Goldman Showers Execs With $100 Million In Early Bonuses To Avoid Trump Tax Hit

Goldman Sachs has accelerated nearly $100 million in stock awards to top executives before the end of the year in order to avoid unfavorable changes in the new tax code, according to public filings posted Friday.
The most sweeping overhaul of U. S. tax code in 30 years includes a provision which caps a corporate deduction for executive pay; under current law, corporations can deduct up to $1 million per executive’s base salary, however there’s no cap on deductions for performance-based pay, such as bonuses.
Under the new provisions, both base salary and performance bonuses count towards to $1 million cap – which is why Goldman accelerated $94.8 million in bonuses originally scheduled for January, 2018. By paying the bonuses early, the bank will save money on its own tax bill.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sat, 12/30/2017 –.

The Hidden-in-Plain-Sight Mechanism of the Super-Wealthy: Money-Laundering 2.0

Financial and political power are two sides of one coin.
We all know the rich are getting richer, and the super-rich are getting super-richer. This reality is illustrated in the chart of income gains, the vast majority of which have flowed to the top .01%–not the top 1%, or the top .1% — to the very tippy top of the wealth-power pyramid:
Though all sorts of reasons have been offered to explain this trend–I’ve described the mechanisms of financialization here for years–two that don’t attract much mainstream media attention are money laundering and control fraud, i.e. changing the rules of what’s legal so what was illegal yesterday is legal today–presto-magico, illegally skimmed wealth is now “legal.”
Correspondent JD recently submitted an excellent summary of the progression from Money Laundering 1.0 to Money Laundering 2.0:
Money laundering 1.0 is making dirty money legal, control fraud is manipulating the ‘legal’ options, and money laundering 2.0 is making sure that ‘legal’ fortunes are not taxed and cannot be clawed back.”
Conventional money laundering works by shifting ill-gotten gains into legitimate banks and/or assets. Ill-gotten gains can be laundered quite easily by buying homes or businesses (in the U. S., Europe, etc.) with cash. The home or enterprises can then be sold and the net is now legit.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on DECEMBER 29, 2017.

The EU Bad Loan Crisis to Get Much Worse – The Solution = Financial Pandemic

The bad loan (‘non-performing loan’ (NPL)) crisis in Europe is well known and many have been calling for this issue to be addressed. In Italy, the bad loan crisis has reached 21% of GDP. While NPLs dropped to 4.8% of all loans in the EU as a whole during the first quarter of 2017, they remained well above 40% in Greece and Cyprus, at 18.5% in Portugal, and 14.8% in Italy according to the European Banking Authority.
Now comes the bureaucrats with zero experience to save the day – or is that to create a financial pandemic in the EU? The EU Commission (EUC) along with the European Central Bank (ECB), want to ensure that banks promptly sell real estate, stocks, bonds and other assets that serve to collateralize loans according to their Mid-term Review of the Capital Markets Union Action Plan. Member States are required to adopt laws that facilitate the central directive. At this time, any bank cannot just sell a property that secures a loan. The problem is, all loans, whether secured or not, are valued the same.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 29, 2017.

The Ghost Of W.D.Gann: Another Crash Is Coming

Authored by Philip Soos & Lindsay David via RenegadeInc.com,
The original wizard of Wall Street, W. D Gann was a finance trader and wealthy speculator that spent decades investigating cyclical trends in equity market patterns and found that prices could be predicted long in advance. He successfully predicted the crashes in the 1929 and Dot-Com stock market bubbles. And according to his analysis, the US stock market is due for another crash in 2020.
***
Every movement in the market is the result of a natural law and of a Cause which exists long before the Effect takes place and can be determined years in advance. The future is but a repetition of the past, as the Bible plainly states…
After suffering through the worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s depression when the real estate and stock markets crashed in 2007, the United States’ bubble economy is back into full swing. Residential and commercial real estate prices are growing strongly, along with equities.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

