Strange Visitor – A Christmas Story

Back in December 1979 I was a brand new missionary for the LDS Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sometimes called the Mormons) This was sent to me in a package I received from home.  I thought I would share it with all my friends in Cyberspace. I didn’t write this and I don’t know who did. Please enjoy it.


            I had just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree.

He placed his fingers over his lips so I wouldn’t cry out. “What are you doing…? I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw that he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.

He then answered me with the simple statement of “Teach the Children.” I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought a miniature toy bag from behind the tree.

As I stood there in my night shirt bewildered, Santa again said, “Teach the Children.” My perplexed expression still showed in the near darkness.

“Teach them the old meaning of Christmas… the meaning that Christmas now-a-days has forgotten.”

I started to say, “How can I…?”  when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant star.

“Teach the children, the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a Savior for the world and a sign of the fulfillment of that promise was the great star of the East. The star now reminds us of God’s love for mankind and of God now fulfilling His promise. The countless shining stars at night…one for each man…now show the burning hope of all mankind.”

Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas ornament.

“Teach the children, red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all people by the Savior.”

“Christ gave his life and shed his blood that every man might have God’s gift to all, eternal life. Red is deep, intense, vivid…it is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God.”

As Mr. Claus was twisting and pulling another object out of his bag, I heard the kitchen clock strike twelve. I wanted to say something but he went right on.

“Teach the children,” he said as the twisting and pulling suddenly dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag.

Here was the second color of Christmas. “The pure color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round,” he said.

“This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward…symbolic of man’s returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man’s best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him, formed his furniture.”

Santa’s eyes were beginning to twinkle now as he stood there. Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound. As it grew louder and louder, it seemed like the sound of long ago.

“Teach the children, that as the lost sheep are found by the found by the sound of the bell, so should it ring for man to return to the fold…it means guidance and return, it further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Who is there among you if his son asks for bread will give him a stone?”

As the soft sharp sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast an eerie glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.

“Teach the children,” whispered Santa, “That the candle shows man’s thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first candles were placed on the Christmas tree…they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. Safety now has removed the candles from the tree and the colored lights have taken over in that remembrance.”

Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow ribbon and said, “A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man.”

“We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied…all of us together, with the bonds of goodwill toward each other. Goodwill forever is the message of the bow.”

Now my mind began to wonder what else old Santa might have in his bag. Instead of reaching in his bag, he slung it over his shoulder and began to reach upon the tree.

I thought he was hungry as he reached for a candy cane, purposely placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.

“Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep of the fold. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother’s keeper.

Santa then paused; he seemed to realized he should be on his way. Later would be his big day. As he looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed my admiration for this night. He was his old self as he approached the front door. The twinkle in his eyes gave Santa away; I knew that he wasn’t through yet. He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, “Please teach the children, the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children.”

I pondered and wondered and thrilled with delight,

As I sat and viewed all those symbols at night.

I dozed as I sat in the soft candle light,

My thoughts were of Santa and all he made right.

To give and help, to love and to serve

Are the best things of life all men can deserve.

Old Santa Claus, that jolly old elf,

Is the very best symbol of Christmas itself.

He’s the sign of the gift of love and life,

The end of evil, the ceasing of strife.

His message to me on this pre-Christmas night,

Has opened a treasure of deepest insight.

The one thing on earth we all we all out to do,

Is the teaching of children the right and the true?


Health Reimbursement Arrangement or Account (HRA)

It has been much to long since my last post. My life has been pretty hectic lately. This is a post that I have wanted to put up for some time.

The last few months I have been doing some work with a company who among other things works with Fortune 500 companies and their retirees. One thing that many of these companies do is provide funds for those retirees to help them pay for their Medicare Supplement plans and other medical expenses through a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). This begs the question: what is a HRA?

A HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement also sometimes called a Health Reimbursement Account) is a tax qualified, employer established benefit plan that can be used as part of a company’s total health benefit package. This can be for current and former employees (typically retirees in my experience) alike.

