Vancouver’s Vacancy tax

Hearing about Vancouver BC’s housing Vacancy tax, I noticed that there is no real way to determine if a house is vacant. To give you an example, I can have an empty house and claim that I am renting to a Pikachu for $10/month. Based on that, the house is being rented out.

Unless the Mayor of Vancouver is going to set a minimum rent price requirement, landlords are going to find loopholes in Vancouver’s Vacancy Tax to minimize the payout to the City of Vancouver.  For example, if collecting $120/month in rent results in $5 of rental income, while the Vancouver Vacancy Tax is $1200/year, landlords will collect $120/month in rent to pay the lesser amount.

If it is determined that there is no way around Vancouver’s Vacancy Tax, many will choose to pay the tax since an investment property is there to preserve his/her capital.  The last thing a real estate investor wants is to rent out his/her property to find out that the cost to repair the damage by the previous tenant is more than the rent collected.  Furthermore, if a property was used as a marijuana grow-op, the value of the property decreases, and the property is harder to sell at an inflated price.  Also, the owner may not want to live in that house in the future if he/she knows that the electrical wiring is a fire hazard from the former tenant’s grow-op.  Therefore, for many real estate investors, the risk of property damage is not worth the reward of collecting rent.

I look forward to seeing the first revision of the Housing Vacancy Tax in Vancouver’s Charter.  It will, most likely, have loopholes.

B.C. government supports housing vacancy tax in Vancouver

High Frequency Trading aka Algorithmic trading

Revisiting an old post, I will like to add another reason why high frequency trading can be problematic for the markets.

When it comes to Canada, it is not illegal to do “wash trades”.  Therefore, when it comes to technical analysts who rely on volume, the number of shares that has changed hands over a period of time, selling the security from Bob’s left hand and buying the security to Bob’s right hand is not exactly a trade.  Yet, when it comes to trading volume, this is a trade.  Therefore, a company can show a very high number of trades, but the demand can be artificially created by someone or something creating the illusion of demand.  Furthermore, with a stock broker who is working with the wash trader, the fees charged can be minimal.

On the surface, it seems that this is a losing proposition, but when one takes the profit/loss in perspective, the trades done does not make any or lose any money in the process.  For example, stock ABC last traded hands for $10 for 100 shares.  An order is made to buy 1000 stocks of ABC for $20.  Another order is made at the exact same time to sell 1000 stocks of ABC for $20.  Since the price matches, the order will go through and the latest price that the stock traded hands will now be $20.  Unfortunately, since nobody knew that ABC was sold and bought by the same entity or different entities working together, the people will assume that there the demand is growing for stock ABC and the price is rising.


As fascinating as it may seem, computers are becoming the tool of choice for many.  For example, in order to buy premium domain names that have expired, one can create a program that will try to purchase the domain name at the exact moment that it expires.  For example, a domain name with an intrinsic value of $1000 can be sniped for $10 a year.

A computer program can be created that will look over a company’s financial statements and determine how many shares if any the computer program will buy.

As many will know, the stock price is driven by profits but also by speculation.  Therefore, when purchasing stocks one needs to look beyond the books and into the computer programs that are programmed to buy and sell stocks at any time.  In order to master the market, one will have to have a firm understanding of what the computer programs deem stocks that are sell or buy.

Therefore, when people say the stock price is driven by speculation, they are partially right.  The stock price is also driven by computer programs that are designed to automatically buy and sell stocks based on the criteria programmed into the computer program.  These computer programs most likely have some sort of artificial intelligence.  After all, many companies are leaving these computer programs running on autopilot.

High frequency trading can be read about in the Wikipedia at

Why high frequency trading forces people to purchase at higher prices can be seen at  Based on the fact that flash trading,, is allowed in some stock exchanges, computer programs can be programmed to take advantage of a sellers market.

Robo-advisor or financial advisor, the challenge

Being one who buys ETFs and stocks from a discount broker, I am quite familiar with the ins and outs of ETFs.  Therefore, I can see how robo-advisors can work, but I can also see limitations with them.

When it comes to ETFs, there are the usual index trackers, but there are also other types that mimic mutual funds.

