One Thing & Another

July 6, 2018 in Blog

Delray Beach, FL

 

Notes From My Journal: Working with three junior copywriters…   

 

We looked at a piece that S wrote to sell AWAI’s copywriting course https://www.awai.com, and it allowed me to teach the group a rule that many copywriters ignore: There has to be a  connection between the “story” and the idea. 

 

We started by talking about the fact that a piece of copy doesn’t have to have a big idea. A good insight can be more than enough to satisfy the reader. But if you are going to use a story to illustrate or contextualize the idea/insight, it should tie into that idea/insight organically. The biggest mistake you can make is to try to yoke the story to the idea artificially. If, for example, you tell a story about eating a green apple and then say, “Green reminds me of money… let’s talk about money”… that is really bad.

 

We then discussed the purpose of the story: to convey the singular idea or insight of what follows so that the reader can arrive at that idea or insight on his own. (So to speak.) This is what we mean by ‘Show, Don’t Tell.”

 

S’s story was about his experience as an apprentice copywriter. We agreed that the story was good, but the idea was not. So we discarded the idea and talked about the story. 

 

I asked the group, “What did you learn from the story. What was your insight?”

 

They agreed that it was about the importance of writing authentically and transparently, from the heart.

 

So we then worked out a way to alter the story a bit so it strongly supported that idea…

 

 

Today’s Word: relict (noun) 

 

A relict (REL-ikt) is a thing or person that is left behind (often a widow); a surviving remnant from an earlier period of time. As used by Mark Twain in The Prince and the Pauper: “Hugh deserted his wife and went over to the continent, where he presently died, and by and by the Earl of Kent married his relict.”

 

 

Fun Fact

 

The headcheese that you see in the deli really is made from… heads. Pig heads. The heads, sometimes including the tongue, brains, heart, and feet of the animal, are boiled with aromatics until tender. Then the soft bits are molded into a loaf and chilled. The natural collagen released into the broth binds the whole thing together. 

 

 

From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

 

What I Learned From Bob About Taxes…

and What Frank Learned From Me

 

Bob was a pioneer in the financial newsletter business. In the 1980s, his business was the largest in the world.

 

Although he made a lot of money, Bob’s primary interest in publishing was not pecuniary. He had ideas about how the world worked and wanted to spread those ideas widely.

 

Bob believed in sound money (currency backed by gold), the importance of personal liberty, privacy, and free markets. As a proto-Libertarian/anarchist, he recognized that governments are institutions that support their agendas through force or the threat of force. And he was the sort of person that didn’t like being told what to do. Government, to him, was mostly evil.

 

Bob resented almost anything the government forced him to do – from telling him how he had to build his house to censoring the books and magazines he could read. 

 

He was not cheap. He was happy to pay market prices for whatever he wanted to buy. But he hated the idea of taxes. For Bob, paying taxes was submitting to force. He spent a good part of his life doing everything he could minimize his tax burden. His ultimate goal would have been to pay nothing at all.

 

Because he saw this as a moral imperative, he spent a great deal of time and piles of money structuring his business and personal affairs. At one time, he had his income coming from one country, saved it in a second, spent it in a third, and had his official residence in a fourth. 

 

According to what I gleaned from our conversations over the years, these complex relationships successfully diminished his tax obligations during the 1970s and early 1980s. But after the tax reform act of 1982 (TEFRA), most of what he was doing was deemed illegal.

 

Bob was a fighter and would not bow down to the IRS easily. From that time till he died about 20 years later, his life became even more complicated, more dangerous, and more stressful. He was operating his affairs in the gray, always a phone call away from an investigation and two phone calls away from jail.

 

“It’s exhausting,” he told me a few years before he died. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have paid my damn taxes and have been done with it long ago.”

 

Bob isn’t the only person I’ve known who was willing to go to great lengths to stiff the IRS. JN, an important mentor of mine, spent a small fortune over the years doing many of the same things Bob did. Like Bob, he had minimal success in reducing his taxes. And like Bob, he eventually came to the conclusion that the effort was a hugely expensive and frustrating waste of time.

 

Frank had the same disposition towards taxes and was jumping through the same hoops as Bob and JN to achieve his tax goals. When I started working with him 25 years ago, I gave him the benefit of what I had already learned. I told him the only risk-free way of significantly reducing taxes was to live in a state that does not tax its residents on their income. Florida, my home state, is one of them. I told Frank that if he was serious about paying the taxman less, he should establish residency there.

 

He didn’t like the idea and stayed where he was. But he finally acknowledged that I knew what I was talking about and established Florida residency.

 

I knew what I was talking about because I had edited several newsletters early in my career that gave me an inside view on how governments behave when it comes to taxation. What I came to understand was this: There is nothing more important to them than to get every tax dollar they can get.

