Everyone Is Talking About Bitcoin

 

January 5, 2018

 

Investors are excited about bitcoin – perhaps too excited. Their fervor is easy to understand.On December 18, bitcoin closed at $17,566. Back on September 22, bitcoin was valued at only $3,603.1    

 

Yes, you read that correctly – the price of bitcoin jumped nearly 500% in three months. Thanks to this phenomenon, investors everywhere are asking if they should buy bitcoin or invest portions of their retirement funds in the cybercurrency. The air is filled with hype: bitcoin is “unstoppable,” it is “the answer,” it is “the future.”  

 

It may also be heading for a crash.   

 

Bitcoin has crashed before.It is highly volatile. On Thanksgiving 2013, a single bitcoin was worth $979; by April 2014, the price was at $422. In late August 2017, it settled at $4,673; by mid-September, it was back at $3,783 immediately before its amazing fourth-quarter climb.1   

 

With the recent launch of bitcoin futures markets on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and CME Group, bitcoin has gained more respect. Still, there are many investors who will not touch it because of its considerable downside risk and its association with the seedy side of global finance.2   

 

The free market determines the value of bitcoin. Therefore, it can suffer sudden, dramatic devaluations due to the day’s headlines. When China ordered bitcoin exchanges to shutter, the price of bitcoin slid. When JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon called bitcoin “a fraud” in September 2017, the price quickly fell 10%. When the Silk Road website disappeared, bitcoin’s value took a hit (and its disappearance brings us to the cryptocurrency’s other worrisome aspect).3,4 

 

Bitcoin has long been linked to the “dark web.” Even its origins are mysterious: the digital currency was created by someone named “Satoshi Nakamoto,” whose identity is still a question mark. Bitcoins are made in cyberspace by computers, beyond the control of any government.To its advocates, the fact that bitcoin has emerged from the Internet rather than a central bank is attractive. Who bitcoin and other cybercurrencies have attracted is another matter.4,5    

 

Bitcoin transactions are conducted on multiple exchanges and verified through the blockchain, a digital ledger that leaves transaction records open to the broad community of bitcoin users rather than a financial regulatory authority.3,4  

 

Is this transparency a plus or a minus? You will hear both arguments. Even with this openness, users on bitcoin exchanges are not always required to reveal their identities, which is a plus for criminals. Bitcoin has been linked to money laundering, and earlier in this decade, some economists saw it as little more than a currency for drug lords. Silk Road, a black-market website, saw plenty of bitcoin transactions. How about funding for terrorist cells? Recently, a New York woman was charged with trying to send more than $80,000 to ISIS – cash mostly laundered through bitcoin, federal prosecutors assert.5,6   

 

The hype says that bitcoin is the “new gold,” but gold has intrinsic value. Governments, banks, and institutional investors share a foundational belief that gold is a valuable commodity. Does bitcoin have such a foundational belief beneath it?  

 

If speculators stopped believing bitcoin was valuable, then how valuable would it be? Nearly worthless, in the eyes of some observers. As NerdWallet investment writer Andrea Coombes remarks, “The value is in the demand itself.”7 

 

In the financial markets, higher prices are not always succeeded by higher prices.This is essentially the belief holding up bitcoin. Its biggest fans believe its direction will be up and up for years to come, and that it will never really crater again. This is called irrational exuberance, and it has harmed many investors through the years. 

 

Whether you think bitcoin is the “new gold” or amounts to a bubble ready to burst, its extreme, dangerous volatility means one thing – if you do choose to invest in it, you would be wise to only invest money that you can afford to lose.

 

Sincerely, 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President  

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO 

 

   

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

Citations.

1 - coindesk.com/price/ [12/20/17]

2 - cnbc.com/2017/12/17/worlds-largest-futures-exchange-set-to-launch-bitcoin-futures-sunday-night.html [12/17/17]

3 - thebalance.com/who-sets-bitcoin-s-price-391278 [2/14/17]

4 - theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/13/from-silk-road-to-atms-the-history-of-bitcoin [9/14/17]

5 - theguardian.com/business/2013/mar/04/bitcoin-currency-of-vice [3/4/13]

6 - arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/feds-charge-new-york-woman-with-sending-bitcoins-to-support-isis/ [12/15/17]

7 - nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/is-bitcoin-safe/ [12/7/17]

 


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What the Tax Bill Means to You

 

December 18, 2017

 

The new tax law hasn’t been formally ratified by the U.S. House and Senate, but all indications are that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will be sent to the President’s desk in the next few days.  As you probably know, the House and Senate versions were somewhat different.  What does the new bill look like? 

