As a matter of principle, I believe it’s wrong to tip on the tax on a meal. The restaurant isn’t going to give that portion of the tip to the government, not that I’d want them to. Instead, I tip 20 percent on the pre-tax amount — that is, on the charge for the food and drink. Is there anything wrong with this? Some friends seem to think so. By the way, where I live, the sales tax is almost 10 percent.
— D.H., San Francisco Bay Area
Your friends are wrong, and you are right: There’s no need to tip on the tax. The point of a tip is to recognize the work of the server, with the cost of the meal being a rough surrogate for how much effort he or she has had to expend. Obviously, how much the state — and county and city — chooses to tax the meal has nothing to do with that effort. Of course, customers are entitled to tip as much as they like. But they should leave large tips because they appreciate the service, not because the government has pumped up the cost of the meal.
P.S. Beware of restaurant bills that “helpfully” suggest 15 percent, 18 percent, 20 percent and even 25 percent tips calculated on the post-tax total. Shame on those establishments. They know better, even if their customers don’t always.
I am the executor of my recently deceased mother’s estate. Mom’s trust calls for her money to be split equally among my siblings and me. The thing is, one of my sisters has just passed away. Because the trust names her as a beneficiary, is her husband now entitled to her share of Mom’s estate? Two of my siblings insist that we give our brother-in-law the money. They point out that he’s having financial difficulties, and they say that our sister surely would have wanted her husband to have her bequest. What do you advise?
— I Need Help, Greater Sacramento Area, California
Ignore your siblings. A trust is not a democracy, and family members don’t get to vote on how it’s to be distributed. The law requires that money in a trust be distributed in accordance with the instructions in the trust document, and as your mother’s executor, it’s your obligation to do exactly that. If you’re uncertain what the trust calls for — for example, if it’s unclear to you how long a prospective heir needed to survive your mother in order to inherit a share, or unclear who is to receive the share intended for your deceased sister — a lawyer will be able to help you.
That said, no matter what the trust specifies, you and your siblings are free to do what you like with your inheritances. So if two of your siblings want to give some of the money they inherit to your sister’s widower, they can do so. But what they can’t do is force the rest of you to kick in by in effect rewriting your mother’s trust to suit their wishes.