I’m an accountant for ultra-wealthy people in Florida. Here’s what surprises my clients most about their taxes – and what I love about my job.

rich couple taxes
Financial advisors for the uber-wealthy often work on tax forms year-round.

  • Paul Wieseneck is a financial advisor and accountant based in Palm Beach, Florida.
  • He has over 50 years of tax experience managing the unique needs and requests taxes of the ultra-wealthy.
  • Here’s what his job is like, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I’ve been a certified public accountant for 50 years and currently work at a boutique accounting firm in Palm Beach, Florida. Many of my clients are high net worth individuals, which we define as anyone with over $5 million in liquid financial assets. These clients are often either retired or run successful companies, franchises, and manage large stock portfolios and estates.

For most wealthy individuals, tax preparation is a year-round affair and does not start a few weeks before Tax Day.

Paul Wieseneck
Paul Wieseneck is a financial advisor and accountant who lives in Palm Beach, Florida.

I often work with clients to plan out taxable events and transactions before they take place. For example, I have a client who wants to sell his home this year while the housing market is hot. He’s going to make a significant amount of money on the sale, so to offset those gains in 2021, we look at harvesting tax losses – or selling investments that may have depreciated in value and supplementing with another similar investment, which can reduce the capital gains tax.

When preparing taxes for those with high net worth, I make sure the expenses, losses, and gains match year over year. You don’t want to have losses for 2020 and gains for 2021, or vice versa. We try to match each year so we can harness the greatest tax advantage for the client.

Financial planning is crucial for UHNWI to save money on their taxes.

Many of my clients are initially surprised at how much communication and planning goes into the tax preparation ahead of Tax Day. Not every one of my clients needs year-round service, not everybody can afford it either, but our higher net worth people demand it. For wealthy individuals, tax preparation and planning is complicated so there is no set pricing package. Some clients add services like wealth preservation strategizing, which is not billed by the clock.

Wealthy individuals, in some cases, have similar tax situations as the average Americans, just with more assets and expenses. When a client of mine retires, their income decreases, and it’s part of my job to prepare them for all of the additional costs and teach them how to budget, as well as set up a pension plan or profit sharing plans.

Some clients who’ve retired have told me they were surprised to learn how expensive cell phone plans were and how much they were spending on car payments. They’re shocked at these numbers because while they were still working, many of these expenses were charged to business accounts or expensed by their company.

Clients often come to me with unique requests in hopes to help offset their tax bill.

I always tell my clients that paying taxes is a privilege, it’s a privilege to make a lot of money, and taxes are unavoidable. The biggest problem I face as a CPA is when a client comes in the first week of April and says they’ve either had a big capital gain or have had a large chunk of income and then wants to offset it. There’s not much I can do April 1st of 2021 for the year 2020. But if they’d called me during the summer of last year, then we could have discussed our options.

For instance, I have a client who is winding down a limited partnership. He invested in a real estate partnership years ago and it didn’t work out. He anticipated taking a tax loss on that partnership for 2020 because he’s not getting his investment back. But the partnership wasn’t dissolved completely in 2020, and he made big personal gains in the stock market. He wanted me to figure out a way where he could take the loss in anticipation of it winding down, and I told there was no way I could. It’s very unfortunate, but I can’t change the tax code.

Wealthy individuals also have the benefit of the new bonus depreciation law, where a business can make a large purchase, such as a fleet of vehicles or machinery, and deduct a percentage of that purchase from their taxes. According to the IRS, any vehicle over 6,500 pounds is a truck. So many large luxury SUVs can be considered trucks, for tax purposes. In December, I met with a few clients who’d bought a $90,000 Lexus SUV and a $110,000 Porsche SUV, and we were able to write that off in full because it falls under the bonus depreciation law.

My wealthy clients get most worried when they’re hit with a tax bill they weren’t expecting or didn’t know applied to them.

Many don’t know just how much the capital gains tax is, or how much the Medicare tax really is depending on how much you make. What also surprises a lot of people is also the difference between short-term gains versus long-term gains. Shorter capital gains is something you buy and sell within a year, whereas long-term is something you buy and sell in a time period greater than a year. The taxes are much higher on short-term gains, so I advise my clients never to sell an asset at the 11-month mark, but to wait another month to take advantage of the capital gains tax.

As an accountant, it’s my job to make the tax code understandable to everyone.

Most high net worth individuals are not educated on tax law. Those high net worth individuals who partner with a financial planner from the onslaught are in a much better spot to navigate and predict how much they pay in taxes yearly as opposed to those who don’t. It’s my job to help you avoid these losses, and prepare you to retire. So when looking for an accountant, look for those who pay attention and understand your business, not one who breezes through a 60-page brokerage statement in two minutes.

I recommend everyone regardless of their income level to consider sitting down and speaking with a tax professional, even if you don’t think you need to. Oftentimes, people with 1099s and W-2s have a lot more moving parts to their finances than those with millions of dollars.

The tax delay doesn’t affect my business much because I have been working with my clients on their taxes year-round.