ETFs are available that are open-ended (US only as of Feb 5, 2014) and/or actively managed by a fund manager.  Therefore, there are many ETFs that can be linked to a mutual fund.  The ETF landscape in Canada is fairly complex with the emergence of ETFs that no longer track a specific index.

Robo-advisors can be useful to pick the ETFs that will fit a client’s risk tolerance, but a human advisor will be needed for the purpose of understanding other ETFs that do not fit into a client’s portfolio.  For example, I have looked into actively managed ETFs that implement a seasonal rotation strategy.  I have also looked into ETFs that target a specific sector.

Robo-advisors may have limitations since it may not be able to work outside the basic ETFs to fit into a clients risk tolerance level.

When I buy ETFs, I look at what are the holdings within the ETF, how easy it is to buy and sell the ETF, what is the purpose of the ETF, and any other information provided.  ETFs have grown from the typical index trackers and now need the expertise of human financial advisors who can look into an ETF and determine if it will fit a client’s current portfolio.

Human financial advisors will not be replaced, but will fill a specialized void where robo-advisors cannot help.  In this case, buying ETFs that are narrowly focused.

After all, if 15 ETFs can fill a specific risk level, how will the robo-advisor divide the money?  Will the robo-advisor buy all 15 ETFs equally, buy one ETF, or use some other allocation.

People often ask, why have an actively-managed fund?

If you know someone, we will call her Sarah, who is so good that she can make a 10%/year return on average over a number of years, you will most likely ask Sarah to invest your money.  Sarah, being the smart cookie she is, will instead create “Sarah’s Growth ETF” and charge a 2% fee to manage their money.

Therefore, the manager inside the fund is doing the best he/she can to make his/her clients money grow.  These managers can be self-taught traders and/or well educated traders using whatever financial tools are available to pick the winners from the losers.  The stock picking method used can be universal and/or proprietary.  Therefore, you will have to place your trust and money in the fund manager.

Bill Gross, the Bond King who often beats the bond index, has his own fund with a minimum investment of $1 million dollars, and Warren Buffet, a famous value investor, has his own publicly traded investment company that can be bought and sold on the open market.  They will most likely never tell you how to pick the winners from the losers since they are profiting from their knowledge.

The one thing that must be remembered when buying securities is to never get lazy.  Check on your investments periodically since the rise of the price and/or the payouts can be artificial.  There are ways to make a company look good by using unscrupulous methods.

People and entities to watch in the stock markets

When it comes to the stock market, there are people and entities that should be followed – Called the “Wizard of Omaha”, Warren is an investor that looks for and buys severely undervalued companies. – Often called the “Bond King”, Bill is known for his ability to beat the bond index in financial returns. – An activist investor, Carl is known to buy a majority share in depressed companies, and unlock their true value.  Unlocking a depressed companies value – Well known to short companies that are overvalued, Bill should be called the “Short King” – Watching them buy a majority stake in various companies, This pension plan is a major player in the markets

Buying notebook tips

August 19, 2014

I decided to look into buying a notebook from since they are quite cheap.


Looking over the comparison above, I decided to get the $249 Dell Inspiron 15-3531 Laptop.

I considered getting the $369 Acer Aspire V3-111P-P6VM Touchscreen Laptop since it is a 11″ laptop.  Unfortunately, I wanted a laptop that can easily change the hard-drive and the battery.  Therefore, a 15″ is what I decided to get.

June 25, 2011

ARM may enter the race to try to take some notebook market share from Intel and/or AMD.  ARM is well known by manufacturers for their low power consumption CPUs.   ARM CPUs are used in all mobile phones that I know of.  Therefore, it will be interesting to see if ARM can survive in an Intel and AMD dominated notebook market.

ARM can be read at

June 22, 2011

With the introduction of the Sandy Bridge, 2nd generation, processors from Intel, I decided to look into the not-so-obvious differences between  the different 2nd generation Intel CPUs .  I am assuming that the 2nd generation Intel CPUs is Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors.

From what I can see, the 2nd generation Intel CPUs are pretty much the same except for the fact that the I3 does not have Turbo Boost Technology.  Furthermore the I3 do have some models that do not have a video card integrated into the chip and one model that is soldered onto the motherboard.

