JUST PLAIN TALK: Tax bill review

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

While twice as many disapprove of the new tax bill as support it, let’s look at the good side. Importantly, the conference committee whited out the “first in, first out” (FIFO) proposal. No doubt in response to eagle-eyed financial writers across the nation.

As mentioned last week, this Orwellian notion applied only to individuals while excluding mutual funds’ trading. Plus, individuals can still donate appreciated securities to qualified charities; earlier iterations voided that option. Americans got a civics lesson, too. The House of Representatives passes a bill, the Senate passes their version, and it goes to a conference committee to iron out differences. Finally, according to the nonpartisan Center for Tax Policy, 80 percent of Americans will pay lower taxes.

Investment News, which bills itself as “The Leading Information Source for Financial Advisors,” burned Congress in an editorial earlier this month. To them, the bill “barely gets a passing grade.” The big weight, justifiably so, was Congress ramming the legislation without due consideration. In 1986, the last big tax overhaul the House Ways and Means Committee had 30 days of hearings then spent 20 days drafting it. Back then the Senate held over 30 hearings as well. This go-round though Congress spent less than seven weeks on it with zero hearings. As for process Investment News give Congress an “F.”

If the goals were to simplify the tax code and lower corporate rates there was a simple solution. Cut the levy and eliminate tax breaks to pay for it, problem solved. A refundable tax credit would have provided a middle class break, too. On the bill’s details Investment News gives Congress a C minus, “at best.” We were assured we could file our tax returns on a postcard, but the mishmash of a tax bill does nothing for simplification. If you have a son or daughter in college encourage them to get an accounting degree, this bill is manna from heaven for CPAs.

While I don’t own any Doubleline Funds, I respect Jeffery Gundlach, Doubleline Captial’s CEO. Whenever Gundlach is quoted I always catch his insight. In 2016, Gundlach was an early Trump supporter and predicted his victory when Trump was a long shot. Regarding the tax cut, Gundlach is circumspect. The deficit bothers him plus the economy is already growing,”Why cut taxes?” he speculates. Doubleline has a deep field of bond mutual funds. The day Congress signed off on the tax bill, the yield on the 10-year U.S Treasury note spiked. When bond yields rise, prices go down. The Federal Reserve sets short-term rates, but financial markets determine long-term rates. If the projected deficits concern Brother Gundlach, be wary.

An underappreciated investing skill is having your career coincide with a 30-year cycle of declining interest rates.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.