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Sunday, 08 April 2018


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Good for you Mike. Feeling some momentum on a project is always uplifting.

Projects are a really good idea. I find I need them to stay focused and make any kind of progress. I just submitted one I've been working on all winter. In the finest tradition, I immediately was consumed with regret and thought of all the ways it could have been improved... But, if we don't press (or throw them in the mailbox, or whatever we do to call them done and submitted), then they have no chance of seeing the light of day.

Ah, taxes. I've been slow on filing as well, knowing we either just about broke even again, or owe this time. Ever since we moved from Alaska to Minnesota, we owe or come close to it. Gone are the big refunds. But at least we have some decent state services.

I've postponed my project by starting multiple other projects. My most recent is a new website with my Duluth photography featured (not mixed with all my Alaska stuff). I've had to learn how to inject custom CSS in order to get the right formatting. Took a lot of experimenting. I don't have every section full. What's funny is the one remaining section to fill is supposed to be the subject of my next photo book project. I'll get it done, though, and it will help me organize the start of the book.

Here's the site, if you are interested:



IIRC, they are shipping the A7Riii to you with the Zeiss 55mm lens.

I think you should also rent the Batis 25 and the Sony 35mm so you can spend hours debating which is the best walking around lens.

(That's what I have been doing the past month and I cannot reach a conclusion.)

Somehow I had never heard the origin story of the expression, "Sword of Damocles." The meaning is akin to another expression, "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

I can highly recommend Robert Harris' 4 book set about the rise and fall of Cicero.

My approach to airing my complaints publicly: 1) I’d complain, but no one listens; 2) (if someone asks how I’m doing) Do you really care?

Consequently, I don’t air my dirty laundry. No one cares; they’ve all got their own problems. I understand. (And I understand that you, Michael, have a unique take on this - your complaints can be fodder for greater extrapolations on various themes.)

Keeps things between others and me smooth sailing. No hardtacking port or starboard.

Ah, taxes. This year, especially next month, will be interesting for me.

Here, the tax year starts on April 6th. This year I hit the grand old age of 65, on the 25th of the month, so I start to get my state pension. The first chunk of which is paid on the 15th May. Oh, and to make life more interesting, it is paid every four weeks, as opposed to monthly. Two payments in October!

As it is paid un-taxed, my tax code will be altered to take the increase in my income into account. This will be administered by the people who pay my company pension – the Pay As You Earn system does make life easier. But the new code will only come into effect with the company payment at the end of April, though it will be slightly high to cover the three weeks or so of April that are in the new tax year. So April’s company payment, and those that follow, will be noticeably reduced.

Not that that really matters as I will be able to get by easily until the state pension amount hits my bank account.

What does matter is that it all entails my pension people liaising with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions in an effective way. Retired friends who worked at the same company tell me it all went smoothly for them. However, this is me, so all bets are off.

The other problem is, of course, that the significant increase in income could cause a GAS relapse...

Dear Sir,
I really cannot understand your wailing about Taxes. Are not US Taxes the lowest
in ( almost) all the World, even lower from this Year?

Yours sincerely

Alois Mueller


Do you know anyone who doesn't whine, even only a little, about taxes? It is the human condition.

FWIW, I suspect that how you feel about tax day has a lot to do with whether you are self-employed or not. In some respects, I don't (or wouldn't) care about my taxes, as long as (a) they are fair (meaning that people who are wealthier don't pay a lower tax rate than I do) and (b) they are relatively stable (big changes in taxes cause a lot of problems).

Unfortunately, those two things aren't true these days. And anyone who is cheering the recent federal tax cuts should be aware that those cuts are having an immediate impact on my state and local taxes (which are rising) and will almost certainly come back around and bite us when deficits rise.

But putting those two things aside, because I am NOT self-employed, my taxes are generally taken out of my paycheck and therefore I never feel like the money was mine in the first place. I view taxes as a condition of living and working in this country (and most other countries). The money that is paid to the government by my employer was really never mine at all. Complaining about the fact that I don't receive it sort of feels to me like complaining about the fact that my neighbor's salary doesn't go into my checking account. Or a retailer feeling like it should be entitled to pocket sales taxes. That money was never the retailer's in the first place -- the retailer was just collecting that money on the government's behalf.

But if you have to accrue for taxes on your own, then pay them in one big slug at the end of the tax year, then I can understand the emotional response.

HOWEVER, while I don't mind paying taxes (even when I owe substantial amounts of money), I absolutely DESPISE preparing and filing tax forms. Staggeringly confusing if you itemize your deductions or have anything other than a dead-simple return. The worst part is that it is a ton of work and worry on my part to tell the government what it already knows. Almost everything on my tax return has already been reported to the government by my employer and various financial institutions. (Again, different if you are self-employed. Or a mobster.) Preparing my taxes causes endless anxiety and stress that seems to stretch over the whole year. If the government just told me what to pay, I would write them a check and just move on...


Thanks for the quotation... I guess. ;)

So now we all get to know you're not a millionaire. Such a shame: if you were, maybe you'd benefit from a tax cut, who knows.

