Turn on any television, any time of day or night, and you’re likely to see an insurance ad, or two, or a dozen. Flo is showing off her “name your price” tool, which sure looks like her company’s way of saying “you may not be able to afford all the insurance you need, but we’re happy to sell you whatever you can afford.” There’s the ubiquitous gecko, telling you his company sells insurance for your RV and motorcycle, too. And there’s Duncan, age 42, buying an incredible half-million dollars of term life insurance for just $27 per month.

Of course, life insurance, homeowners insurance, and car insurance are just the tip of the insurance iceberg. Why do you think the tallest building in most cities has an insurance company’s name up top? Businesses and professionals buy all sorts of commercial coverages for their operations. Celebrities are infamous for oddball policies covering whatever makes them money — so we have Kim Kardashian insuring her backside for $3 million and Keith Richards insuring his hands for $1.6 million. Insurance companies can even buy reinsurance, which is insurance for insurance companies.

Losing a tax audit may not sound as tragic as, say, Keith Richards losing his hands. But the whole concept of “insurance” is about guaranteeing payment in the event of a specified loss. So, if Keith Richards can insure the hands that conjured up “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” out of an ordinary six-string, shouldn’t we be able to buy insurance to cover unexpected losses to the IRS? It turns out the answer is yes . . . and there’s even more than one way to do it.

The most obvious way is to buy something cleverly marketed as “tax insurance.” And while you can’t just go online to save 15% or more on tax insurance with GEICO, it’s really not much tougher than that. High-end brokers sell coverage to reimburse bigger businesses for the cost of taxes, noncriminal penalties, and the cost of taking a case to court. (Typically, these arise out of mergers and acquisitions.) They can even buy extra coverage to “gross up” benefits to cover the new taxes companies owe when they collect on the insurance!

Business owners can use something called an enterprise risk management program to insure risks that they’re currently covering out of their own pockets. These typically include operational and strategic risks, like the cost of defending sexual harassment claims, cyber risks, and the loss of key suppliers or vendors. But you might also insure against the cost of defending an IRS audit. The cost of insuring the risk is deductible — and if you have to collect, the cost of defending yourself is deductible, too!

Finally, if you’re not sure the IRS will accept your tax treatment of a particular transaction, consider visiting a tax attorney for an opinion letter. Opinion letters aren’t “insurance,” per se. They can’t guarantee you’ll avoid actual tax. But in some circumstances, even if you wind up paying tax, the opinion letter can eliminate penalties you might have otherwise paid. In other cases, the attorney can essentially cover your extra costs out of their own malpractice insurance. Fortunately, most tax savings don’t call for any insurance at all. We help clients save taxes with a complete menu of court-tested, IRS-approved strategies. In fact, some of our most powerful strategies actually lower your risk of being audited. So leave the gecko at home, because he wouldn’t be any help at an audit anyway, and see if we can save you 15% or more on your income tax!

Memorial Day has come and gone, and while summer doesn’t officially unlock the door and open for business until June 21, who’s waiting? Craft beer fans are swapping out those dark malts that taste like tree bark, and stocking up on summer brews with hints of lemon, lime, and cherry. Sports fans are turning their eyes towards baseball’s upcoming All-Star game. (Yeah, hockey and basketball are still going on — but aren’t those supposed to be winter sports?) And readers across America are combing shelves for the summer’s hottest summer beach reads.

Beach books typically don’t ask you to do much heavy intellectual lifting. They’re usually the literary equivalent of bingeing an entire season of The Bachelorette in a single weekend. Some readers don’t even bring books at all — they drop a kindle or an iPad in their bag to hide the latest 50 Shades story from the folks on the next towel. Occasionally, though, you find something weightier catching readers’ eyes. So if that’s what you need, NYU Professor Jonathan Choi has assembled a list of the 50 most-cited law review tax articles of all time. Boring, you say? Prepare to be surprised!

Taking home the gold, with 1220 total citations, is William D. Andrews’ 1974 thriller, A Consumption-Type or Cash Flow Personal Income Tax. The plot follows a plucky tax professor challenging the conventional wisdom that taxable income should equal the sum of personal consumption plus accumulation. But that plot is really just an excuse to propose a graduated consumption tax. The story also takes us down subplots involving cash-flow accounting for loan proceeds to curb tax shelter abuses, nontaxation of reinvested capital gains, and a proposed zero basis for inherited assets. (See? Riveting!)