The employer has a great deal of flexibility in plan design and offering various combinations of benefits. The employee/retiree does not have to be covered by any other health care plan to participate. (Although the employer can structure it to require certain types of benefits in order to qualify)

According to IRS Publication 969:

A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) must be funded solely by an employer. The contribution cannot be paid through a voluntary salary reduction agreement on the part of an employee. Employees (or retirees) are reimbursed tax free for qualified medical expenses up to a maximum dollar amount for a coverage period. An HRA may be offered with other health plans, including FSA’s.

  • Unlike HSAs or Archer MSAs which must be reported on Form 1040 or Form 1040NR, there are no reporting requirements for HRAs on your income tax form.

What are some of the benefits of an HRA?

  • Contributions made by the employer can be excluded from gross income.
  • Reimbursements may be tax free if you pay qualified medical expenses.

Generally, qualified medical expenses are those that are eligible for the medical & dental expense deduction on Form 1040 Schedule A. They also include health insurance premiums, long term care coverage and amounts not covered under another health plan.

  • Any unused amounts in the HRA can be carried forward for reimbursements in later years.
  • CAUTION: You cannot claim a reimbursement from an HRA and deduct those same expenses on Schedule A.

 Contribution Limits:

There is no limit on the amount of money the employer can contribute to the accounts. Additionally, the maximum reimbursement amount credited under the HRA in the future may be increased or decreased by amounts not previously used.

Balances remaining in the HRA at the end of the year can generally be carried over to the next year. The employer is not permitted to refund any part of the balance to you. These amounts can never be used for anything but reimbursements for qualified medical expenses.

Distributions from an HRA:

Generally, distributions from an HRA must be paid to reimburse you for qualified medical expenses. The date the expense was incurred must be on or after the date of enrollment into the HRA. Plans can be structured in such a way as to be paid to a designated beneficiary. Some of those individuals include:

Current and former employees, spouses (including surviving spouses), dependents of those employees among others.

In order for a HRA to maintain tax-qualified status, employers must comply with certain requirements that apply to certain accident and health plans.  (See Publication 15-B)




Hope Rising 9/11 Bronze Monument Unveiling

Yesterday I had the opportunity/privilege to go to the unveiling of a sculpture called Hope Rising – To Lift a Nation which is modeled after the famous  photo in this post. The location of this heroic – sized (9 ft.) bronze monument? Sandy, Utah.  The sculptor is world-renowned Stan Watts who was granted permission to do so – even to the point of the permission of the firefighters in the photo.

This monument stands at the head of the original Healing Field near Sandy City Hall.

The Healing Field contains an American flag for each of the victims of 9/11.  A section for each of the following:  Flight 93, Flight 77, Pentagon, Flight 175 and Flight 11 as well as all those in the World Trade Center. Each flag has a card with a card on it with the name of the victim and some personal information about each one.

Of course there were speeches by local politicians, US Air Force, fire officials – including one who spent time at Ground Zero assisting with the clean up and other notables. Frank Layden, former Utah Jazz coach, general manager and president who was raised in Brooklyn. Former NBA player Thurl “Big T” Bailey among others. Just prior to the unveiling 3000 white balloons were released into a beautiful blue September sky. Overhead an eagle circled. A Life Flight helicopter, swooped over the crowd, paused over the field of flags and dipped its nose in salute.

There was a “Fire Ride” for local Harley riders – there were over 1000 bikers from Sandy to Ogden for the unveiling of another monument that will one day become the centerpiece of a larger America’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial that will include the names of firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. From stock Honda Gold Wings to custom choppers and everything in between. I spoke to a guy – a retired Provo Fire Department Captain, who had a gorgeous Harley Davidson Firefighter edition that he had added some custom touches to. Flames (“real fire flames”), a mural on the back of the saddlebags that depicted a firefighter holding a hose on the left bag and on the right in full fire gear walking away with “Jolley” and PFD on his fire coat on the right bag. The saddlebags also had faint American flags on the sides of the saddlebags.  He had also added a plate on the tank that had all 343 firefighters names that perished that day. I am sure I am missing some things, but that isn’t the point.