Even though we are in close communications with our wealthy clients throughout the year, we still feel the crunch anytime tax season comes around. We are just better prepared. Because we haven’t been able to meet with clients much this year because of the pandemic, working with clients has been rocky, but successful overall with no big hiccups, as most tax information is already handled virtually.

I’ve always been good with numbers since high school, and my dad always told me the world will always need accountants and lawyers, and I chose to be an accountant. Being an accountant for 50 years, I’ve always found it fascinating working with people who come from nothing and then have an idea and then make something of it.

My favorite part of my job is listening to people’s stories and learning the ins and outs of their business. Some people think I do the same thing every day, but I don’t. As an accountant, I have an inside look at how some of the most successful businesses operate and have always enjoyed listening to my clients tell me their new ideas. The ability to really help families reach their goals and dreams is extremely rewarding. That’s why I love this profession.

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Bidenomics has been hit with a weak jobs report, gas shortages, and inflation fears. The White House says it isn’t getting knocked off course.

Joe Biden serious
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden grappled with a string of disappointing economic news in May, posing a major test for his plans.
  • But the White House appears intent on pushing ahead with another $4 trillion in spending programs.
  • The GOP is stepping up their attacks, criticizing the proposals as job-killers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The past seven days has been the toughest stretch yet for Bidenomics – the product of President Joe Biden’s ambitious effort to slash entrenched economic inequalities through major spending on infrastructure, childcare, clean energy, education, and cash benefits.

The lackluster April jobs report fueled Republican criticism of a labor shortage, prompting at least 17 red states to announce they will start pulling out of federal unemployment programs in June. Then a sharp rise in inflation heightened concerns that consumer demand is outpacing supply in various economic sectors, pushing prices up for goods like used cars, airline tickets, and recreational activities.

Meanwhile, a gas shortage is pummeling many Americans in the southeast just ahead of Memorial Day, following a cyberattack shutting down an important pipeline that supplies fuel to the East Coast.

Yet the White House says it’s not getting knocked off course as it pursues $4 trillion in new federal initiatives to overhaul the economy, with Republicans stepping up their attacks.

“We have consistently shared our expectations that inflation would rise, and we’ve also stressed why we thought that would occur,” a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Insider. “No one expected it would be smooth or easy to reopen our economy, and we have anticipated disruptions as we slowly work towards the recovery.”

Republicans contend the problems largely stem from Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law in March and the huge amount of federal money it channeled into the economy on the heels of another $900 billion coronavirus relief package in December.

“I think the president’s team deserves criticism for not diagnosing the problems correctly,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economic aide to President George W. Bush, told Insider.

Holtz-Eakin said “demand is outstripping supply” and cited shortages of materials like computer chips. He added a related issue is that fewer Americans are in the workforce, arguing federal unemployment benefits are “part of that story, not all of it.”

This supply-demand imbalance has led to soaring prices, especially for used cars. “Inflation is always a supply issue,” Holtz-Eakin said. “To simply throw more money at it is not a solution.”

Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

‘The trend is our friend’

Biden advisors argue the economy is demonstrating signs of healthy progress after a year of crushing restrictions, unemployment, and business closures. Despite April’s big jobs miss of just over 266,000 jobs regained, they say 500,000 jobs have been created on average in the past three months.

“We’re making good progress,” Cecilia Rouse, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, said at a news conference on Friday. “However we must keep in mind that an economy will not heal instantaneously. It takes several weeks for people to get full immunity from vaccinations, and even more time for those left jobless from the pandemic to find and start a suitable job. Supply chains have been disrupted and sectors hardest hit are just beginning to come back.”

“The trend is our friend, moving steadily in the right direction,” White House economist Jared Bernstein told Bloomberg on Tuesday.

Many economists cautioned against misinterpreting the 4.2% rise in consumer prices last month – the largest monthly increase since 2008 – given it was measured from a year earlier. Prices plummeted in April 2020 as businesses closed their doors and people sharply cut their spending, so the resulting increase appears larger which many experts had been forecasting.

But former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who has consistently criticized the scale of Biden’s spending, is not one of them. “I was on the worried side about inflation and it’s all moved much faster, much sooner than I had predicted,” Summers told Bloomberg. “That has to make us nervous going forward.”

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said he expects inflation to subside later in the year.

Despite the recent tremors, Democrats remain confident that they will be able to secure passage of Biden’s economic proposals, financed with tax hikes on high-earning Americans and large firms.

“It’s way too early to say that this job recovery won’t continue robustly,” Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, chair of the Joint Economic Committee in Congress, said in an interview. “I believe it’ll take until August that we get a House bill over to the Senate that’s dealing with the potential tax increases, so there’s still a lot of time to figure out what’s happening in the economy.”

The first is a $2.3 trillion spending plan devoted to highways and roads, in-home elder care, domestic manufacturing and clean energy. The other is a $1.8 trillion package focused on cash payments for families, free community college, affordable childcare, and paid family and medical leave.

Beyer said “there isn’t any anxiety about the spending plans” among Democrats he’s spoken to, though they’re open to a deal with the GOP that would likely diminish the size of a package.

