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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 396)

Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All

Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing in January 2017 made her a universal punchline. When asked about her thoughts on guns in school, she famously pointed to the need to protect students from grizzly bears. When asked about her opinions on exams that measure proficiency versus those that measure growth, she could barely stammer out an answer. In a Republican-majority Senate, the billionaire mega-donor was barely confirmed to her position, a humiliating turn that required Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Two years later, DeVos remains among the least popular Cabinet members in a historically unpopular administration. Yet, somehow, even as her peers dropped like flies — former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — the education secretary has remained standing. 

HuffPost spoke with over a dozen people about DeVos’ longevity, including former colleagues at the Department of Education, former co-workers in the advocacy space, and several political opponents who continue to root for her downfall.

For the most part, despite her wild unpopularity, they chalk up DeVos’ success to President Donald Trump’s relative disinterest in education, her comparative lack of ethical conflicts and scandal, and her connections to the evangelical community, a group that serves as an important voting bloc for the president. 

But they also point to her wholehearted belief in the righteousness of her agenda and persistence in seeing it through. Many of both her supporters and opponents say they’re not surprised she’s lasted this long, describing her in similar terms ― determined, dedicated, resolute — though vehemently disagreeing on what these traits mean for students. 

Her boosters and detractors seem to agree: Whether people hate or love what she’s doing, she’s doing it because she truly believes in it.  

Westlake Legal Group 5dc5b922200000c35150827b Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All

Will Heath/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images Kate McKinnon plays Betsy DeVos on “Saturday Night Live” on March 17, 2018.

A Confirmation Hearing Disaster And Troubles In Trumpland

DeVos’ confirmation hearing earned her a portrayal by Kate McKinnon on “Saturday Night Live” — and a message from the White House detailing the inadequacy of her performance, according to a former administration official. 

But since then, Trump has mostly stayed out of her way, whether out of disinterest or distraction. DeVos has similarly worked to avoid conflict with Trump and the pitfalls of self-promotion, quietly pressing forward with her education agenda. 

She has unsuccessfully worked to drum up interest in a federal school choice program and she’s slashed guidance that promotes civil rights in schools. She has moved to give colleges — especially for-profit ones with sometimes fraudulent practices — more freedom from oversight, despite a litany of judicial challenges.  

“She keeps doing what she said she was gonna do, what she’s always done and what she was hired to do,” said Jeanne Allen, CEO of the Center for Education Reform, who has crossed paths with DeVos over the years as an advocate for school choice.

Her clashes with the president have generally been infrequent and insignificant: DeVos heard from the White House early on when she issued a botched statement calling HBCUs — historically black colleges and universities formed in response to systemic discrimination ― pioneers in school choice. When she flubbed a “60 Minutes interview in March 2018, she also heard from her boss, said a former staffer.

DeVos has mostly navigated her way through the bumps, though — even when it comes to larger issues of policy and communication — publicly carrying the president’s water. 

She keeps doing what she said she was gonna do, what she’s always done and what she was hired to do. Jeanne Allen, CEO of the Center for Education Reform

When Trump charged DeVos with running the Federal School Safety Commission after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, he made her the face of an initiative she had relatively little say over, sources told HuffPost.

To DeVos’ dismay, the White House used the commission to emphasize schools’ ability to arm personnel. DeVos didn’t necessarily disagree with such proposals ― she is dedicated to the idea of local control and allowing districts to make such choices for themselves ― but she didn’t see the need to highlight such an option. And then, as the president waffled on whether the commission should look at potential age restrictions on firearms, she was left to look foolish, at one point describing the commission as a group that would study school shootings but not guns. 

DeVos most publicly pushed back against the president in March after he took credit for saving proposed cuts to the Special Olympics. Until that point, DeVos had toed the administration’s line over the cuts, even amid widespread public outrage. The cuts had been proposed every year — and were most recently pushed by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting White House chief of staff  — despite DeVos’ opposition.

“I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye-to-eye on this issue, and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant,” DeVos said in a statement at the time. “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”

In response to this article, DeVos’ office emphasized her “strong working relationship with President Trump.” 

“It’s evident in their collaborative efforts to protect First Amendment rights on college campuses, make American STEM education (and the future STEM workforce) the envy of the world, their work on school safety, and most of all, their partnership on the Education Freedom Scholarships Proposal,”  spokesperson Angela Morabito said. 

The Education Department denied there had been any conflict between DeVos and the White House on the Federal School Safety Commission, emphasizing that the secretary believes “every school and community has its own unique needs, one size does not fit all, and the people closest to the problem must be empowered to solve it.”

DeVos’ Determination

Westlake Legal Group 5dc5c2d4210000a85434c637 Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All

Carolyn Kaster/AP Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, accompanied by Education Department Budget Service Director Erica Navarro, testify at a hearing on the Education Department’s fiscal 2018 budget on May 24, 2017.

