Friday, September 26, 2014

See the amount of Federal Tax Refunds issued for the day and tell me this is not inefficient

Below is a small section of the US Treasury's daily report on various metrics.  It is a short document and has some pretty interesting numbers as they pertain to the operations of the Federal Government.  I urge you to check it out.

I was lead to it from this Wall Street Journal blog entry.

This section made me pause.  It shows on a daily, monthly and yearly basis the amount of refunds the Federal Govt sends back to businesses and individuals. Presumably this is because after filing tax forms these entities proved to the government they over-paid throughout the year in tax withholding.

You can see the numbers below.

Tax refunds issued for the day were $397 million; for the month-to-date is $5.474 billion; and for the year-to-date is $361.193 billion.

It is nice to get these checks, but wouldn't it be more efficient to not go in such a roundabout way to keep the money flowing in the first place?  Seems like a significant amount of Dead Weight Loss is created--all it is doing is moving money in a circle and creating significant transaction costs, i.e. time, tax preparation, bureaucracy to handle it, etc, ad nauseam.

A Consumption tax? A Flat Tax?  A Something Else Tax?  Just explicitly pay what you owe, no more and no less.

Maybe I am just having a bad day... :)

From US Teasury Daily Report.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Price of iPhones, in select countries, converted into US dollars. Is arbitrage the reason for long lines?

I found the prices of the new iPhone6 in various countries at this link HERE.  They have the prices for the "regular" one and the "Plus".

The conversion I do below is just for the "regular" iPhone With NO CONTRACT.

In the first column are the prices in local currency for the respective country.

The second column I calculated how much the holders of those currencies would have to exchange in order to buy the iPhone in the US instead.

The third column shows the difference in local currency between what it would cost residents to buy an iPhone in their own country at the local price vs how much they would have to convert to buy it in the US in US dollars.

For example, in the UK a 16GB phone is  £539.  In the US it is $649.  At today's exchange rate of 1 pound sterling exchanges for $1.633384 dollars, a Brit would need exactly £397.22 to buy the phone in the US.  That is a SAVINGS of £141.78 for them over the UK retail price!

In US dollars that is $231.58 ( £141.78 X $1.633384). A lot, isn't it?  Seems like a GREAT opportunity for "Arbitrage".  Buy low at retail in the US and still sell below the retail price in the UK and make some money, right?

Included in the price quoted above for the UK (and I believe for the other countries listed) is a thing called the Value Added Tax or "VAT.

Here is the breakdown for the UK (found HERE)

16GB - £539 (£449.17 ex VAT)
64GB - £619 (£515.83 ex VAT)
128GB - £699 (£582.50 ex VAT)

So the ACTUAL prices of the phones, minus the VAT, are in parenthesis.  If you take these numbers and subtract  the 2nd column numbers it will show a much lower difference, hence a smaller arbitrage opportunity. It almost disappears if you were to add on the Sales Tax to the US prices listed.

It seems to only way to make money buying in the US and selling in the UK (and the other countries listed EXCEPT Japan) is to trade on the Black Market to avoid the steep VAT taxes.

I am sure that is not the reason for the long lines in the US and people buying multiple phones....RIGHT?

Corn prices down. My graphs showing how this affects the farmer (AP Micro)

A current event gives me an opportunity to create a series of graphs to illustrate what happens to "Economic Profits"in a market that is considered "Perfectly Competitive" when there is a price decrease AND the cost structure remains relatively constant.
Ohio corn farmers might be producing more crops, but the boom in supply and higher expenses are driving down profits this year. 
Most farmers are reporting they are producing more bushels this year, but the price they're able to get for the commodity has been roughly cut in half compared to last year. 
Western Ohio farmer Tom Tullis said he regularly saw corn prices as high as $6.50 or $7 per bushel as late as last year. But prices this year have been closer to $3. At the same time, operating costs such as machinery and fertilizer have remained high. (Note: I read that "constant")
"It's about half price or below what it was last year," Tullis told the Dayton Daily News ( ). "And our inputs are staying pretty much in the same place as far as fertilizer, chemicals and everything else. It's going to be a tough one." 
Most farmers will have enough assets to withstand a tough year or two, said Matt Roberts, an agricultural economist for Ohio State University Extension. The majority of farmers across the state will likely break even this year, Roberts said, although there will be some who lose money."
In the graphs below, I use $7.00 as last years price and $3.50 as this years price.  I use $3.50 as the Average Total Cost (ATC) of producing because it is suggested in the article that farmers are either making a small profit at that level or might even be losing money at that cost. In other words, it is the rough "break-even" point.

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