Patriotism, Taxes, and Liberty

In 2008, Vice President Joe Biden suggested in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America host Kate Snow that shelling out more to government is patriotic. “It’s time to be patriotic, Kate. Time to join in, time to be part of the deal, time to help America out of the rut…”

Four years later, America’s debt continues to rise, so should we all wave the flag with one hand and and pay higher taxes with the other? If we do, are we better patriots?

Not if you listen to the honorable Judge Learned Hand (1872-1961), a US judge and judicial philosopher who served on the US District Court in New York and later the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit. Judge Hand has been quoted more often by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court that any other lower-court judge.

Because we’re in the business of helping donors avoid unnecessary taxation, our favorite quote from Judge Learned Hand is this:

God Bless America“Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.”

And because it’s July 4th week, our country is in the midst of an immigration crisis the likes we’ve not seen in our lifetime, we wanted to share another noble address the judge gave in 1944 during an address in Central Park at the annual “I Am an American Day” event where newly naturalized citizens swore the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America:

“What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”

We wish all our friends, fellow advisors, and partners a blessed and joyous July 4th, and may God Bless America.

Taxing Weather

Those of us in Central Ohio saw temperatures see-saw from well below zero to well above zero this winter, but mostly below. If you are like me, you too are wondering if spring will ever come. The calendar says March, but the temperature shouts January. To add to the misery (for some), it’s also tax season.

Uncle SamOur unusually cold winter doesn’t necessarily mean that next winter will be as cold, or as erratic, or as depressing. And the same holds true for tax returns. If after navigating your 2013 tax forms you were disappointed with the return, or regret any of 2013’s financial decisions in regards to charity (Form 990) or income (1040), or business (2106), you don’t have to repeat last year’s actions. There are ways to avoid paying taxes.

Before you call the sheriff, there’s a difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Tax evasion is breaking the law and is illegal; tax avoidance is minimizing your taxes through legitimate means and is totally legal.

Judge Learned Hand (1872 – 1961) famously wrote: “Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.”

The wise judge is right. So we remind you once again to contact the Stewardship Foundation. As a public foundation, we can offer anyone (you don’t have to be wealthy) possible tax avoidance scenarios customized to your individual financial needs, as well as the needs of your family or business. Developing a strategy now lays the foundation for a happy 2014 tax return next year.

Oh, and about that spring—according the Old Farmers Almanac, the rest of March is expected to have an average temperature of 42 degrees, with rain and snow through March 9, followed by sun and showers, then a few flurries around the 22nd – 24th, and finally mild temps. April is forecasted to be 4 degrees above normal. Alleluia!