Eliza Byard, president of LGBTQ civil rights group GLSEN, recalls DeVos painfully pushing school choice during a meeting with advocates of transgender youth, right after the Education Department rescinded guidance designed to protect these students. Amid a discussion about safety concerns for these children, DeVos awkwardly promoted school choice, despite the fact that private schools in voucher programs are in fact legally allowed to ban LGBTQ students — and many of them do

“The thing that is painful and alarming and infuriating about that is there were already things in place solving those problems and they were ripped apart,” Byard said. 

Indeed, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, uses harsh words to describe DeVos. But there’s one word Weingarten won’t use: chameleon.

“She is who she is. She doesn’t pretend to be pro-public education, she doesn’t pretend to be pro-student. She is pro-privatization, she is pro-big business, she is pro-the student lender industry,” said Weingarten, who leads a teachers’ union of about 1.7 million members that recently sued DeVos over alleged mismanagement of a student loan forgiveness program

But those who have worked with DeVos both inside and outside the Education Department maintain that while she might have tunnel vision, her motives on this issue are pure. They describe her as driven by altruism rather than opportunism, a trait that may separate her from her peers in the Trump administration. Whether misguided or not, she truly sees choice as a prerequisite for meaningful educational improvement that could especially benefit low-income children of color. 

“I think Betsy DeVos has the best of intentions. Her desire to expand choice, especially for poor kids and kids of color, comes from a big heart and interest in seeing kids in America do better,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the right-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute. 

“To the degree she’s been cast as some kind of villain, that’s not who she is. You might think she has bad ideas, but she doesn’t have bad intentions.”

Deliberate and Methodical  

Former employees and associates say they understand why it’s easy to see DeVos as a villain. But they work to rationalize her actions, painting her motivations and personality in plain terms. 

When she takes steps to protect at times predatory for-profit colleges ― well, she thought the Obama administration treated these institutions unduly harshly and that the free market should be left to work its magic unencumbered, regardless of the casualties. (Courts have consistently ruled against DeVos in several of her attempts to roll back protections for victims in these cases, in one instance calling her actions “arbitrary and capricious.”) 

She is who she is. She doesn’t pretend to be pro-public education, she doesn’t pretend to be pro-student. She is pro-privatization, she is pro-big business, she is pro-the student lender industry. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers

“She’s not an outwardly warm and fuzzy type person ― that doesn’t mean she’s cold and distant ― but it certainly doesn’t mean she approaches her job or issues that come across her desk as: How can we screw up students’ lives today?” said one former education staffer.

And, according to a former employee, her most recent wave of scandals — which resulted in her being held in contempt of court after the Department of Education continued to collect money from defrauded students despite a ban on doing so — was more of an accidental snafu in a cumbersome system than any type of sinister DeVos-led plot. (The judge in that case previously said she was “astounded, really, just really astounded” at the department’s “sheer scale of violations.”)

“Pretty simply, it was nothing more complicated than an operational glitch,” said A. Wayne Johnson, who was the Department of Education’s chief strategy and transformation officer before resigning in October and endorsing a mass cancellation of student debt. Wayne described DeVos as an “inspirational leader,” and “the best example of what a committed public servant is about.”

Her decisions are characteristically deliberate and methodical. Early in the administration, when DeVos sparred with Trump and Sessions over the decision to repeal joint Department of Education and Department of Justice guidance designed to protect transgender students, it was less out of concern for those students than concern for a lack of process, sources said. 

While former employees suspect that DeVos may have ultimately decided to rescind the guidance — which called on schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that aligned with their gender identity — she would have preferred to have engaged with a wide range of stakeholders first. 

Westlake Legal Group 5dc5bffc210000ac5434c62d Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All

Maria Danilova/AP Protesters demonstrate during a speech by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on Sept. 28, 2017. Asked about protections for transgender students, DeVos said she was committed to making sure all students are safe. But she rescinded guidance that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

They maintain that she’s not personally homophobic or racist — despite slashing a number of pieces of guidance designed to protect vulnerable groups — just disdainful of federal overreach. When a group of Harvard students unfurled a sign calling her a white supremacist during a September 2017 speech, she was particularly hurt, they said. (In response to a question about this incident, Education Department spokesperson Morabito said DeVos wants to focus on students, “not on herself, and certainly not on personal attacks that have no basis in truth.”)

But these depictions are a far cry from how her detractors describe DeVos and the impact of her actions.

“She never pretended she knew anything about schools or public schools,” said Weingarten. “[The Department] hasn’t dealt with the student loan crisis. Instead, they’ve just walked away from obligations to students, or they’ve made it worse.”

