Friday, August 30, 2013

New York refund arrives

My New York State income tax refund finally arrived on Wednesday.  It wasn't as much as I was expecting because it turned out I had made an error (using the wrong tax computation worksheet) in figuring my tax.  This was a bit annoying although I can get some (but not all) of the difference back from New Jersey by filing an amended return which I did.  Hopefully New Jersey will process this a bit faster than my original return.  I was also annoyed to learn that although New York theoretically pays interest on refunds delayed more than 45 days this only applies if the interest is at least $1 so I was out of luck there too.

While looking over the New York tax computation worksheets I noticed something bizarre.  Suppose a married couple is taking the standard deduction of $15,000 so that their taxable income (line 38) is $15,000 less than their AGI (line 33).  Then if I have figured correctly, if their AGI is exactly $2,000,000 their tax will be $135,972.5 while if their AGI is just $50,000 more (that is $2,050,000) then their tax will be $179,487 or $43,574.50 more.  This is a marginal rate of over 87%.  Taking federal taxes into account some people in this situation seem to be facing a marginal rate of well over 100% for this income range.  This makes no economic sense, it is just evidence that the New York legislature can't be bothered to write sensible tax laws.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Millstone River Park

There is a new hospital, University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, near my townhouse.  As part of the deal to construct the hospital a park, Millstone River Park, was created next to the hospital complex.  When I first checked it out last April I wasn't too impressed, it seemed kind of barren and boring.  But just a couple of months later in June it was more impressive with a spectacular display of wild flowers.  A lot of the wild flowers have gone to seed but it still looked pretty good when I took the photo last Saturday.  The park does have some issues.  It is quite close to Route 1 and part of the park gets quite a bit of traffic noise.  And while the park is near the Millstone River for the most part it is separated from the river by a strip of private land.

The main park trail is a paved loop about one half mile long with some gravel spurs going off towards the river.  Along with the flowers quite a few trees have been planted.  Time will tell how well the trees do, some them don't look so good at the moment although perhaps some attrition has been allowed for.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Limit Orders

Wednesday I purchased stock with a limit order for the first time in my life.  While I have long owned various stocks I was not an active trader and had no need for a brokerage account until recently.  However my new employer required me to sell most of the IBM stock which I had accumulated through an employee stock purchase plan over many years.  I could have sold it through the plan itself but it was much cheaper to transfer the stock to an online broker and sell through them instead so that is what I did.  I thought I should reinvest the proceeds in the stock market.  I did reinvest the majority some time ago but my usual procrastination left some proceeds in cash (not such a great move as the market has been going up).   But I finally figured out some more stuff to buy.  When I did so I used limit orders (as opposed to the market orders I had used previously).  These are pretty simple to use, normally cost no more, and guard against getting your order filled at a completely unexpected price due to some market glitch.  Such glitches are perhaps unlikely but as news reports show occasionally do occur and it seems reasonable to guard against them.   So I placed limit orders a few cents above the bid ask spread to protect against an unexpected price spike.  As I expected my orders went through right away (although in one case at my limit) just like market orders would have.  Limit orders are a bit more work and have some potential pitfalls (like only getting a portion of your order filled) and so may not be worth the bother to protect against what are unlikely events in most cases.  However in some cases (like trying to trade an illiquid security) they seem to offer worthwhile protection so it seems useful to know how they work.              

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Traffic Report

Last weekend I drove up to Connecticut.  I took the Saw Mill to I684 and was cruising along in the right hand lane when someone in the middle lane cut in front of me and then slowed abruptly.  I had to brake hard to avoid hitting them.   It turned out they weren't just being a jerk, the traffic from people trying to take the I84 exit had backed up a couple of miles on I684 creating a rather hazardous situation.  I rather belatedly (it had been a few years) recalled that I had encountered this before so it is a longstanding problem.  In this case I84 itself was fine, the issue was one exit lane wasn't enough to handle the volume.  However if I recall correctly the problem can also arise because of slowed traffic on I84 which is only two lanes at that point.   There are signs near the exit warning about slowed traffic but it appears there is a need for more warning signs a couple of miles further south on I684.