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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "estate"

New Trump stimulus idea: A payroll tax cut?

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I laughed when I got to the part of this Times story where “Administration officials said the idea had not been pushed with Mr. Trump and tried to tamp talk of it down.” I can just imagine how the chatter about a payroll tax cut got started in the Oval Office:

“If Powell doesn’t cut rates and we end up in a recession, I’m finished next year. We need a stimulus! Gimme ideas, now.”
“We’ve already cut income taxes, Mr. President. There’s always the payroll tax, I guess, but—”
“Payroll tax! Great idea. Let’s start pushing cuts.”
“No, wait. There are like eight different reasons why Pelosi would never–”
“Payroll tax cuts!”

Too late!

Why would Trump’s advisors be more cautious than he is in advertising a payroll tax cut proposal? For the simple reason that (a) Pelosi won’t lift a finger to help Trump goose the economy, knowing how that would help him in 2020, and, more importantly, (b) she can actually turn this around on Trump and use it as leverage to showcase unpopular parts of the GOP’s own agenda. Presumably POTUS understands the first point and thinks that he can use Pelosi’s refusal as electoral fodder against the Dems: “We proposed a tax cut that would directly benefit the middle class, not the rich. Democrats normally love the idea of cutting the payroll tax. But Pelosi turned us down because she doesn’t care about you!” And it’s true, incidentally, that Democrats typically prefer cutting the payroll tax to cutting income taxes since the payroll tax is regressive. In a vacuum, they’d be interested in this idea.

But we’re not in a vacuum, we’re 14 months out from an election in which Trump’s chances rest almost entirely on the pillar of economic growth. If that pillar starts to crumble, Nancy Pelosi isn’t racing in to reinforce it with a payroll tax stimulus. And, contra Trump’s suspicions, I don’t think it’d be easy to scapegoat her for refusing either. She’d have a salable argument against cutting payroll taxes, namely, that doing so would increase the risk that entitlements will be underfunded. We must save Social Security and Medicare! Then she’d go on offense, using Trump’s payroll tax proposal to refocus public attention on the less progressive tax initiatives the White House has championed in the past. Rick Newman sees it coming:

Pelosi and her fellow Dems would probably embrace the idea of a payroll tax—then ask Trump for a bunch of concessions he couldn’t possibly agree to. In exchange for Trump’s payroll tax, Democrats would need to show their own political base they got something to help their own election odds in 2020. What might that be?

They could agree to a payroll tax cut in exchange for rolling back the 2017 tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy. Or they could ask for a more aggressive estate tax and use the money raised to fund social programs. Or they could insist that the $10,000 cap on the deductibility of state and local income taxes, which hit Democratic states harder than Republican ones, be repealed. They could ask for all of those things.

Trump would say no to all of that, of course. The point here is to stimulate the economy by putting more money into the hands of taxpayers to spend, he’d note, not to take it out of the hands of the rich and deposit it into the Treasury. Nonetheless, lefties would use the debate to revisit all sorts of unpleasant trivia about the 2017 tax cuts that undercut Trump’s populist image:

Not only would Trump not end up getting his payroll tax cut, he’d end up with a snoutful of damaging Democratic messaging on tax policy for his trouble. Even if, against all odds, he managed to work something out with Pelosi, there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t change his mind halfway through negotiations after Hannity or whoever started complaining loudly about the concessions he made to get a deal. And if that happened, with Trump walking away from a deal suddenly, Pelosi would then be able to argue that he’s the one ultimately who didn’t care enough about the middle class to make payroll tax cuts happen, not her.

His advisors see all of this coming from a mile away, which is why they’re eager to tell reporters that this idea isn’t seriously being pushed. Trump himself seems less concerned.

I wonder how he would react if Pelosi offered him a payroll tax cut in exchange for universal background checks on gun purchases. That’d be hugely risky on her part since both prongs of that deal would be very popular; if Trump agreed, he’d get a double shot of goodwill from the electorate, making it a huge miscalculation by Dems. The gamble on her part would be that he’s too afraid of disappointing his most populist fans on gun rights to agree to a deal like that and thus would rule out a measure that enjoys 90 percent popularity across the country. If/when he did, Pelosi would have a double whammy to use against him: “We were willing to work with the president to help the middle class but apparently he cares more about letting people buy guns without accountability than he does about putting money back in the pockets of the middle class.” Here he is this afternoon sounding more skeptical about expanding background checks after sounding much more enthusiastic two weeks ago.

The post New Trump stimulus idea: A payroll tax cut? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Epstein’s will: Last-minute attempt to keep $577M+ from his victims?

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Lotsa luck with that one, Jeffrey. Jeffrey Epstein’s will has been picked up by several media outlets this morning, showing the predatory pedophile’s vast wealth and possibly his last-ditch effort to block his victims from justice. The will signed just two days before Epstein checked out transferred all of his assets into a trust, which will complicate attempts by plaintiffs to sue the estate for damages.

NBC News reports that Epstein stiffed his brother Mark, but that’s not entirely clear. For that matter, neither is the full value of the estate:

The New York Post got it first and has a copy embedded in its report.

The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show.

He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born.

“It’s done that way for privacy reasons,’’ a city estate lawyer told The Post. “It’s pretty boiler-plate. It’s what we call a ‘pour-over will,’ which means everything pours over to a trust. …

There are no details on the trust’s beneficiaries. The court papers note that Epstein’s only potential heir was his brother, Mark Epstein. But the will adds that Mark only had a claim to his brother’s extensive holdings if Jeffrey hadn’t left behind the document.

The details of the The 1953 Trust, the instrument created by Epstein and his attorneys last week, have not been made fully public. That’s by design; a private trust does not require the same level of public exposure that a normal estate does in probate. Mark Epstein is specifically named as heir in the new will but without any direct bequests. However, he might be one of the trustees of the estate, which would give him broad discretion over the use of its assets; he could also be a beneficiary, which would have access to assets in the manner set up by the trust. Plus, as the New York Times reports, the trustees are in position to benefit if a court strikes down the trust:

The document, first reported on by the New York Post, stipulates that if The 1953 Trust is found to be ineffective, his estate should be divided among its trustees, who are not named in the will.

Jeffrey probably knew better than to cut his brother fully out of the estate, which would open up a legal challenge that could tie the trust up for years. Mark is likely to be one of the trustees or at least one of the beneficiaries of the trust, if for no other reason than to incentivize his brother not to challenge the trust.

The main reason for creating trusts to receive estates are to avoid taxes, but Epstein likely had other issues on his mind. Rewriting everything to establish this trust just before his suicide seems almost certainly intended to defend against other legal challenges from the victims of his serial predation. Good luck with that, the NYT’s legal analyst says:

While Mr. Epstein bequeathed his entire fortune to The 1953 Trust and its unidentified trustees, the future of his wealth remains in limbo.

One of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Jennifer Araoz, sued his estate last week, and his wealth may not be able to pass into the trust until that suit is resolved. More lawsuits also are expected.

“The assets of the will cannot be distributed to any beneficiaries, including a trust, until any creditors, including victims who are owed damages or restitution, have collected what they are owed,” Mr. Goodman said. “Who determines what they are owed is a court of law.”

Trusts are not magical safe zones, although they’re as close as Epstein was likely to manage. It might complicate matters for these plaintiffs, but no court is going to rule Epstein’s estate off limits for damages and restitution merely because he created a trust in prison. The trustees of the estate may end up working for a plaintiff class for the next few decades, and that’s probably a best-case scenario.

The post Epstein’s will: Last-minute attempt to keep $577M+ from his victims? appeared first on Hot Air.

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