Two days ago we celebrated our nation's birthday -- the publication of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Happy 236th birthday to us!
The first public reading of this historic document happened four days after July 4, 1776, and signatures of our founding fathers started to be gathered almost a month later on August 2. It is interesting to note that two signers who also became presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the initial publication of the document.
From my viewpoint, taxation and real estate ownership were and remain the key factors in the formation and sovereignty of our nation. It's appropriate to take a look at how we fare in Greenwich, Connecticut with our level of taxation compared to the rest of the country.
As you know, at the end of this month most of us in Greenwich will be paying property taxes on our real estate, vehicles, and other registered possessions, including even horses. We pride ourselves on our relatively low level of real estate tax compared to our neighbors. As an example, Waterbury's property taxes are about six times what we pay based on assessed values. We also pay quite a bit less than our neighbors in Westchester. Of course, they chide us for paying property tax on cars, boats, trailers, horses and the like. Folks from Waterbury also might say that our real estate values are inflated at least six times what theirs are.
While our property taxes will be increased by about 2.75 percent, that's not the only taxation we face. There's individual and corporate income tax, sales and use tax, estate tax and other state-mandated collections. All told, according to the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., Connecticut's state and local tax burden continues to increase relative to other states.
Connecticut's tax burden increased overall from 10.9 percent (13th nationally) in 1977 to 12.0 percent (3rd nationally) in 2009. Another metric, Tax Freedom Day -- the day when Americans finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year -- puts us now first in the nation (gulp). In 2012, Connecticut taxpayers worked until May 5 (ranked 1st nationally) to pay their total tax bill. Here are the Tax Freedom Days of our neighboring states: New York, May 1 (ranked 2nd nationally), Massachusetts, April 22 (ranked 8th nationally), and Rhode Island, April 15 (ranked 21st nationally).
Remember that taxation is what motivated us to write that historic document 236 years ago. To learn more about or contribute to the Tax Foundation, go to their web site, www.TaxFoundation.org.
3 cardinal rules for being
a successful landlord
If you're a landlord and want to be successful these are the three cardinal rules to follow. While they might seem to be self-evident, it's amazing how often landlords get tripped up on at least one of them.
Rule number 1: Thoroughly screen your tenant applicants. Be careful to not discriminate on the basis of the federal and state fair housing guidelines that apply to your rental dwelling. Do, however, conduct a thorough inquiry for an applicant including a credit check to see if you'll have a deadbeat, a landlord check (make sure it's a real landlord) to see how and when they paid their rent, treated the property and their neighbors, and an Internet check. You can use Google, Facebook and other tools to learn more about them. Don't forget to research their employment including checking with their employer's Human Resources Department.
Rule number 2: Listen to and follow up on tenant repair requests. Once you've landed a tenant, it's vital to keep them. Not following up on a repair will annoy tenants who may decide to get it fixed and deduct it from their rent, violating their lease, or start shopping for a replacement property without telling you. Bye, bye tenant.
Rule number 3: Never lose your temper with a tenant. Communication stops when you and/or your tenant lose your cool. As difficult as it may be, you need to remain friendly and open to receiving complaints about the apartment or neighbors. Hopefully you can work it out without shouting at each other. Remember, no communication usually means no rent check.
I know this all sounds surprisingly elementary but breaking these "rules" will get you into a lot of trouble as a landlord. It also makes the job unpleasant.
This Week's Success Quote: "America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation." - Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter, educator and "hierarchiologist", best known to the general public for the formulation of the Peter Principle.
Ken Edwards is the principal Broker for Edwards & Associates and has lived in town since 1974. All opinions expressed in this column are entirely his own and not those of this publisher. Comments, questions and suggestions may be sent to K_W_Edwards@Yahoo.com or by hone or text at 203-918-4444. Questions of general interest will be addressed in this column while others will receive individual responses.