Others wonder if, when it comes to school choice, DeVos is actively hurting the cause she most wants to promote. There’s scant expectation she will succeed in pushing any type of federal program ― an initiative at odds with her love of small government. Using her bully pulpit as education secretary to promote school choice seems like her greatest hope for expanding programs around the country, but DeVos is an unpopular Cabinet member in a historically unpopular administration. School choice once drummed up bipartisan support, but DeVos has helped make the issue radioactive for centrists and Democrats, Petrilli says.  

After writing a letter of support to Congress upon DeVos’ nomination, he now wishes she would just step down. 

“She seems like someone who is determined to show grit and perseverance and demonstrate she was going to follow through [with the job.] I think she deserves a lot of credit for that,” he said. “My only argument is two years is plenty to demonstrate that. She could have stepped down after the midterm election and felt quite good.”

DeVos’ office vehemently denies that the issue of school choice has been in any way harmed by her tenure, saying that it continues to gain popularity across states.

“The only vocal national opponents of education freedom are seeking the endorsement of the teachers union,” said Morabito. “They are the ones who ought to be asked to explain why the issue has suddenly become divisive.”

“Secretary DeVos is dedicated to advancing Education Freedom,” Morabito continued. “She has worked tirelessly to keep the focus on the cause ― allowing every student in America to access a high-quality education that’s right for them.”

But her last day also can’t come soon enough for advocates like Byard, who says DeVos has already perpetuated so much harm in the everyday lives of vulnerable students.

“I wish something would get through to her,” Byard said. “We’re parents and we’re people who care deeply about children. And we’re scared.”

This article has been updated to include comments from an Education Department spokesperson.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

9 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending Money On Black Friday

Westlake Legal Group 5da8c90b2100004c13ad31fc 9 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending Money On Black Friday

What better way to conclude a day of gratitude than by waking up early the next morning to participate in one of the biggest spending days of the year? Black Friday is upon us once again, kicking off the holiday shopping season with sales and discounts aplenty.

But before you hand over your money on the day after Thanksgiving, make sure you aren’t being duped into spending more than necessary. After all, this is really a holiday for retailers, and they have a few tricks up their sleeves.

1. Bogus Bonuses

One of the common ways that retailers trick you on Black Friday is by increasing the perceived value with bonuses, said Gary Nealon, a marketing consultant and president of Nealon Solutions. “Retailers will create what we call ‘tiered discounts’ that get you to spend more,” he said.

Basically, they rely on the concept of “buy more to save more.” For instance, a store might offer 10% off orders of $50 or more, 15% off orders of $100 or more and 20% off orders of $200 or more. You might not actually need to buy extra merchandise, but it can be psychologically difficult to say no to those perceived extra savings.

2. Coupons With A Catch

Coupons have long been the backbone of bargain shopping, but when it comes to Black Friday coupons, be sure to scrutinize the deal before you head off to the store.

“Often these come with a ton of exclusions,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at the shopping comparison website DealNews. “If you’re having to hunt for something to apply it to, it’s probably not worth whatever savings you think you’re getting.” She added many of these coupons require a minimum purchase amount, which might push your spending beyond your original budget in an attempt to reach that threshold.

3. Rebates

Black Friday shoppers will undoubtedly find rebates galore when hunting down deals. This type of offer is essentially a partial refund on the price you paid, which requires you to fill out a form and mail it in to redeem it.

On the surface, these types of savings offers are not necessarily nefarious, Ramhold said. However, many retailers and manufacturers bank on the fact that you’ll forget to mail in your rebate or will find it too troublesome. “Then you ended up paying full price for something you didn’t have to,” Ramhold said.

4. Faux Free Shipping

Free shipping is a popular strategy retailers use to get you to buy from them. And on Black Friday, plenty of stores will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required ― a great way to save money when shopping online.

“Not all stores will, though,“ Ramhold said. “In fact, many will provide excellent discounts, like 50% off or more, but then require you to spend $50 or more to get free shipping.” The allure of free shipping might make you add extra goodies to your cart in order to qualify, even if you don’t necessarily need those items or hadn’t budgeted for the extra purchases.

“If you aren’t planning on spending that much, and the shipping fee is a low rate, just go ahead and pay for the delivery,” Ramhold said.

5. Doorbusters

Black Friday is practically synonymous with “doorbusters” ― deep discounts on products that are limited to the first customers who grab them in time. It’s not uncommon for shoppers to line storefronts late Thanksgiving evening or during the wee hours of Friday morning in hopes of being one of the lucky few.

“Because of limited product items and shelf space for specific models, most of the stores have limited inventory. So if you’re not one of the first ones in the door… you risk not getting the actual product you wanted,” said Thalia Toha, a business strategist. Once you’re in the door, however, you might feel like you wasted your time if you walk out empty-handed. “So you start looking around for something to justify your few hours of early morning wait.”

Nealon said doorbuster items are often sold at a loss because retailers know they boost overall sales.