Despite the promise of tax “reform” or “simplification,” the bill actually adds hundreds of pages to our tax laws.  And the initial idea of reducing the number of tax brackets was apparently tossed aside in the final version; the new bill maintains seven different tax rates: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.  Most people will see their bracket go down by one to four percentage points, with the higher reductions going to people with higher income.  And the tax brackets, going forward, will be indexed to inflation, meaning that the “real” income brackets will remain approximately the same from year to year. 

The new brackets break down like this: 

Individual Taxpayers 

Income $0-$9,525 - 10% of taxable income

$9,526-$38,700 - $952.50 + 12% of the amount over $9,526

$38,701-$82,500 - $4,453 + 22% of the amount over $38,700

$82,501-$157,500 - $14,089.50 + 24% of the amount over $82,500

$157, 501-$200,000 - $32,089.50 + 32% of the amount over $157,500

$200,001-$500,000 - 45,689.50 + 35% of the amount over $200,000

$500,001+ - $150,689.50 + 37% of the amount over $500,000

 

Joint Return Taxpayers 

Income $0-$19,050 - 10% of taxable income

$19,051-$77,400 - $1,905 + 12% of the amount over $19,050

$77,401-$165,000 - $8,907 + 22% of the amount over $77,400

$165,001-$315,000 - $28,179 + 24% of the amount over $165,000

$315,001-$400,000 - $64,179 + 32% of the amount over $315,000

$400,001-$600,000 - $91,379 + 35% of the amount over $400,000

$600,000+ - $161,379 + 37% of the amount over $600,000

 

Taxes for trusts and estates were also changed to: 

$0-$2,550 - 10% of taxable income

$2,551-$9,150 - $255 + 24% of the amount over $2,550

$9,151-$12,500 - $1,839 + 35% of the amount over $9,150

$12,501+ - $3,011.50 + 37% of the amount over $12,500

 

Notice that in the lower brackets, the joint return (mostly for married couples) were double the individual bracket thresholds, eliminating the so-called “marriage penalty.”  However in the higher brackets, the 35% rate extends to individuals up to $500,000, but married couples with $600,000 in income fall into that bracket.  In the top bracket, the marriage penalty is more significant; individuals fall into it at $500,000, while couples are paying at a 37% rate at $600,000 of adjusted gross income. 

Other provisions: the standard deduction is basically doubled, to $12,000 (single) or $24,000 (joint), $18,000 (head of household), and in an interesting provision, persons who are over 65, blind or disabled can add $1,300 to their standard deduction. 

The bill calls for no personal exemptions for 2018.  And the Pease limitation, a gradual phaseout of itemized deductions as taxpayers reached higher income brackets, has been eliminated. 

Despite the hopes of many taxpayers, the dreaded alternative minimum tax (AMT), remains in the bill.  The individual exemption amount is $70,300; for joint filers it’s $109,400.  But for the first time, the AMT exemption amounts will be indexed to inflation. 

Interestingly, the new tax bill retains the old capital gains tax brackets—based on the prior brackets.  The 0% capital gains rate will be in place for individuals with $38,600 or less in income ($77,200 for joint filers), and the 15% rate will apply to individuals earning between $38,600 and $452,400 (between $77,400 and $479,000 for joint filers).  Above those amounts, capital gains and qualified dividends will be taxed at a 20% rate. 

In addition, the rules governing Roth conversion recharacterizations will be repealed.  Under the old law, if a person converted from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, and the account lost value over the next year and a half, they could simply undo (recharacterize) the transaction, no harm no foul.  Under the new rules, recharacterization would no longer be allowed. 

For many taxpayers who itemize deductions, the adjusted gross income number will be higher under the new tax plan, because many itemized deductions have been reduced or eliminated.  Among them: there will be a $10,000 limit on how much any individual can deduct for state and local income tax and property tax payments.  Before you rush to write a check to the state or your local government, know that a provision in the bill states that any 2018 state income taxes paid by the end of 2017 are not deductible in 2017, and instead will be treated as having been paid at the end of calendar year 2018. 

The mortgage deduction will be limited to $750,000 of principal (down from a current $1 million limit); any mortgage payments on amounts above that limit will not be deductible.  However, the charitable contribution deduction limit will rise from 50% of a person’s adjusted gross income to 60% under the new bill. 

What about estate taxes?  The bill doubles the estate tax exemption from, currently, $5.6 million (projected 2018) to $11.2 million; $22.4 million for couples.  Meanwhile, Congress maintained the step-up in basis, which means that people who inherit low-basis stock will see the embedded capital gains go away upon receipt. 

Public “C” Corporations saw their highest marginal tax rate drop from 35% to 21%, the largest one-time rate cut in U.S. history for the nation’s largest companies. 

And pass-through entities like partnerships, S corporations, limited liability companies and sole proprietorships will receive a 20% deduction on taxes for “qualified business income,” which explicitly does NOT include wages or investment income. 

