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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Tax gain harvesting a good strategy to avoid fiscal cliff

 

You may be familiar with the term “tax loss harvesting.” Toward the end of each year, many investors routinely sell assets such as stocks or mutual funds with embedded losses to offset the current taxes they will have to pay on gains from other assets.

This strategy generally works well during periods of steady or declining tax rates. However, if you really wanted to keep those stocks or funds and sold them solely for the purpose of taking tax losses, you would need to buy them back immediately after selling them.

The IRS doesn’t appreciate investors executing this maneuver for the sole purpose of deferring taxes. So they require you to wait 31 days or more before repurchasing the asset (or a substantially identical asset), otherwise they will add the loss to your cost basis and treat the sale as if it never happened. This is the wash sale rule and complying with it can make this strategy a bit tricky to execute.

This year we are facing the so-called fiscal cliff. Among other things, the 15 percent long-term capital gains tax rate has the potential to increase to 20 percent if Congress fails to restore some or all of the tax cuts set to expire Dec. 31. In addition, married taxpayers with incomes more than $250,000 will see their capital-gains tax rate go up an additional 3.8 percent to fund the Affordable Care Act (this one is a sure thing). Under these circumstances, tax loss harvesting probably doesn’t make sense. But you can do the reverse (tax gain harvesting), and it’s completely acceptable to the IRS.

The strategy involves selling assets with embedded long-term gains before the end of 2012, then immediately buying them back. The gains accumulated since the assets were originally purchased will be taxed this year at the current 15 percent rate, and any future gains will be taxed at the higher 2013 rates. Not only is this strategy simple to execute, it does not run afoul of the wash sale rule, because that applies only to losses, not gains. (The IRS is perfectly happy when you make your tax payments sooner rather than later.)

It’s important to remember that this strategy applies only to investments held in taxable accounts, not in retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s. Because the money you put into the latter accounts was never taxed (except under certain circumstances), the IRS doesn’t care how much you paid for your investments. You will be taxed at the ordinary tax rates when retirement account money is withdrawn.

If you are a high-income taxpayer, tax gain harvesting in 2012 could save you at least 3.8 percent in taxes on your investments, unless tax rates go down within the next five years or so (a pretty unlikely prospect). For everyone else, you need to balance your expectations of higher tax rates – what are the odds that our lawmakers will reach a deal before the end of the year? – with your own cash-flow needs for this year and next. Don’t wait too long before having this conversation with your tax accountant or financial planner.

Los Altos resident Artie Green is a Certified Financial Planner with Cognizant Wealth Advisors. For more information, call 209-4062.

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