Turbo Boost Technology as told by Toms’ Hardware at,2512.html is overclocking a CPU.  Intel’s overclocking method is designed to allow the CPU to overclock, run faster then it is designed for, itself without melting.  Therefore, the 2nd generation Intel CPU will overclock when needed, but will slow down when it either does not need to overclock or problems will arise if it continues overclocking.

Therefore, I do not believe that Turbo Boost Technology is a must have for a 2nd generation Intel CPU to pay a premium price for.  If the price is reasonable, I will buy one.

AMD’s Llano CPUs, which is the competitor to Intel’s 2nd generation CPUs, can be seen at

To answer the question of which CPU is faster and/or better, looking online should answer that question.  We all have our biases and/or loyalties, therefore, one will rarely get an honest answer from individual users.  I, like many users online, rely on hardware testers reviews for an unbiased opinion.

June 19, 2011

When it comes to purchasing a notebook, I always look for a separate video card.  In the case of a Dell Inspiron, the one for $649.99 is the one I will go for.

The ones that are cheaper have an Intel HD Graphics/HD Graphics 3000 with up to 1.6GB Dynamic Video Memory which shares the memory with the CPU.  Therefore, a minimum of 2.5 GB of RAM will be available to the CPU if one decides to allocate 1.5GB of RAM to the video card.  This is assuming that the notebook has 4GB of RAM.

Since the Video memory is dynamic, the amount of RAM allocated to the video card will vary.  Therefore, the video cards will use 1.5GB of RAM only when required to render images.  In any case, I have a preference to keep the CPU RAM away from the greedy hands of the video card.

As for the CPU and harddrive, I put more weight on the price.  If the price is too high, I will go with the cheaper model.  In the case of the $749.99, the I5 maybe a better deal than the I3 model.

A faster CPU and/or larger hard drive is always better, but the extra performance boost and/or space should justify the extra cost.  Therefore, keep that in mind when determining the need for speed and/or space.

As for the other notebooks such as the Alienware or the XPS, the model chosen maybe based on what one is planning on doing with it.  Furthermore, personal preference of the CPU and/or the video card’s dedicated RAM, and/or the other bells and whistles may also come into play.

Unfortunately, a separate video card comes at a price.  Shorter battery life.  Therefore, if longer battery life is necessary, then integrated is the answer. For improved performance, increase the amount of RAM to accommodate both the video card’s and Window’s RAM requirements.

If possible, I always try to get the longest lasting battery.  It seems that Dell provides a primary battery that cannot be upgraded or downgraded.  Therefore, if one is given a choice, getting a longer lasting battery is an option one should consider.

Therefore, choosing a notebook is a simple process.  The biggest challenge is finding a company to buy a notebook from whether it be HP, Dell, Acer, Sony, Toshiba, or Asus.

Using Kubuntu 14.04 and fixing the issues

Upon installing Kubuntu 14.04 on my Dell 1501, I have been greeted with a serious problem.  Internet was not working at all.  Therefore, I had to look online to find a solution.  Fortunately, I did not have to look far to find an answer.

Since I had no access to the Internet, I worked towards getting the wired Internet to work.  Therefore, I did a search for Ubuntu 14.04 no Internet.  After reading a few posts, I tried the one command that worked for someone else.

sudo rm /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-bcm43.conf

You can look inside the modprobe.d directory to see what is there.  There are quite a few blacklisted files listed.  Therefore, moving individual files out may get the wired Internet working by finding the file that is preventing the hardware from being detected.  The command above deleted the file.  Therefore, it is quite possible that one of those files needs to be deleted.

Deleting the blacklist-bcm43.conf file and rebooting got my wired Internet working.  Therefore, I was able to connect to the Internet with the Ethernet cable that allowed me to work towards fixing the second problem.  Getting wireless working was easy.  It seems that which is a solution from an earlier version, works.

The plasma desktop is quite confusing.  Therefore, I decided to switch back to the old fashioned desktop.

Right-click on the desktop -> Folder Settings

brings up the Plasma Desktop Shell.  From there, I change the layout from Default Desktop to Folder.