“Politics is the art of the possible. We’re not going to be angry at a President Biden who ends up finding a compromise ground that 10 Republicans can live with,” he said, referring to the number of GOP votes in the Senate that Democrats need for a proposal to clear the evenly-divided chamber.

Joe Biden Shelley Moore Capito in Oval Office White House
President Joe Biden meets with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito at the White House.

Biden could strike a spending deal with Republicans

The White House is in the midst of negotiating with Republicans on the $2.3 trillion package known as the American Jobs Plan. With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stamp of approval, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is steering the talks on the Republican side with an initial $568 billion offer. Only a third of it is new federal spending.

On Thursday, Biden described it as “a genuine effort,” and added “I think we can get there” as a two-hour meeting with Capito and a group of Republicans got underway.

“It was a very positive meeting,” Capito told Fox News on Friday. “We’re going to go back to the president early next week with another offer that, in light of the conversation that we had, trying to seek that bipartisan agreement.”

Both parties remain far apart on the price tag of a plan and even defining what makes up infrastructure. Republicans are pushing to constrain it to only physical transportation and communications, while Democrats want to include robust safety net spending on childcare and education.

The White House is walking a tightrope when it comes to pushing a potential deal through a 50-50 Senate and narrow House majority. Many Democrats are calling for a large infrastructure package with large new investments, given their full control of Washington’s levers of power.

They are also wary of dragging out negotiations when they have the ability to approve a wide range of the spending plans in reconciliation, a tactic to approve a budgetary bill with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, is kicking off infrastructure hearings later this month. He said there’s “a lot more work to do to climb out of the deep economic hole the pandemic created.”

“Control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency is rare, and it’s critical that Democrats do all we can with this opportunity to make real progress for the American people,” Wyden said in a statement to Insider. “While it would be our hope that we can do much of what the president outlined on a bipartisan basis, it’s much more important to get things done for the American people.”

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‘Champions League of tax avoidance:’ Uber used 50 Dutch shell companies to dodge taxes on nearly $6 billion in revenue, report says

GettyImages 1176816141 (1) NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, UBER, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Uber has been using a complex tax shelter involving around 50 Dutch shell companies to reduce its global tax bill, according to recent research from the Center for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research.

In 2019, Uber claimed $4.5 billion in global operating losses (excluding the US and China) for tax purposes – in reality, it brought in $5.8 billion in operating revenue, according to CICTAR, an Australia-based research group.

Uber had previously disclosed details about its Dutch tax haven in 2019, when it moved its intellectual property from Bermuda to the Netherlands, but CICTAR’s research sheds more light on how the company has structured its network of shell companies.

“This is the Champions League of tax avoidance,” CICTAR principal analyst Jason Ward told Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.

Uber transfered its intellectual property through a $16 billion “loan” from one of its subsidiaries in Singapore that in turn owns one of Uber’s Dutch shell companies, a manuever that grants the company a $1 billion tax break every year for the next 20 years, the researchers found.

“Uber has supercharged their tax avoidance approach,” Ward told Insider, using an intellectual property tax break “to prevent future tax bills, turning it into a much more useful, viable tax structure in the Netherlands.”

CICTAR also found several of Uber’s Dutch subsidiaries hadn’t submitted mandatory financial reports, and in India, Uber paid less than a third of the 6% tax the country imposes on multinational companies, according to the report.

“India is in desperate need of public revenue” to help it combat COVID-19, yet companies like Uber are able to avoid cointributing to that effort through tax avoidance schemes, Ward told Insider.

In Australia, CICTAR found that Uber was underpaying its tax bill by $30.5 million (AUD$39 million), according to Groene Amsterdammer.

Uber’s sophisticated efforts to achieve little or no tax burden on multibillion-dollar global revenues highlights a long-standing challenge governments face in enforcing tax compliance among wealthy corporations and individuals across borders.

In response, some lawmakers around the world, including the US President Joe Biden, have lobbied for a global minimum tax and other measures to reduce tax avoidance, which the Tax Justice Network estimates costs governments $427 billion annually.

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How April’s dismal jobs report is setting the stage for Biden’s $4 trillion economic fight with the GOP

Joe Biden sad
President Joe Biden speaks about the April jobs report in the White House on Friday.

  • Republicans and Democrats drew sharply different conclusions about the April jobs report.
  • Democrats used it to bolster a case for massive infrastructure spending on issues like childcare.
  • The GOP wants to slam on the spending brakes, saying stimulus benefits are setting back job growth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In some ways, the April jobs report resembled an optical illusion, with people making differing observations from a dataset that didn’t fit into a clean narrative.

In this case, Democrats and Republicans came to opposite conclusions about the report and what it means for the way forward in healing an economy battered by the pandemic.

The Friday report showed the economy recovered 266,000 jobs, a smaller amount defying expectations of a massive job surge on the back of government stimulus dollars, increased vaccinations, and easing restrictions. Economists had forecasted at least 1 million regained jobs.

