IRS Increases Mileage Rate to 55.5 Cents per Mile

Posted in Tax News

The IRS has, effective July 1, increased the business mileage deduction to 55.5¢ per mile.

In case you didn’t know, you can also claim mileage deductions for three non-business purposes: transportation to and from medical treatment, relocation, and driving done as part of work with or for a charitable organization.

Here’s the breakdown, according to purpose, for both halves of 2011.

Purpose

Rates 1/1 through 6/30/11

Rates 7/1 through 12/31/11

Business

51

55.5

Medical/Moving

19

23.5

Charitable

14

14

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Artisan Q&A: Sales Taxes on Performances

Dear Rex,
We’re both an arts studio (teaching classes) and theatre company (putting on performances) and were wondering if we were subject to Texas state sales tax with these two things?
-Windy

Dear Windy,

When you sell tickets to performances, those sales are clearly taxable as “amusement services” under Texas Administrative Code Rule §3.298(a)(1)(A). You, rather than the venue, would be responsible for remitting the sales tax to the Comptroller’s office under §3.298(i)(2) unless the venue specifically agreed in writing to be responsible for remitting taxes on your behalf.

If you are a non-profit, however, there is an exemption that may apply to you. Rule §3.298(g)(1)(A) says that sales tax is not due on an amusement service if the service is provided exclusively by a nonprofit organization, corporation, or association, including those exempt under Internal Revenue Code of 1986, §501(c)(3), so long as the proceeds do not go to the benefit of an individual.

However, the classes you teach are not taxable. When the activities are “primarily instructional in nature” they are are considered “nonamusement services” and exempt from sales tax under Rule §3.298(a)(2).

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10 Big Ideas: Change Anything by Patterson, et al.

Posted in 10 Big Ideas

In the spirit of Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA site, I post the 10 biggest ideas I learn from the different books I read.

1. Forget will.  Think skill.

 

Your willpower is weak; don’t take it personally. Efforts to change usually result in failure and frustration.  Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that we each have only a finite supply of willpower and that it can easily be overpowered by emotional, social, and environmental forces.  Changers—those people who were able to change their unhelpful habits for at least three years—learned skills that lessened their reliance on willpower alone.  These skills involve identifying crucial moments when your willpower will be tested and figuring out in advance the appropriate vital behaviors to use when responding to temptation.

2. There are clear patterns of success (and failure).

 

Learn and use them, and you’re more likely to join the ranks of the Changers. Once you understand and can see them at work in your everyday life, you no longer have to fall victim to the six forces of influence.  In fact, you can use these very same patterns to your advantage when attempting any type of change – whether in diet, exercise, career, addiction, or finance.  The six factors are:

  • Personal Motivation – your desires and wants
  • Personal Ability – the skills you have and the ones you need to learn
  • Social Motivation – the strong influence of those around you
  • Social Ability – active help from others
  • Structural Motivation – short-term rewards and punishments
  • Structural Ability – environmental cues

3. Turn yourself into a test subject.

 

There is no one perfect plan except the one you design for and test on yourself. There are a million different tips, tricks, and techniques for change and most of them will not work for you for a variety of reasons that aren’t your fault.  Achieve the long-lasting results you want by changing your thinking about failure.  Try a new technique or tool.  Test how it works for you.  When a particular technique doesn’t work, you’ve learned an important fact about how you work (or don’t work).  Then tweak your plan to make it a little better, which is much more effective than just chastising yourself for a lack of willpower.

4. Start off small, but start.

 

Hardly anyone drops out of a marathon at mile 25.  If you quit, you’re likely to quit early on. Make your initial goals small and celebrate the little wins.  This builds emotional momentum and reinforces feelings of accomplishment.  Studies consistently show that people who have several smaller goals achieve them more often that those who have one large goal.  Be sure to reward what you do—the vital behaviors you take—rather than the results, which may not be within your control, especially at the start of your change plan.

5. Game your way to greatness.

 

We’re good at doing what we enjoy doing, so turn chores into games. Good games have three important elements: limited time, a small challenge, and a score.  Racing against the clock amps up motivation and excitement.  Breaking larger tasks into smaller challenges makes them more achievable more quickly.  Keeping score provides immediate feedback and orients you toward your desired outcomes.  These elements bring fuzzy and far-off goals into short-term, controllable focus.

