Bob Gross The Cat, who rose to prominence as an honorary CIO of the world’s biggest bond firm and had the uncommon intellectual capability to understand when her owner was on television, died last week. She was 14 years old. Bob is survived by her loving masters, Bill and Sue. Read more »
There’s little drama about what the Federal Reserve will say on Wednesday: It’s going to keep buying bonds in its effort to stimulate the economy. But what will the central bank be saying by what it doesn’t say? Read more »
Sometimes it’s useful to be reminded that not all financial structuring is designed to get around capital requirements or defraud customers. Some is designed to get around taxes and defraud the treasury! One group of people who like to think about that kind of thing is the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, who took some time out from shouting about payroll taxes yesterday to have a geeky hearing about the state of financial instrument taxation. Short version is, they’re not all that happy about it.
The JCT staff generally say pretty smart stuff about tax policy, and they get that shit is fucked up and bullshit. Or as they put it more diplomatically:
The timing, character, and source rules apply differently to (and are sometimes uncertain for) equity, debt, options, forward contracts, and notional principal contracts. These five basic instruments can be combined in various ways to replicate the economic returns of any underlying asset. … The flexibility of financial instruments also creates great difficulties in the taxation of financial instruments. This report provides examples of taxpayers’ uses of financial instruments to achieve desired timing, character, and source outcomes and describes how the tax laws have or have not addressed this tax planning.
There are two useful takeaways here. One is kind of weird: there are a bunch of fairly basic things (exchange-traded notes, CDS) where nobody – not the IRS, not the JCT, nobody – knows how they’re supposed to be taxed. That … seems like a bad thing. And, I’m going to guess, not so much the fault of evil financial innovators.
The second takeaway, which is related but more satisfying to fulminate about, is that evil financial innovators can mix and match stuff until they get any tax result they want: Read more »
Do you love cats? Do you love every kind of cat? Do you want a house full of them? Do you want a house full of so many that it’s starting to cost you a pretty penny but the idea of not having the cats to roll around with is too much to bear? Help is on the way. Read more »
So, the performance you’re about to see is most certainly fake. But is there some truth there? Does Debbie, the graduate of Villanova business school and extreme cat enthusiast looking for love strike you as someone who’d fit in on campus, or would the character more likely be found at Wharton or HBS? Read more »
The latest issue of New York contains a lengthy profile of Paul Kruman entitled “What’s Left of the Left: Paul Krugman’s Lonely crusade.” Writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells examines the Nobel Prize-winning economist’s position as “the leading exponent of a kind of liberal purism” (played out in his column for the Times and his blog, The Conscience of a Liberal); few peers or policymakers wholly agree with Krugman’s stance, making him a very “lonely” man (save for his commenters). And it’s not just in his professional life that Krugs lacks pals, Wallace-Wells tells us, but, heartbreakingly, in his personal life as well. Read more »