In response, the GOP is demanding to end parts of President Joe Biden’s stimulus and calling for the government to slam the brakes on its spending. Democrats instead urged the passage of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans, viewing the lackluster report as another pillar in their argument that more spending, in part on childcare, would accelerate the recovery.

It sets the stage between the parties for a multitrillion-dollar fight on infrastructure, jobs, and families that will take up much of the White House’s time over the next few months.

The president argued for patience with his economic agenda on Friday. He said “more help is needed” and mounted a robust defense of his $1.9 trillion stimulus, which provided $1,400 direct payments and a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit.

“When we passed the American Rescue Plan, I want to remind everybody, it was designed to help us over the course of a year – not 60 days – a year,” Biden said. “We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days, everything would be fine.”

He flatly rejected the argument from Republicans and business groups that federal jobless aid has been sidelining people from the workforce, saying that was “nothing measurable.”

“We’re still digging out of an economic collapse that cost us 22 million jobs,” Biden said. “Let’s keep our eye on the ball.”

Kevin Brady
Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Democrats double down, Republicans pounce

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to move immediately on Biden’s plans, and pointed to “women and working parents” being hit hardest in the pandemic. The number of women who held jobs fell in April, as reported by Insider’s Juliana Kaplan and Madison Hoff.

“The evidence is clear that the economy demands urgent action, and Congress will not be deterred or delayed from delivering transformational investments,” she said in a statement.

Republicans had already lined up against Biden’s plans, criticizing the proposed tax hikes on large firms and wealthy Americans as a future anchor on the economy. They pounced on the report in a fresh sign of their hardening resistance.

The GOP swung at Biden’s handling of the economy, arguing that the jobless aid was disincentivizing people from searching for a new job.

“This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and drive jobs overseas,” Rep. Kevin Brady, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement.

He also contended that jobless aid was disincentivizing people from returning to work. The argument mirrored one made by the Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group which on Friday called for an end to the $300 federal unemployment benefit.

Many economists have long disputed that federal jobless aid has kept people from returning to work. Unemployment claims has steadily fallen over the past month. They tend to cite other factors like the lack of available childcare and school closures.

Those burdens have fallen more on women, causing 2 million women to leave the workforce in the past year. Still, experts say the US will regain its economic footing eventually, though the nation faces a rocky path ahead.

“We’re gonna see pockets of strength, pockets of weakness, areas of overheating, areas where it is uncool – it’s going to be complicated and messy,” Jason Furman, a former top economist to President Barack Obama, told Insider in an interview. “But I think hopefully all moving in the right direction.”

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JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon wants detailed disclosures on how federal money is spent if lawmakers raise taxes. Democratic lawmakers were quick to respond.

jamie dimon
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, takes part in a panel discussion about investing in Detroit at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., April 11, 2018.

If President Joe Biden plans to raise taxes among large corporations and the wealthy, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon wants to know where every single extra penny ends up.

The billionaire businessman urged lawmakers to court the devil in the details during a recorded interview for the Investment Company Institute’s general membership meeting posted Thursday. During the 30-minute conversation, Dimon voiced his “concerns” about Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

“I’m…concerned how the money’s going to be spent,” he said. “The government needs to be very clear on what they want to accomplish.”

He noted his support for a bipartisan bill and also suggested that lawmakers create and share an itemized list of the ways extra dollars from a tax hike would fund the government’s infrastructure plans.

“On highways, how many miles are you going to build? How much is it going to cost? When’s it going to get done? Who’s responsible?”

Dimon’s preference for specifics – like Biden’s proposed bill – goes beyond the traditional elements of infrastructure.

“On education, not just free community colleges,” he added. “How many kids are going to graduate? How many kids are going to have a job at $65,000 a year?”

Biden’s infrastructure bill has been slammed by Republicans, who have called it a “liberal wish-list,” and “Soviet-style infrastructure,” arguing the bill has little to do with traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges.

“So I worry about not just the bill, but we’re just throwing money. It doesn’t work,” he said. “And we already waste tremendous sums of money.”

Dimon said if lawmakers are going to take the American people’s money, they owe it to the public to be up front with how they use it, comparing it to the information companies are required to disclose.

In response to Dimon’s comments, Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii in a tweet Thursday evening said the federal government already keeps a detailed record of spending outcomes, and pointed Dimon to The Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Dimon did say he believed taxation and infrastructure are “completely unrelated.”

“We should have proper infrastructure, proper immigration, proper healthcare, proper stuff,” he said. “And then we should have proper corporate taxation, and obviously we got to pay for this stuff.”

The businessman also called the idea of some of Biden’s proposed tax hikes “a little crazy,” arguing that competitive corporate taxation is vital to capital formation and economic growth in the country.

“I think they’re making a mistake,” Dimon said about the proposal to get rid of the Trump-era corporate tax cut and raise rates on businesses. Dimon lobbied for the tax cuts.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez picked up on his past push for the cut to corporate tax rates.

“That’s funny, because Jamie Dimon didn’t give working people an itemized list of the school districts, public hospitals, infrastructure, or affordable housing projects he was helping defund when he pushed for the $2T GOP Tax Scam in 2017 w/ goodies for yacht and jet owners,” she tweeted in reply to Dimon’s wish for an itemized list.

