive diversity…It is not a coincidence that the amount of capital raised by minorities and women closely resembles their representation among venture capitalists. And furthermore, it is no surprise as to why the demographics of most venture-backed startups also reflects the demographics of the venture capitalists that fund these companies.”

Venture capitalists usually hire people like themselves and invest in things they usually understand. That doesn’t make them evil or bad, just limited.

Therefore, when someone tells me the lack of venture capital diversity is from a “pipeline problem,” I don’t believe them.

This is why the work of people like Arlan Hamilton at Backstage Capital and Preston L. James, II at DivInc. is so important. Once we have VCs that represent the world we live in from a variety of socioeconomic, ethnic, gender, and educational backgrounds, the better the world and Silicon Valley will be for it.

Want to see more data in the study? Check out Kerbey’s Medium Post and his dataset for some ~fun~ reading, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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