Street Talk: That one really stings

Pay it forward.
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The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce is blaming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for rubbing SALT in the wounds of small businesses.

Whitmer this month vetoed what the chamber saw as a significant opportunity to support the small business community. HB 4288 sought to restore tax parity between large corporations and small pass-through businesses, according to the chamber.

The Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017) capped state and local tax (SALT) deductions for owners of s-corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. The chamber claimed HB 4288 would have remedied this disparity between C-corps and S-corps and restored the full SALT deduction to Michigan’s pass-through businesses without reducing revenues collected by the state.

Pass-through businesses could elect to pay their SALT at the entity level while getting an income exemption to prevent double taxation, the chamber said of the proposed legislation.

“Gov. Whitmer’s veto of HB 4288 is a significant blow against tax fairness for Michigan small businesses,” said Alexa Kramer, director of government affairs for the chamber. “The Grand Rapids Chamber supported this legislation in order to keep Michigan’s business climate competitive compared to many other states that are adopting similar reforms. Now, more than ever, small businesses need every opportunity to succeed. They are the backbone to our economy, and the veto of this bipartisan passed legislation is disappointing and alarming.”

To say the chamber is salty over this would be an understatement.

Child’s play

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan is issuing a warning to watch out for potential scammers trying to take advantage of those who may qualify for the federal child tax credit.

From July 15 through December 2021, those who qualify through the American Rescue Plan Act will be getting monthly payments by direct deposit or paper checks from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to the IRS, these payments are an advance on the child tax credit, which means eligible people will get up to half of their child tax credit in these monthly payments and the other half when they file their 2021 taxes.

But some bad actors see the potential to take candy from the baby.

The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission warn to watch for impostor scams with con artists pretending to “help” you get your payments earlier, get more money or commit identity theft. The IRS is a commonly impersonated entity in the United States (according to the IRS itself!).

You can go to IRS.gov to see if you qualify, how much you may receive and how to address any problems. You also will have the option of unenrolling from the advance payments program.

“Scammers wait for events like these to prey on those who need the payments,” said Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “It is important that people take their time and double check the offer they receive to make sure they are not being ripped off. Once a scammer gets your money, it is very hard to get back.”

Catlett and the FTC offer the following tips:

  • Avoid Impostor scams. Government agencies like the IRS or Social Security Administration will not call, text, DM, or email you.
  • Do not give out any personal information, like Social Security numbers, bank account information, or credit/debit card numbers over the phone or through email.
  • Eligibility requirements and payment disbursements are monitored by the IRS only.
  • When someone is requiring payments by gift card, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency, it is likely a scam.

There is hope

A new financial model to fund a Hope College education is in the works.

President Matthew Scogin shared his vision for fully funded tuition at his inauguration on Sept. 13, 2019. Since then, the college has translated the vision into a strategy that has raised more than $31.1 million toward its implementation.

“We’re excited to be pursuing a new model for funding higher education,” Scogin said. “Rather than require students to pay for their education in advance, through what is too often a transactional relationship, we are working toward a funding model based on the biblical principles of generosity and gratitude. Once it’s implemented, students will receive a transformational education, for which others have paid. Then, when they are graduates, we will ask them — out of gratitude for what they’ve received — to be generous in response by investing in future generations of students.”

The college-wide strategy, called “Hope Forward,” which was unanimously approved by Hope’s Board of Trustees in January 2021, is built on a foundation of three pillars: accessibility, generosity and community.

“By eliminating the need for students to finance their education up front, we’re pursuing a number of goals as a college community,” he said. “First, tied to our Christian mission, we want to make a Hope education available to all students, not only those who come from wealthier backgrounds. Second, we believe the business model of higher education is broken and we want to pursue a more sustainable framework. Finally, we want to enable our graduates to enter their careers and communities with a focus on positively impacting the world unburdened by tuition debt. This vision will take many years to see to fruition, but the journey starts now, and we are encouraged by early momentum.”

Reflecting the three pillars, Hope’s new tuition model will use a unique “pay-it-forward” approach. The college will launch a pilot of the tuition model this fall when it welcomes an incoming Hope Forward cohort of 22 students. Tuition for these students will be fully funded by the generosity of an anonymous donor. They only will pay for room and board.

In the future, Hope aims to expand the number of Hope Forward students. At full implementation, 100% of students will have their tuition fully funded. This will be achieved by fully funding tuition for all students through endowed scholarships, and to do so, Hope will need to increase its endowment by more than $1 billion. All college fundraising, including capital campaigns, will support the Hope Forward strategy.

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