6. Enticing Lakefront Property

Toha explained that in retail merchandising, there’s a concept known as “lakefront property,” which is used to direct shoppers toward high-value items.

When people first walk into a store, they tend to veer to the right side. “This is exactly why new arrivals that have a higher price tags or value items that are impulse buys tend to be placed strategically on the right-hand side of the store entrance, Toha said.

For example, take the layout at Target. “You’ll notice that as you walk in, there will be a fair amount of kiosks with dollar-items… if you consider the short utility life of the product and the huge profit margins of these items, it’s one of the greatest moneymakers for retailers, especially if consumers buy these lower-ticket items in huge volumes,” Toha said.

7. Strategic Store Layout

Speaking of layout, the entrance isn’t the only part of a store that’s strategically constructed. Every item is placed with precision in order to get you to spend more.

For example, add-ons and related products will be displayed prominently next to sale items. “Often, accessories that you might not have thought about yet are placed next to the doorbuster in hopes that you will buy them, though they may not be on sale,” said Diane McCrohan, associate professor in the College of Business at Johnson & Wales University. “Retailers will set up lines for the registers that wrap around the store. Again, the reason is that they want you to pick up more items than you planned.”

8. Inflated Original Prices

Think that Black Friday “deal” is a real steal? Maybe not. One tactic retailers use to make their sales seem more dramatic is inflating prices several weeks prior to Black Friday. That makes it look like they’re really slashing prices when Black Friday rolls around, McCrohan said. Before you jump on a seemingly steep discount, research what that item usually sells for at other stores throughout the year.

9. Fear Of Missing Out

Regardless of the specific methods retailers use, the essence of Black Friday marketing comes down to preying on people’s fear of missing out, or FOMO. “For most consumers, the concept of Black Friday equates to the best deals of the year, which is not always true. The wording that retailers use for deals makes shoppers feel a sense of urgency, thereby encouraging them buy,” McCrohan said.

The truth is you’re probably not missing out on much if you don’t take advantage of all the Black Friday deals. Not only are similar deals available throughout the year, but major retailers, such as Target and Walmart, repeat many of the same exact Black Friday promotions every year, according to price-tracking data.

Is Black Friday A Bust?

That’s not to say there aren’t some great savings to be had by shopping on Black Friday. But shoppers should temper their expectations and stick to their shopping lists and budgets.

“Thanks to ads dropping long before the holiday, there’s usually plenty of time to do some research,” Ramhold said. She recommended looking into model numbers on the products you’re interested in when you can, and avoid anything that seems to be a Black Friday-exclusive model. “If you keep a close eye on the items you’re interested in, you’ll know when you see those ads if the deal is good or not.”

If it matters to you, it matters to us. Support HuffPost’s journalism here.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What is Your Bonus Tax Rate?

Calculating your bonus tax rate may seems like a prudent move with bonus season right around the corner. I see this issue confuse people time and time again, with most people assuming that bonuses are taxed at a higher rate than your regular salary.

Let’s put the myth to rest immediately:

Your bonus isn’t taxed at a higher rate.

That’s right. Surprised?

Bonuses are taxed at the same ordinary income tax rate.

Part of the reason this myth persists is because bonuses and other types of supplemental income are subject to different rates of withholding.

Of course, the amount withheld from your paycheck has no relationship to the actual amount of tax paid each year, but it can be confusing to some.

The internet isn’t very helpful either, with a lot of websites mistakenly declaring the supplemental tax rate to be a 22% flat tax. Again – there is no such thing. I would link to the sites I’m talking about, but I don’t want to give them any more exposure then they already have.

How are bonuses taxed?

If you’re wondering how bonuses are taxed, I’m going to explain it in this section.

But first, you need to understand that the IRS considers supplemental wages to be any income paid to an employee that aren’t part of your regular wages.

That means most bonuses are supplemental wages.

When your employer makes a supplemental wage payment to you (i.e. bonus), they have two options for how to treat your bonus.

Option 1:

If the supplemental wage is combined with regular wages and there’s no indication as to which part of the payment is regular wages and which part is supplemental, then the employer withholds as if the total was a single payment for a regular pay period.

That means if you are normally paid $5,000 a month and get a bonus in one month for $5,000, the IRS will treat you as if you’re making $120,000 a year (not ideal for you!).

Most employers don’t like this option either, so it’s not very common.

Option 2:

The vast majority of employers make it easy on themselves and separate the supplemental wages from the regular wages.

This is why you’ll often get one paycheck with your salary and a separate paycheck with your bonus.

If this is how your employer handles bonus payments, they’ve separated your “regular” wages from your “supplemental” wages.

The result?

Employers are required to withhold from your paycheck a flat 22% of the bonus payment.

