Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Wrong Font Size Costs 30 Employees Their Jobs in Chico, California

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

I had never heard of Woof & Poof. The company makes handcrafted baby products, but apparently not for long in their home of Chico, California. According to this news story, the company is stopping production.

Why? The CEO, Roger Hart, said, “The high cost of doing business in California coupled with ridiculous regulatory environment makes it virtually impossible to do business.” The news story contains the following:

A recent visit by an inspector with the Department of Consumer Affairs set the company back. The inspector from Sacramento cited him for having the wrong size font on the decorative pillow labels. He was told to take the labels out, or they would have his inventory seized.

My next story (above) notes California’s low standing on the 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index. California’s standing in the regulatory realm is even lower.

About 9,000 Businesses Left California During Good Economic Times

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to Joseph Vranich’s report on businesses leaving California. I should know: I’m one of the 9,000 businesses that did so.

Mr. Vranich analyzed business relocations from 2008-2014. He identified 1,510 “disinvestment events”–companies leaving the Bronze Golden State for brighter horizons. Mr. Vranich notes that for every one company that publicly leaves, at least five others have left. Mr. Vranich also excluded all but primary employers,

…[W]hose customers are nationwide or worldwide (such employers bring wealth into a community.) All “secondary employers” (which exchange wealth already in a community) such as retail stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, beauty salons, nurseries – an inexhaustible list of enterprises – are excluded.

While some of these business closings and relocations are local businesses that just service locally, today with the Internet a business in Nevada and elsewhere can service clients anywhere in the world. Yes, you can only go to a restaurant locally or get your hair done where you are, but many other service businesses are no longer geographically constrained. This, too, likely causes an understatement of the impact of business relocations.

And things aren’t likely to get better for California:

Finally, California is considering imposing a broad set of new taxes, tax extensions and fees on businesses in 2016 and 2017 – a “tsunami” that may trigger the worst demands on private-sector finances ever organized by the state’s politicians. It is highly likely that one result will be an increasing number of disinvestments in California in favor of greener domestic or international pastures.

A factor that Mr. Vranich didn’t consider is what will happen during the next economic downturn? California today relies largely on capital gains taxes from very wealthy individuals (and individuals receiving stock options) for state revenues. The next time there’s an economic downturn, that source of income will decline, almost certainly very substantially. Given the mindset in Sacramento, that’s likely to result in even higher taxes and regulations rather than starting to actually make California a place that businesses want to locate in.

California DMV Deliberately Overcharging on Sales Tax

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

When you purchase a car in California, you owe sales tax based on where the car is registered. The California DMV uses a table based on ZIP Codes to determine what that should be. For 90% or more of California, it works fine; the sales tax rate in a ZIP Code is uniform.

However, California has numerous sales tax rates based on cities, counties, and special districts. Two individuals living in the same ZIP Code might have two different sales tax rates. The DMV has apparently programmed its computer to charge the higher of the two sales tax rates when registering a car purchase. An impacted consumer has to then apply for a refund (if he becomes aware of the issue).

Yet California’s Board of Equalization, the agency responsible for sales tax collection in California, developed an online tool to accurately show the sales tax rate for a location. Unfortunately, the DMV refuses to use it and told George Runner, a member of the BOE, that it would be several years before the problem is fixed.

Mr. Runner expresses surprise at the situation.
I am anything but surprised. I suspect the DMV likes the current procedure because they show higher revenue generation (which will presumably increase their budget) and because of pride of ownership. ‘We can’t use a tool developed by the BOE,’ the DMV may be thinking. ‘It’s not ours, so how can we trust it? And it doesn’t directly interface with our computer system. We don’t want our clerks overriding a sales tax rate (even when it’s wrong). Let the consumer just apply for a refund.’

This is yet another reason why trust has fallen in government and regulators.