The point is, the diversity that was present there. The stage was provided by Lehi City, fire trucks from North Tooele County, Salt Lake City, Sandy, Murray, West Valley City, among others.  People from all walks of life.  One thing I noticed is that many of these bikers were combat veterans. One had a patch identifying him as a member of the 82nd Airborne.

It was an honor to be able to participate in this event.  If you live in the area, I encourage you to pay a visit to the monument.  And if you aren’t and have an opportunity to visit the Salt Lake City area, take time to visit the monument. It is a short drive south of downtown.

What were you doing the morning the Towers came down?

I imagine many of us do remember what we were doing that fateful morning ten years ago Sunday. (It happened on a Tuesday though)

The families and friends of the fallen so much more so than the rest of us. While I didn’t personally know anyone who died in the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that day, I had a couple of co-workers (two brothers and their mother) at the time lose a family member to the attack on the Pentagon. His name is Brady Howell and he worked for the Director of Naval Intelligence where he was a management intern.  I mention this partly because my memories surrounding that time include him.

I know what I was doing.

Three days earlier (September 8, 2001) I had just run my third half marathon in five weeks as part of my training for the St. George (UT) Marathon on October 6th.  The race on the 8th was run in 1:54:12 – the second fastest of the three. On the morning of September 11, I had ten miles planned including 10 800 meter intervals with rest intervals at about 3:30 on the Jordan High School track near my home. Ran to the track as a warm up (about 1.5 miles), did my workout averaging 3:58 for all 10, then ran home. It was about 60 Fahrenheit that morning here in Salt Lake City.

I got home from my run and was in the bedroom changing (this was about 6:45 am MT/8:45 am ET) and the morning news was on when I saw video of the first plane hitting the tower. My wife was in the bathroom and I recall saying to her “come here, you have to see this. A plane just hit the World Trade Center in New York” or something to that effect.  According to Wikipedia the timeline for the second tower being hit was just after 9:00 am ET and the Pentagon about 30 minutes or so after that. Those images are as vivid today as they were ten years ago.  Of course at the office there was a lot of talk about it and the images of people huddled around a television or similar type gatherings for much of the day.

After a while, I had to force myself to not look  at the media reports as I had deadlines to meet. I know that sounds a little cold, but I still had to meet those deadlines. At the time I worked for a network marketing company in the tax department and I had sales tax returns due and only had a few days left to complete everything and get them sent off in time so penalties were not incurred.

What I found to be very eerie was how quiet things became after the President/FAA grounded all flights.

I run very early in the morning, so it was really noticeable –not only the sounds but the lack of landing lights. All the flags at half-staff. At the end of a run that first Saturday I ran through a park near my home and noticed – really noticed all the families in the park. It seemed like more families were out that day for some reason.  Another unique thing I experienced that year was at the marathon. It was my third marathon, but first St. George. Just the atmosphere seemed different. I hadn’t been a runner for very long- about two years, but had been going to the marathon for several years as a spectator. I knew it was related to 9/11 but couldn’t really put a finger on why it was different beyond that.

At the race expo the day before the race, a local radio station who was a race sponsor was doing a promotion where they had labels that looked like American flags on them with the names of those who lost their lives that day on them and where. By some stroke of luck I got the one which had the name Brady Howell  and PENTAGON on it. (If I recall correctly they were accepting small donations which would go to some fund or other).  Race morning included a moment of silence for the fallen as well as the national anthem prior to the start. Members of the US Military manning aid stations, runners carrying flags for 26.2 miles.  Very different from previous marathons I had run. I gave copies of my race bib which had the sticker with Brady’s name on it to my co-workers – including one for his widow. I put information about the race on the face of the bib and keep them in a binder so I kept the original. If the name and date of the race is already on it – I don’t worry about it. In this case it had race name, no date. So I wrote in the lower left hand corner: Oct. 6, 2001 4:11:12 New PR! This event served as a bookend in many ways to what began on September 8, 2001.

Let’s all remember those who died that day and keep them in our hearts and minds.

Thanks for reading.



