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Our Updates & Insights (10/30/2020) Thumbnail

Our Updates & Insights (10/30/2020)

Tax Strategies for 2020:
After the CARES Act and the SECURE Act, taxpayers have new tactics to consider this year

The 2020 tax year will require a fresh set of eyes for many people. To recap what’s happened in the past year, the SECURE Act was passed in December 2019, expanding retirement savings options and causing many individuals to adjust their tax and estate plans. Then, three months into 2020, we were hit with COVID-19, which resulted in the CARES Act. To add to the uncertainty, 2020 is an election year, and a change in administration may also bring a change in tax law.

So there’s a lot to keep in mind this tax season. As we head into the end of the year, here is an overview of the important things to know about your 2020 tax planning.

COVID-19 & Cyber Monday:
What to think about as you shop online this year...

According to a recent survey, 87 percent of U.S. adults feel that the risk of becoming a victim of a cybercrime is growing. In fact, online crimes including server breaches are the single largest criminal threat facing small businesses.

For large and small businesses alike, it should come as no surprise that more Americans have been shopping online due to the COVID-19 pandemic - and this trend will likely continue until the pandemic subsides. In fact, with Cyber Monday approaching, these numbers are expected to rise. In 2019, Cyber Monday shattered the online sales record with $9.4 billion in revenue - and that was before social distancing.

This means that protecting yourself when you shop online is something you need to take seriously. Here are seven tips that can help you safeguard information when buying from an online retailer this holiday season.

Market Highlights

  • Market Movement & COVID Update: The DOW, S&P & Nasdaq all fell over 3% Wednesday as concerns rose about increased COVID-19 cases. They are now negative for the month of October. Bloomberg noted that US hospitalizations have risen 37% in the past three weeks with 32 states up at least 10% week over week. At the same time, the article noted hospitalizations are still 28% lower than during July's Sun Belt surge. The US seven-day average of new cases hit an all-time high of 72,000 with new-case rates rising in 41 states. There is a lot of discussion on rising pressures on hospitals, though some note the improved survival rates amid better treatments and higher community awareness. There are new restrictions being imposed across handful of states and European countries, though there continues to be meaningful resistance to the stricter lockdown measures imposed during March and April.
  • The Markets & the Election: In 2016, the market was down nine of the ten days leading up to the election. We are not going to try to predict equity moves in the following days, but it is worth noting the losses were entirely recouped rather quickly once the dust settled over the election uncertainty. It would not shock us if the same occurred this time. 
  • GDP & Claims Beat: US GDP increased at a record 33.1% annualized pace in the 3rd Quarter (vs. +30.2% Briefing.com consensus) after a record 31.4% annualized drop in the 2nd Quarter. This amounts to a 7.4% jump from the previous quarter, by far the biggest quarterly gain on record, but still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels and growth trend. Elsewhere, weekly initial claims came in at 751,000 (vs. 763,000 Briefing.com consensus). Continuing claims  were down to 7.8 million, showing continued improvement on the labor market front, but we are not out of the woods yet.

Good News

  • In the world’s largest seagrass restoration project, scientists have observed an ecosystem from birth to full flowering. As part of a 20-plus-years project, researchers and volunteers spread more than 70 million eelgrass seeds over plots covering more than 200 hectares, just beyond the wide expanses of salt marsh off the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Long-term monitoring of the restored seagrass beds reveals a remarkably hardy ecosystem that is trapping carbon and nitrogen that would otherwise contribute to global warming and pollution, the team reports October 7 in Science Advances. That success provides a glimmer of hope for the climate and for ecosystems, the researchers say.
  • A long-delayed flood barrier successfully protected Venice from a high tide for the first time on October 3rd, bringing relief and smiles to the lagoon city following years of repeated inundations. The network of 78 bright yellow barriers that guard the entrance to the delicate Venetian lagoon lifted from the sea bed as the tide, driven by strong winds and rain, started to climb. City officials had forecast a tide of 130 cm (4.27 ft), well below the devastating 187 cm tide that battered Venice last November, but enough to leave low-lying areas deep under water. Expecting the worst, workmen had laid out raised walkways in especially vulnerable places, including the often packed St. Mark’s Square. In the event, the tide only amounted to 70 cm, leaving the city’s piazzas and pathways unscathed.
  • A small rescue dog is helping save killer whales off the coast of Washington state. Eba is trained to detect whale poop. Conservation biologists like Giles can learn a lot about the health of a whale from their scat, such as measuring stress levels, identifying whether a whale is pregnant and how far along she is, distinguishing recent meals and detecting the presence of chemicals and other pollutants. There are currently only 74 Southern Resident killer whales, including two babies, so finding scat and collecting scientific data is vitally important to help inform policymakers and the public. The scat of Southern Resident killer whales is smaller than some species’ and not easy to see from far away, and researchers try to keep their distance from whales to avoid disturbing them and causing stress.
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