The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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IRS Provides Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida, which began on August 26, barreled through the state of Louisiana and has left millions without power and much of Louisiana in a state of disaster. If you were impacted by Hurricane Ida we want you to know TurboTax is here for you, and we want to keep you up to date with important tax relief information that may help you in this time of need.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the recent events as a disaster and the IRS announced that victims of the hurricane that occurred in Louisiana now have until January 3, 2022 to file various individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. Currently, this includes the entire state of Louisiana, but taxpayers in Ida-impacted localities designated by FEMA in neighboring states will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

What are the extended tax and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida?

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on August 26, 2021. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until January 3, 2022 to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. These include:

Your resource on tax filing
Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.
  • 2020 Individual and Business Returns with Valid Extensions: Individuals that had a valid extension to file their 2020 return due to run out on October 15, 2021 will now have until January 3, 2022 to file. Businesses with extensions also have until January 3, 2022 including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2020 extensions run out on October 15, 2021. The IRS noted that because tax payments related to 2020 returns were due on May 17, 2021, those payments are not eligible for an extension.
  • 2020 Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments: 2021 quarterly estimated tax payments with a deadline of September 15, 2021 have been extended until January 3, 2022.
  • Quarterly Payroll and Excise Tax Returns: Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns that are normally due on November 1, 2021, are also extended until January 3, 2022. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after August 26 and before September 10 will be abated as long as the deposits were made by September 10, 2021.

Calendar-year tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis that have a valid 2020 tax return extension due to run out on November 15, 2021 also qualify for the extra time.

What do I need to do to claim the tax extension?

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Taxpayers do not need to contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

The current list of eligible localities is always available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

Do surrounding areas outside of Louisiana qualify for an extension?

The IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers, assisting the relief activities, who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

How can I claim a casualty and property loss on my taxes if impacted?

Individuals or businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related casualty losses can choose to claim them on either the tax return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2021 return filed in 2022), or the loss can be deducted on the tax return for the prior year (2020). Individuals may also deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. Be sure to write the FEMA declaration number – 4611 − for Hurricane Ida in Louisiana on any return claiming a loss.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by the harsh storms and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

If you are not a victim, but you are looking to help those in need, this is a great opportunity to donate or volunteer your time to legitimate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charities who are providing relief efforts for storm victims.

Check back with the TurboTax blog for more updates on disaster relief. For more tax tips in 5 minutes or less, subscribe to the Turbo Tips podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio

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Source: IRS Provides Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Ida

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Visa’s 54 Bitcoin-Linked Cards Pave The Way For Younger Generations To Spend Growing Crypto Wealth

Visa V -0.5% is taking robust steps to connect digital currencies to its global electronic payments network in order to prepare for a financial future where digital assets comprise a meaningful amount of a saver’s wealth.

To date, 54 crypto companies have partnered with Visa to enable crypto spending. Much of this progress comes from the issuance of debit cards using Visa’s FastTrack program, which is targeted towards integrating fintech companies with the Visa network. Over the summer, the firm launched two more products, a crypto rewards credit card in partnership with BlockFi and a debit card with major crypto exchange FTX, which just raised a record $900 million at an $18 billion valuation.

Other crypto-friendly card partners include CoinZoom, Coinbase, Zap, Crypto.com, Bitpanda, Fold, Upgrade, Wirex, and ZenGo.

“We saw this opportunity as these crypto platforms grow, as consumers want to gain access to the liquidity that they have held in these assets, issuing a Visa card could become a bridge that unlocks that value and enables it to be spent at any merchant that accepts Visa,” Head of Crypto at Visa, Cuy Sheffield said.

These projects have gained traction — crypto-linked Visa debit cards facilitated over $1 billion worth of transactions across Visa’s 70 million merchants worldwide in the first half of 2021 alone. $1 billion is only a small fraction of the trillion-dollar payments industry, however retail interest in cryptocurrencies is picking up, suggesting the market has room to grow, especially with younger generations. Sheffield says that no single predominant spending category has emerged in crypto-linked card use.

Survey data suggests that younger generations are increasingly diverting wealth into cryptocurrencies and digital assets. This is especially true for the most affluent members of these generations, which are especially prized by financial institutions and card networks.

