How a Trade War with China is impacting Natural Stone Prices

The Trump administration has announced this year that the US will impose a tariff on a massive amount of imported goods from China. Many of these goods fall into the home improvement category in the American market. Things like stone tile, natural stone slabs, hard surfaces and there is no telling on how high the retail price will go for American consumers as the tariffs continue to stay in place. This all comes at a time when China has very lax laws on who and how natural stone can be mined, China has a large amount of undeveloped land with natural stone able to be harvested and they are able to meet the growing demand of natural stone seen in American consumers.

One of the largest questions is how much the price of natural stone countertops will rise within the next year. One particular stone concern is granite, and how much it will cost to purchase and install depending on what project you’re working on. For most questions the answer is to purchase now because the cost of granite is only expected to rise. Using this useful reference, currently, prices for granite countertops start at around $35 per square foot installed, and can go well beyond $100 per square foot for exotic and rare materials. With trade negotiations continuing as they are now it has been projected that the price per square foot of granite is expected to increase to over $200 per square foot by early 2020.

When purchasing your stone, it is also important to research the seller. Big box retailers that provide countertops won’t be as detail oriented as their local counterparts mainly due to the lack of knowledge of the staff that will be assisting you. This is because a big box store has a higher turnover of staff and less of a risk to damage their reputation. Also a large retailer will typically have a more limited selection of stone and a more rigid outline of their services, typically a price is set and adhered to in a large retailer. A local fabricator, more often than not, will negotiate pricing, accommodate specific requests, and handle customers with a higher degree of quality solely based on the fact that they are trying to compete with not only other local business but the large retailers as well. It would be advantageous to look into your local options and weigh them against large retail stores, depending on what you’re looking to have done one might be more beneficial than the other!

Knowing what you’re paying for will also be beneficial as the price of the stone increases with the tariffs. There are a lot of factors that make up the final price of your countertop including, the cutouts, edging, backsplash, finish, and color of the stone. By limiting the extra details you’re able to keep the overall price lower. The type of sink you install has an effect of the type of cutout which then has a price on the slab. Edging the counter will have an effect on the final bill as well because the more decorative the final edge look the higher the cost per foot will be! Some styles can rise as high as $10/foot. Choosing to have a matching stone backsplash obviously will heighten the price of your stone bill, but there are other ways to design a backsplash if this puts your costs too high. Tile is a great alternative or a shorter four or five-inch backsplash can help protect your walls against stains. The color of the actual stone can also play a factor in pricing as blue granite is often more expensive than other colors and marble with a more intricate or unique pattern can fetch a higher price. These are all things that, regardless of the trade war with China, will affect your final budget and should be considered!

These tariffs are not expected to go away anytime soon so if you’re planning a renovation or are in the middle of one currently and have yet to purchase your counters, do it! Having a plan of attack and being in the right place to order them will save you money before the end of the year as natural stone prices continue to rise. Removing your old counters as a DIY project might be a good idea as well in order to save even more in a pinch. There are many ways to try to circumvent these price increases and DIY-ing as much as possible is one of them, don’t hesitate to consult a professional but remember that most home jobs can be done with a little research! However, as long as this trade war holds out between the US and China, expect any and all renovations that involve products made or refined in China to be on the retail mark up until early 2020.

Lower Taxes Without Renouncing Your American Citizenship

Being born in the United States comes with many privileges. But it also comes with many responsibilities. According to Fortunly’s insightful infographic, the United States is one of two countries in the world that implement citizenship-based taxation. The only other one is the northeast African nation of Eritrea.

Interestingly enough, America’s citizenship-based tax system doesn’t only affect its natural-born citizens. Foreigners may also be held liable for income tax if they meet the country’s residency requirements. Spending too much vacation time is a common reason why non-Americans might need to hand over some cash to Uncle Sam.

But, there are legal ways to beat America’s citizenship-based income taxation system.

The most obvious way is to renounce your US citizenship. But this is a major decision that could lead to dramatic consequences. An alternative to such a drastic measure is filing for tax exemptions. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) is a viable option for American professionals who intend to make a living outside of any US territory.

With the FEIE, a portion of a citizen’s total active income can be excluded up to a certain limit, which changes every year. To increase the excludable amount, a foreign housing credit can be added into the equation.

When it comes to income from passive activities like stock trading, the United States considers them taxable as usual. However, there are ways to classify passive incomes as active in order to render them partly excludable.

In addition, using an offshore company to run a business may provide an income-tax reduction. This move can legally separate an American-citizen owner and a business entity for tax purposes.

Pursuing every allowable avenue to minimize citizenship-based income tax liabilities is more practical than unpatriotic.

Taxation Around the World

Benjamin Franklin famously said that life’s sole certainties are death and taxes. It’s curious, given their universality, that we avoid thinking about these realities. But taxes are not merely worth thinking about, they’re fascinating. And they come in countless varieties.

The all-encompassing, deceptively brief infographic we present here includes specific examples of taxes around the world and how different conceptions of taxation are evolving in the digital era. We use images to untie the conceptual knots and tease apart the strands of similarity that serve as the warp and woof of worldwide taxation. Understanding the variety of tax systems around the globe can lead to renewed appreciation of the creative capacity of the human spirit.

Yes, taxes.

The United States has federal taxes, of course, plus distinct tax laws in each of the 50 states. We use America as a benchmark to compare the lowest- and highest-taxed countries in the world. We explore relationships among political systems and tax codes. We highlight curious facts, unsuspected trends, and obscure figures of urgent relevance.

The results of our extensive research, data collection, and artistic ingenuity are arrayed in the detailed graphic you see here. It’s jam-packed with important statistics, tidbits about the states with the highest taxes, digital taxation, corporate tax rate by country, and much more. Whether you’re looking for today’s numbers or projections about the future of taxation, it’s all here.

No one enjoys paying taxes, but we hope you will enjoy learning about them here.