Claiming the silver, with 992 citations, we have Harvard professors Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell arguing Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income. This is a classic legal thriller in the vein of John Grisham or Scott Turow. Except, in this case, the parties are “legal rules” and “the income tax system.” Kaplow and Shavell put them both on trial and declare taxes to be the victor.

Finally, taking the bronze with 762 citations, is Boris Bittker’s 1967 classic, A Comprehensive Tax Base as a Goal of Income Tax Reform. Bittker argues that it’s simply too hard to define a neutral, scientific measure of taxable income, and each policy proposal should be judged provision by provision. (It’s easy to be disappointed with Bittker’s meek conclusion — after all, isn’t the whole point of a law review article to propose something with no chance of real-world success?)

The rest of Choi’s top 50 cover the same beach book ground you’d find at your local bookseller. There’s rich historical drama. (Edward Zelinsky’s James Madison and Public Choice at Gucci Gulch: A Procedural Defense of Tax Expenditures and Tax Institutions.) There’s gripping family conflict. (Paul Caron’s Tax Myopia, or Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Tax Lawyers.) There’s even a sex scene or two to heat up your afternoon. (Marjorie Kornhauser’s The Rhetoric of the Anti-Progressive Income Tax Movement: A Typical Male Reaction.)

So, tax articles are fun, right? Unfortunately, you can read them all summer long without learning anything about how to pay less. That’s where we come in. Just pick up the phone before you head to the beach, or the lake, or the mountains, and see how much we can save you while you’re enjoying a real beach read!

Graduation season is here, and grads of all ages are excited to move on! Kindergartners are celebrating mastery of letters, shapes, and not eating crayons. Awkward eighth-graders just want to finish getting through puberty. High-schoolers are looking forward to careers, college, and moving out of their parents’ nests. College grads are looking forward to crushing student debt and moving back in to those nests. And some panicky grad students (you know who you are), are searching desperately for one last degree to avoid joining the rest of us in the real world.

Most graduations are pretty pedestrian affairs. The same Pomp and Circumstance, the same gowns, caps, and tassels, and the same trite, inspirational speeches filled with dad jokes and lame puns. But every so often, a graduation makes real headlines. This year, it came on May 18, at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, a private, historically-black men’s college.

Robert F. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm investing in software companies. Smith is one of the best in that particularly challenging business — he’s built a $5 billion fortune and made himself the richest African-American in the country. (Take that, Oprah!) This year, Morehouse granted Smith an honorary degree and invited him to deliver the commencement address. Smith, who has been a generous supporter of educational causes, pledged $1.5 million to the school. So far pretty typical, right?

But Smith saved his real news for the ceremony itself, without even announcing it to administrators ahead of time. He told the audience of 396 graduates: “We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus . . . . This is my class, 2019, and my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.” While the exact figure is still unknown, recent classes have graduated with roughly $10 million in debt.

The best part, as far as students are concerned, is that Smith’s extraordinary gift is tax-free. Recipients never owe tax on gifts. As for Smith, givers can give up to $15,000 per year to as many recipients as they like, or $30,000 for joint gifts with their spouse. And givers can pay any amount for medical or educational purposes so long as they stroke the check directly to the institution providing those services. Givers don’t owe actual tax until their total lifetime gifts above those “annual exclusion amounts” top $11.4 million per person.

But Smith shouldn’t even face those gift tax consequences. That’s because, as he announced at the ceremony, he’s making a “grant” to nuke the loans. Doing it through the school should qualify it as a deductible charitable contribution, meaning Uncle Sam will cover up to 37% of that cost.