A Michelmores survey of 501 ‘affluent Millennials’ in the United Kingdom found that one in five have invested in cryptocurrencies and a CNBC survey of 750 investors conducted in April and May of 2021 reports that nearly half of Millennial millionaires have at least 25% of their wealth in cryptocurrencies. Millennial interest in crypto isn’t limited to the Western world — a recent Mastercard MA -0.1% survey found that Middle Eastern and African Millennials surveyed during February and March of 2021 are especially interested in crypto with 67% agreeing they are more open to using crypto now than they were in 2020.

Meanwhile in Asia, India and China each account for 33% of the $9.4 million worth of weekly peer-to-peer payments volume in the region. In both nations, tech savvy millennials with aspirations of wealth are leading the trade. The Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend by simultaneously spurring savings ambitions and interest in cryptocurrencies.

Approximately 70% of burgeoning retail brokerage platform Robinhood’s $80.9 billion assets under custody came from users aged between 18 and 40. $11.5 billion of those assets under custody are cryptocurrencies, according to the firm’s S-1 filing, and for the three months ended March 31, 2021, 17% of its total revenue was derived from transaction-based revenues earned from cryptocurrency transactions. This number is up from 4% for the last three months of 2020. All of this data suggests high interest among retail traders between 18 and 40 in crypto assets.

As retail brokerage accounts boomed, the crypto market was also hitting new heights, adding to the excitement among younger generations. Bitcoin reached its all-time-high price of $64,654 on April 14, 2021, just after the one year anniversary of the start of the pandemic. The market crashed a month later, bottoming out in July at a $1.2 trillion value for all cryptocurrency in circulation. Since then, the crypto economy has started to recover. The market broke past $2 trillion again on Wednesday, August 11, for the first time in nearly three months.

While investors are still mostly thinking long-term, a time will come when they need to generate liquidity from their holdings. Speaking to that effect, Sheffield argues that even if crypto owners intend to HODL (hold on for dear life, a crypto rallying cry), the day will come when they want to spend.

When that happens, Lisa Ellis, partner and senior equity analyst at research firm MoffettNathanson noted that they won’t want to go through the often arduous process of converting that crypto into fiat because of what Visa is doing.

“Brokerages like Fidelity figured out a long time ago that they should — and Merrill Lynch — figured out that they should issue a card against the balance in your brokerage account because that way you can keep your money in the brokerage account and you’re not constantly moving money,” Ellis said. “It’s basically the same. This is just allowing people to keep funds in what’s essentially a brokerage account and keep it in crypto. And then if they need it for spending fine and people like to do that.”

These developments are unlikely to stop with crypto-fiat payments. In pursuit of creating opportunities for seamless crypto transactions, Visa is finding new ways to appeal to crypto platforms who are looking to expand client offerings. Among these upgrades is the ability for crypto firms to settle payments using a dollar-pegged and quickly-growing stablecoin, USDC. As of writing, USDC’s market cap stands at $27.39 billion.

Typically when transactions are carried out with a crypto-linked debit card offered by a company like Crypto.com, that company converts the crypto to fiat and then sends the funds to Visa, who then sends the funds to the merchant’s bank for the appropriate amount and in the correct currency. Through a partnership with the first federally chartered digital asset bank, Anchorage, Visa will now accept USDC, instead of fiat, from card providers like Crypto.com.

“The goal is if we can make it easier for crypto platforms to issue Visa cards and interact with Visa we think many more — and we’re already seeing a ton of demand in crypto companies coming to us — will have a path to creating a Visa card,” Sheffield said. “We are committed to Visa being the preferred network for crypto wallets and so we want to meet them where they are.”

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Source: Visa’s 54 Bitcoin-Linked Cards Pave The Way For Younger Generations To Spend Growing Crypto Wealth

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To Combat Billions In Unemployment Benefit Fraud, Startup SentiLink Raises $70 Million

At least in improper payments, much of it fraud, have been distributed by the Federal government since the pandemic struck in March 2020. In California alone, state officials admitted that as much as of unemployment benefits payments may have been fraudulent.

“Unemployment insurance fraud is probably the biggest fraud issue hitting banks today,” says Naftali Harris, co-founder and CEO at San Francisco’s SentiLink, which just closed a $70 million round of venture capital to expand its business of helping financial institutions detect fake and stolen identities for new account applications.

