6 Fun Tax Facts

With April 18th looming, this seems like the perfect time to lighten your mood.  Allow us to entertain you with some interesting tax facts:

  1. The IRS Has Written More than J.K. Rowling.  There are four million words in the US tax code!  By contrast, that's four times the number of words in all of the Harry Potter books combined and five times the number in the Bible.

  2. Urine Was Once Taxed.  During the 1st century AD, the Roman emperor, Vaspasian, instituted a tax on urine.  At the time, urine was collected from public urinals and then sold to use in tanning operations, making it very valuable, hence the tax.

  3. Even Einstein Struggled with Taxes.  Albert Einstein, considered by many to be the smartest man who ever lived, once said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”  Hmmm, that kind of gives you a new perspective when you're struggling to fill out your 1040 correctly...

  4. Today's Tax Evasion Punishments Are Lenient By Comparison...We're sure you're familiar with the Swiss story of William Tell whose father shot an apple off his head.  However, did you know it was punishment for tax resistance?  This story makes today's IRS almost seem gentle...

  5. More Windows, More Taxes?  Yes, it's true. In 1696, England determined taxes based on the number of windows your home had.  As a result, homes were built with a smaller number of windows.  Ultimately, this created health problems, leading to the tax's repeal in 1851.

  6. An Unusual “Gas” Tax.  Many European nations have started taxing cattle owners for cow flatulence.  For instance, each cow is taxed at $18 in Ireland and $110 in Denmark.  This law is an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, 18% of which is attributed to cows.

4 Common Myths About Entrepreneurship

Have you ever dreamed of becoming your own boss?  Have you imagined yourself quitting your day job to start your own company?  If so, you may be seduced or deterred by some of the myths out there surrounding entrepreneurship.  In this blog post, we intend to debunk the most common ones so you have a better understanding of what entrepreneurship is really like:

  1. Entrepreneurs Aren't Made, They're Born.

    One popular philosophy about entrepreneurs is that they have this innate, genetic ability to build their own businesses.  This surmises that you can't learn entrepreneurship “on the job” or through entrepreneurship coursework.  However, most experts agree this isn't the case and believe that anyone who applies himself can become a successful entrepreneur.

  2. The More Products and Services Offered, the Better.

    New entrepreneurs may be too eager to please.  When that occurs, they can be tempted to offer more products and services than they can reasonably support, ultimately spreading themselves too thin.  It's useful for entrepreneurs to remember that sometimes, less is more.

  3. Entrepreneurs Are Their Own Boss.

    Yes and no.  While it's true that you may not have a boss in the stereotypical sense, you will still have people you need to report to, whether they're clients, shareholders, or business partners.

  4. Entrepreneurship Requires a “Type A” Personality.

    When we think of entrepreneurs, we tend to imagine the type of hard-charging executive who takes Skype meetings on his cell phone while he's on the treadmill.  While it's true that some entrepreneurs are Type A, that temperament isn't a requirement of being a successful entrepreneur.  If you exhibit some of the positive traits associated with a Type A personality—like motivation and adherence to deadlines—you can successfully build a business even if you tend to be more easygoing.   

Need to Make a Decision? Try Being Humble

Do you enjoy thinking in new ways?  Are you curious and open to new experiences?  Do you question your own opinions, believing there's a possibility they could be wrong?  If so, there's a good chance you score high in what researchers refer to as Intellectual Humility or IH.

IH essentially refers to how strongly (or not) we cling to our own opinions.  People with high IH tend to be flexible thinkers and more willing to believe their opinions could be wrong.  By contrast, people with low IH are less easily swayed and more inclined to hold tightly to their viewpoints, regardless of evidence.  As you might imagine, those with high IH are more open to changing their mind about an issue than people with low IH.

In the Thrive Global article, Why Humble People Make Better Decisions, writer Drake Baer reports on Duke University research that explains how IH affects decision making.  To scientifically test this issue, researchers asked 400 people to report how often they flossed.  Once they had this information, study participants were asked to read one of two essays that advocated flossing.  The first essay used strong scientific arguments given by dental experts, whereas the second essay relied on weak anecdotal evidence.