Turmoil Grows Over Disparity In Rules For Prepayment Of Property Taxes

What a mess!
A matter of immediate importance to many property owners – prepayment of property taxes – is rapidly descending into chaos and unfairness.
Can you prepay property taxes before the end of this year or not? You can for purposes of getting a deduction in 2017 under the new federal tax law, but the problem is whether your county will accept prepayment. It varies by county, which is obviously unfair, and reports are very confusing on what the rules are.
If you own in Cook County, try to prepay your 2017 taxes (due in two halves in 2018) and you’ll find that the county is only set up to allow you to pay 55% of the prior year’s tax. The place to do so is linked here.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 24, 2017.

Busted Billion-Dollar-Baby Fraud Finds Another Greater Fool – Softbank Lends Theranos $100 Million!

Japan’s Softbank Group is coming to the rescue of yet another embattled Silicon Valley ‘unicorn’. The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Fortress Capital, the publicly traded private-equity firm that agreed to sell itself to the Japanese conglomerate earlier this year, has extended a $100 million loan to Theranos, which is still facing multiple lawsuits and investigations for misleading investors, business partners and clients about the efficacy of its core technology.
The loan, which will avert a bankruptcy filing for the former poster-child of tech-centric “disruption”, which was once one of Silicon Valley’s most valuable private companies with a valuation of $10 billion. Theranos famously marketed itself to investors by playing up its core innovation: A diagnostic machine that could supposedly run tests for hundreds of medical conditions with only a single drop of blood.
The company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, honed the perfect marketing pitch: A Stanford dropout, she claimed she was inspired to create the ‘nanotainer’ fingerstick that would become Theranos’s signature product by her irrational fear of needles.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 24, 2017.

The West Proves That Poland’s Loyalty Was Worthless

Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,
Poland, one of the most loyal EU members, was just stabbed in the back by Brussels after the bloc initiated punitive Article 7 proceedings against it, proving that Warsaw’s unwavering loyalty to the West was worthless this entire time and thus giving Poles a reason to reconsider whether it’s time that they attempted to restore their long-lost Great Power status in Europe.
Many Poles were shocked to hear that Brussels had begun the process to sanction their country, despite knowing in the back of their minds all along that this was a very probable scenario. The EU had been warning Poland for months now that it wouldn’t tolerate the ruling Law & Justice party’s (PiS) judicial reforms, labelling them as ‘anti-democratic’ in spite of the same envisioned changes already being in place in many Western European countries. All that PiS wants to do is make it so that judges are accountable to the people, not to one another, and break the backs of the communist-era clique that still controls the country’s courts. This is crucial in the modern context because PiS follows a EuroRealist ideology that aspires to improve Poland’s sovereign standing in the EU, a vision which is directly at odds with EU-hegemon Germany’s EuroLiberalism that instead wants all member states to be subservient to an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.
EuroRealism vs. EuroLiberalism
The matter is an urgent one for Poland because PiS’ Civic Platform (PO) predecessors stacked the courts with their allies before leaving power after the ruling party won the first-ever post-communist electoral majority in the country’s history in 2015. PO’s former leader is the current President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and he and his organization are popularly regarded as Germany’s proxies in Poland. PiS, on the other hand, is allied with Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party, with which it shares a strident belief in the conservative ideology of EuroRealism. It had long been the case that EuroLiberalism was on the ascent in Europe ever since the end of the Cold War, but the 2008 global economic recession and the 2015 Migrant Crisis sparked a grassroots movement all across Central and Eastern Europe which has seen the rapid rise of EuroRealism.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 23, 2017.

Kushner’s Records At Deutsche Bank Subpoenaed As Mueller Avoids Trump

As it turns out, President Trump’s legal team was telling the truth when it said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller hadn’t subpoenaed financial records related to the president’s business activities from German lender Deutsche Bank, contrary to Bloomberg reporting.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena for records on accounts linked to the Kushner Companies, the family real-estate empire of Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. This contradicts reports by both German and US media organizations dating back to July which insinuated that Mueller had been digging into Trump’s multi-decade career in real estate. Even after his infamous bankruptcies in the 1990s, Trump managed to maintain a functioning lending relationship with Deutsche, which has lent him and his businesses hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.