I am not familiar with using the Plasma Desktop; therefore, I opted for the traditional Folder style.

Reduce income tax paid in Canada

I have looked into the various options available to reduce the income tax paid to the Canadian government, and I have found that stocks can be more tax friendly.  I have used the combined federal and BC income tax rate for the examples below.

A single person making $70,000/year with:

  • employment as the sole source of income.

He/she will be paying about $14,628 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • interest income in the form of bonds paying interest, bank interest, or stocks that pay dividends in a foreign country.

He/she will be paying about $14,787 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • capital gains as the sole source of income.

He/she will be paying about $4880 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • non-eligible Canadian dividends paid out by a Canadian corporation.

He/she will be paying about $6025 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • eligible Canadian dividends paid out by a Canadian corporation.

He/she will be paying about $3356 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

Now if we look into a situation where a single person is making $40,000/year with:

  • employment as the sole source of income.

He/she will be paying about $5825 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • interest income in the form of bonds paying interest, bank interest, or stocks that pay dividends in a foreign country.

He/she will be paying about $5985 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • capital gains as the sole source of income.

He/she will be paying about $1558 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • non-eligible Canadian dividends paid out by a Canadian corporation.

He/she will be paying about $634 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

  • eligible Canadian dividends paid out by a Canadian corporation.

He/she will be paying about $0 in taxes for the year ending 2011 in Canada.

The $0 is not a typo.  If he/she makes $51,000/year instead of $40,000 then the taxes owed will be about $94.  Therefore, $50,000+ is the approximate threshold where taxes must be paid.

Other income details

When it comes to other income such as interest on bonds, bank interest and foreign dividends, the income tax rate is unusually high.  The reason for this is that:

  • since the interest paid to him/her is not taxed before being paid out, he/she is responsible for paying the taxes on the interest.
  • dividends paid by a corporation located in China, India, USA, Russia, etc. is not required to pay taxes in Canada.  The corporation is required to pay taxes in the county that the corporation is located in.  Therefore, the Canadian shareholder is responsible for paying the taxes on the income earned (foreign dividends) since the foreign company will not pay his/her Canadian taxes.

Capital Gains Details

The income tax on capital gains is much lower possibly due from the fact that it is classified as a business.  It could also be that since various financial corporations buy and sell stocks to make a profit, the government wants Canada to be a business-friendly country.  50% of the total capital gains for the year is taxed.

Canadian Dividends Details

Non-eligible Canadian dividends

The reason for the minimal amount of tax owing is due from the fact that since the corporation is Canadian, the corporation will pay the taxes on the non-eligible Canadian dividends to the Canadian government on the shareholder’s behalf.  If the shareholder’s income is too high (falls under a higher tax bracket), the shareholder will pay the excess income tax on his/her tax return.

Eligible Canadian dividends

Canadian corporations that meet the requirements for the enhanced dividend tax credit are taxed at a much lower rate than non-eligible Canadian dividends, as well as, the shareholder.  Therefore, a shareholder of these corporations will also benefit by paying the excess income tax owed at a lower tax bracket.

In the case of dividends, the corporation will determine what it must pay in taxes before deciding on the amount to pay out as dividends.  Therefore, a corporation will pay the shareholders 30 cents in dividends/share while keeping 5 cents/share.  The 5 cents/share will go to the Canadian government to pay the shareholders share of the taxes.

The negative tax on Canadian dividends will grow or shrink with the change in the corporate tax rate.  Currently, in the 2nd period of 2012, the dividend’s negative tax bracket is getting smaller.  This is due from the fact that the corporate tax rate is reduced.  Therefore, it is quite possible that the dividend will increase with a lower corporate tax rate and decrease with a higher corporate tax rate.

I have not looked into how much taxes he/she will pay when combining income from more than one source due from the fact that there are too many combinations.  Nevertheless, this should provide you a better understanding of how different income types are taxed.

I have used the following article as a reference for this post.

As for personal income tax deductions, there are many that can be used and can change every year.  The list of deductions that will reduce the income tax payable vary from person to person.  Therefore, talking to a knowledgeable tax preparer or a friend who does his/her own taxes may provide some good tax saving advice.