, a San Francisco-based venture firm, led the Series B round which brings SentiLink’s total capital raised to date to $85 million. Felicis, Andreessen Horowitz and NYCA also joined SentiLink’s latest capital infusion.

SentiLink plans to use the capital raised to continue to help institutions with this recent increase in fraud instances spurred by the CARES Act. They also plan to expand their fraud toolkit to prevent other types of scams, such as and, and investigate new ones.

Harris’ team has seen a huge uptick in fraud rates affecting their clients, as high as 90% among new applications, associated with the CARES Act COVID relief. Fraudsters have been using the same name, social security number or date of birth in several applications, filing in high volumes in several states.

According to Harris, his team is currently verifying around a million account openings per day, and is working with more than 100 financial institutions – due to a non-disclosure agreement Harris could not comment on which financial institutions his company serves.

The company says that beyond simply using artificial intelligence to detect fraud, they have a risk operations team that catches in real time cases of synthetic fraud – a form of identity theft in which the defrauder combines a stolen Social Security Number (SSN) and fake information to create a false identity – that would normally go unnoticed by their clients.

Harris discovered this type of fraud when he was working as a data scientist at Affirm in 2017. At the time, synthetic fraud was relatively unknown, so when he saw that crooks were creating brand new identities instead of stealing  existing ones to apply for credit, he founded SentiLink to focus on tackling this new scam. “We realized this was a really big issue and that nobody in the financial services industry was talking about it,” says Harris.

Now, criminals are creating new identities or stealing existing ones to tap into unemployment benefits. Harris says the problem is not only them stealing from the government, but uncovering the tactics they use to deposit the stolen funds.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that as a fraudster you have to be able to use the money stolen, and put it into the financial system,” Harris says.

To Harris, the biggest differentiation in SentiLink’s approach is how much it emphasizes “deep understanding of fraud and identity in our models.”

“We have a team of fraud investigators that manually review applications every day looking for fraud, and we use their insights and discoveries in our fraud models and technology,” he told TechCrunch. “This deep understanding is so important to us that every Friday the entire company spends an hour reviewing fraud cases.”

SentiLink, Harris added, focuses on “deeply” understanding fraud and identity, and then using technology to productionalize these insights.  Those discoveries include the deterioration of phone/name match data and uncovering “same name” fraud. “This deep understanding is so important that SentiLink employs a team of risk analysts whose full time job is to investigate new kinds of fraud and discover what the fraudsters are doing,” the company says.

SentiLink, like so many other startups, saw an increase in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The various government assistance programs were rife with fraud. This had a cascading effect throughout financial services, where fraudsters that had successfully stolen government money attempted to launder it into the financial system,” Harris said. “As a result we’ve been very busy, particularly with checking and savings accounts that until now have had relatively little fraud.”

genesis-3-1

The startup plans to use its new capital to build out its product suite and do some hiring. Today it has 25 employees, with five accepted offers, and expects to end the year with a headcount of 45-50.

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I’m an assistant editor at Forbes covering money and markets. Before joining Forbes, I worked at NextEra Energy, Inc. developing and implementing successful media relations and public relations campaigns in the energy industry.

I graduated from Stetson University with a degree in Finance, and have a master’s degree in Journalism and International Relations from New York University, where I worked as a staff writer for Latin America News Dispatch and New York Magazine’s Bedford + Bowery.

Source: To Combat Billions In Unemployment Benefit Fraud, Startup SentiLink Raises $70 Million

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How To Follow The 50-30-20 Budgeting Strategy

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.

Managing your finances and setting a monthly budget can be challenging. But if you’re overwhelmed with where to start, the 50-30-20 strategy can simplify the process. The plan divides your income into three broad categories: necessities, wants, and savings and investments. Here’s a closer look at each.

50% of your paycheck should go toward things you need

This category includes all of your essential costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, food, utilities, health insurance, debt payments and car payments. If your necessary expenses take up more than half of your income, you may need to cut costs or dip into your wants fund.

20% of your paycheck should go toward savings and investments

This category includes liquid savings, like an emergency fund; retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA; and any other investments, such as a brokerage account. Experts typically recommend aiming to have enough cash in your emergency fund to cover between three and six months worth of living expenses.