Gilbert Hyatt Goes to Washington…Again

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

The Franchise Tax Board sent out a release on Friday noting that oral arguments in California Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt will take place on December 7th. This is the second time this case has reached the US Supreme Court. Back in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that Gilbert Hyatt could sue the Franchise Tax Board in Nevada. That was after the FTB rummaged through his trash. The FTB was then hit with over $400 million in damages. However, the Nevada Supreme Court threw out much of the decision, though the court upheld that the FTB committed fraud against Mr. Hyatt.

The ever-wonderful SCOTUSBLOG has links to the amicus curiea briefs that have been filed (and the FTB’s brief). Mr. Hyatt’s counsel was granted an extension until October 23rd to file his brief.

It will be interesting if this case–decided unanimously in its first Supreme Court iteration–is decided differently on the second iteration. In any case, a decision should come as early as March.

Are Turf Rebates Taxable?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

The Los Angeles Times has an article asking this question. Because of the drought in California, the Metropolitan Water District had a $340 million incentive program so that homeowners would replace grass (which takes a lot of water) with bark, rocks, and other drought tolerant (xeriscape) landscapes. (The Southern Nevada Water Authority has a similar program.) The MWD has no idea if they have to issue 1099s to rebate recipients under federal law. (It is exempt from California taxation, though.) The article notes that the MWD suggests talking to a tax professional, so I’ll helpfully give an answer.

Any accession to wealth is taxable unless Congress has exempted that from taxation. One such exception are rebates on purchases. If you buy, say, a new car for $25,000 and receive a $1,000 rebate, you really bought the car for $24,000. A car rebate isn’t taxable income. Is the MWD (or SNWA) program a rebate?

No, it’s not. There’s nothing being purchased from the water agency. Instead, you’re tearing out grass, and replacing it with something else. The agency paying the “rebate” isn’t the same agency that’s doing the work. You might do it yourself, or you might higher a landscaping firm to do the work. The landscaping firm isn’t giving you a rebate.

If this isn’t a rebate (for tax purposes), then what is it? Well, the IRS could rule it’s not taxable since it is a lowering of the cost of doing the grass replacement and this is good for the environment. However, that’s not likely. There’s nothing in the Tax Code that says if something is done that’s good for the environment it’s not taxable. Instead, this looks like income–“Other Income” that would be reported on line 21 of Form 1040. You’re receiving a reward (income) for doing something. It’s not a rebate of a purchase. It’s not exempt from taxation under any other of the exemptions under the Tax Code. Thus, it’s taxable income.

Kiplinger’s Tax-Friendly and Least Tax-Friendly States: Bring Me (Mostly) the Usual Suspects

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Kiplinger has come out with their list of most tax-friendly and least tax-friendly states. There aren’t many surprises on the list, and readers of this blog definitely won’t be shocked with the least friendly state. The most friendly state was a little different. Do note that Kiplinger looked at all the taxes in a state, not just income tax.

Most Tax-Friendly States:
1. Delaware
2. Wyoming
3. Alaska
4. Louisiana
5. Alabama
6. Mississippi
7. Arizona
8. New Mexico
9. Nevada
10. South Carolina

Why Delaware? It has a relatively low income tax, no sales tax, low property taxes, and low a excise tax on alcohol. My state, Nevada, is noted for its non-existent income tax.

Here is Kiplinger’s least tax-friendly states:

1. California
2. Connecticut
3. New Jersey
4. Hawaii
5. New York
6. Rhode Island
7. Vermont
8. Maine
9. Minnesota
10. Illinois

Why California?

If you’re moving to the Golden State, plan to take short showers (to conserve water) and to pay the highest state income tax rates in the U.S. Worse, capital gains are taxed as regular income.

California also has the highest statewide sales tax, at 7.5% (it’s scheduled to drop to 7.3% at the end of 2016). The average state and local combined rate is 8.4%; in some cities, the combined rate is as high as 10%.

There’s actually more bad news about California’s taxes noted in the short article.

Kiplinger also has a tax map so you can find your state and whether it is tax-friendly or not.