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The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall just got indicted on tax fraud charges

Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • Brian Kolfage, who founded “We Build the Wall,” with Steve Bannon, was indicted in a new tax case.
  • A New York grand jury separately found the crowdfunding effort to be fraudulent in August 2020.
  • Donald Trump pardoned Bannon before he left office, but didn’t pardon Kolfage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brian Kolfage – the cofounder of a failed crowdfunding effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border with Steve Bannon – is facing a new tax case after being indicted on federal fraud charges last year.

Newly unsealed court documents show that a federal grand jury in Florida indicted Kolfage on accusations of fraud and filing false tax returns.

According to charging documents reviewed by Insider, Kolfage’s tax filings for 2019 represented an income of $63,574. In fact, the charges say, Kolfage personally received hundreds of thousands of dollars that year through his “We Build a Wall” project and other organizations.

The charges were first reported by Bloomberg News.

In August, federal prosecutors in New York filed an indictment against Kolfage and Bannon, accusing them of using some of the $25 million raised for the “We Build a Wall” organization to line their own pockets. Two other right-wing political operatives, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, were also charged in the scheme.

The prosecutors accused Kolfage of using $350,000 in donor money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including spending money on home renovations, a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, and credit-card debt.

Kolfage launched the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser in December 2018, during a government shutdown, in a failed attempt to raise $1 billion to build a US-Mexico border privately. Trump himself had distanced himself from the project.

Trump pardoned Bannon, his former campaign chairman and chief White House strategist, on his last day in office. He didn’t pardon Kolfage, Badolato, or Shea.

Additional charging documents in the Florida case detailing how Kolfage handled his money were not immediately available in public court records. The indictment says Kolfage kept his money in the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which typically represents members of the US Military. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran and lost both arms and a leg in the Iraq War.

An attorney representing Kolfage didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders says the US needs ‘progressive taxation’ on the wealthy to pay for Biden’s infrastructure proposal

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) arrives at the House chamber ahead of President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders called for “progressive taxation” to fund Biden’s spending proposals.
  • “Biden says the floor should be $400,000,” he noted. “Nobody under that should pay more in taxes.”
  • Sanders also brought up the need for health care reform and tackling student loan debt.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Sunday said that the US needs to institute “progressive taxation” on inherited wealth to help fund President Joe Biden’s spending proposals, notably a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders stressed that it was imperative that the country deals with pertinent and longstanding economic issues facing the country.

“We have massive income and wealth inequality,” he said. “Half our people live on paycheck to paycheck. We’ve got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. You’ve got to do that.”

Progressive legislators sought to include a $15 minimum wage bill provision in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package while it was being debated in Congress earlier this year, but Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that it could not be included in the final bill under budget reconciliation rules.

Sanders, who has long said that the nation’s infrastructure was in dire need of repair, stressed that Biden’s spending plans would be beneficial to the American public.

“We have infrastructure that is collapsing,” he said. “We’ve got to address the existential threat of climate change. When you make those investments, we create millions of good-paying jobs.”

Read more: Here’s how Biden is reshaping gender and reproductive rights with policies that are even more progressive than past Democratic presidents

Reminiscent of his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, Sanders also brought up the need for health care reform and student loan debt, issues that progressives in Congress have not forgotten about.

“We are the only major country not to guarantee health care to all people as a right, the only major country not to have paid family and medical leave,” he said. “We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Hundreds of thousands of kids can’t afford to go to college, and millions leave school deeply in debt. Well, you know what? You’ve got to address those issues.”

Sanders, who chairs the powerful Senate Banking Committee, then went after major corporations that he says haven’t paid any federal income taxes and again called for instituting a progressive estate tax rate starting at 45% on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million.

Warren Buffett, one of the richest guys in the world, reminds us that the effective tax rate for working families is higher than it is for the billionaire class,” he said. “I do think we need progressive taxation, which says to the very rich – Biden says the cap should be, the floor should be $400,000. Nobody under that should pay more in taxes.”

He added: “The very rich and large corporations should start paying their fair share of taxes to help us rebuild America and create the jobs that we need.”

When Sanders was asked if he would back the spending proposals if they don’t come with the desired tax increases, the senator said that “the devil is in the details.”

“I think once we start discussing these issues in the Congress, there will be differences of opinion,” he said. “I think there is a consensus, at least within the Democratic caucus, that now is the time to start protecting working families and the middle class and not just the 1 percent.”

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Tech jobs, sun, and no income tax: experts explain why Florida is poised to keep growing even after the pandemic

Florida’s population grew by 2.7 million over the last decade.

  • Florida’s population grew by 14.6% in the last decade – and the pandemic has accelerated this.
  • The state famously has no personal-income tax, and its banking and finance industries are booming.
  • But the rise in remote working, its lack of lockdown, and attractive house prices are also drawing people in.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More and more workers are moving to Florida during the pandemic – and the sunny climate isn’t the only reason why.

Top companies are opening new offices in the state, and the rise in remote working is giving staff more freedom to choose where they want to live.