Why companies won’t hire – By David Frum, CNN Contributor for

Unemployed men in Iowa line up for food during the Great Depression, circa 1935.
Unemployed men in Iowa line up for food during the Great Depression, circa 1935.

Washington (CNN) — A week of bad economic news has led some economists to worry: Is it 1937 all over again?

But here’s a second worry. Even if we avoid a repeat of 1937, we still have to worry about another 1936.

Here’s the background to the worries:

As everyone knows, the global economy plunged into a great depression at the end of the 1920s. In the United States, the Great Depression hit bottom in early 1933. The years from 1933 through 1936 were years of economic recovery.

Then — slam — the U.S. economy hit the wall again. In 1937, the U.S. economy tumbled back into a depression almost as severe as in 1929-33.

This past week of bad economic news raises fears that history might repeat itself, with a second slide into recession after the terrible collapse of 2008-2009.

But here’s my worry: Even if we avoid a second recessionary dip, we’re stuck on a very, very disappointing path. Call it the 1936 parallel.

From 1933 to 1936, the U.S. economy grew strongly, almost 10% a year. When supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt sang “Happy days are here again,” they had reason to celebrate. By the end of 1936, U.S. output of goods and services had returned to 1929 levels. Corporate profits were surging. $100 invested in the stock market at the end of January 1933 would have multiplied to almost $350 in January 1937.

Yet even before that second slump, one economic indicator remained ghastly: unemployment. Even as output boomed, markets soared and profits bulged, an estimated 17% of Americans remained out of work.

Today likewise, things have returned more or less to normal for the affluent — without taking much of a bite out of the unemployment numbers.

In fact, on our current trajectory, the U.S. will catch up to 2007 levels of economic output sometime in the next couple of months. Yet at the current job creation rate of a little north of 100,000 jobs per month, the U.S. economy will not recover its 2008-2009 job losses until the middle of the decade. And because so many distressed workers have quit the labor force altogether, the pace of job creation would have to double for the U.S. to see total employment rates return to pre-crisis levels before 2015.

What’s the problem? Consider just these factors:

1. This past recession delivered its hardest blow to some especially labor-intensive industries: construction and retailing. Even as economic activity recovers, we’re not going to see lots of new home building. Nor will we see people using their cash-out refinancings to go shopping at Best Buy. Americans are saving again. Those who have jobs are paying down debt.

2. Recessions lead to consolidations. Weak firms go broke, strong firms gain market share. The strong firms hire, the weak firms fire. But because the strong firms are more productive (that’s why they are strong!), they do not hire nearly as many people as the weak firms have laid off.

3. A catastrophic experience like the 2008-2009 recession changes an employer’s expectations about the future. Caution and self-protection become the guiding rules of business management. Companies decide it’s safer to have one worker too few than one too many. They may not recover their exuberance and optimism for years.

4. Last and most important: The economy, although growing, is not growing very fast. The rule of thumb is to reduce unemployment by 1 point, the economy must grow 2 points over trend. Right now, the U.S. economy is still growing below trend. The engine is just not revving fast enough to move the car.

Then there’s public policy. Employers must fear that the future probably holds heavier taxes, more regulation and higher employee health care costs. The outlook might be worse under a President Obama than a President Romney, but it looks sufficiently ugly either way.

As I said: That’s the optimistic scenario, the 1936 scenario.

Don’t get me started on the other.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.

Editor’s note: David Frum writes a weekly column for A special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002, he is the author of six books, including “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again,” and is the editor of FrumForum.

Texas Nexus law signed into law.

After vetoing a similar provision on May 31, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on July 19, signed a law that says a retailer is doing business in the state if it has affiliates engaged in certain activities in Texas, such as maintaining a distribution center or a warehouse. According to reports in the general press, Amazon has been threatening to close a distribution center in the state if the law passes.

Meanwhile, on July 18, the California Attorney General gave the green light to an effort backed by Amazon to gather signatures to put to the state’s voters a repeal of the sales tax nexus law signed by Gov. Brown a few weeks ago.

US Declaration of Independence – complete text including original spelling and capitalization

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776

Crazy Singing Bird singing the Star Spangled Banner

Happy 4th of July everyone!