You Will EFile and Electronically Remit to California’s EDD

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Beginning in 2017, all California employers with ten or more employees will be required to electronically file all withholding tax reports and electronically remit all payments to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). Beginning in 2018, all California employers, regardless of size, will be required to electronically file and remit.

These changes are part of legislation recently passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

Will the Last One Out Turn the Lights Off?

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

An interesting op-ed in the Orange County Register talks about how Democrats in the California legislature are considering a long list of taxes. The author, Joseph Vranich, is a business relocation consultant based in my old homestead of Irvine, California. Mr. Vranich laments the current state of California:

Think about Dan Castilleja, president of DHF Technical Products, who said when relocating that it’s easier to expand in New Mexico than in the Los Angeles area, where “We are hampered by everything from payroll to taxes to regulation.”

Examples abound of companies leaving for other states – even to the so-called “Rust Belt” – because their friendlier business environments far outshine our disadvantages.

California’s public officials come across as being uncaring about the damage they inflict on businesses, investors, employees and their families and to the towns that lose jobs to distant locations.

Nearly four years ago my business–and the one whole employee in the Bronze Golden State (me)–left for Nevada because sometimes silver is better than gold. Mr. Vranich is seeing the trend starting up again while California has a budget surplus. Consider what will happen when California actually goes through and raises taxes even more.

Today, California is horribly dependent on the stock market. The last report I saw showed that 50% of California’s tax revenues come from 1% of the population. That’s mostly from the tax on capital gains. What happens when the stock market is flat, or suffers a bear market? Meanwhile, the middle class is being driven out of the state.

The solution for California is one that Democrats in California may not like, but it’s the only one that works long-term. Government spending will need to be cut, programs will need to be pared, and regulations made far more business friendly. Businesses don’t like to move, but math is the same in California, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. If California continues to make businesses suffer, businesses have a solution. I made that choice four years ago; others are making it today.

Why Rob Banks, Redux

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Back in 2012 I noted that gangs were looking at identity theft as the successor to bank robbery. From Los Angeles comes the news that the California Attorney General’s Office, along with the Long Beach Police and the US Postal Inspection Service did a “takedown” of the “Insane Crip” street gang; 22 members are in custody on charges that include 283 counts of conspiracy, 299 counts of identity theft, and 226 counts of grand theft.

The arrest is the culmination of a three-year investigation into the Insane Crip street gang that began after a Long Beach crime spree tied to the gang. A Long Beach Police Department detective discovered evidence containing the personal identifying information of hundreds of California residents at an address associated with the gang. The defendants had used the stolen personal identifying information to commit financial crimes, including identity theft and tax return fraud.

The defendants exchanged the stolen information via text messages to the leaders of the scheme, who would then file fraudulent tax returns, obtain the refunds and load them onto prepaid debit cards in the name of other victims. The debit cards were then used to fund the gang’s illicit activities, lavish lifestyle and to recruit members.

Kudos to all involved, but I will point out, again, that while the IRS has done more to make identity theft difficult, they’ve done nowhere near enough. Even today most of what the IRS does on this front is reactionary. While electronic returns filed now note the computer they’ve been filed from–which is a help–there is much more the IRS could do. The modest proposal I made nearly three years ago would still stop much of today’s identity theft. Yet the IRS spends money on the Annual Filing Season Program. Oh well, venting doesn’t do any good….

Criminal Charges Dropped Against Roni Deutch

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Back in 2009, the law firm of Roni Deutch was a huge deal. She was the “Tax Lady,” and her face and advertisements were plastered all over television. Then she was sued by the state of California. And then came the criminal indictments–perhaps the largest criminal indictment in California history.

Fast forward five years, and it’s all over. California has dropped the criminal indictments, and instead of paying $34 million she’ll be paying $2.5 million in the civil suit (per her lawyer). She will also pay $10,000 in fines and must perform 350 hours of community service. Ms. Deutch, who dropped her law license, can even reapply for that.