Some also suggest building up your emergency savings first, then concentrating on long-term investments. And if you have access to a 401(k) account through your employer, it can be a great way to save a portion of your income pre-tax.

30% of your paycheck should go toward things you want

This final category includes anything that isn’t considered an essential cost, such as travel, subscriptions, dining out, shopping and fun. This category can also include luxury upgrades: If you purchase a nicer car instead of a less expensive one, for example, that dips into your wants category.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to money management, but the 50-30-20 plan can be a good place to start if you’re new to budgeting and are wondering how to divide up your income.

Nadine El-Bawab

By: Nadine El-Bawab / @nadineelbawab

Source: How to follow the 50-30-20 budgeting strategy

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Critics:

While that may not be realistic, there are some simple things you can do right now to improve your money situation. Try these five steps for successfully managing your personal finances. Another bonus? If you stick to these five tips, your financial problems may start to diminish, and you can start reaping the rewards of lower debt, saving for the future, and a solid credit score.

Take some time to write specific, long-term financial goals. You may want to take a month-long trip to Europe, buy an investment property, or retire early. All of these goals will affect how you plan your finances. For example, your goal to retire early is dependent on how well you save your money now. Other goals, including home ownership, starting a family, moving, or changing careers, will all be affected by how you manage your finances.

Once you have written down your financial goals, prioritize them. This organizational process ensures that you are paying the most attention to the ones that are of the highest importance to you. You can also list them in the order you want to achieve them, but a long-term goal like saving for retirement requires you to work towards it while also working on your other goals.

Below are some tips on how to get clear on your financial goals:

  • Set long-term goals like getting out of debt, buying a home, or retiring early. These goals are separate from your short-term goals such as saving for a nice date night.
  • Set short-term goals, like following a budget, decreasing your spending, paying down, or not using your credit cards.
  • Prioritize your goals to help you create a financial plan.

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Crypto Price Mayhem: Data Reveals Bitcoin Is Braced For A ‘Short Squeeze’

bitcoin, bitcoin price, crypto, image

Bitcoin traders and investors are still reeling from a steep sell-off that’s wiped around $1 trillion from the combined cryptocurrency market.

The bitcoin price has crashed from almost $65,000 per bitcoin to under $40,000 despite a flood of positive bitcoin news in recent weeks—including Twitter TWTR +0.2% chief executive Jack Dorsey teasing a bitcoin payments plan.

Now, analysis of bitcoin trading data has suggested the bitcoin price could be hit by a so-called “short squeeze”—when the price of an asset increases rapidly due to an excess of bets against it.

“Given bitcoin’s past market performance, when traders use excessive leverage to short the market during a horizontal price adjustment, there will often be a short squeeze phenomenon,” Flex Yang, the chief executive of Hong Kong-based crypto lender and asset manager Babel Finance, wrote in analysis seen by this reporter and pointing to market data that shows recent capital inflows are “from short-sellers and that leverage has greatly increased.”

Since the bitcoin and crypto market crashed in mid-April, the volume of bitcoin perpetual holdings on the crypto exchange Binance have increased by 110%, with the ratio of long to short traders reaching a new low of 0.89—pushing funding rates into the negative.

According to Yang, the reasons behind such excessive shorts include “many people are anticipating a bear market; bitcoin “holders are building hedges,” or “those who bought at high prices are locked in.”

Historical bitcoin price data between February and April 2018 and then again from June to late July 2020, suggests an increase in short-selling is often followed by a bitcoin price surge.

“In November 2020, there was a temporary sharp increase in the number of short-selling positions at a high price,” wrote Yang. “Afterwards, the price of bitcoin continued to rise, continuing its bull market position. No matter if the market outlook is trending downwards after rebounding or if bitcoin maintains its bull market status, short traders have always suffered the consequence of being squeezed out and liquidated.”

The early 2021 bitcoin price bull run was brought to a sharp halt in April when fears over a crypto crackdown in China and mounting concerns over bitcoin’s soaring energy demands sparked panic among investors.

Tesla TSLA +1.1% billionaire Elon Musk sent shockwaves through the bitcoin market when he announced Tesla would suspend its use of bitcoin for payments until the bitcoin network increased its use of renewable energy.