If you look at any recent bonus payment, it’s highly likely you’ll see that your the federal withholding on your bonus payment is exactly 22%.

Just to reiterate, this has nothing to do with the actual bonus tax rate. This is only the amount that your employer is withholding and sending to the government.

How to calculate your bonus tax rate

Calculating your actual bonus tax rate isn’t that hard.

Your bonus is taxed at the same rate as all of your other income.

If you’re in the 33% tax bracket and you receive a bonus of $100,000, you will pay $33,000 in federal taxes.

The state and local taxes work the same way. Multiply the bonus amount by your marginal tax rate to understand how much you will pay.

Since your employer may withhold more or less than the actual amount you will pay, this will get sorted out when you pay your taxes.

If your employer withholds more than your marginal tax rate, you may get a refund when you file your taxes.

If your employer withholds less than your marginal tax rate, you may have to pay when you file your taxes.

A bonus tax rate would be impossible to track

If you think about it, a bonus tax rate doesn’t make any sense either. Why would the government want to tax bonuses at 22%, particularly for high income earners that are in the 39.6% tax bracket?

If you’re paying tax at 39.6%, 22% on your bonus doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it would encourage all high income earners to insist that their employers classify as much income as “supplemental” as possible.

The same would be true for income earners below the 22% marginal federal tax rate. Everyone would be crying foul and demand that bonuses get included in regular wages (to be fair, people do complain but only because they misunderstand the difference between the withholding and the actual tax due).

Finally, there’s no place on Form 1040 to include bonus income. Line 7 requires all wages, salaries, tips, etc. as reported on your W-2.

Since there’s no place to put bonus income on your 1040, there’s no way for the IRS to tax your bonus at a higher rate!

I hope that puts the issue to rest. Your bonus is taxed as ordinary income, just like all of your other wages.

Westlake Legal Group joshua_holt_authorphoto What is Your Bonus Tax Rate? Taxes

Joshua Holt A practicing private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor, Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He knows that the Bogleheads forum is a great resource for tax questions and is always looking for honest financial advisors that provide financial advice for a fair price.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How To Make Pumpkin Brookies, This Fall’s Best Mashup

If you’ve been to a Trader Joe’s, you know it’s impossible to leave without some kind of treat. With the huge selection and amount of time my wife spends shopping there, we’ve tried them all, from Scandinavian swimmers (their clever take on a Swedish fish), to churro bites and all the cookies in between.

The latest trendy snack she brought home were brookies, the marriage of a brownie and a chocolate chip cookie. Brownie batter is pressed into a baking dish, topped with cookie dough, baked and then sliced into bars.

I’ve kind of been obsessed with making them at home ever since. Since the holidays are upon us, I thought I’d transform traditional brookies into a dessert worthy of our Thanksgiving table. The best part is that it couldn’t be easier.

It all starts with a box of your favorite brownie mix, a can of pumpkin puree and a little bit of pumpkin pie spice. Did you know you can mix together a can of pumpkin with brownie mix and completely eliminate the need for oil, eggs and water? The result is a fudgy, decadent brownie that’s just as delicious as a traditional brownie. They’re also dense, making it the perfect bottom layer to stand up to the cookie dough. I like to think of them as the lazy man’s way to a perfect brownie.

Since we’re all about keeping things simple, I developed a recipe for the easiest chocolate chip cookie dough. No hand-held or stand mixer is required – just a big bowl and a whisk. The trick? Melted butter. Using melted butter instead of softened butter not only eliminates the need for a stand mixer but it makes the dough denser and more compact. This is exactly what we want, since we’re slicing it into bars. I like to use browned butter to give the dough a nutty flavor and make it feel a little fancier. I also throw in a little cinnamon to stick with the fall baking theme.

This recipe is not just simple, it’s practically foolproof, and just what your Thanksgiving dessert table needs.

Westlake Legal Group 5db738b1210000eb2c34b48c How To Make Pumpkin Brookies, This Fall’s Best Mashup

Jeremy Paige

Above: “a dessert worthy of our Thanksgiving table.”

Brown Butter Pumpkin Brookies

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 (18-ounce) box brownie mix

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

  • 1/3 cup white sugar

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 1/4 cups flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonsticking cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together brownie mix, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice. Stir together until completely combined. Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

3. Spread brownie batter into bottom of prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.

4. Add butter to small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until it foams and then browns, about 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Add browned butter to a large mixing bowl. Whisk in brown and white sugars until combined, about 1 minute.

6. Add egg, stir until combined and then add vanilla.

7. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk until combined and then stir in remaining chocolate chips.

8. Dollop large spoonfuls of cookie dough over the pre-cooked brownie, leaving space in between each dollop.

9. Add back to oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

10. Allow to cool, then slice and serve.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What is Your Bonus Tax Rate?