Florida’s population grew by 2.7 million – or 14.6% – between 2010 and 2020, according to US Census data. This is double the rate of overall US population growth.

Read more: Is Florida the new Wall Street?

“It’s not just retirees – it’s tech workers leaving San Francisco,” John Boyd, the CEO of Boyd Consultancy, said.

Businesses are flocking to Florida

“Florida certainly has a winning formula for business attraction,” Boyd told Insider.

In particular, Florida is becoming a hotspot for banking and financial services, while Miami is as emerging as “one of the hottest new tech hubs in North America today,” he said.

Hedge fund Elliott Management is moving its headquarters to West Palm Beach, private-equity firm Blackstone plans to open an office in Miami, and Goldman Sachs is considering the state for its asset management division. Even Subway is shifting some business units to Miami.

Software company Civix and Sonesta International Hotels are opening new offices in Orlando, too.

Deloitte has invested $63 million in Orlando since 2014, while KMPG chose Orlando for its $450 million global training center, which Barnes said is the largest capital investment in KMPG history, according to Casey Barnes, vice president of business development at the Orlando Economic Partnership.

Colliers previously told Insider that interest from out-of-state firms in South Florida real estate is “torrential” – and they’re looking for much bigger officers than before, too.

Average salaries are climbing

As these businesses open offices in Florida, the job-market in the state is booming, too.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, told Insider Florida’s job vacancies are back at pre-pandemic levels and the number of unemployed is reaching record lows while average city salaries are climbing.

The number of financial-services employees in Florida has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels with nearly 600,000 people working in the sector. New York, on the other hand, is rebounding much slower, and still has around 30,000 fewer employees in the sector than it did in early 2020, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Casey Barnes, vice president of business development at the Orlando Economic Partnership, told Insider that Deloitte has created more than 2,200 new jobs in the city since 2014, while KMPG chose Orlando for its $450 million global training center, which Barnes said is the largest capital investment in KMPG history.

Adzuna said that tech company Oracle is the top company hiring in Florida on its site. Boyd said that financial services and tech workers are leaving cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York to move to Florida, but some are coming from overseas in India and Brazil, too.

And billionaires including Charles Schwab, Carl Icahn, Tom Brady, and Peter Thiel have all bought homes in the state.

carl icahn billionaire miami
Activist investor Carl Icahn moved his eponymous company to Miami earlier this year.

And it’s not just finance and tech workers who are benefitting from Florida’s growing economy. The state is also hiking up its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026, too.

Working remotely gives people more freedom

The rise of remote working has also made it easier for workers to relocate independently of their employers.

Boyd said that the pandemic has created “a time of historic mobility for both companies and people.” Companies are increasingly letting staff work from home on a permanent basis, which allows them to save on real estate costs, he said.

There is growing momentum for companies to let employees work from home permanently. Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, and Ford have said their employees can remotely post-pandemic, and some companies are canceling office leases.

“Orlando was an ideal place to live, work, and play prior to COVID-19, and the region’s offerings will only be more valuable to professionals in the pandemic’s wake,” Barnes told Insider.

This was something Alexandra Scherbich, global head of B2B marketing at Tenth Revolution Group, found when she relocated to Tampa from London in April 2019. She told Insider that managing her colleagues in the UK could be challenging from abroad because of the time zone differences, but that she is able to now dedicate her afternoons to meetings with clients on the West Coast, which would have been much harder in the UK because of the eight-hour time difference.

Florida has a pro-business environment

Florida famously doesn’t have a personal income tax, and this is one of the major motivators for migration, Boyd told Insider. He added that many people moving to the state come from high-tax states that don’t have such a pro-business environment, like Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as New York, which recently announced plans to bump up its income-tax rates for its wealthiest residents.

“And the other part of all this is, you know, economic development really comes down to leadership at the end of the day,” Boyd said.

“Governor DeSantis is a good salesman-in-chief of the state of Florida,” he said. He added that Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez was positioning the city as a major tech market.

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida has sun, sea, and no lockdown

Florida has also remained largely open during the pandemic compared to other states. This led to people choosing to make Florida their primary residence for the pandemic, Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the Business Development Board (BDB) of Palm Beach County, told Insider.

When people relocated to Florida, they started enrolling their children at nearby schools, and soon found themselves settled down in the state, Smallridge said.

Barnes said that many companies are choosing to expand in or relocate to Florida because “they see it as a destination that will attract workers and their families.”

miami florida
Florida’s lifestyle also attracts people to the state.

“Most executives will go take a swim in the beach before they even go to work,” BDB’s Smallridge said. “And, you know, they never have to shovel snow and they don’t have to ride with the subway.”

Scherbich said that, alongside work opportunities, the climate was part of her reason for migrating. She added that she’s settled into the city well and that it has a large UK expatriate community.

Housing and living costs are lower than New York

House prices have gone up around 10% over the past year as more people move to the state, but Florida still has a “very attractive” real-estate market compared to some other major markets in the US, Boyd said, adding that there are affordable housing options “in virtually all parts of Florida.”