After the study was complete, researchers drew 2 main conclusions:

  1. People with high IH rated the first essay as much stronger than the 2nd one.

  2. People who didn't floss frequently were more likely to change their minds about flossing, but only if they were rated as having IH.

The takeaway?  Believing that you don't know everything—and (gasp!), may even be wrong on some topics—can help you make better decisions in the future.  But what if you already know you know everything?

That's when lead researcher, Mark R. Leary, encourages you to think about statistics.  As he puts it, “Probabilistically, wouldn't it be strange if your views were always the right ones?  Wouldn't it be odd if everything you believe is true?”

Planning Your Next Vacation? 4 Must-Have Travel Apps

It's that time of year again!  Time to start planning your summer vacation, that is.  To simplify the process for you, we've identified 4 must-have travel apps:

  1. Hopper.  Consider this app a necessity if you're planning to fly this summer.  Hopper helps you to buy plane tickets when they're at their cheapest.  Simply enter your location and destination, and Hopper will analyze billions of flight prices.  Based on that analysis, the app will either suggest you wait to buy your tickets or recommend you purchase them right then to get the cheapest flight.  According to Hopper, their predictions have a 95% accuracy rate.

  2. PackPoint.  Packing's a pain, especially if you have young children in your family you have to pack for.  However, PackPoint minimizes the unpleasantness of the task by creating a packing list for you.  Just enter your destination and travel dates, before selecting the type of activities you plan to partake in once you arrive.  Based on your chosen activities and the weather at your destination, PackPoint will create a custom packing list for you.

  3. TripAdvisor.  Not sure how to spend your time once you reach your final destination?  TripAdvisor can eliminate the guesswork.  The app allows you to browse millions of reviews on hotels, activities, and restaurants.  You can also use it to pose questions about your destination to other travelers, download maps, book hotel rooms, and even make restaurant reservations.

  4. WhatsApp.  Consider WhatsApp an essential if you're traveling abroad.  In the past, international travelers were often shocked by the hefty data roaming charges they incurred when traveling overseas.  WhatsApp allows you to communicate with loved ones at home, using a WiFi connection, rather than your data.  Use the app to call or text friends and family for free, avoiding steep cell phone charges.  

6 Tips for Effective Delegating

If the thought of asking someone to do something for you causes you to cringe, read on.  We've got tips to help you become far more successful at delegating:

  1. Analyze Your Needs.  First, you'll need to determine what you want to delegate.  For people who are uncomfortable delegating, it helps to start with a small project.  Doing so will make it easier to relax and trust the project will be completed successfully.

  2. Pick the Right Person.  Once you've analyzed your needs, determine whether there are any special skills required to do the job successfully.  With those considerations in mind, identify the best person to tackle the job.

  3. Offer an Explanation.  Now that you've selected someone, it's time to delegate!  Meet with the individual you've chosen and explain why you're asking them to do the job.  For instance, you might tell a team member, “I'm asking for your assistance in creating a social media strategy for Brand XYZ, because you successfully created our widgets' marketing strategy.”

  4. Be Specific.  To really excel at delegation, you need to be specific.  Tell the individual you've selected exactly what you need done and when you need it by.  For example, you might request a social media strategy in 2 weeks that's designed to increase Facebook followers by 10% over the next 6 months.

  5. Trust.  For many people, this is the most challenging aspect of delegation—relaxing and trusting that the person you've delegated to will successfully accomplish the job in the way you wanted.  However, it's important to remember here that you chose this person for a reason.  Rather than micromanaging their work, instead take a more hands-off approach and just ask for regular status updates.

  6. Say Thanks.  People like to be rewarded for hard work.  Rather than ignoring someone's successful completion of your project, say thanks and let them know how appreciative you are.  Doing so is more likely to ensure your future delegation efforts are just as effective.