Smith is no stranger to deductible gifts. He’s given $50 million to his own alma mater, Cornell, which named their school of chemical and biomolecular engineering for him. (Who knew you could slice and dice engineering schools like that?) He’s supported the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture. And last year, he bought two houses — where the Rev. Martin Luther King was born, and where he lived with his family — and donated them to the National Park Service. Smith is obviously smart as well as generous. And one thing he seems to know is you don’t build a $5 billion fortune without minimizing interference from the IRS. Would you love to be able to make some sort of grand, generous gesture at the next graduation you attend? Call us for a plan to pay less tax, and let’s see how generous we can help you be!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (okay, on May 21, 1980), The Empire Strikes Back introduced the world to Yoda, the oldest, most-powerful, and most syntactically-challenged Jedi knight in the universe. Yoda delighted audiences as he trained Luke Skywalker, launched him into battle against Darth Vader, and died peacefully at age 900, his body becoming one with the Force. Today, his fans remember Yoda by celebrating May 21 as National Talk Like Yoda Day. And celebrating we are this year by talking about taxes!

Hard to believe it is, but taxes lie at the heart of the Star Wars universe. In Episode One: The Phantom Menace, in the very first paragraph of the opening crawl, we learned that taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems was in dispute. The Galactic Senate had imposed taxes to fight interplanetary pirates, and in response, the Trade Foundation had blockaded shipping to Naboo to pressure the Senate into repealing those taxes. The Supreme Chancellor dispatched two Jedi Knights to resolve the dispute . . . and the adventure begins!

Yes, more to the story there is than that. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious — masquerading as Senator Palpatine — used the dispute to seize dictatorial powers, declare himself Emperor, lure Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, commission a Death Star factory, and proceed to ravage the Galaxy. But really . . . dig down deep enough, past the epic space battles, light saber duels, and colorful aliens inhabiting Mos Eisley’s cantina (aka “the bar scene”), and you’ll find just another battle over tariffs. Like the American Revolution almost it sounds, hrmmm?

The Galactic Senate isn’t the only body levying taxes in the Star Wars universe. On the desert planet of Tatooine, so common it was that Jabba the Hut imposed a tax on murder. The bodies murderers even plotted to cheat the tax by hiding. Smart tax policy on Jabba’s part? Possibly . . . although probably not sustainable in the long run, yes? That is, unless the Tatooine Department of Tourism manages to make the desert planet appealing enough to attract future victims to emigrate!

There’s even a real-life tax-planning success behind the Star Wars story. Back in 2012, before releasing the final three installments of his saga, creator George Lucas sold his production company Lucasfilm to Disney. Closed the deal he did less than three months before the maximum tax on capital gains was scheduled to jump from 15% to 20%, and the new 3.8% net investment income tax was scheduled to begin. Lucas’s timing saved him around $176 million in earthbound taxes, yes?

Lucas with one last challenge success faces. With somewhere north of $5 billion in assets, he’s facing an estate tax bill the size of a minor outlying planet. But estate planning moves he has. Lucas has signed Bill Gates’ “Giving Pledge,” which encourages wealthy people to donate most of their wealth to charity. Signing the pledge accelerates normal charitable giving into hyperdrive and cuts estate taxes with the power of the Millennium Falcon.

When it comes to saving money on taxes, one thing you must remember there is: plan or plan not. There is no try. Jedi tax planning you need. Fortunately, you don’t have to fight your way through an army of stormtroopers to slash your bill. You just have to pick up the phone. So call us, and feel the proactive power of the Force!

On May 6, England’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan introduced the world to a baby with the delightfully British name of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The new royal is now seventh in line for the throne, which means he won’t have to spend his life faking fascination with mundane royal duties like touring factories or christening ships. The poor kid doesn’t even have a title, at least not yet. You’d think he would at least be Laird of some Scottish fishing village, or Earl of ye olde shopping malle somewhere.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it costs an average of $233,610 to raise a child. (Make that $264,090 in the urban northeast, and “just” $193,020 out in the sticks.) That total includes the costs of paying for more house, skinned knees and braces, and daycare until they get old enough that you just want to send them to school already.

Pound for pound, then, babies like Archie are the priciest people on earth. Here on our side of the pond, our tax code offers all sorts of goodies to make raising them easier. There’s a $2,000 annual child tax credit, deductions for at least part of the mortgage interest and property tax on the new McMansion, a $2,100 dependent care credit for daycare, and various strategies for out-of-pocket medical costs. But what sort of goodies will Britain’s newest royal enjoy, aside from the obvious perk of being born with a platinum spoon in his mouth?

