Financial news and advice - September 2014

The business world warms up to bitcoin payments, while Jordan Belfort, the real-life Wolf of Wall Street, launches a US motivational speaking tour and former Suncor Energy vice-president Robert Paul Galachiuk gets a break on his tax evasion charges.


Digital currency making headway

The business world is warming up to bitcoin. Travel website Expedia is now accepting the virtual currency as a form of payment for hotel bookings and best-selling hip-hop artist 50 Cent is one of the first pop culture stars to offer product sales through bitcoin with the release of his latest album, Animal Ambition.


Cruel and unusual punishment?

The taxman was too"harsh" in its penalties against a Calgary oil executive who underreported his income by nearly half a million dollars, an appeal court has ruled.

When former Suncor Energy vice-president Robert Paul Galachiuk failed to declare a $436,890 pension payment in 2009, the CRA calculated the penalties based on the unreported income rather than the tax he owed on that amount — a fine that worked out to more than twice (220%) his unpaid taxes. While this calculation is in accordance with section 163(1) of the Income Tax Act, the judge sided with Galachiuk, noting that the penalty"exceeds even the maximum fine imposed for a criminal conviction for tax evasion ... which is only 200% of the taxes evaded."


Wolf of Wall Street shares his"wisdom"

He may have done time for defrauding investors out of millions of dollars, but Jordan Belfort — the real-life Wolf of Wall Street — is set to share the secrets of his success in a US motivational speaking tour launching this month."I cracked the code on how to teach anyone, regardless of age, education or skill level, to be a master salesperson, negotiator or entrepreneur," says Belfort in the event’s promotional materials. Tickets start at US$99 and run to US$499 for"platinum" seating, which includes a reception and photo with Belfort.


Biggest tax bill ever

When Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, 72, suffered a heart attack and subsequent coma earlier this year, talk turned to the vast fortune his heirs are set to receive — or more precisely, the record tax bill. With South Korea’s top inheritance tax rate of 50%, Lee’s son and two daughters could wind up on the hook for about US$6 billion, reports say.


Canada’s top 1% gets 13% of income

The country’s highest earners take home more than previously thought, according to a recent study. When income from the private corporations they control is taken into account, the top 1% earned an average of $500,200 in 2011, or 13.3% of all after-tax income in Canada. Conventional measures cite the figure at 10%.