The bitcoin price has failed to recover its lost ground despite continued reports that Wall Street banking giants are increasingly offering bitcoin investment and trading services and the Central America country El Salvador revealed plans to adopt bitcoin as legal tender alongside the U.S. dollar.

Follow me on Twitter.

I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the founding editor of Verdict.co.uk I reported on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have covered the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrency since 2012 and have charted its emergence as a niche technology into the greatest threat to the established financial system the world has ever seen and the most important new technology since the internet itself. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others. Follow me on Twitter @billybambrough or email me on billyATbillybambrough.com. Disclosure: I occasionally hold some small amount of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Source: Crypto Price Mayhem: Data Reveals Bitcoin Is Braced For A ‘Short Squeeze’

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Critics:

Predictions of a collapse of a speculative bubble in cryptocurrencies have been made by numerous experts in economics and financial markets. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been identified as speculative bubbles by several laureates of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, central bankers, and investors.

From January to February 2018, the price of Bitcoin fell 65 percent. By September 2018, the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 10 Index had lost 80 percent of its value, making the decline of the cryptocurrency market, in percentage terms, greater than the bursting of the Dot-com bubble in 2002.

In November 2018, the total market capitalization for Bitcoin fell below $100 billion for the first time since October 2017, and the price of Bitcoin fell below $4,000, representing an 80 percent decline from its peak the previous January. Bitcoin reached a low of around $3,100 in December 2018.From 8 March to 12 March 2020, the price of Bitcoin fell by 30 percent from $8,901 to $6,206.By October 2020, Bitcoin was worth approximately $13,200.

Bitcoin has been characterized as a speculative bubble by eight winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences: Paul Krugman, Robert J. Shiller, Joseph Stiglitz, Richard Thaler, James Heckman, Thomas Sargent, Angus Deaton, and Oliver Hart; and by central bank officials including Alan Greenspan, Agustín Carstens, Vítor Constâncio, and Nout Wellink.

The investors Warren Buffett and George Soros have respectively characterized it as a “mirage”and a “bubble”; while the business executives Jack Ma and Jamie Dimon have called it a “bubble” and a “fraud”, respectively. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said later he regrets calling Bitcoin a fraud.

IRS Releases Child Tax Credit Payment Dates Here’s When Families Can Expect Relief

Treasury check on top of various currency bills - corona virus relief

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it has begun sending letters to more than 36 million families likely eligible to receive payments starting in July under the newly expanded Child Tax Credit—one of the major antipoverty initiatives in President Biden’s stimulus plan—and announced the dates those payments are expected to hit bank accounts.

Key Facts

Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan significantly expanded the Child Tax Credit for the 2021 tax year: It will now provide eligible parents with a $3,000 credit for every child aged 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under age 6 (up from $2,000 per dependent child up to age 16).

Individuals earning up to $75,000 a year, heads of household up to $112,500 a year, and joint filers up to $150,000 a year are eligible to receive the full amount of the credit.

The amount of the payments will phase out by $50 for every $1,000 in adjusted gross income above those thresholds. The IRS will use information from 2019 or 2020 tax returns or the agency’s online Non-Filers tool to determine eligibility.

Some of that money will come in the form of advance payments, via either direct deposit or paper check, of up to $300 per month per qualifying child on July 15, August 13, September 15, October 15, November 15 and December 15, the IRS said Monday.

Families can claim the remainder of the credit on the 2021 tax returns they file next spring.

Big Number

$4,380. That’s the average benefit over 90% of families with children will receive under the expanded credit, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Tangent

The American Rescue Plan also made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for 2021. It was previously refundable only up to $1,400 per child, and families needed to earn at least $2,500 to be eligible for any of that money. That means many low-income families or families with no income at all that would have been ineligible for some or all the old credit (because they didn’t earn enough to owe taxes to qualify) can receive the full benefit in 2021.

What To Watch For

The IRS said it will send a second letter to eligible families with information about the estimated monthly payments they can expect to receive. The IRS is also expected to open an online portal where families can check their eligibility, update information about income and qualifying children, check the status of their payments and opt out of the program.