The British tax system works a bit like ours, but with posher accents. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (which sure sounds warmer and fuzzier than “Internal Revenue Service”) phased out most child tax credits two years ago. The mortgage interest deduction disappeared all the way back in 2000. Health care is already free. And as for Archie’s nanny bills, HMRC offers a “tax-free childcare” subsidy of £2 from the government for every £8 they spend, up to £2,000 per year.

Of course, the latest royal moppet won’t really need any of those. His father benefits from the Queen’s Sovereign Grant — £76.1 million in 2018 ($103 million) — which she uses partly to maintain Kensington Palace where Archie lives. Harry also shares in his own father Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall income, which has been handed down to the eldest son of the monarch since 1337. And mom Meghan is no slouch herself, with a net worth estimated at $5 million from her Hollywood days.

Climbing further up the family tree, Forbes pegs Archie’s great-grandmother the Queen’s personal fortune at $500 million. She also benefits from the $25 billion Crown Estate, which includes the really pricey stuff like Buckingham Palace (worth $4.7 billion) and the Crown Jewels. Do yourjewels have names? (Fun fact: The thoroughly modern Queen even posts on Instagram now!)

So, with all that Sovereign Grant money raining down on the Queen, the royals are a burden on the state, right? Think again. The Grant money works out to just about 69 pence per taxpayer. But the monarchy also generates $700 million per year in tourism revenue. Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding last summer added another $1.5 billion to the coffer. That means, despite anti-Royalist criticism, Archie’s family is actually a profit center.

You may be thinking none of this has anything to do with you. But children can make great, sticky, squirmy little tax-planning opportunities. So call us after the baby shower, and let us help you hire them for your company, write off their braces as business expenses, and even help pay for their college!

In the criminal justice system, tax-based offenses aren’t considered especially heinous . . . but they still cost the government a ton of money. In field offices throughout the country, the dedicated Special Agents who investigate these expensive felonies are members of an elite squad known as IRS Criminal Investigation. (They’re also the only IRS agents who get to pack heat, rock a Kevlar vest, and go undercover.) From the FY 2018 CI Annual Report, these are their stories. (Dun Dun.)

  • Shawanda Nevers — aka Shawanda Hawkins, Shawanda Bryant, and Shawanda Johnson — operated several businesses in New Orleans, including a sports bar and a tax-prep shop. She must have thought her taxes should be as spicy as her cooking. So she whipped up returns giving her clients fake business losses, deductions, and credits. In 2014, the IRS permanently barred her from preparing taxes. But she kept letting les bon temps rouler until CI agents busted her again, fined her $7 million, and sentenced her to seven years of bland prison chow.
  • Kelly Sue Reynolds worked as a bookkeeper in North Carolina. Over five years, she embezzled $439,459.97 from her employer, including the money that was supposed to pay their taxes. (That’s the mark of a top-notch bookkeeper, right? They can tell you down to the penny how much they stole.) When the IRS came looking for their money, CI agents busted Reynolds’ scheme. Now she’s counting down two years in the “camp” where Martha Stewart served. It’s been called “America’s cushiest prison” . . . but Reynolds still gets to learn if orange really is the new black.
  • Rick Rizzollo ran a “gentleman’s club” in Las Vegas, where he paid employees in cash and filed bogus employment tax returns. (He’s a real gentleman himself — he hired teenage strippers, and used a baseball bat to “persuade” customers into signing fraudulent credit card charges.) In 2006, he copped to the employment tax fraud. Then he hid his money to dodge the back taxes and sent $900,000 from selling a second club to an account in the Cook Islands. But CI agents demanded the naked truth, and helped send Rizzollo to 24 months in a place where the “bouncers” don’t wear tuxedos.
  • Lizzie Mulder (not a CPA) posed as a CPA in California, where she had clients make out checks payable to “Income Tax Payments.” Perfectly kosher, right? What clients didn’t know was that she had set up a phony account called (wait for it) “Income Tax Payments,” under her own name. She used their money for a pricey house, cosmetic surgery, vacations, and an Arabian horse. Lizzie’s husband ratted her out to clients, then CI agents joined to “stable” her in a Phoenix prison for five years.
  • Monsignor (!) Hien Minh Nguyen was a priest for the San Jose archdiocese and director of the local Vietnamese Catholic Center. Apparently he missed class the day they discussed that whole “poverty” thing in priest school. Nguyen stole cash donations from parishioners and deposited their checks in his personal account, among other sins. CI agents visited him, hoping for a confession, and used his lies and inconsistent answers to build a case that led to $1.9 million in restitution and three years in prison. (He can probably count on a few years in purgatory, too.)