 

Tax reduction and/or avoidance strategies are always and necessarily complicated. Some of them can save you little. But most of them are expensive and risky and save you nothing at all. 

 

And if a new tax strategy does work, the taxing authorities attack it and often make it retroactively illegal. Anyone who has benefited from the strategy is forced to “give back” the savings and sometimes pay a penalty as well.

 

The bottom line is this: Like it or not, government has all the power it needs to force its citizens to do what it wants. And the number one thing all governments want is income. Since governments don’t produce wealth, they must get by taxing (forced confiscation) you.

 

You can hate it. You can complain about it. And every once in a while, you may see  a temporary reduction in your overall tax burden. But the general trend of taxation is always upwards because the natural instinct of government is to grow ever larger and, thus, hungrier for taxes.

 

So what can you do?

 

Other than taking the standard deductions, there is one thing you can do that can make a big difference in your tax obligation: Move to another state.

 

Below is a chart that breaks down tax burden by state, from highest burden to lowest.

 

My state, Florida, currently ranks 45. The only states that score better are New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alaska, and Delaware.

 

I feel good about my choice. How about you?

 

 

Overall Tax Burden by State

 

Overall Rank

State

Total Tax Burden
(%)

Property Tax Burden
(%)

Individual Income Tax Burden
(%)

Total Sales & Excise Tax Burden
(%)

1

New York

12.94%

4.55%

4.76%

3.63%

2

Hawaii

11.27%

2.11%

2.64%

6.52%

3

Vermont

10.75%

4.96%

2.29%

3.50%

4

Maine

10.73%

4.65%

2.58%

3.50%

5

Minnesota

10.24%

2.87%

3.59%

3.78%

6

Connecticut

10.23%

4.16%

3.24%

2.83%

7

New Jersey

10.14%

5.31%

2.32%

2.51%

8

Rhode Island

10.09%

4.80%

2.15%

3.14%

9

Illinois

10.00%

4.14%

2.66%

3.20%

10

California

9.52%

2.72%

3.44%

3.36%

11

Wisconsin

9.44%

3.73%

2.66%

3.05%

12

Maryland

9.38%

2.76%

3.88%

2.74%

13

Ohio

9.15%

2.85%

2.66%

3.64%

14

West Virginia

9.13%

2.38%

2.68%

4.07%

15

Arkansas

9.12%

1.79%

2.33%

5.00%

16

Nebraska

9.07%

3.64%

2.33%

3.10%

17

Mississippi

9.02%

2.68%

1.63%

4.71%

18

Massachusetts

9.01%

3.66%

3.29%

2.06%

19

Iowa

8.96%

3.43%

2.40%

3.13%

20

Kansas

8.72%

3.09%

1.87%

3.76%

20

New Mexico

8.72%

2.00%

1.70%

5.02%

22

Kentucky

8.71%

1.99%

3.05%

3.67%

23

Indiana

8.63%

2.40%

2.26%

3.97%

24

Pennsylvania

8.52%

2.93%

2.54%

3.05%

25

Utah

8.51%

2.57%

2.61%

3.33%

26

Michigan

8.48%

3.26%

2.05%

3.17%

27

Oregon

8.40%

3.24%

4.02%

1.14%

28

North Carolina

8.33%

2.42%

2.66%

3.25%

29

Louisiana

8.29%

2.01%

1.42%

4.86%

30

Nevada

8.25%

2.35%

0.00%

5.90%

31

Arizona

8.22%

2.59%

1.35%

4.28%

32

Georgia

8.20%

2.80%

2.29%

3.11%

33

Washington

8.18%

2.71%

0.00%

5.47%

34

Texas

7.99%

3.57%

0.00%

4.42%

35

Colorado

7.97%

2.74%

2.12%

3.11%

36

North Dakota

7.93%

1.94%

1.16%

4.83%

37

South Carolina

7.82%

2.93%

1.92%

2.97%

38

Missouri

7.77%

2.34%

2.28%

3.15%

39

Idaho

7.75%

2.50%

2.20%

3.05%

40

Virginia

7.60%

2.91%

2.61%

2.08%

41

Montana

7.51%

3.61%

2.56%

1.34%

42

Wyoming

7.29%

3.77%

0.00%

3.52%

43

Alabama

7.19%

1.41%

1.85%

3.93%

44

South Dakota

7.12%

2.83%

0.00%

4.29%

45

Florida

6.79%

2.76%

0.00%

4.03%

46

New Hampshire

6.70%

5.33%

0.13%

1.24%

47

Oklahoma

6.61%

1.38%

1.69%

3.54%

48

Tennessee

6.45%

2.06%

0.09%

4.30%

49

Alaska

6.27%

4.84%

0.00%

1.43%

50

Delaware

5.59%

1.83%

2.59%

1.17%

 

 

Worth Quoting

“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.” – Edith Stillwell

 

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