As things stand today, all of these provisions are due to “sunset” after the year 2025, at which point the entire tax regime will revert to what we have now. 

 

 

Sources: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/15/the-final-gop-tax-bill-is-complete-heres-what-is-in-it/?utm_term=.4b0efca718e8 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/12/17/what-the-2018-tax-brackets-standard-deduction-amounts-and-more-look-like-under-tax-reform/#42b575bf1401 

https://www.kitces.com/blog/final-gop-tax-plan-summary-tcja-2017-individual-tax-brackets-pass-through-strategies/

https://www.bna.com/2017-Individual-Tax/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/15/us/politics/final-republican-tax-bill-cuts.html

This material was prepared by BobVeres.com., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 


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Senate Tax Bill

Senate Tax Bill

 

December 5, 2017

 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its proposed tax “reform” bill last month, and now the Senate has followed suit.  Interestingly, the two bills are different enough that the two sides are going to have to meet and hammer out a compromise.

Here’s a quick glance at the provisions in the Senate bill and some of the differences.

First, the Congressional Budget Office created a quick report that assesses a variety of income levels, and whether they’ll come out ahead, tax-wise (blue and white cells) or will lose ground financially (pink cells) under the proposed bill.  (See graphic). 

 

Under the Senate bill, there would be seven tax brackets (compared with four in the House version): 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 38.5%.  The threshold to reach the top rate would be raised from $418,000 (single) or $480,000 (joint) to $500,000/$1 million.

The Senate bill raises the standard deduction to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers, compared with $12,200 and $24,400 in the House version.  The Senators decided to keep the mortgage interest deduction as it is today, rather than (House version) limit the amount of mortgage debt upon which interest can be deducted to $500,000.

Meanwhile, the House repealed the alternative minimum tax, but the Senate decided to keep it, although it did propose to raise the income exemption levels from $50,600 (single) or $78,750 (joint) to $70,600 and $109,400 respectively.  Both versions would raise the estate tax exemption to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for joint filers, but the House version would repeal the estate tax altogether in 2024, while the Senate version would not.

Like the House, the Senate bill would eliminate many popular deductions, including state and local income taxes, casualty losses and unreimbursed employee expenses. 

It is possible that the final version will greatly reward taxpayers who own and receive income through so-called “pass-through entities;” that is, corporate arrangements where the taxes are calculated and paid by the owners rather than at the corporate level.  This includes partnerships, Subchapter S corporations and limited liability companies, which would, under the Senate bill, be taxed at a rate of about 29.6% rather than the top rate, whatever that turns out to be.

Interestingly, this lower rate is also extended to publicly-traded pass-through vehicles—which suggests that you might see a lot of new tax-advantaged investment products come on the market if the bill is passed.

Speaking of publicly-traded entities, companies with significant earnings outside the U.S. will also receive a generous tax break; they would, under the Senate bill, be able to bring their earnings home at tax rates ranging from 7.5% to 14.5%—lower than the proposed new 20% corporate tax rate. 

The consolidated bill is expected to be signed before the end of the year—and of course the professional community is watching closely to calculate the impact on all of us.

Sincerely,

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO

 

 

This material was prepared by BobVeres.com., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/03/pf/taxes/senate-house-tax-bills-individuals/index.html

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/business/tax-bill-offers-last-minute-breaks-for-developers-banks-and-oil-industry.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2017/12/02/winners-and-losers-of-the-senate-tax-bill/#79382054254d

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The Republican Tax Reform Plan

 

November 10, 2017

 

 

Major changes may be ahead for federal tax law. At the start of November, House Republicans rolled out their plan for sweeping tax reforms. Negotiations may greatly alter the content of the bill, but here are the proposed adjustments, and who may and may not benefit from them if they become law.

   

The corporate tax rate would fall from 35% to 20%.Wall Street would cheer this development, perhaps with a significant rally. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations would also see their top tax rate drop to 25% (although W-2 wages for business owners who invest in these pass-through entities would still be taxed at the owner’s marginal tax rate).1,2

 

The estate tax and Alternative Minimum Tax would be eliminated.The AMT would die immediately, saving more than 5 million high-earning taxpayers from an annual bother. Death taxes would sunset within six years, and in the interim, the estate tax exemption would be doubled, leaving the individual exemption at about $11 million. This would be a boon for many highly successful people and their heirs.2

 

Personal exemptions would go away, but the standard deduction would nearly double.The loss of the personal income tax exemption (currently $4,050 per individual claimed) would be countered by standard deductions of $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. This could lessen the tax burden for many middle-class households. On the downside, the larger standard deduction might reduce the incentive to donate to charity.1,2

 