It’s sometimes fun to see what happens to people when their good judgment and common sense take early retirement. Of course we all want to pay less tax! But you don’t have to risk a visit from a pistol-packing Special Agent to do it. Call us for a plan, and see how much you can save without posing for mug shots.

Last weekend, Hollywood made history. Disney’s three-hour popcorn epic, Avengers: Endgame sent box-office records scrambling in panic, grossing $350 million here in the U.S. And $330 million in China. And $600 million more in another 43 countries. It’s the first movie to top a billion dollars in its opening weekend. Endgame still has a long way to go before it catches Gone With the Wind, which made $3.4 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. But did Scarlett O’Hara gross a single dollar in action figures, video games, or happy meals?

This isn’t going to be one of those stories where we say, “Hey, let’s look at taxes in the Marvel Universe!” We have no idea how payroll works in Wakanda. We couldn’t tell you the first thing about import duties on Vibranium. And we don’t really care if Thanos of Titan is reporting all his income to the proper taxing authorities. (He’s not our client!)

Surely, though, there were plenty of tax collectors in the audience swelling this weekend’s box-office gross. And they should be as happy as anyone, because they’ll be claiming a pretty nice share of it all!

Start with the real stars of the movie. We’re talking about the CGI artists who generated over 3,000 visual effects shots. (Director James Cameron’s company even created an entirely new facial-capture application called Masquerade specifically for James Brolin to play Thanos.) VFX work is time and labor intensive, so most of that budget goes to the animators, directors, and other technicians who work behind the scenes to make the magic happen. Much of that money, in turn, finds its way into Uncle Sam’s pocket, and far faster than it takes Thor to find his way back from Asgar.

Unfortunately, producers were forced to hire pricey people for situations like “dialogue” and “character” where special effects wouldn’t cut it. Robert Downey, Jr., who earned just $500,000 for his first Iron Man movie, will take home north of $50 million. Middle-tier stars like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson earned a reported $15 million each. All of that is taxed as ordinary income, with 37% going to Uncle Sam, 3.8% going to Social Security and Medicare, and 13% going to California.

Disney spent $356 million to make the movie, along with millions more to market and promote it. In Hollywood, the accountants are nearly as creative as the directors and writers, so the studios usually find a way to show a loss. But $1.2 billion in a single weekend may be a little harder to defeat than the usual gross, and if Endgame does show a profit, the studio will pay the usual 21% corporate tax.

At the end of the last Avengers movie, Thanos collected all six of the Infinity Stones and snapped his fingers to wipe out half the Universe’s population. (Not a spoiler . . . you’ve had time!) Google celebrates that moment today with a Thanos “Easter Egg.” Just go to Google, type “Thanos” in the search bar, and hit “enter.” Then look for the jewel-covered glove, called the Infinity Gauntlet, in the upper-right corner. Click it, and you’ll see half the search results magically disappear from the page.

But . . . and we’re just spitballing here . . . what if you could “Thanos snap” your fingers and make half your taxes go away? Well, we may not have any Infinity Stones in our pockets. But we do have an ensemble cast of concepts and strategies to put to work to help you pay less. A captive insurance company can be every bit as good as the Power Stone, for the right business, and a charitable remainder trust can be as illuminating as the Soul Stone. So call us after the movie lets out, and take a look at our special effects!

When it comes to raising revenue, governments usually find it most efficient to follow the immortal advice of bank robber Willie Sutton and go “where the money is.” They turn to income, payroll, property, and sales taxes to fund most of their operations. They’ll throw in the occasional gas tax or sin tax for fun. Most of the time, those “nuisance taxes” don’t amount to much. But that’s not always the case.

In 1989, New York state imposed a so-called mansion tax, a flat 1% on home sales of $1 million or more. Now the state has “remodeled” that tax, adding seven new brackets for sales in New York City beginning January 1, 2020. The rate increases to 1.25% on sale amounts from $2-3 million, 1.75% on amounts from $3-5 million, and steps all the way up to 4.15% on amounts over $25 million. Officials expect the new tax to raise $365 million per year, and plan to use it to finance $5 billion in bonds for public transportation.

