Financial news and advice — June/July 2014

Supermodel Gisele Bündchen is blaming Forbes magazine for her recent tax audit by the IRS. Plus, studies show that the majority of hand-to-mouth households are wealthy and that e-payment options such as PayPal are going mainstream.


Supermodel blames magazine for tax audit

Former Victoria’s Secret model Gisele Bündchen claims she became a target of the IRS because of an error in Forbes’ annual ranking of the world’s top-paid models. The magazine, which placed Bündchen in the No. 1 spot for the seventh consecutive year, estimated her earnings at US$42 million based on editorial shoots, business ventures — including her partnership with Brazilian footwear company Grendene and her skincare line Sejaa — as well as marketing contracts with H&M, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Pantene and Oral-B. "I do OK, I earn plenty, but not as much as they say," the 33-year-old mother of two told Brazilian website MdeMulher, adding that the IRS didn’t turn up anything in its audit.


Majority of hand-to-mouth households are wealthy

More than 30% of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque but, according to a study by researchers at Princeton and New York universities, most of them aren’t poor. While a third of these so-called hand-to-mouthers earn an average of about $20,000 annually and have few or no assets to speak of, two-thirds have median incomes up to three times that amount and possess significant nonliquid assets, such as a house or retirement savings. The study, which looked at data from Canada, the US, Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, found that the "wealthy hand-to-mouth" comprise the vast majority of households living paycheque to paycheque in all eight countries.


Physical stores adopt e-commerce platforms

Payment options such as PayPal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout have gone mainstream, according to a US report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Not only did more than 80% of online shoppers polled use one of the platforms in the past year, the "alternative" payment systems are also moving into bricks-and-mortar retail. PayPal, for example, is an accepted method of payment at 18,000 physical stores (23 retailers) in the US.


It was a long shot

A US tax court has ruled that losses from gambling are not tax deductible. Seems obvious? Not to Shiraz Lakhani, an accountant and "professional" racetrack speculator who challenged an IRS code violation he got for deducting wagering losses on his income taxes. He argued the code discriminates against business losses of pro gamblers and violates their constitutional rights to equality. The Tax Court disagreed.


Sorry, cent superstition

The lowly penny, long devoid of any real value (and abandoned in Canada), doesn’t carry the mystical significance it used to. According to a Harris poll, just one-third of US adults believe finding a penny is good luck. Having said that, more respondents bought in to the penny myth than any other superstitions in the poll, including the notion that seven is lucky (23%), 13 is unlucky (12%) or a black cat crossing your path is bad luck (13%).