Taxes Are Racist

It’s tax season, and now we have an article claiming that taxes are racist: “Black married couples face heavier tax penalties than white couples,” and it’s pure BS. This is the logic:

When a Black or white couple have the same income, deductions and family structure, they will have the same tax liability, Gale said. But given the average economic differences between white and Black couples, according to the report, Black married couples are still more likely to face penalties and smaller bonuses.

Before tearing into the faulty logic here, I want to point out that “white” is not capitalized once in the article, while “Black” is capitalized every time. A bit of subtle “othering” that happens in journalism today.

So the taxes aren’t racist, it’s just that black married couples have more children than their white counterparts and taxpayers with children generally tend to face larger penalties under our current tax code. So it would be more accurate to say that the tax code discriminates against those with children.

I call bullshit on that, too. If a couple has a child, they get additional personal exemptions, they also get:

  • child tax credit
  • dependent care credit
  • earned income credit
  • adoption credit
  • education credit

Let’s look at two married couples: they have the same income, same jobs, same financial situation. Each couple earns a combined $68,000 a year. Their employers withheld $5,000 from their paychecks for Federal taxes. The only difference is that couple one has no children, and couple two has two children.

Couple one is in the 12 percent tax bracket, with an effective tax rate of 11.03%. They will pay $4,644 in Federal income taxes this year, so they will get a $356 refund.

Couple two has two children. They are both latchkey children, so there are no childcare expenses to deduct. They are also in the 12 % bracket, and had the same effective tax rate as couple two. However, they get more credits, so only wind up paying a net $644 in Federal income tax, and will wind up with a refund of $4,356.

So if in fact black couples have more children that whites, blacks pay LESS in taxes.

Tax Question II, the Search for More Money

If you get the movie reference in the title, bonus Internet points for you. Don’t use them all in one place.

So it seems like I have an answer to my tax problem from Monday. (I am posting this so I won’t lose my train of thought before I talk to the attorney on Thursday.) I would rather set a stack of $100 bills on fire than pay it to the IRS so crooked bastards in politics can use it to make themselves rich, so any way that I can avoid paying taxes that won’t see me land in Club Fed is a good idea, in my book.

The TL:DR version is that I need to sell the old house to an S corporation that my wife and I own. To do this, there are a few things that need to happen:

  • Form a Florida corporation. No sweat.
  • Within 2 months of forming, file an IRS form 2553 (pdf alert)
  • Get the old house appraised
  • Have the newly formed S corp buy the old home for the appraised value (since the sale was not an “arms length” sale, the appraisal proves it was being sold for fair market value)

This allows me to do two things: take the capitol gains deduction for the difference between the original purchase price and the appraised value that the S corp bought it for, and resets the cost basis for the property. This second part is nearly as important. The reason for that is called “Save Our Homes.” To understand Save our Homes, we have to first understand how Florida calculates property taxes.

Ad Valorem

In Florida, the county property appraiser is an elected position that estimates what your house is worth each year, called your “market value.” If your house is your primary residence, you can take a deduction called the “homestead exemption” of $50,000 from that market value. The result is called your “assessed value.” Each July, the property appraiser mails out the proposed value of each property to the property owner. If you don’t think that the value is fair, you have 30 days to appeal that valuation. Most people want it to be as low as possible, because that is the value that your taxes are based on.

The tax collector (also an elected position) charges a “millage rate” as an “ad valorem” property tax. Each “mill” is 0.1% of your home’s assessed value.

It seems complicated, but it really isn’t. For example, let’s say that your house has been deemed by the property appraiser’s office to have a fair market value of $100,000, and your county charges a property tax rate of ten mills. You would take the $100,000 market value and subtract your homestead exemption to arrive at an assessed value of $50,000. The tax of ten mills on that would make your property taxes to be $500 for the year. Clear so far? Good. It gets a bit more complicated.

Save Our Homes

Back in 1995, the voters of Florida passed an Amendment to the state Constitution that limits the annual increase in the assessed value of your homestead to the lesser of 3% or the consumer price index. Since real estate increases more than that in value each year, the longer you own your home, the better. The gap between the market value and the assessed value is called your “Save Our Homes” credit.

In most cases, you want the property appraiser to set your assessed value as low as possible. The only reason you don’t, is if you are about to move to a more expensive home. The reason is called portability. If you are moving from an old house to a new one, you can take your Save Our Homes credit with you. That can mean a significant tax savings.

So how will that help me?

As an example, let’s say that I paid $200,00 for a house, and 10 years later the tax assessor says it has a market value of $300,000. The Save Our Homes credit would be $31,000. If I buy a new house worth $400,000, that house would be assessed at $31,000 less. If the millage rate was ten, this would save me $310 a year in taxes. But what if I could get the tax assessor to admit that my house actually had a market value of $350,000? That would make my Save Our Homes credit $81,000 instead, and this would save me an additional $500 a year in property taxes at my new house.

It would seem to be a wash, since I am keeping the old house as a rental, but remember that the old house’s taxes are deductible as a business expense, and if the millage rate is higher for the new house’s location (which it is), the savings are even larger.

Tax Problem

My wife bought our current home 5 years before we met. It’s still deeded in her name only. When we move, we want to convert it into a rental.

The problem is this: That house has appreciated by $200k since she bought it, and unless we sell within 3 years of moving out, we will have to pay capital gains taxes on that $200k.

My position on this, is that we should sell it and use the proceeds to buy a different rental so we can reset the tax basis. My wife is vehemently opposed to this and wants to keep it. She remains convinced that there must be a way to avoid the capital gains taxes.

I have an appointment with a tax attorney this week, but my own research says that we either sell within 3 years of moving, or we will owe the taxes when we eventually sell, even if that sale is 15 years from now.