Calculating your bonus tax rate may seems like a prudent move with bonus season right around the corner. I see this issue confuse people time and time again, with most people assuming that bonuses are taxed at a higher rate than your regular salary.

Let’s put the myth to rest immediately:

Your bonus isn’t taxed at a higher rate.

That’s right. Surprised?

Bonuses are taxed at the same ordinary income tax rate.

Part of the reason this myth persists is because bonuses and other types of supplemental income are subject to different rates of withholding.

Of course, the amount withheld from your paycheck has no relationship to the actual amount of tax paid each year, but it can be confusing to some.

The internet isn’t very helpful either, with a lot of websites mistakenly declaring the supplemental tax rate to be a 22% flat tax. Again – there is no such thing. I would link to the sites I’m talking about, but I don’t want to give them any more exposure then they already have.

How are bonuses taxed?

If you’re wondering how bonuses are taxed, I’m going to explain it in this section.

But first, you need to understand that the IRS considers supplemental wages to be any income paid to an employee that aren’t part of your regular wages.

That means most bonuses are supplemental wages.

When your employer makes a supplemental wage payment to you (i.e. bonus), they have two options for how to treat your bonus.

Option 1:

If the supplemental wage is combined with regular wages and there’s no indication as to which part of the payment is regular wages and which part is supplemental, then the employer withholds as if the total was a single payment for a regular pay period.

That means if you are normally paid $5,000 a month and get a bonus in one month for $5,000, the IRS will treat you as if you’re making $120,000 a year (not ideal for you!).

Most employers don’t like this option either, so it’s not very common.

Option 2:

The vast majority of employers make it easy on themselves and separate the supplemental wages from the regular wages.

This is why you’ll often get one paycheck with your salary and a separate paycheck with your bonus.

If this is how your employer handles bonus payments, they’ve separated your “regular” wages from your “supplemental” wages.

The result?

Employers are required to withhold from your paycheck a flat 22% of the bonus payment.

If you look at any recent bonus payment, it’s highly likely you’ll see that your the federal withholding on your bonus payment is exactly 22%.

Just to reiterate, this has nothing to do with the actual bonus tax rate. This is only the amount that your employer is withholding and sending to the government.

How to calculate your bonus tax rate

Calculating your actual bonus tax rate isn’t that hard.

Your bonus is taxed at the same rate as all of your other income.

If you’re in the 33% tax bracket and you receive a bonus of $100,000, you will pay $33,000 in federal taxes.

The state and local taxes work the same way. Multiply the bonus amount by your marginal tax rate to understand how much you will pay.

Since your employer may withhold more or less than the actual amount you will pay, this will get sorted out when you pay your taxes.

If your employer withholds more than your marginal tax rate, you may get a refund when you file your taxes.

If your employer withholds less than your marginal tax rate, you may have to pay when you file your taxes.

A bonus tax rate would be impossible to track

If you think about it, a bonus tax rate doesn’t make any sense either. Why would the government want to tax bonuses at 22%, particularly for high income earners that are in the 39.6% tax bracket?

If you’re paying tax at 39.6%, 22% on your bonus doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, it would encourage all high income earners to insist that their employers classify as much income as “supplemental” as possible.

The same would be true for income earners below the 22% marginal federal tax rate. Everyone would be crying foul and demand that bonuses get included in regular wages (to be fair, people do complain but only because they misunderstand the difference between the withholding and the actual tax due).

Finally, there’s no place on Form 1040 to include bonus income. Line 7 requires all wages, salaries, tips, etc. as reported on your W-2.

Since there’s no place to put bonus income on your 1040, there’s no way for the IRS to tax your bonus at a higher rate!

I hope that puts the issue to rest. Your bonus is taxed as ordinary income, just like all of your other wages.

Westlake Legal Group joshua_holt_authorphoto What is Your Bonus Tax Rate? Taxes

Joshua Holt A practicing private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor, Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He knows that the Bogleheads forum is a great resource for tax questions and is always looking for honest financial advisors that provide financial advice for a fair price.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How To Tell Your Family Being Home For The Holidays Isn’t Good For You

For many people, the holidays signify a time of all things merry. The celebratory season usually offers a brief reprieve from work responsibilities, and people often travel home from long distances to spend quality time with family members. For some people, however, visiting relatives sparks more holiday blues than holiday cheer.

When being around family members hurts your mental health, setting boundaries or having a discussion with them about spending the time elsewhere can be difficult.

Natalie Gutierrez, a New York-based licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in trauma counseling, told HuffPost that visiting family over the holiday break can “bring up emotional triggers around painful memories, violation of boundaries, [and] unrealistic expectations that family may have put on them.” Oftentimes, this can lead to people feeling extremely anxious and, in a sense, can reopen old wounds, Gutierrez said.

