Friday File: Chinese Booze, Backwards Bananas, and more…

An Acquired Taste for the Real Money Portfolio, plus updates on Momo, Kennedy-Wilson, Omega, Estre, Maverix and more...

How shall we begin the day? How about some philosophizing…

Remember to question just about everything, and be open to new information. Two examples for you:

First… I live in Massachusetts, maligned many years ago as “Taxachusetts” during the Bush/Dukakis presidential race, and I find that I still run into articles or pundits citing the high tax burden in Massachusetts — particularly this year, as folks are debating the impact on wealthier people of the Trump tax changes.

So am I paying the highest taxes in the country? Is this a crazy place to live?

That’s a big fat “no,” it turns out… even if I didn’t love living here (which I do), Massachusetts is actually a perfectly reasonable state to live in as a taxpayer.

When I researched this further, I found that our Bay State is profoundly average when it comes to taxes, with a flat income tax rate of 5.1%. The only states that touch either ocean which have lower taxes than Massachusetts are those that don’t really have an individual state income tax — New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, Alaska, and Washington. Well, and Mississippi and Alabama, both of which are a hair lower at 5%. Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, California, Oregon? All have higher state income tax rates… as do non-coastal states without high-tax reputations like Montana, Idaha, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, West Virginia, the list goes on, and includes most of the places I’d consider living.

Massachusetts is not necessarily a low-tax state, particularly because relatively high education funding means property taxes are fairly high in many towns, including mine, and Boston real estate is arguably in a crazy bubble — but it’s right about in the middle of other states, and I happen to live hours from Boston so we don’t feel that particular pressure. If you include other taxes, property taxes and sales/excise taxes, then much of New England is indeed in the top ten states that have the highest tax burdens… but not Massachusetts. We’re ranked 18th, between Nebraska and Arkansas, with a total tax burden of about 9%, grouped in with the vast majority of states in the middle (close to 40 states have a total tax burden of between 8-10%).

Any lessons there? I’d go with, “Be careful about blanket pronouncements even if they sound ...

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