Why Monetary Policy Will Cancel Out Fiscal Policy

Authored by MN Gordon via EconomicPrism.com,
Good cheer has arrived at precisely the perfect moment. You can really see it. Record stock prices, stout economic growth, and a GOP tax reform bill to boot. Has there ever been a more flawless week leading up to Christmas?
We can’t think of one off hand. And if we could, we wouldn’t let it detract from the present merriment. Like bellowing out the verses of Joy to the World at a Christmas Eve candlelight service, it sure feels magnificent – don’t it?
The cocktail of record stock prices, robust GDP growth, and reforms to the tax code has the sweet warmth of a glass of spiked eggnog. Not long ago, if you recall, a Dow Jones Industrial Average above 25,000 was impossible. Yet somehow, in the blink of an eye, it has moved to just a peppermint stick shy of this momentous milestone – and we’re all rich because of it.
So, too, the United States economy is now growing with the spry energy of Santa’s elves. According to Commerce Department, U. S. GDP increased in the third quarter at a rate of 3.2 percent. What’s more, according to the New York Fed’s Nowcast report, and their Data Flow through December 15, U. S. GDP is expanding in the fourth quarter at an annualized rate of 3.98 percent.
Indeed, annualized GDP growth above 3 percent is both remarkable and extraordinary. Remember, the last time U. S. GDP grew by 3 percent or more for an entire calendar year was 2005. Several years before the iPhone was invented.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.

What Will the Tax Law Do to Over-Indebted Corporate America?

A crackdown on excessive debt. Financial engineering gets more expensive. The new tax law is larded with goodies for Corporate America, but there is one shift – a much needed shift – in this debt-obsessed world that will punish over-indebted companies, discourage companies from taking on too much leverage, and perhaps, just maybe, make these companies less risky: The new law sharply limits the deductibility of corporate interest expense.
Starting in 2018, a company can only deduct interest expense of up to 30% of its Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Any amount in interest expense beyond it will no longer be deductible.
This will tighten further in 2022, when the deductibility of corporate debt will be capped at 30% of earnings before interest and taxes but after depreciation and amortization expenses. This is a much smaller number than Ebitda. And interest expense deduction is capped at 30% of that much smaller amount. This will raise the tax bill further.
Most impacted will be highly indebted companies, which often have a junk credit rating. And due to this junk credit rating, they also pay higher interest rates. This made the interest expense deduction very valuable. But now it is getting partially gutted.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 22, 2017.

PG&E Suspends Dividends, ‘Uncertainty Related to Causes’ of Bay Area Wildfires. Shares Plunge Further

California utility goes for ‘cash conservation.’ Investors, not just rate payers, to foot the bill. Wednesday evening, two sleepy trading days before the long Christmas weekend, when no one was supposed to pay attention, Pacific Gas and Electric, the Northern California utility that is being investigated and sued for allegedly having triggered the wildfires in the Bay Area, ‘the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history,’ as the Department of Insurance had put it, announced that it would suspend its dividend.
PG&E shares [PCG] plunged 10% in after-hours trading. Thursday morning, shares plummeted 16.5% to $42.75. They’re now down 38% in total since the beginning of the wildfires that killed 43 people and caused still untold property and environmental damage, including $9 billion in insurance claims so far, with the tally likely to rise further. About three dozen lawsuits have been filed against PG&E.
PG&E’s announcement was terse:
On December 20, 2017, the Boards of Directors of PG&E Corporation (the ‘Corporation’) and its subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (the ‘Utility’), determined to suspend quarterly cash dividends on both the Corporation’s common stock, beginning with the fourth quarter of 2017, and the Utility’s preferred stock, beginning with the three-month period ending January 31, 2018, due to uncertainty related to causes and potential liabilities associated with the extraordinary October 2017 Northern California wildfires.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 21, 2017.

