Articles by Eli Pollock

The New Tax Law : Change Is Coming


Many people are waiting with bated breath to find out what President Trump’s proposed tax reform will mean for them. While the law has not yet been voted into law, it looks like it might be. This makes this year’s tax planning especially tricky. While the new law would only affect 2018, not 2017, it affects what we should do before 2017 is over.

New Law Highlights

Let’s look, first, at the new law. There will be many changes, some of them with serious repercussions for the frum community.

Repeal of the alternative minimum tax: The repeal of the AMT is long overdue. It is confusing and unfair. It “caps” the amount of your tax deductions. Furthermore, it limits how many of your children are tax deductible. I would say that the repeal is “good for us” as it worked against people with large families.

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Money and Marriage


I recently came across a question written by a young lady with a predicament that applies to many young couples. Here is her letter, followed by my advice:

My fiancé and I are in very different places financially. He is coming into the marriage with around $90,000 in loans, and no income as of yet. I’m coming in with a few years of working under my belt, and about $65,000 in savings. He lives fairly comfortably (on loans), I live fairly frugally. (I’m not cheap, but I’m definitely mindful of my spending.)

We both want to combine finances within reason, though not completely – maybe a joint account in addition to separate accounts. We just can’t quite figure out how to do it. The loans will be accruing interest in a few months, and I’d love to just pay off $50,000 to $60,000 of it right off the bat because that will save us a huge amount of interest. I know the interest accrued will be my interest too. But I don’t feel comfortable just giving away $60,000 of my hard-earned savings! (He has not asked me to pay it off, and when I brought up the idea he was not so into it.) I know this will be my husband, and in a few years we won’t know whose money is whose, because it will all be one, but I can’t grasp the concept of giving away all my savings to someone else.

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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have come and gone, inundating huge areas with water. Fortunately, we in Baltimore did not have to deal with that catastrophe. But, to push a metaphor, many of us are inundated all the time by a sea of clutter. Imagine the folks in Florida having just a day to decide what to bring with them when they were told to evacuate. An uncluttered house enhances one’s ability to quickly decide and find what to pack, including such precious items as family photos, vital documents, and laptops.

We all struggle with clutter, unfortunately. And a huge portion of it is paper. When we procrastinate taking care of the paperwork, when we are confused about what to keep and what to throw away, the piles accumulate and take over our lives. Looking for records and trying to figure it all out consumes our time and saps our energy. We miss deadlines, pay fines, and feel generally stressed.

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Ten Myths about your Finances


I often hear “truths” about personal finance that just aren’t true. They are more like myths. Here are some:

Myth #1: The rich do not pay taxes. We have all heard this one. It seems that there are secret tax deductions that only the rich are aware of. They find out about them from their secret accountants, who are the only ones who have access to them. Perhaps these deductions are written up in a secret book called Protocols of the Elders of Accountants. If this myth is true, why don’t these special accountants ever advertise their services? Why doesn’t a Google search bring up these secrets?

The truth is that the rich pay a lot of taxes, possibly over 40% of their total income. So, the next time you hear this said, please ask to see a copy of the tax return and confirm for yourself that it is a myth.

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Tax Disasters

Every once in a while, I see someone in a tax pickle for which there is no solution. The “pickles” may differ, but there is one common denominator: Most of the time you did it to yourself. Naturally, it is extra painful when you realize that you have only yourself to blame for the mess. Here are some examples of situations that can happen when you least expect them.

The Earned Income Credit

This is a classic. The earned income credit is the great money giveaway. Essentially, if you are poor with children, you will get back extra money – lots extra. Let’s take the following case: Family A has three children and an income of $25,000. They will be handed a gift by the government: $10,445, to be exact. Yes, over $10,000 in free money! There is a catch, however: Your investment income (interest, dividends, and capital gains) must be under $3,400.

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Your Income Taxes 2016


The new tax season brings no earth-shattering tax law changes. The big news, of course, is the election of Donald Trump. His tax plan does call for modifications, anticipated for 2017. He certainly wants to reduce tax rates. Therefore, those with the ability to “income shift” should do so. That means arranging to earn less this year and more next year to take advantage of next year’s lower rates. If you are self-employed, for example, you could delay collecting money from your customers until January. You could also pay all outstanding expenses in 2016 that are not due until 2017, which will lower your profit this year. Since income taxes are only levied against profit, you will save. This strategy is for the wealthy, who are the ones really affected by this.

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