“Real World” Personal Strategy Blog

It’s Madness Out There! …

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.
– George Eliot

…well, “March Madness”, that is!

Unfortunately, this little national hoops holiday isn’t one which my staff and I get much chance to participate in. We’re too busy doing your taxes!

Yep, this is close to our busiest time of the year–and we’re working like crazy to handle the increased volume this year. With all of the economic uncertainty out there, it’s clear that people want real answers.

But let me say this–though my business does well this time of year, I’d rather things were better and our tax code was simpler! I’d rather the economy was thriving and everyone felt confident enough to handle their own situation!

Yes, the utter complexity of the tax code keeps me in business–to take the hassle from you, and apply our expertise to your situation. But wouldn’t it be more efficient if paying taxes didn’t actually even require so much expertise?

I know…a bit of a controversial statement from an accountant. But I get tired of seeing new clients bring last year’s tax returns to us–and realize that if we’d helped them sooner, they would have saved a bunch of money (fortunately, we can file amended returns!). If things were simpler, people would keep more of their money–and THAT’S one of my passions.

Anyway, I guess I’m in the mood to speak out a little, because I’ve got an article on charitable giving for you below. May ruffle some feathers…but I’d love to see your posted comments!

“Real World” Personal Strategy
Why Do You Give To Charity?

You may have seen the news recently that the administration is considering lowering the “tax deduction value” of charitable giving sometime in the future.

[More details here: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/alpha-consumer/2009/03/05/will-obamas-plan-hurt-charities-.html. I tried to pick a balanced piece–there’s been a bunch of partisan hand-wringing about this issue, but that article gives a decent perspective.]

Now, there’s plenty of cheap political points which could be made about this proposal, but lets not go there here. I’ll leave the political shots to others. Instead, I’d like to take the opportunity as your “financial coach” to make a few points about giving to charity.

Why do you give to charity? Is it for the tax deductions…or for a different reason?

Now, as a tax professional, I’ve got no problem helping my clients use all available deductions to their utmost, ethical advantage. But I love it when I see my clients and friends make giving decisions which seem to run counter to immediate, short-term self-interest in their giving.

And, I believe it’s actually “enlightened” self-interest in the long run. And not just in our sense of feeling good.

I see the balance sheets of folks from every walk of life, and over the years I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: individuals and families who make giving a priority, even when they aren’t “wealthy”, seem to do better in the long run. And I actually mean financially–not just in their state of mind.

(Though, there are significant “state of mind” reasons for giving. Have you seen, as I have, that those who freely give seem to be more pleasant company?)

Now this is pure assertion, based on anecdotal evidence alone–but I invite you to test me on it.

You see, I make it a point to seek to observe how money works–how it moves from one person or business to the next. And, for some reason–money gets attracted to those who aren’t in hot, desperate pursuit of it. It’s almost like in romance–potential lovers are usually turned off by the overly-aggressive seeker.

So, even if the deduction rate goes down from 35% to 28% (which is NOT too terribly much), may I suggest that you consider increasing your giving? You might be surprised by what happens in your heart…and your wallet.

And a tax note — It’s not too late to contribute to your IRA for 2008. Until April 15, 2009, you can invest up to $5,000-up to $6,000 if you’re age 50 or older. By doing so, you can actually reduce your tax bill from last year. So, I recommend it!

To more of your money in your wallet!

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