Three Cheers for the GOP Tax Plan

Last night the Senate passed the Republican proposed tax plan, a major political victory for Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.
At the Mises Wire, we have featured numerous articles pointing out many of the fallacies involved with the general debate on the issue of “tax reform.” For example, the absurdity of “revenue neutral” reform, the danger of raising rates through eliminating loop hopes, the fallacy of trying to address the deficit through eliminating deductions on state and local taxes, and the general notion that tax breaks can be equated to tax subsidies. While the Republican bill does fall for some of these traps, the result of the bill as a whole is a genuine reduction in the tax burden for the majority of Americans. That is always something worth celebrating.
There are additional benefits to be found within the bill as well.
For example, the elimination of the Obamacare individual mandate is a small, but significant, step to improving the American healthcare system. As I noted in March, when Paul Ryan’s attempt at Obamacare reform failed, the rise of direct primary care and other market solutions meant that the best thing the GOP could do is simply provide as much freedom as possible for Americans to opt out of government-managed insurance markets:
Given that this is happening naturally on the market already, the legislative focus for those in Washington concerned about American healthcare should be preventing any future laws and regulations that would destroy this model going forward. Further, rather than trying to completely overhaul Obamacare, simply eliminating the individual mandate tax and allowing Health Savings Accounts to be used for healthcare membership would be subtle ways of empowering the market to revolutionize American medicine. This should be coupled with real tax cuts, not ‘revenue neutral reform’ to help Americans keep their own hard-earned money to help pay for it.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/20/2017.

What Will the Tax Bill Do to the Housing Market?

The enormity of this change has not been fully appreciated just yet.
The tax bill now becoming law will impact the housing market in a big way via four mechanisms that gut the government’s subsidies of homeownership:
Nearly doubling the standard deduction (but wait…) Lowering the cap on the mortgage interest deduction for new purchase mortgages Capping the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000 Eliminating the deduction for interest on home-equity debt, such as HELOCs. The Big Equalizer: The New Standard Deduction
Nearly doubling the standard deduction – from $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples filing jointly in 2017 to $12,000 and $24,000 respectively in 2018 – would be a simple way of giving many Americans an instant, massive, no-hassles tax cut.
But wait: The law also eliminates the personal exemption of $4,050 allowed for each family member. A married couple will see an increase in the standard deduction of $11,300 (compared to 2017). But it will lose $8,100 in personal exemptions. This whittles down the net increase in deductions to $3,200. For couples with kids, it gets more complicated.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 20, 2017.

How That $1.4 Trillion In Repatriated Cash Might Result In U.S. Job Losses, Not Gains

Moody’s estimates that there is roughly $1.4 trillion dollars belonging to U. S. corporations that has been building up in foreign bank accounts for years now to avoid the 35% corporate tax that would be levied on them if they were brought back to the U. S. Of course, getting that $1.4 trillion back to the U. S. has been a critical component of the Trump administration’s tax reform bill as Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin have repeatedly argued that the money would be put to good use building factories and creating jobs for American workers.
That said, if history, math and logic are any guide, then the overwhelming majority of that money would be promptly returned to shareholders via stock buybacks and dividends immediately upon hitting U. S. shores. In fact, as University of Chicago law professor Dhammika Dharmapala told the Wall Street Journal, when a similar tax holiday was enacted in 2004 roughly $0.94 of every $1.00 was spent on buyback and dividends…something Gary Cohn apparently found out for the first time via a recent impromptu survey that yielded some ‘surprising’ results, if only to him…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.