If holiday visits with family devolve into tense situations that trigger stress, anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. According to a 2018 survey conducted by VitalSmarts, a research-based corporate training company, 33% of participants reported that family gatherings were a major holiday stressor. This is especially so in our current cultural climate, where disagreements over politics can increase anxiety and divide relationships.

Unlike the feel-good holiday movies that revolve around dysfunctional families healing their strained relationships over the course of Thanksgiving or a holiday week in December, many relatives are dealing with unresolved hurt in real life that doesn’t go away with one trip, said Nedra Glover Tawwab, a North Carolina-based therapist.

“It’s challenging to pretend that, ‘All is well,’ even for a few days,” she said. “People are expected to push their feelings aside to create these happy holiday experiences. A ‘magical’ holiday is not realistic when families have underlying issues.”

While a common sentiment seems to be to just “tough it out” and deal with unhealthy family dynamics, you’re not obligated to visit anyone if it threatens your mental health. Nevertheless, initiating a discussion with your family about why you’re not going home this holiday season can understandably feel overwhelming, nerve-wracking and even a little scary: You can’t anticipate their reactions, it may bring up emotions for you that you didn’t expect and it may lead to more serious talks in the future about your relationships.

However, skirting around having this conversation with family members will only exacerbate stress and anxiety, as research has shown avoidance coping is typically counterintuitive. According to Laura Rhodes-Levin, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of The Missing Peace Center in Agoura Hills, California, you can start the discussion by stating your needs in a compassionate and forthcoming way.

“Setting boundaries with family and breaking traditions can be one of the hardest things to do,” she said. “Be honest about your need to do something different this year. [Share] that it is not a good time to come and visit right now.”

Do this by utilizing what experts call “I statements,” which focus on stating your feelings, needs and thoughts in a non-accusatory, non-blameful way. For example, you might say something like “I feel that we always get into arguments about _____ even though I expressed how much those situations hurt me. I need to keep stress to a minimum in my life right now.”

Westlake Legal Group 5dc33ff7210000e84e34c2d0 How To Tell Your Family Being Home For The Holidays Isn’t Good For You

manonallard via Getty Images

These type of statements are often taught in family and couples therapy and can take some practice to perfect, but they can help you stick to your boundaries without sharing anything you don’t want to discuss.

“This conversation may look different for different people and circumstances, but you may even just communicate, ‘I am wanting to do something different this year, and I am choosing to not spend this holiday with family,’” Gutierrez said.

However, even if you approach the discussion in an assertive yet calm fashion, there’s no guarantee your family members won’t get defensive or combative. When this happens, Glover Tawwab said it’s more than OK to “disengage from arguing with people who aren’t ready to listen.”

Further, she explained that this tough talk isn’t about persuading people to “agree” with you; the boundaries you want during the holidays are the topic of the discussion, and you shouldn’t try to control or change the reaction of your relatives.

“If family members become confrontational, it’s important to take a breath and calm any fight or flight response happening in your body so that you may address them from your calmest, strongest, smartest self,” Gutierrez said, adding that yelling back or engaging in a fight may lead to guilt, shame or other emotions you need to process after it’s over. Your job isn’t to manage or take on their emotions after you express yourself.

“People are expected to push their feelings aside to create these happy holiday experiences. A ‘magical’ holiday is not realistic when families have underlying issues.”

– Nedra Glover Tawwab, North Carolina-based therapist

Sometimes, you might find yourself caught in a situation where visiting home this season is unavoidable. In that case, having an array of coping skills is key to staving off distress at family gatherings.

According to Gutierrez, skills taught in dialectical behavioral therapy — a type of therapy that focuses on mindfulness, emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships — can come in handy over the holidays. For example, “practicing a grounding technique for anxiety where you engage with your senses” can help when you’re struggling at home with relatives. Take stock of concrete items around you by mentally noticing items in front of you, naming a few colors you see and silently noticing what you smell.

Glover Tawwab said that building in set times for solitude, meditation or some form of relaxation or self-care activity will help keep you centered.

Ultimately, talking about how you feel is worth it. Discussing how spending the holidays with family is negatively affecting you may be anxiety-provoking, but shying away from talking about it may lead to more resentment or hurt down the road.

“Even in the discomfort of the conversation, be proud of yourself for taking care of your own mental health,” Rhodes-Levin said.

The holiday season can be whatever you want it to be, whether that means you exclusively reserve a few days for personal time, take a trip with friends or volunteer with nonprofits that are organizing holiday events. There’s nothing wrong with making your mental wellness your first priority during the season — even if that means skipping family gatherings.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

Westlake Legal Group transparent-88f14d8977847e3c87b58124930101861b80940fdfef5ef3e42f63fef9b3cb22 Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes deprived French Protestants, otherwise known as the Huguenots, of all religious and civil liberties.  This led to the widespread persecution of Huguenots, and over 400,000 emigrated from France as a result.  Religious freedom was re-established during the French Revolution, and a 1790 law provided that descendants of French individuals who had fled the country due to religious persecution had a right to settle in France and claim French citizenship.  This rule, confirmed in a slightly amended form in 1889, remained applicable until 1945, when the French Citizenship Code abrogated almost all prior legislation on the matter of citizenship, including the laws of 1790 and 1889.