So far so good, right? Well, for starters, should a tax on million-dollar homes really be called a “mansion” tax in the first place? Maybe that was true when the Empire State first levied it in 1989. But these days, a million bucks isn’t even “mansion-adjacent,” especially in Manhattan. Right now, you can pay $1,499,000 for a 52nd-floor alcove studio in Hell’s Kitchen. (Hell’s Kitchen!) There’s no separate bedroom, of course. Not even a bathtub! But the bathroom has a very nice marble-lined shower.

Of course, some pads really do qualify as “mansions.” Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin just dropped $238 million for a penthouse at 220 Central Park South, an oligarch-friendly tower on “billionaire’s row.” Griffin’s new pad includes 23,000 square feet sprawling over four floors, with 16 bedrooms and more bathrooms than your mansion. It’s the most expensive home sale in U.S. history — and Griffin plans to use it as “a place to stay when he’s in town” for business. (How’s that for “let them eat cake” moments in American history?)

The extra tax would have cost Griffin $7.2 million if he had waited until next year to buy. Sure, that sounds like a lot to you. But Forbes estimates Griffin’s net worth at $11.8 billion, meaning it probably wouldn’t have stopped the deal. (The place comes unfinished, meaning he’ll have to spend tens of millions more before he can unpack his toothbrush!)

Griffin isn’t the only plutocrat buying pricey real estate he won’t be occupying. So many deep-pocketed foreigners have decided to stash part of their gains in Manhattan condos, without ever moving in, that some high-end buildings stand nearly dark at night. The city even floated a “pied-a-terre”tax for those part-time residents using those condos as safe-deposit boxes without pouring anything else into city goods and services.

Pied-a-terre tax fans pointed out the politically convenient fact that part-time residents don’t vote in New York, which makes it easier to pluck them without making them squawk. But ultimately, real estate insiders shot it down as class warfare. They objected that it would be too hard to determine which owners are truly absentee and deserve to get hit with the tax. And they argued, quite reasonably, that out-of-towners buying $5 million condos aren’t taking up space on city buses and subways.

We don’t care if you live in a mansion, an apartment, or a van down by the river. We’re pretty sure you don’t want to pay more than your legal fair share. That’s where our tax planning service comes in. So call us and see how much you might save. You might free up enough to spend some seriously fun weekends in the city!

Sunday night, millions of Game of Thrones fans who waited breathlessly for 20 months finally got rewarded with their next installment what’s become the biggest TV show on the planet. Cersei discovered (redacted). Jon Snow learned that …. (sorry, no spoilers here). And that guy with the eye patch and flaming sword probably does great on Tinder. (Seriously, what fair maiden wouldn’t swipe right on him?)

Last week, we speculated about how taxes work in Game of Thrones and concluded there are two groups of winners, at least as far as taxes are concerned. The first are the governments collecting taxes from the show’s creators, cast, and crew. The second are those collecting taxes from tourists visiting the show’s spectacular filming locations, like Spain’s Alcazar Palace or Gaztelugatxe. (Remarkably, not a typo.) But there’s another important lesson worth spending a second week on. (If you’re not a fan, don’t worry, we’re not turning this into the Westerosi Weekly Tax Journal.)

Thrones creator George R.R. Martin modeled his fictional Seven Kingdoms after England during the Wars of the Roses. So taxes probably work in conventionally feudal ways. Smallfolk kick up to their lords in the form of currency, crops, or labor. The lords kick up a share to the great houses, and the houses kick up a share to the crown. If it all sounds like something out of “a certain Italian-American subculture,” it should — remember, Thrones producers originally pitched their epic as “the Sopranos in Middle Earth.”

But can taxes alone be enough to sustain a group of squabbling kingdoms against a more existential threat? Martin’s characters spent seven seasons fighting amongst each other to make it to this week’s premier. (Well, at least the few dozen who survived the first 67-episode slugfest of death.) Now they’re facing a common enemy from the north. The Army of the Dead has lain low for thousands of years. Now they’re marching south, and the night is dark and full of terrors. A man wants to know, how do you kill an army of soldiers who are already dead? (This isn’t going to end well, is it?)