The Full List Of Every GOP Senator Who Stands To Be Personally Enriched By The Tax Bill

Submitted by David Sirota of International Business Times
When the U. S. Senate takes up the final tax bill this week, more than a quarter of all GOP senators will be voting on a bill that includes a special provision that could give them a new tax cut through their real estate shell companies, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times.
The provision was not in the original bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 1. It was embedded in the final bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who is among the lawmakers that stand to personally benefit from the provision.
In response to Democratic lawmakers who have slammed the provision as a lobbyist-sculpted giveaway to the rich, Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn promoted on Twitter a column by Ryan Ellis, a registered bank lobbyist who has been working to influence the tax legislation and who has defended the provision.
In all, 14 Republican senators (see list below) hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships – worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records.
IBT first reported on the tax carve-out, which allows investors in ‘pass-through’ entities, including real-estate partnerships such as LLCs and LPs, with few employees to deduct part of their income that passes through those partnerships. In response to IBT’s reporting, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who owns up to $35 million in ‘pass-through’ real-estate interests, claimed he did not know of the carve-out when he announced his support for the legislation on Friday, after previously casting the only Republican vote against the bill in the Senate, which did not then include the provision.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.

Freedom of Religion under Attack?

The attack upon religion in Australia is not what one would call a direct assault. It is also not unique to just Australia. This is simply the way prosecutors expand the envelope of power. They look at a single issue and seek to address that issue alone. They rarely look at the implications beyond their immediate objective.
Take FACTA in the USA. The objective is to catch people avoiding taxes by putting their profits offshore. They begin with that assumption and ignore the fact that NOT everyone doing business offshore is to hide taxes. They then obstruct businesses from expanding globally. In my own case, despite the fact that we do business around the globe, because I am an American, I cannot open an account anywhere outside the USA because nobody wants to deal with the FACTA reporting back to the USA. My only solution is to go public since an American citizen can no longer own and operate a multinational business privately. Here we have a law designed to get tax evaders, but it blocks the legitimate business from operating. The only exception is the multinational corporation.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 19, 2017.

The Darkest Hours

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Kunstler. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
The Tax ‘Reform’ bill working its way painfully out the digestive system of congress like a sigmoid fistula, ought be re-named the US Asset-stripping Assistance Act of 2017, because that’s what is about to splatter the faces of the waiting public, most of whom won’t have a personal lobbyist / tax lawyer by their sides holding a protective tarpulin during the climactic colonic burst of legislation.
Sssshhhh…. The media has not groked this, but the economy is actually collapsing, and the nova-like expansion of the stock markets is exactly the sort of action you might expect in a system getting ready to blow. Meanwhile, the more visible rise of the laughable scam known as crypto-currency, is like the plume of smoke coming out of Vesuvius around 79 AD – an amusing curiosity to the citizens of Pompeii below, going about their normal activities, eating pizza, buying slaves, making love – before hellfire rained down on them.
Whatever the corporate tax rate might be, it won’t be enough to rescue the Ponzi scheme that governing has become, with its implacable costs of empire. So the real aim here is to keep up appearances at all costs just a little while longer while the table scraps of a four-hundred-year-long New World banquet get tossed to the hogs of Wall Street and their accomplices. The catch is that even hogs busy fattening up don’t have a clue about their imminent slaughter.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner by James Howard Kunstler ‘ December 18, 2017.

The Rug Yank Phase of Fed Policy

Bogus Jobs Pay Big Bucks
The political differences of today’s two leading parties are not over ultimate questions of principle. Rather, they are over opposing answers to the question of how a goal can be achieved with the least sacrifice. For lawmakers, the goal is to promise the populace something for nothing, while pretending to make good on it.
Take the latest tax bill, for instance. The GOP wants to tax less and spend more. The Democrat party wants to tax more and spend even more. We don’t recall seeing any proposals to tax less, spend less, and shrink the size of the state. And why would we?
Today’s central planners and social engineers are enlightened and progressive. They know much more about anything and everything than the rest of us. In particular, they share a general sense that they know how to spend your money better than you.

This post was published at Acting-Man on December 15, 2017.