Only four income tax brackets would exist.While the top marginal tax rate would remain at 39.6%, the other brackets would be set at 12%, 25%, and 35%. Individuals earning $45,000 or less and spouses with combined earnings of $90,000 or less would fall into the 12% bracket. Households earning less than $260,000 would be in the 25% bracket. The individual threshold for the 39.6% bracket would be moved up to $501,000 from the current $418,401; it would apply to couples who earn more than $1 million.3

  

Some state and local tax deductions might vanish.Taxpayers who face higher state income tax rates – such as those living in New York, California, and New Jersey – could lose a big tax break here. The reform bill’s author, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-TX), says that a new revision to the bill would at least let homeowners deduct state and local property taxes up to a $10,000 cap.3

  

Speaking of caps, the mortgage interest deduction would be halved to $500,000. Real estate investors, developers, and agents are unhappy with this idea, as the current $1 million mortgage interest deduction has helped to spur home buying.1

 

Some key itemized credits and deductions would disappear.Among those the bill would do away with: the medical expense deduction, the moving deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the deduction on alimony payments, the electric vehicle deduction, and the tax credit drug manufacturers rely on as they undertake clinical trials. Retirees, divorcees, college grads, and pharmaceutical companies could see some financial negatives.1,2

 

Private college endowments would be taxed.With the aim of generating $3 billion in revenue over the next ten years, the bill would impose a 1.4% federal excise tax on private colleges and universities with 500 or more students and assets equivalent to or greater than $100,000 per full-time student.1

 

The Child Tax Credit would grow.Families eligible to claim the credit would see it rise to $1,600 from the current $1,000.3

 

Hardship withdrawals from workplace retirement plans could become larger.Currently, plan participants who take hardship withdrawals are only allowed to withdraw their contributions, not both their contributions and earnings. The new reform bill would lift that restriction. In addition, a worker with an outstanding loan from a workplace retirement plan who loses his or her job would have until April 15 of the following year to repay the loan balance, as opposed to the current 60 days.4

 

 Sincerely,

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President 

 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO

    

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.   

     

Citations.

1 - nytimes.com/2017/11/02/us/politics/republican-tax-plan-winners-losers.html [11/2/17]

2 - kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T055-C032-S014-3-game-changers-for-investors-in-house-tax-plan.html [11/3/17]

3 - businessinsider.com/trump-gop-tax-reform-plan-bill-text-details-rate-2017-10 [11/2/17]

4 - chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-gop-tax-bill-401k-changes-20171103-story.html [11/3/17]

 

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A Look at Jerome Powell

 

November, 2017

 

On November 2, Jerome “Jay” Powell was nominated to lead the Federal Reserve. The announcement in the White House’s Rose Garden was not a surprise; in recent days, he had emerged as the front-runner for the chairmanship.1

 

Three things stand out about Jay Powell’s nomination, and the change of leadership presumably ahead at the Fed in 2018.1

 

The choice of Powell does much to affirm the status quo. In fact, Powell has sided with the majority in every Fed policy vote since he became a Fed governor in 2012. Former White House budget director David Stockman calls him “Janet Yellen with a tie.”1,2

 

Analysts widely expect Powell to try to maintain the accommodative stance of his predecessor, along with the Fed’s current strategy for normalizing monetary policy. He has shown an interest in scaling back some of the banking regulation put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act, such as the prohibition on proprietary trading by commercial banks.1,3

   

Interestingly, Powell does not have a Ph.D. in economics. He is not an economist by profession, but rather a lawyer who became an investment banker and Fed governor. This may turn out to be more of a curiosity than a detriment; after all, the last Fed chair without a doctorate in economics was a fellow named Paul Volcker.3,4

  

For the first time in almost 40 years, a sitting Fed chair will not be reappointed.Presidents have commonly retained Federal Reserve chairs appointed by the previous commander-in-chief; if Powell takes the helm of the Fed, that pattern will end. Janet Yellen does have the option to stay on as a Fed governor and voting member of the Federal Reserve Board through 2024, though exercising that option would be atypical. Assuming his nomination is approved, Powell will succeed Yellen as Fed chair in February.3,4

Sincerely,

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO

 

 

    

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.   

     

Citations.

1 - nytimes.com/2017/11/02/opinion/jerome-powell-trump-federal-reserve.html [11/2/17]

2 - foxbusiness.com/politics/2017/11/01/fed-pick-jerome-powell-is-janet-yellen-with-tie-fmr-reagan-budget-director.html [11/1/17]

3 - thestreet.com/story/14364543/1/powell-seen-as-safe-uncontroversial-choice-to-replace-yellen.html [11/1/17]

4 - tinyurl.com/y8kammc9 [11/2/17]

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Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd.
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Phone: 215-340-5777
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Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd. and Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. are not affiliated.


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