Are You Free of Your Tax Bill for the Year?


pencil 1040As you put the 2014 tax season behind you, think about how much of what you earn is allocated to pay taxes each year. This year, Americans will pay a total of $4.8 trillion, or 31% of their income in taxes. Consider how many days of work will be dedicated to paying that bill. Every year the Tax Foundation1 establishes Tax Freedom Day®, which marks the day when the nation has earned enough money collectively to pay its total tax bill. For 2015, Tax Freedom Day® falls on April 24th; three days later than 2014 due to the country’s delayed economic recovery. This means the average taxpayer will spend 114 days working to pay their taxes. If federal borrowing is included in the equation, it moves Tax Freedom Day® out another 14 days to May 8th. Read more “Are You Free of Your Tax Bill for the Year?”


Active Fund Management for Bond Investors


A Wall Street Journal article, published February 8, 2015, listed a number of circumstances in which it might be more beneficial to take advantage of active fund management rather than passive fund management tied to an index.  One circumstance on that list was investing in bonds.

Periods of rising rates are challenging for bond investors, and a bond fund portfolio aligned with a bond index may be along for the ride when rising rates, and correspondingly declining bond values, impact the market.  That is because an index fund, by design, will be aligned with the composition of the overall bond market, or a sector of the bond market, and therefore subject to comparable rate-sensitivity.

Active bond fund managers have the ability to take steps in an effort to mitigate, to some degree, the impact of market volatility.  With the ability to actively manage fund holdings over time, these managers may implement a number of strategies in order to adjust fund holdings based on market expectations.  Read more “Active Fund Management for Bond Investors”


Todd Curtis Shares 2015 Expectations in Asset TV Municipal Bond Masterclass


On January 20, 2015, Asset TV produced a Municipal Bond Masterclass in which a panel of municipal bond fund portfolio managers was asked to discuss their expectations of the municipal bond market in 2015 and their investment strategies.

Todd Curtis, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager or Co-Portfolio Manager of Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Arizona, Aquila Churchill Tax-Free Fund of Kentucky and Aquila Tax-Free Fund For Utah participated as a panelist. The following video includes highlights from his comments.

Shares of the Funds may only be sold by offering the Funds’ Prospectus. Before investing in a Fund, carefully read about and consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information found in the Fund prospectus. The prospectus is available on this site, from your financial adviser, and when you call 800-437-1020.


Observations & Lessons from Joe Mysak and the Muni Meltdown that Wasn’t


The ever-illuminating (and often entertaining) Joe Mysak knows some things about the municipal bond market.  Mr. Mysak is Municipal Market editor for Bloomberg, and author of the Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds: A Reference Guide to Market Events, Structures, Dynamics, and Investment Knowledge, and has spent 33 years observing and writing about the municipal bond market.  He was recently inspired to compile some of his observations in an article titled The Muni Meltdown that Wasn’t, published as a Bloomberg Brief in November 2014. Read more “Observations & Lessons from Joe Mysak and the Muni Meltdown that Wasn’t”


Trustees: The Shareholders’ Watchdogs


Mutual fund boards are the champions of shareholders. But boards and their trustees are still not well understood by investors or their financial advisors. We spoke with three longstanding trustees of the Aquila Group of Funds—John C. Lucking, Thomas A. Christopher, and James A. Gardner—during the September, 2014 quarterly board meetings to learn more about what they do.

Tom Christopher and James Gardner

Tom Christopher and James Gardner

What do mutual fund board trustees do—and why should we care?

TC: We oversee the management and operations of each Aquila fund on behalf of shareholders. We’re the shareholders’ watchdogs. Aquila Group of Funds subcontracts a variety of services—from fund accounting to transfer agency services and, in some cases, to investment sub-advisers (including portfolio managers). As trustees, our job is to review and oversee the performance of those service providers, to verify that agreements with them represent an arm’s-length deal, that they are fair, and competitive. Read more “Trustees: The Shareholders’ Watchdogs”


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Moving Retirement Plan Assets in 2015? Exercise Caution


The IRS has announced that “beginning as early as January 1, 2015, you can make only one rollover from an IRA to another (or the same) IRA in any 12-month period, regardless of the number of IRAs you own”.

There are some terms to be familiar with here:

  • Rollover – in the context used here, this means that you have “constructive receipt” of assets from a retirement plan – i.e. they come into your possession.  You then have 60 days to complete a rollover into your IRA account.
  • Trustee-to-trustee transfer – assets from your retirement plan account are sent directly from the current trustee for your plan to the trustee for your IRA account, without coming into your possession. Read more “Moving Retirement Plan Assets in 2015? Exercise Caution”

Municipal Bonds for America coalition – educating Congressional policy makers


The Municipal Bonds for America (MBFA) coalition conducted a “Municipal Bonds 101” seminar on July 2, 2014 for an overflow crowd of US Congressional policy makers and staff.  The seminar is the second such event hosted by MBFA with the purpose of educating policy makers on the benefits provided by the municipal bond market and the problems associated with reducing or eliminating the tax exemption applicable to municipal bond income.  Panelists speaking during the seminar included Ron Bernardi, Principal, President and CEO, Bernardi Securities, Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia, South Carolina, and Kevin Burke, President and CEO, Airports Council International, North America.

Information regarding the Municipal Bonds for America coalition can be found on their website.


One Hundred Years of the Federal Income Tax


It was 100 years ago this year that the first Form 1040 was Sixteenth Amendmentsent out to taxpayers as ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution made it possible for the federal government to tax personal incomes.

The new tax started at 1% on personal incomes of more than $3,000 (over $71,000 in today’s dollars) for single filers or $4,000 for couples and included a surtax of 6% on incomes over $500,000. Read more “One Hundred Years of the Federal Income Tax”


Individual Stock Selection


Individual stock selection and active management are strategies that returned to prominence recently, according to a March 9, 2014 Wall Street Journal article.  “After years of moving in lock step on the back of global economic shocks, individual stocks increasingly have been dancing to their own tune” as evidenced by the steep decline seen in correlations1 between individual stocks in the S&P 500 since the financial crisis.

S&P Dow Jones Indices looks at active management from a different perspective in their S&P Indices Versus Active Funds or SPIVA Scorecard, which evaluates the performance of active versus passive management across multiple categories.  Read more “Individual Stock Selection”