Hide money offshore to hide assets and/or avoid paying taxes

This method is often used by wealthy people to not only avoid paying taxes, but to protect their money and/or assets from seizure in case of divorce, bankruptcy, and/or other reason for taking their stuff away.

I have seen many cases where a divorce was filed, but the spouse was unable to claim on offshore assets because they are not visible to the current country where the divorce was filed.

This is not new and is always a problem for tax collectors and government alike.  Imagine a person who is retired and is collecting a pension.  He/she can be collecting pension in one country and hiding a mansion with twenty trillion dollars in a bank somewhere else.

Furthermore, a person could declare bankruptcy in one country to avoid paying his/her debts, and move to another country where his/her trillions is waiting.

If the IRS goes to Russia to try to get an American’s bank records, the IRS personnel will probably be jailed.  Russia does not like the American government very much.

I find it funny when I look at the tax form and see a couple of lines for “Write down any other assets you own in other countries”.  Is it possible that the tax man can check your name in every country in the world?  Possibly, but only in allied countries.

Therefore, if you have some money lying around, you can hide it in some foreign bank.

An article where the US is cracking down on asset hiding can be found at

Another article that talks about where the money is hidden

Installing OpenSUSE 12.3 for the first time

I decided to give OpenSUSE, based on Red Hat, a try and found WIFI not working on my Dell 1501.  Therefore, I looked for a solution.  The solution I found online gave some issues.

Ubuntu says to install:

  • b43-fwcutter
  • firmware-b43-installer

OpenSUSE says to install

  •  zypper install b43-fwcutter
  • /usr/sbin/install_bcm43xx_firmware

The first command for OpenSUSE worked fine.  The second one crashed my computer.  Therefore, I decided to look into the problem.

My card is a 14e4:4311 as told by OpenSUSE on the command line.

  • 05:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4311 802.11b/g WLAN [14e4:4311] (rev 01)

I decided to try installing firmware-b43-installer in OpenSUSE to see if that does anything.  Unfortunately, OpenSUSE did not have such a file.  Therefore, I installed b43-firmware which looks identical.  With that done, the second command for OpenSUSE runs without error.  Furthermore, WIFI works.  Therefore, the solution seems to be to install b43-firmware.  The software above requires that the Packman repository be added in OpenSUSE.

Flash is much slower in OpenSUSE 12.3, 32-bit version based on Red Hat, when compared to Linux Mint, 64-bit version based on Debian.  Therefore, Adobe Flash may run faster on a different Linux version.  Adobe Flash may also run faster on a 64-bit version of Linux.

The aforementioned were tested using Google Chrome and a RAMDisk.

I will continue to test OpenSUSE for more issues.


Purchasing a tablet and/or netbook from

I am seriously considering buying either a netbook or a tablet from Therefore, I sent out a couple requests for the current price and specifications.

Many of the quotes from are too low to be believable.  Therefore, I am wary of sending cash through Western Union, Bank transfer, or personal cheque.  I sent a request to pay by either paypal or escrow, but received no response.  Therefore, it is possible that these sellers are scammers.

The quotes that are reasonable are about the same price or more than the tablets and netbooks available in Canada.  Therefore, I find that buying electronics are cheaper in Canada when comparing the hardware specifications.

In any case, when purchasing from or, ensure that you are paying with a service that will act as a broker for all transactions.  If you do not receive your product, you can get your money back.

Many of the products that are hard to find can be purchased from or  There are many good deals, but it may require some hunting.

Cheapest tablet
Nexus 7 – A newer version should be coming out in July of 2013.  Therefore, I highly recommend waiting for the next generation of the Nexus 7.

Cheapest netbook
ASUS 1015E Series – A 10.1 inch netbook that costs more than the chromebook, but it can run Windows 8 and Linux.  It is not available in Canada as of May 2, 2013, but that may change later.  I will have to see how much the 2GB vs 4GB models cost.

It is rumored that netbooks may come back again for a second round.  Therefore, it maybe best to wait til September to see if anything pans out.

In my opinion, it is better to get a 11.6 inch notebook.  Acer Aspire One’s 11.6 notebooks are cheap and decent.