And I'm glad to share with all TOP readers that I kept a project throughout last year, and it will pay off very soon. I wrote a book! A legal monography about photography, no less. And I found a publisher that's interested in it. Sure, it could be a bit boring for non-Law professionals - probably even more so than TOP texts on the iPhone -, but it is necessary. You see, the copyright laws of my country are based on the principle that photography is the mere reproduction of real-life objects through mechanical means, therefore there's no creation; and if there's no creation it's not "art", thus it isn't worth being copyright protected. There are provisions on photography, but they rule the photographic work in the same way the US Copyright Act rules the work made for hire - which is nonsensical. I found this so gruesome I felt I just had to say something about it. It took me seven months of hard study, but it was worth it. I know a lot more now than I did a year ago.

Yes, it's nice to keep a project. It keeps you focused and sharp, and helps you establish clear goals. Accomplishing it is even nicer: it means your efforts weren't in vain.


As someone who has lived in the U.S., Germany, France and England, I thought I would share my perspective. Which, to summarize, is: it depends.

Part of the problem is that it is so hard to know what it is that you are comparing. Are you just comparing federal income tax? That is what most people refer to when comparing taxes internationally. And part of that is because a lot of countries don't have the crazy tax system that the U.S. has.* In the U.S. you can have a federal income tax, a state income tax, a local/city income tax, a real property tax, a car tax and sales tax (similar to VAT). On top of that there are (or can be) deductions from your paycheck to cover Social Security (like a government pension), Medicare (government-paid health insurance for retirees), workers compensation, and health insurance. Which of those should be included when comparing international tax rates?

Then there is the question of what you get for your money. In many European countries, higher education is -- if not quite free, then very low-cost, because it is funded using tax dollars. Whereas in the United States, many parents save a significant portion of their income in order to afford higher education for their children. So should U.S. tax rates be adjusted upward to adjust for the cost of saving for higher education? Or should European tax rates be adjusted downward to exclude the implied cost of higher education?

Should there be adjustments to account for the differences in U.S. Social Security (which was never intended to be a full pension, just a supplement, and therefore is quite limited) vs. a European pension (which traditionally was relatively generous, although years of failing to keep up with inflation have recently made them less generous)?

What about adjusting for the differences in capital gains taxes and taxes on small, owner-operated businesses? Or accounting for the effective tax rate at different income levels and occupations?

If you earn $65,000 a year [i.e., on the lower end of middle class] in Connecticut [a high-cost state with a fairly high state income tax] by working for a corporation [no pass-through tax treatment], own your own home (by borrowing heavily) [i.e., have to pay property taxes] and live in an area with good public schools [i.e., have to pay HIGH property taxes], then you probably think your taxes are quite high.

If you are a private equity fund manager earning $1.5 million a year and structure your income to qualify as carried interest at the lower capital gains rate, then your taxes are quite low. Same applies if you live in Texas or New Hampshire, where there is no income tax (but higher sales tax).

How should we compare those tax rates to taxes in Germany? What about in France where there is a "wealth tax"? How do you adjust for differences in sales tax in the U.S. (which can be very low -- 3.5%) vs. VAT in Europe (which is often over 20%)? Bear in mind that if you don't spend any money, you don't pay any sales tax or VAT... ;-)

Subjectively, I can say that when I was working as a young lawyer in Germany, England and New York City, my taxes "felt" pretty similar, though they were slightly lower in England. Roughly speaking, I figure that if you work for a living (meaning you don't live off investments), you're going to pay about 1/3 of your gross income in taxes. But what you get for your money can feel wildly different...

Best regards,

* Don't get me wrong...their tax systems are also crazy, just in a different way!

Mike and trevor..im on a warpath making handmade books

While we're not much better organized than you, it sounds like, I don't feel the same dread of taxes that you describe. I object somewhat to the process, but I rather approve of the costs of civilization being spread in a somewhat controlled rather than random fashion across the population, and charged more heavily to those who benefit more.

"You know, Mike, all these articles about ¡photography! are getting a little tiresome."

How about articles on writing the Great Novel. Maybe something on Penn Yan regional cooking—anything except ¡photography! Isn't it time to stop beating a dead horse, and make some money? Myself and many other old-timers, have already bought their last camera, but are still foodies. Now-a-days I spend my time looking at recipe and cooking gear sites.

I'd like to congratulate Kirk Tuck for following the Psycho Killer Philosophy When I have nothing to say my lips are sealed, Say something once, why say it again?

You had poor holiday sales but are going to be slaughtered by taxes. Well, I guess that means the rest of 2017 more than made up for it, your tax liability will be higher than you anticipated, and you didn't pay enough in your quarterly payments. As someone who has a very uneven income stream, I know the feeling! Anyway, congratulations on your 2017 results. It's fun to run your own business and make money at it.

I could talk about my taxes, supervising the accounting for my dad's taxes, or the high cost of a private university education for my kid, but I don't have enough Kleenex and I might ruin my keyboard with the torrent of tears each of these subjects elicits from a poor and underpaid professional photographer. I seem to hemorrhage money these days. Thank God I know where to buy lottery tickets. Someday...my ship is certain to arrive.

Two of my late father's favourite sayings:
1) "Pay your taxes gladly, but no more then you should" and
2) "Tax systems can be simple or fair, but not both".
He was a tax practitioner and during semi-retirement collaborated with some eminent folk in writing about tax reform.

As far as I can see, as a UK observer with US resident offspring, the US is unique in being somewhat unfair and ludicrously complex.

The UK system is designed to preclude most employees and retirees from doing a tax return, and our tax forms are models of clarity, beautifully designed. Still have to pay them.

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