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Dr. David Edward Marcinko, editor-in-chief, is a next-generation apostle of Nobel Laureate Kenneth Joseph Arrow PhD, as a health-care economist, insurance advisor, financial advisor, risk manager, and board-certified surgeon from Temple University in Philadelphia.

In the past, he edited eight practice-management books, three medical textbooks and manuals in four languages, five financial planning yearbooks, dozens of interactive CD-ROMs, and three comprehensive health-care administration dictionaries.

Internationally recognized for his clinical work, he is a past endowed chair; professor of health economics, finance and public health policy management; and distinguished visiting professor of surgery as a Bachelor of Medicine–Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree recipient from Marien Hospital in Aachen, Germany.

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On the Unintended Consequences of High Taxes on the Rich

On the two types of tax increases

[By Rick Kahler CFP®]

Two types of tax increases are being promoted by several presidential candidates and members of Congress. The less common idea, which I wrote about recently, is a wealth tax on net worth. The more common proposal is a significant increase in income taxes.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders favors a progressive income tax that tops out at 54.2% on incomes over $10 million. Not to be outdone, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports increasing the income tax on the same group to 70%.

If you think these proposals are so radical that only the most liberal of voters would support them, a poll conducted by Hill-HarrisX in January 2019 found that 59% of all voters favored a 70% tax bracket. The survey asked 1001 registered voters if they favored a 70% top rate for “the 10 millionth dollar and beyond for individuals making $10 million a year or more in reportable income.” While predictably most Democrats polled—71%—favored the steep increase, 60% of Independents and 45% of Republicans also supported it.

When you consider how popular the notion of a 70% top income bracket is, it isn’t a stretch by any means to imagine these same voters in the 2020 election giving control of Congress and the Presidency to politicians favorable to hiking taxes. The chance of seeing such massive increases on the wealthy goes from a remote possibility to a real probability.

Promoters of the anticipated windfall revenues from such a tax want to redistribute the proceeds to fund things like free college education, affordable health care for all, high speed rail trains, and converting existing buildings to comply with “green” regulations.

While all these outcomes are well intended, perhaps even desirous, before we forge ahead it may be a good idea to consider unforeseen consequences. Let’s look at how past attempts to fund massive government benefits by raising taxes on the rich have worked.

France

In 2012 France raised the top tax bracket to 75% on individuals earning over $1 million. French economist Thomas Piketty, who really wanted to see the tax at 80%, was so exuberant about the move that he predicted many other countries would follow suit.

Government officials estimated that tax revenues would soar to 30 billion euros in 2013. They were roughly half right: revenues came in at 16 billion euros. One of the reasons the tax revenue windfall didn’t develop was a consequence that politicians had not considered. The wealthy packed their bags and moved, taking their investments and income with them.

By 2015, around 2.5 million French citizens lived in the U.K., Belgium, Singapore, and other countries that had much more competitive tax rates. The French economy ground to a halt, growth stagnated, and unemployment soared to 10%. In 2015 France repealed the ill-fated tax.

England

According to The Times of London in March 2019, one-third of British billionaires have left the country because of high taxes, most in the last ten years.

Maryland

The state of Maryland has had a similar experience due to high state and municipal taxes. In October 2013, the Maryland Public Policy Institute reported on throngs of wealthy retirees  “moving out of Maryland to save money on taxes and leave more to their children. This is costing the state millions in tax revenue.”

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Assessment

If the U.S. enacts a similar tax, it is foolish to assume the outcome will be any different. A plethora of other countries with great amenities and competitive tax rates will appeal to those affected by the tax. Tax policies that regard the wealthy primarily as sources of revenue rather than investors in their communities do little to keep those citizens anchored at home.

And so, your thoughts are appreciated.

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Less Pain at the 2019 Easter Sunday Pump? Well, Maybe!

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Assessment

The times and gas prices have changed since 2014 – when we first started to track this; haven’t they?

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Conclusion

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Consider Taxes Before Retiring Abroad

Physicians Considering Retirement in Another Country?

By Rick Kahler CFP®

One way for a retiring doctor to stretch a retirement nest egg is to relocate your retirement nest. Finding a place with a lower cost of living can include considering retirement in another country.

International Living

According to International Living, Panama is one of the best options for Americans looking for affordable living costs, good medical services, and an appealing climate. Costa Rica, Mexico, and Belize are also good possibilities.

Before you pack your sunhat and flip-flops and head for a low-cost retirement haven like Panama, however, take a look at all the factors affecting your retirement income and expenses. One of those is taxes.

Taxes

Moving out of the country does not mean your tax bill to the US government or your current state will decrease. Short of giving up your US passport, there is nothing you can do to escape paying US taxes on your income, even if you don’t live in the US. We are one of two countries worldwide—the other is Eritrea—that taxes our citizens based on both residence and citizenship.