The average price for a house in Florida is $277,429, rising to $323,094 in Palm Beach County and $407,245 in Miami, according to data from Zillow. In New York, in comparison, average house prices are $323,094 for the city and $649,490 for the state.

And it isn’t just houses that cost less in the Sunshine Site. Overall living costs in Orlando are 6% lower than the US average, Barnes said.

Florida’s transport networks are growing

There are a lot of transport developments in the pipeline for Florida, too, Boyd said. This includes Brightline, a rail system with investments from Richard Branson’s Virgin, which connects Miami to West Palm Beach, with expansion plans Orlando and Tampa.

Boring company los angeles
The Boring Company is also building a tunnel in Las Vegas.

And North Miami Beach official told Insider’s Grace Kay the city is in early talks with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company over a possible plan to build a one- to two-mile tunnel to tackle congestion.

The state has more than 100 public airports, and Tampa’s direct flights to London were part of Scherbich’s decision to relocate to the city.

Orlanda in particular bills itself as the “tomorrowland of transportation,” Barnes said. This includes serving as a hub for one of the world’s first jet-powered flying taxis, which will depart from more than 10 locations across Florida. The aircrafts by German startup Lilium will be based at Orlando’s Lake Nona, which Barnes said it “a growing testbed” for smart city technology.

“The signal is really ahead of the curve,” Boyd said.

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Biden is betting big with plans to remake America. Here are 6 takeaways from Biden’s speech.

  • President Joe Biden delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.
  • Biden called for an ambitious pandemic economic recovery plan focused on jobs, infrastructure, and childcare.
  • He also called for changes to immigration and foreign policy and asked the Senate to pass civil rights legislation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, on the eve of his 100th day in office.

In his address before a pared-down audience due to the pandemic, Biden called for an ambitious pandemic economic recovery plan focused on jobs, infrastructure, childcare, and education. The proposals are some of the most progressive in decades – and ones unlikely to garner Republican support, as evidenced by GOP reactions in the chamber and on Twitter.

He also called for changes to immigration and foreign policy and asked the Senate to pass signature civil rights legislation – including police reform and voting rights legislation.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the speech.

Biden is betting big with his spending plans

Biden detailed an ambitious $4 trillion spending program focused on overhauling the American economy and recasting the role of government to better secure the welfare of families.

He’s fresh off the passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus law in March, a measure broadly popular with American voters in part due to the $1,400 direct payments. He touted the federal checks and said the law contributed to a fall in hunger.

Biden quickly pivoted to his latest pair of economic plans, one to upgrade physical infrastructure and the other meant to level the playing field for middle and low-income families. The latest is a $1.8 trillion economic plan aimed at setting up sweeping new federal programs in education, childcare, and healthcare.

“These are the investments we make together, as one country, and that only government can make,” Biden said. “Time and again, they propel us into the future.”

Republicans are very unlikely to support the newest “American Families Plan” proposal. “There are individual components that conservatives might be more supportive, but the full $2 trillion package financed by big new taxes is absolutely a non-starter for Republicans,” Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, said.

The president also called on Congress to move on healthcare reform and raising the minimum wage

Biden urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t budged since 2009. “No one should work 40 hours a week and still live below the poverty line,” he said.

Democrats are united on raising the minimum wage but sharply disagree on the amount. Some like Sen. Bernie Sanders are pushing $15 an hour minimum wage, but others like Sen. Joe Manchin support a lower amount.

Biden also called lawmakers to step in and lower prescription drug costs, an initiative reportedly scrapped from his economic package.

“Let’s do what we’ve always talked about,” the president said. “Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. ”

Instead, he’s proposed extending health insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act as part of his spending programs.

He also threw his support behind the PRO Act, a bill designed to make it easier for workers to unionize. It has stalled in the Senate, unable to cross the 60-vote threshold known as the filibuster.

Biden talks immigration – but not the border

Biden also again called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, stressing the need to provide a pathway to legal status for millions of undocumented people in the United States – stressing that this was a bipartisan goal.

“Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration,” he said. “For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it.”

The day he took office, Biden unveiled a proposal that would grant permanent residency to many migrant farm workers and citizenship for those who came to the US as children. On Wednesday, Biden said Congress should work to make those specific provisions law right away, acknowledging the difficulty of passing more robust reform in a 50-50 Senate.

“Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for the Dreamers – the young people who have only known America as their home,” he said. He also called for legislation to grant “permanent protections for immigrants on temporary protected status” and a process for granting citizenship to “farmworkers who put food on our tables.”

Biden did not, however, speak to the current status of US borders, which remain shuttered to all but unaccompanied minors – a recent influx of whom overwhelmed authorities, who have since scrambled to convert hotels and convention centers into holding facilities. The Biden administration continues to expel other asylum-seekers fleeing poverty and violence in the Americas, citing the pandemic and the need to rebuild a processing system decimated by the last White House.

Biden laid out a foreign policy plan that differs from the Trump doctrine

During his address, Biden’s focus on foreign policy centered mainly around strengthening the US’ relationship with allies and forging working but stern relations with Russia and China.