I hope you have all had a good 4th.

At my house it was a local 5k/10k race and a movie. My wife walked the 5k, and I ran the 10k. Nearly 2 minutes faster than last year (53:30 in 2010 and 2nd in my Age Group; 51:40 this year and 4th in my Age Group – the same age group)

As for the movie, Monte Carlo  – kind of a fun movie.

Utah court favors businesses in company-county tax dispute By Steven Oberbeck

The Salt Lake Tribune
First published Jun 14 2011 02:03PM
Updated Jun 14, 2011 11:29PM

The Utah Supreme Court has ruled in favor of T-Mobile USA in a property tax dispute with 15 Utah counties that dates back to 2003.

In a ruling handed down earlier this month that could have wide-ranging implications for many of the state’s employers and local governments, the state’s high court found that the “goodwill” carried on T-Mobile’s balance sheet could not be taxed under Utah law.

“Many businesses increasingly are generating goodwill on their books due to mergers and evolving accounting rules. The [Utah] Supreme Court has now made it clear that goodwill and other intangible property is not subject to taxation,” said Mark Buchi, an attorney with Holland & Hart, who along with Steven Young represented T-Mobile.

Goodwill typically appears on balance sheets after one company buys another for more than the value of its tangible assets. The difference between the purchase price and the value of the those assets is listed on the balance sheet of the surviving business as the goodwill of the acquired company.

The dispute arose in 2003 after the Utah State Tax Commission assessed T-Mobile’s taxable property. T-Mobile appealed the assessment in district court, which under Utah law serves as a tax court. And the tax court ruled that T-Mobile’s accounting goodwill was exempt from taxation.

In response to that ruling, the 15 Utah counties where T-Mobile had operations appealed the district court’s decision. At stake was several millions of dollars in potential tax revenue for county treasuries and for many companies’ bottom lines. The counties contended that the company’s goodwill was taxable based on the “unitary business principle,” Buchi said.

That concept relies on the contention that two interrelated, physical assets create an enhanced value through synergy, Buchi said. “The counties claimed that T-Mobile’s goodwill enhanced the value of the tangible property, and therefore, was not tax-exempt.”

Utah’s high court disagreed.

It noted that corporations operating in Utah are taxed based upon their “taxable income,” which is defined as income from tangible or intangible property located in the state.

“Because goodwill is property and because Utah’s corporate income tax imposes a tax on the income derived from all property, including both tangible and intangible property, the income derived from goodwill is already being taxed,” the Utah Supreme Court said in its ruling. Twitter: OberbeckBiz

Thoughts on Graduation, June 10, 2011

“The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.” – Ayn Rand

In my role as an adjunct professor of accounting at Stevens Henager College in Salt Lake City, which traces its roots back to 1891, I had the opportunity to participate in the school’s 2011 graduation exercises. Though my role on Friday evening was small, that isn’t important as this night is reserved for this year’s graduates. The school only confers about five or six business degree from an Associate of Applied Science degree in two disciplines to a Bachelor of Science in three disciplines as well as an MBA.

I didn’t have a large number of my former students graduate on this night. But for me it isn’t about the sheer numbers of graduates but about the lives of the students I was able to influence who will be entering our profession. Most of these graduates aren’t 22 year olds; in fact there are more over 30 or even 35 than there are between the ages of 18-22. Many are single parents, some are even grandparents.

Like many, I sometimes wear my heart on my sleeve. This is particularly true on nights like this. Whether it was during the presentation of the colors by the US Marine Corps color guard, or singing the national anthem, or watching with pride as these students accept the degrees that have just been conferred upon them to allow them to go out into the world and earn a living so that they can provide food and shelter for their families. It doesn’t matter if I have never met that student. Some I have had in my classes, others I know but have not had them in a class and still others I have never met. These students could very well be those who Ayn Rand was referring to when she spoke of climbing the ladder of success.

This year’s commencement address was given by a respected member of the accounting community and former Utah Lieutenant Governor, Val Oveson. Unfortunately, because of my proximity to the podium on stage even with a microphone I heard very little of his speech.