You might assume, however, that moving out of the country would end your liability for state income taxes. That isn’t always the case. Some states still want to tax your income even though you don’t live there. According to Vincenzo Villamena in a December 2018 article for International Living magazine titled “How to Minimize Your State Tax Bill as an Expat,” it’s especially problematic if you end up returning to your old address in the state and start filing an income tax return. Eventually, he says, “the state will see the gap” and may require you to pay taxes on the missing years.

You have nothing to worry about if you live in one of the seven states with no income tax: South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Washington, Texas, Florida, and Alaska. Tennessee and New Hampshire aren’t bad, either, as they don’t tax your earnings but they do tax your investment income. Most other states will let you off the hook if you submit evidence that your residence is in another country and you haven’t lived in the state for a while.

Then there are the states that won’t let go of their former residents easily. Those are California, Virginia, New Mexico, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Assuming that when you leave you will be coming back, they require that you continue to pay state tax on your income.

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Solutions?

The solution to this issue takes a little financial planning and some extra time. The best way to escape paying taxes to a state you no longer live in is to move to a state with no income tax first before relocating abroad. You must prove to your old state that you have left and have no intention of ever coming back.

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This means moving for real—cutting as many ties to your old state as possible and establishing as many as possible in your new state. You will want to sell your home, close bank accounts, cancel any mailing addresses, change healthcare providers and health insurance companies (including Medicare), be sure no dependents remain in the state, and register to vote and get a driver’s license in the new state. As a final good-bye you will want to notify the tax authorities that you are filing a final tax return for your last year that you lived in the state.

Assessment

In case you need a good state from which to launch your leap into expat status, consider South Dakota. Not only would my income tax-free home state let you go easily, it would welcome you back if you should decide to return to the US.

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The “Deeper Dive” Costs of College Debt

Unintended Consequences?

[By Rick Kahler MSFS CFP]

Not only is a college education a door to higher wages, but providing that education is an important segment of our economy and a huge source of good paying jobs.

In 2017 the average salary for the country’s 624,822 full-time college instructors was $82,240, according to an annual study from the Department of Education’s National Center of Education Statistics.

The old days

In the days before college loans were as easy to get as the common cold, college costs were due in cash. Students and parents had to save money or pay tuition out of their earnings. Many students worked their way through college. Those without savings, the ability or desire for college jobs, or high enough grades for scholarships didn’t go to college.

Since colleges competed for students, market forces controlled the tuition rates. Raising tuition too much resulted in fewer students and smaller revenues. The two forces of supply (college capacity) and demand (the ability to pay tuition) kept college costs in check.

Understandably, borrowing to pay for college tuition was difficult. What sane bank or investor would loan money to an unemployed teenager with no collateral to speak of? If you could find someone willing to make such a risky loan, the interest rate was high.

Politics

Well-intended politicians decided it wasn’t fair that those without the means to pay tuition were denied college educations. Their solution was to require taxpayers to underwrite college loans, sometimes at interest rates lower than those available to the most creditworthy.

With tuition money easy to obtain through low-cost, government backed loans, demand for a college education increased. With the increased demand came higher tuition costs. This easy money is the primary reason that college tuition costs have far outpaced inflation and have gone up twice as fast as medical costs since 1985.

Consequences

Unfortunately, one consequence of loaning money to those deemed poor risks is that a high percentage of those borrowers are unable to repay the debt.  It should come as no surprise that 10.7% of all student loans are currently 90 days or more in default. Conversely, the composite default rate on mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans is 0.82% as of October 2018.

Today, taxpayers are on the hook for over 92% of the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans made to over 44 million borrowers, according to a June 13, 2018, Forbes article by Zack Friedman, “Student Loan Debt Statistics in 2018.” Only home mortgages exceed student loan debt.

And the appetite for loans continues to rise. The average student from the Class of 2016 graduated with over $37,000 of college debt. It isn’t uncommon for a medical student to amass over $200,000 of student loan debt. This year we will add another $120 billion in college debt to the books.

The more college debt that graduates take into the workplace, the less they have to spend for vehicles, rent, and consumer goods. The damage to the credit ratings of the 10.7% who are in default will also hinder their purchasing power for years to come.

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Assessment

If taxpayers ever decide to quit footing the bill, my hunch is that many colleges’ tuition rates will fall as hard as housing prices did in Florida, Arizona, and California in 2009. Lower tuition costs would create a financial hardship for most colleges and the some 4,000,000 people employed in higher education.

Politically, I don’t expect that to happen. Colleges are big business with a lot of money and influence in Congress. Further, a college education is becoming viewed as a right that should be free. In the meantime, savvy students will do whatever they can to minimize their college tuition and graduate debt-free.

Conclusion

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