Biden said that in approaching foreign policy, his administration would operate on the belief that, “America is the most unique idea in history.”

In a contrast to Trump, Biden directly charged Russia for interference in the 2016 elections as well as the recent SolarWinds cyberattacks which breached government and private business systems.

The President added that in conversations with his Russian counterpart, he has “made clear,” to Vladimir Putin that the US will not seek escalation, but Russia’s, “actions will have consequences.” Biden added that the US and Russian should cooperate when interests are aligned.

Biden added that he had held hours-long conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping and put forth a similar balance. The President also singled out Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, describing them as threats, but committed to working with allies and both nations through “diplomacy and stern deterrence.”

He also spoke about his promise to end the “forever war in Afghanistan,” acknowledging and justifying the US’ long footprint in the country. Saying that the US fulfilled their promise to bring Osama Bin Laden to the “gates of hell,” and that soldiers are serving in “the same war zone as their parents,” he said it’s time to bring troops home.

Biden addressed gun control policy and urged congressional action against gun violence in the US

During his address to Congress, the president called gun violence an “epidemic in America,” mentioning how the flag at the White House flew half-staff to mourn the lives lost at the Atlanta-area shootings and mass shooting in Colorado.

“In the week between those mass shootings, more than 250 other Americans were shot dead. 250 shot dead,” Biden said.

He touted his executive actions on guns following those tragedies but called for the Senate to act.

Biden called upon Senate Republicans to join Democratic members of Congress to “close loopholes and require background checks to purchase a gun” – such as the “boyfriend” loophole, which refers to a gap in gun legislation that allows partners convicted of domestic violence to purchase a firearm if their partner was not a spouse, didn’t have children with them, or live with them at any point.”

I will do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence,” he said. “But it’s time for Congress to act as well.”

The president called on the Senate to pass two pieces of civil rights legislation

Biden recalled meeting Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd, during her father’s funeral last year, saying how she was right in saying her father “changed the world” in light of the guilty verdict of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s killing.

While he recognized that “most men and women in uniform wear their badge and serve their communities honorably,” the president urged Americans to come together to “rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve” and “root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system.”

He urged lawmakers to pass the police reform bill named after Floyd by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death on May 25.

The president also cajoled the Senate to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which has already passed in the House.

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Nancy Pelosi slams GOP ‘tax scam’ of 2017 in defending Biden’s wealthy tax hike

nancy pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

  • Nancy Pelosi defended the proposed tax hikes to fund Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans.
  • She told MSNBC the hikes are a response to the GOP “tax scam” of 2017, which benefited the wealthy.
  • GOP lawmakers have strongly opposed the hikes, calling them part of a “socialist vision” for the country.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ahead of President Joe Biden’s unveiling of his $1.8 trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke out in defense of the president’s tax increase proposals to fund the plan.

Pelosi joined MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday afternoon to talk about Biden’s progress since he took office, and she was quick to defend the tax hikes to fund his infrastructure plan, which Republicans have strongly opposed.

She said Biden’s tax hikes are in response to the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts.

“We’re on a better path for the people,” Pelosi told MSNBC. “What he [Biden] is talking about is exactly just to reverse some of what the Republicans did in their tax scam where they added almost $2 trillion to the national debt, if you include the cost and the interest on the debt, to give tax breaks to the top, top, wealthiest people in the country.”

Pelosi also said that Biden’s plan, which includes funding for universal pre-K and free community college, is “transformative” and works to directly aid Americans.

Pelosi was referring to former President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which gave higher-income households larger average tax cuts than lower-income households. This plan was criticized at the time by Democrats who argued that the wealthy should pay their fair share in taxes, and prompted legislation from lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently introduced an ultramillionare tax on the wealthiest Americans.

Biden originally proposed a corporate tax hike from 21% to 28% to fund his infrastructure plan, but has since expressed willingness to negotiate on the size and scope of the plan to get Republicans on board. The international average is around 25%, a rate with which Biden would reportedly be comfortable. The 2017 tax cut slashed the rate down from 35%, although American corporations have contributed a lower percentage to GDP than the international average for two decades, per JPMorgan research.

“I am prepared to compromise, prepared to see what we can do and what we can get together on,” Biden said at a bipartisan infrastructure meeting last week. “It’s a big package, but there are a lot of needs.”

But even so, Republicans would rather see a plan funded without any form of an income or corporate tax increase. A group of Republicans introduced a counter-proposal to Biden’s infrastructure plan which would cost between $600 billion and $800 billion, and would be funded by user-fees, like a gas tax, instead of tax hikes.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune tweeted on Tuesday that Biden’s proposed tax hikes are part of a “socialist vision” for the country, repeating the Republican Party’s now-familiar playbook to label any Democratic policy proposal as socialist.

In separate remarks in Congress today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plans, calling them “another multitrillion-dollar smorgasbord of liberal social engineering.”

Polls show American voters overwhelmingly like the things Republicans would like to strip out of Biden’s first infrastructure plan, and support raising corporate taxes to pay for them.

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