The Westerosis are going to need everything they can find to battle those enemies. They know that Valyrian steel, dragonglass, and actual fire-breathing dragons can destroy White Walkers. They’ve also got wildfire, the deadly green liquid that can engulf an entire navy or a portion of an ancient stone city with the spark from a single candle. We don’t know for sure if wildfire kills the undead, but it certainly can’t be good for them.

Are you one of those fans who likes guessing what comes next? (Who’s going to sit on the Iron Throne when the series closes forever on May 19? Danaerys? Arya? Hot Pie?) If so, you’ve probably guessed we’re using all of this to draw a metaphor. Taxes are like the White Walkers, advancing from the north to slow down your financial progress. And if you’re like Jon Snow, you know nothing about strategies to pay less. You don’t have Valeyrian steel, dragon glass, or wildfire.

But what we can give you is an ever-expanding menu of concepts and strategies to slow or stop the White Walkers of unnecessary taxes. If you want to pay the legal minimum, you need someone who speaks “taxes” as fluently as Danaerys’s translator Missandrei, who can say “loophole” in 19 different languages. Think of out Tax Blueprint® as Valyrian steel, our Tax Operating Service® as dragonglass, and our Financial Gravity Wealth services as wildfire. So when you’re done watching Thrones, call us to put it all to work!

On April 14, millions of fans will gather around the biggest screen they can find for the start of one final season in Westeros, the setting of George R.R. Martin’s epic Game of Thrones. The show, which producers pitched as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth,” has leaped from television into the broader culture. In 2013, 241 babies were named “Khaleesi” after the title Danaerys Targaryen takes by marrying the Khal Drogo. UC Berkeley offers a class in “invented languages” featuring Dothraki, which sounds like what you’d get if you mixed Spanish and Arabic and ran it through a wood chipper.

Martin doesn’t tell us much about how taxes work in Westeros. And HBO certainly isn’t interested in exploring those details — how would they find time between introducing 257 major characters in Season One and killing most of them off in increasingly cringeworthy fashion through the next six seasons? But fortunately for us, the series leaves occasional bread crumbs to help us understand whether the show’s tax collectors worship the lord of light or the lord of darkness.

The Iron Throne’s principal tax man is Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, the King’s urbanely oily Master of Coin. (Picture Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but with chainmail and some super-sketchy side gigs.) Apparently, collecting taxes is just another entrepreneurial opportunity for Littlefinger. In Clash of Kings, Martin writes, “Ten years ago, Jon Arryn had given him a minor sinecure in customs, where Lord Petyr had soon distinguished himself by bringing in three times as much as any of the king’s other collectors.”

Sadly, Littlefinger’s greediest efforts aren’t enough to satisfy King Robert Baratheon’s lust for wine and tournaments. Baratheon spends down the surplus left by the Targaryens, then borrows millions of golden dragons from the House of Lannister and the Iron Bank of Braavos, Westeros’s version of the International Monetary Fund. We don’t know how much interest Braavos charges — but if you default, they don’t just send swordsell goons to break your legs. They finance a rival power, then collect when the rival overthrows you!

As for those scheming Lannisters, we know “a Lannister always pays his debts.” But do Lannisters always pay their taxes? Or do they cleverly avoid them? In Season Three, Lord Tywin Lannister imposes a penny tax on brothels, called “the dwarf’s penny,” to boost public morals and pay for Joffrey’s upcoming wedding. Now, come on . . . is there any idiot in any village in Westeros who doesn’t see through that blatant attempt to shift the burden from the 1% to the commoners? Discuss.

In the end, the show’s biggest winners may be the real tax collectors across the world. Series creator George R.R. Martin earns a reported $25 million per year from HBO and book royalties. Thrones tourists have pumped millions more into the show’s real-life filming locations, including Northern Ireland and Dubrovnik — a Croatian city most fans had never heard of before they saw it standing in for King’s Landing. We can assume that all of their governments are happy to collect their share of all those Thrones dollars raining down like flaming arrows.

If you’re like most “Thronies,” you’d love a dragon of your own to ease your path to the top. (Or do you worry the King would find a way to tax them, too?) Fortunately, you don’t need a fire-breathing reptile to keep more of your golden dragons. You just need a plan. So call us when you’re ready to escape the King’s yoke, and see how glorious a castle you can build with the savings!