6. Bet on your own success.

 

We’re wired to hate losing something we already have, so put some money on the line. Psychologists call it loss aversion.  We’ll go to greater lengths to avoid losing what we already have than we’ll go to get something we don’t have.  Put this motivation multiplier to work by setting a few goals and handing some money over to a trusted friend.  Tell the friend to give a portion of the money to someone else (you choose who) each time you fail to meet one of your goals.  Bonus motivation for sending the money to a cause you can’t stand.

7. Deliberate practice makes perfect.

 

When faced with a crucial moment, you’ll act how you’ve practiced. After you determine which skills you need to acquire, actively practicing them is the best way to turn them into positive habits.  No matter how complex, a skill can be broken down into small pieces and practiced in short intervals.  Get immediate feedback from a coach or practice partner to ensure less-than-ideal behaviors don’t become bad habits.  As simple as this sounds, it’s a powerful tool in your behavioral change arsenal.  In studies, people with strong and life-long snake phobias were able to handle a snake and even drape it over their shoulders after just two hours of deliberate practice.

8. Envision your future, especially the one that sucks.

 

Imagining what you’ll feel like when your healthier, wealthier, and slimmer is great.  Imagining what you’ll feel like when you’re sicker, poorer, and fatter is even better. Clearly visualize what your life will look, feel, and sound like if you continue behaving as you do.  Closely examining this default future and leaving nothing to the imagination helps break through the veil of denial and self-imposed ignorance we often wear in order to avoid having face up to the consequences of our behaviors.  The ability to clearly see this potential future can become an important short-term motivator, especially on a bad day.

9. Make peer pressure work for you.

 

Just like your parents told you, you are who you hang out with. You must learn the difference between friends and accomplices–and who in your social circle falls into which category–if you wish your changes to be successful.  It’s likely, though unfortunate, that not everyone in your life wants you to change.  Changes that you view as positive can be seen by accomplices as putting undue attention on their own shortcomings.  By contrast, friends serve as fans and as coaches, helping you stay on your change path by modeling good choices, offering advice and encouragement, and holding you accountable.

10. Put your changes on autopilot.

 

Keeping the plane flying is easiest once it’s headed in the right direction. Default bias is what keeps you from changing habits once they’ve become comfortable.  Simply put, it’s the tendency to take the path of least resistance.  Magazine publishers use this when they automatically charge your credit card for each year’s renewal.  They’re counting on it being too much effort for you to call up and cancel than to painlessly keep paying for a subscription you’re no longer reading.  By structuring positive default behaviors, you’ll likely continue those changes with little thought.

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Roundup

Posted in Roundup

Haven’t done this in a while, so here are various links I found interesting this month:

Strategic National Arts Alumni Project published by Indiana University.  Some tidbits:

  • Arts school grads are 18x more likely to volunteer at arts org than the population at large
  • 71% of arts alumni con’t to make or publicly perform their art though not professionally
  • 57% of pro artists hold at least two jobs concurrently; 18% are working 3 or more
  • 30% of artists went into another career because of school loans and debts

New York Times recently asked “Can pop music change the world?”

Harvard Business Review’s communication blog covered “Why Chris Rock is on Broadway, Or, How to Learn New Skills

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Fear

Posted in Observations

Evolution.

We fear a lot of things.

From an evolutionary perspective, fear keeps us alive. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself. As cave dwellers, we were right to fear the sabre-toothed tigers who would eat us without a moment’s hesitation. The fight-or-flight response has, so far, saved our species from extinction from a variety of threats.

As modern humans, we have the same physical reactions to fear–fight or flight–as our ancestors did. But having addressed the menace of the sabre-tooth tiger and with most of us adequately fed, watered, and sheltered, our fear-based self-preservation system has tuned its emotional radar screen to a more insidious source of danger: threats to our ego.

“The defense of ego is a driving force behind achievement in many fields,” according to Michael Clarkson writing in Intelligent Fear. Worrying about what others think is epidemic.

Yes, we fear failing. We fear embarassing ourselves. We fear becoming the guy who lives in his van down by the river.

But most of all, and most interestingly, we fear being successful.

We crave the fame and fortune, but we (secretly) worry about the changes that success will bring to the way our life is currently constructed.

All this fear leads, inevitably, to irrational choices and bad behavior. The biggest, meanest, baddest-mutha consequence, especially for creatives, goes by many names much like The Devil Himself.

Steve Pressfield calls it The Resistance.

Seth Godin sometimes calls it The Lizard Brain.

Eric Maisel calls it Anxiety.

By whatever name, “It” is the part of our psyche that sabotages our own success out of a fear for what failure and success will do to the present condition of our ego.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Joaquin Villaverde Photography

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