Key Background

The White House has proposed extending the expanded Child Tax Credit for another five years under the American Families Plan (which has yet to be taken up by Congress), but many progressives want to make the expanded credit permanent. “No recovery will be complete unless our tax code provides a sustained pathway to economic prosperity for working adults and families,” 41 Democratic senators wrote in a letter to President Biden in March. “Your forthcoming Recovery Plan is the opportunity we have to make the expansions of these credits permanent.“

Further Reading

Expanded Monthly Child Tax Benefit Will Begin Hitting Bank Accounts July 15 (Forbes)

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About The New Expanded Child Tax Credit (Forbes)

41 Democratic Senators Ask Biden To Support Permanent Child Tax Credit And Earned Income Tax Credit (Forbes)

How Much Money You Will Get From Stimulus Checks, Unemployment Benefits And Everything Else Inside Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill (Forbes)

I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

Source: IRS Releases Child Tax Credit Payment Dates—Here’s When Families Can Expect Relief

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Critics:

There have been important changes to the Child Tax Credit that will help many families receive advance payments starting this summer. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 expands the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for tax year 2021 only.

The expanded credit means:

  • The credit amounts will increase for many taxpayers.
  • The credit for qualifying children is fully refundable, which means that taxpayers can benefit from the credit even if they don’t have earned income or don’t owe any income taxes.
  • The credit will include children who turn age 17 in 2021.
  • Taxpayers may receive part of their credit in 2021 before filing their 2021 tax return.

For tax year 2021, families claiming the CTC will receive up to $3,000 per qualifying child between the ages of 6 and 17 at the end of 2021. They will receive $3,600 per qualifying child under age 6 at the end of 2021. Under the prior law, the amount of the CTC was up to $2,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17 at the end of the year.

The increased amounts are reduced (phased out), for incomes over $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return and qualifying widows or widowers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $75,000 for all other taxpayers.

Advance payments of the 2021 Child Tax Credit will be made regularly from July through December to eligible taxpayers who have a main home in the United States for more than half the year. The total of the advance payments will be up to 50 percent of the Child Tax Credit. Advance payments will be estimated from information included in eligible taxpayers’ 2020 tax returns (or their 2019 returns if the 2020 returns are not filed and processed yet).

The IRS urges people with children to file their 2020 tax returns as soon as possible to make sure they’re eligible for the appropriate amount of the CTC as well as any other tax credits they’re eligible for, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Filing electronically with direct deposit also can speed refunds and future advance CTC payments.

Eligible taxpayers do not need to take any action now other than to file their 2020 tax return if they have not done so.

Eligible taxpayers who do not want to receive advance payment of the 2021 Child Tax Credit will have the opportunity to decline receiving advance payments. Taxpayers will also have the opportunity to update information about changes in their income, filing status or the number of qualifying children. More details on how to take these steps will be announced soon.

The IRS also urges community groups, non-profits, associations, education groups and anyone else with connections to people with children to share this critical information about the CTC. The IRS will be providing additional materials and information that can be easily shared by social media, email and other methods.

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Is Apple About To Accept Cryptocurrency? Job Ad Suggests It Might

NerdWallet-Millennial Money-Contactless Payment

An Apple job ad has raised the intriguing prospect that the company may soon support cryptocurrency payments. Apple has posted a vacancy for a “Business Development Manager – Alternative Payments”, which stipulates that candidates should have experience with handling cryptocurrency. The recruit would be joining the team that’s responsible for Apple Pay and the iPhone Wallet app.

The “key qualifications” for the role, first spotted by Coindesk, include “5+ years experience working in or with alternative payment providers, such as digital wallets, BNPL, Fast Payments, cryptocurrency and etc.”

The ad also suggests the company is looking for someone who is not wedded to mainstream payment solutions. “We are looking for a candidate who is comfortable with ambiguity, enjoys thinking about edge cases and asking ‘what is an alternative way of doing this’,” the ad on the Apple website reads.

As spotted by the FT, it seems Apple is gently warming to the idea of supporting cryptocurrencies, even before this hire. The App Store listing for the cryptocurrency trading service, Coinbase, shows that it’s now supported in Apple Wallet, although it seems the functionality hasn’t been fully switched on yet.

Big-brand backing

If Apple were to fully embrace cryptocurrencies, it would give the market its strongest endorsement yet.