The 1945 French Citizenship Code was adopted by way of an ordonnance, which is, in this context, an act of delegated legislation.  The French Constitution allows, under certain conditions, the executive branch to legislate in lieu of Parliament.  These acts of legislation, which are subject to both prior authorization and later confirmation by Parliament, are called ordonnances.  Once an ordonnance has been ratified or confirmed by Parliament, it becomes the equivalent of a law.  An ordonnance may amend or entirely abrogate prior legislation. 

The concept of delegated legislation has existed in France for a long time, under different names.  However, the 1945 ordonnance that instituted the then-new French Citizenship Code never authorized by Parliament, because France had no Parliament to speak of between July 1940 and October 1945.  It does not appear that the legality and legitimacy of the ordonnances of 1945 were ever challenged, and French courts treat them as a valid exercise of legislative authority.  The 1945 ordonnance which abrogated the right to French citizenship for descendants of Huguenots should therefore be seen as a valid piece of legislation under French law.

This report is one of the many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

Westlake Legal Group transparent-88f14d8977847e3c87b58124930101861b80940fdfef5ef3e42f63fef9b3cb22 Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes deprived French Protestants, otherwise known as the Huguenots, of all religious and civil liberties.  This led to the widespread persecution of Huguenots, and over 400,000 emigrated from France as a result.  Religious freedom was re-established during the French Revolution, and a 1790 law provided that descendants of French individuals who had fled the country due to religious persecution had a right to settle in France and claim French citizenship.  This rule, confirmed in a slightly amended form in 1889, remained applicable until 1945, when the French Citizenship Code abrogated almost all prior legislation on the matter of citizenship, including the laws of 1790 and 1889.

The 1945 French Citizenship Code was adopted by way of an ordonnance, which is, in this context, an act of delegated legislation.  The French Constitution allows, under certain conditions, the executive branch to legislate in lieu of Parliament.  These acts of legislation, which are subject to both prior authorization and later confirmation by Parliament, are called ordonnances.  Once an ordonnance has been ratified or confirmed by Parliament, it becomes the equivalent of a law.  An ordonnance may amend or entirely abrogate prior legislation. 

The concept of delegated legislation has existed in France for a long time, under different names.  However, the 1945 ordonnance that instituted the then-new French Citizenship Code never authorized by Parliament, because France had no Parliament to speak of between July 1940 and October 1945.  It does not appear that the legality and legitimacy of the ordonnances of 1945 were ever challenged, and French courts treat them as a valid exercise of legislative authority.  The 1945 ordonnance which abrogated the right to French citizenship for descendants of Huguenots should therefore be seen as a valid piece of legislation under French law.

This report is one of the many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

Westlake Legal Group transparent-88f14d8977847e3c87b58124930101861b80940fdfef5ef3e42f63fef9b3cb22 Legal Research Reports:The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, The Revocation of Huguenot Rights to French Citizenship

The 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes deprived French Protestants, otherwise known as the Huguenots, of all religious and civil liberties.  This led to the widespread persecution of Huguenots, and over 400,000 emigrated from France as a result.  Religious freedom was re-established during the French Revolution, and a 1790 law provided that descendants of French individuals who had fled the country due to religious persecution had a right to settle in France and claim French citizenship.  This rule, confirmed in a slightly amended form in 1889, remained applicable until 1945, when the French Citizenship Code abrogated almost all prior legislation on the matter of citizenship, including the laws of 1790 and 1889.

The 1945 French Citizenship Code was adopted by way of an ordonnance, which is, in this context, an act of delegated legislation.  The French Constitution allows, under certain conditions, the executive branch to legislate in lieu of Parliament.  These acts of legislation, which are subject to both prior authorization and later confirmation by Parliament, are called ordonnances.  Once an ordonnance has been ratified or confirmed by Parliament, it becomes the equivalent of a law.  An ordonnance may amend or entirely abrogate prior legislation. 

The concept of delegated legislation has existed in France for a long time, under different names.  However, the 1945 ordonnance that instituted the then-new French Citizenship Code never authorized by Parliament, because France had no Parliament to speak of between July 1940 and October 1945.  It does not appear that the legality and legitimacy of the ordonnances of 1945 were ever challenged, and French courts treat them as a valid exercise of legislative authority.  The 1945 ordonnance which abrogated the right to French citizenship for descendants of Huguenots should therefore be seen as a valid piece of legislation under French law.

This report is one of the many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com