Tesla’s Elon Musk has been arguably the biggest backer of cryptocurrencies to date, although his erratic support wavered again last month when he announced that the car company would no longer accept bitcoin for vehicle purchases, citing fears over the environmental damage caused by bitcoin mining.

There is speculation that Musk is simply trading his chips from one cryptocurrency to another, however, having made several strong public statements in support of dogecoin.

Support from Apple would surely drive demand for cryptocurrencies, although that is already causing problems in some parts of the world. Iran this week declared a four-month ban on cryptocurrency mining over fears that it was causing surges in demand for electricity. Unlicensed miners in the country are taking advantage of the country’s relatively cheap electricity to run enormous cryptocurrency-mining rigs.

I have been a technology writer and editor for more than 20 years. I was assistant editor of The Sunday Times’ technology section, editor of PC Pro magazine and have written for more than a dozen different publications and websites over the years. I’ve also appeared as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.

Hit me up if you’ve got a tech story that needs breaking at barry@mediabc.co.uk.

Source: Is Apple About To Accept Cryptocurrency? Job Ad Suggests It Might

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“The Apple Wallets, Payments, and Commerce (WPC) team is seeking an experienced Business Development Manager to lead Alternative Payments Partnerships,” the company wrote.

Apple has long maintained an ironclad grip over payments, especially in its App Store, which has never accepted customers’ crypto and forces all catalog apps to use Apple’s commerce rails and play by Apple’s rules. 

That tightly-controlled ecosystem is the focus of a blockbuster court fight launched by Fortnite developer Epic Games. Epic alleges Apple’s rules violate antitrust laws and stifle payments innovation. App developers could accept “bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies” if not for Apple’s restrictions, Epic claimed in the suit.

Apple has made no public statements about its plans for the crypto space. The company did not immediately return CoinDesk’s calls. Even so, pockets of the crypto space seem to be preparing for Apple. Coinbase included Apple Pay graphics in a recent app update, according to MacRumors.

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References

Destefanis, Giuseppe; Marchesi, M.; Ortu, Marco; Tonelli, R.; Bracciali, A.; Hierons, R. (2018). “Smart contracts vulnerabilities: a call for blockchain software engineering?”. 2018 International Workshop on Blockchain Oriented Software Engineering (IWBOSE). doi:10.1109/IWBOSE.2018.8327567. hdl:1893/27135.

Barclays Sees £900m Growth Opportunity In Payments

Barclays has identified payments as a key growth opportunity worth £900 million over three years thank to areas such as merchant acquiring and the BNPL market.

On an analyst conference call about the bank’s first quarter results, CEO Jes Staley revealed that payment now account for eight per cent of Barclays’ total income – £1.7 billion last year.

Staley says this number can grow by around £900 million over the next three years, with double digit growth in three areas: unified payments, “next-gen” commerce, and wholesale payment fees.

In November last year the bank moved into the buy now, pay later sector through a partnership with Amazon in Germany, offering customers a rolling credit line for future purchases from the e-commerce giant. The initiative is now being extended to the UK.

“This will grow our presence in e-commerce in two of the largest markets in Europe,” says Staley. “Our partnership with Amazon reflects our growing focus on payments.”
Barclays is the only major bank-owned acquirer in the UK and has managed to slash on-boarding times in the last couple of years from 14 days to two days through digitisation.

However, Staley says “we still have a long way to go,” adding that: “Perhaps the most important investment Barclays will make in the next five years is to connect our small business banking and our merchant acquiring business, particularly as it relates to e-commerce.”

Meanwhile, the bank is working on an initiative called Barclays Cubed to better connect merchants and customers.

Staley offers up a scenario: “A merchant is able to connect with a consumer digitally by offering a discount via their Barclays mobile banking app. That consumer can then make a purchase on the merchant’s website and, if they choose to, we can instantly approve them to pay for their shopping using instalments.

“Finally, the digital receipt and the loyalty points are automatically added to their Barclays wallet.”

Source: Barclays sees £900m growth opportunity in payments

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Related Links:

Jul.29 — Jes Staley, chief executive officer of Barclays Plc, discusses recent volatility in financial markets, investment banking market share, and efforts to improve diversity. He speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: European Open” after the London-based bank’s securities division reported a 60% gain in foreign-exchange, rates and credit trading revenue as the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic whipsawed markets.
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