Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Bitcash, and Ethereum rest on a foundation of “blockchain”: a continuously growing public transaction ledger consisting of records called “blocks” that are linked together and secured using cryptography. Blockchain bulls see the new technology revolutionizing all sorts of transactions, like real estate sales and medical records. Skeptics dismiss the whole effort as fool’s gold, suitable for speculation but nothing more. (Hedge fund tycoon T. Boone Pickens recently tweeted that, “at [age] 89, anything with the word ‘crypt’ in it is a real turnoff for me.”)

Now, former tech CEO Matt Liston has formed a blockchain-based religion called 0xω, (“Zero ex Omega”). “We’re incentivizing mindsharing, and eventually mind upload to use consensus to form a structure of collective consciousness,” he says. “And then, we’ll elevate an individual interaction with a religious structure as a group participation in a collective consciousness where the structure itself is god.” He’s even unveiled a computer-generated avatar he hopes to be the church’s first sacred object: a narwhal with a doge head, a beret, tattoos, an infinity tail, and an ethereum logo.

We’re praying that this is all just an elaborate troll, a ridiculous bit of self-referential mocking from a Silicon Valley tech-bro with too much time on his hands. But in the unlikely event that he’s actually serious, the new church might someday qualify for the same tax deductions as more-established churches.

The path to enlightenment starts with filing IRS Form 1023, “Application for Recognition of Exemption.” There’s no guarantee that the IRS will play ball — the Church of Scientology fought for decades to gain recognition, and the Service sees plenty of scammers masquerading as churches. But if the IRS greenlights it with a straight face, donors can deduct up to 60% of their adjusted gross incomes for cash gifts and make 0xω the beneficiary of charitable trusts, foundations, pooled income funds, and donor-advised funds.

Tax deductions extend well beyond cash contributions. The Tax Court has approved medical deductions for Christian Science practitioner fees and Navajo Indian medicine man rituals. Under that same logic, voodoo animal sacrifice is also a deductible medical expense, as long as it’s part of a religious ceremony for healing purposes. (Hey, do you want to tell the voodoo queen she can’t deduct her chickens?)

The bad news for the faithful is that whatever they drop in the collection plate is deductible only if they itemize. Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act essentially doubled standard deductions, which should cut the number of taxpayers who itemize from about one out of three to just one out of ten.

And there’s another downside for blockchain-based religions. The blockchain records everything! No more exaggerating contributions on Form 1040 when the IRS can go online and verify gifts. For that matter, can you imagine showing up at 0xω’s Pearly Gates (with your randomly-generated user ID and password in hand), only to see your lifetime of sins chronicled irrevocably on St. Peter’s iCloud? If that’s the new church’s idea of heaven, we can imagine a lot of folks taking their chances with hell.

Here’s one thing blockchain won’t ever change — the pain you feel when you waste money on taxes you don’t have to pay. If you’re a business owner paying more than $20,000 per year in tax, call us for your free Tax Assessment. You’ll see the mistakes and missed opportunities that could be costing you thousands and learn how our Tax Blueprint® and Tax Operating System® can stop the bleeding!

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Last month, we wrote that New York money manager AllianceBernstein is moving its headquarters and 1,100 employees from a slick black Manhattan skyscraper to the steaming concrete jungles of Nashville, TN. It’s going to be culture shock for the firm’s employees, who have to trade their harsh winters and corned beef sandwiches for milder weather and hot fried chicken. But AllianceBernstein promises employees they’ll love the financial climate most of all: lower housing costs and no personal income tax. Of course taxes played a big part in that move!

But is that always the case? A recent Los Angeles Times article argues that another corporate relocation “gives the lie to all that guff you’ve been fed about taxes being a crucial consideration.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill launched in 1993 with a single location in a former ice cream store in Denver. The chain now has over 2,000 locations and 45,000 employees. But growth has sputtered in recent years. This is partly due to competitors like Qdoba, Moe’s, Rubio’s and Baja Fresh. And it’s partly due to ingredients like norovirus, salmonella, e coli, and campylobacter jejuni sneaking into the burritos. (Hard to taste the viruses under all those seasonings, right?) Partly because of these incidents, founder Steve Ells resigned as CEO in late 2017.

In February, Chipotle hired former Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol to run the company. (Most would agree that moving from Taco bell to Chipotle is a step up: Taco Bell describes their food as “Mexican-inspired,” rather than authentic, but some critics pan it as merely “food-inspired.”) Last month, Chipotle announced they’re moving their headquarters and 400 jobs from Denver to Niccol’s hometown of Newport Beach, CA. The move should actually mean less highway time for Niccol, who used to waste 20 soul-crushing minutes commuting to god-forsaken Irvine every day.

So here’s where it gets perplexing. Colorado’s personal income tax is a flat 4.63%, which seems like a fair price to pay for those 300 days of sunshine per year that civic boosters promise residents. But California has the highest state tax rate in the country — a genuine millionaire’s tax of 13.3% on income over the two-comma mark. The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 makes that top rate even harsher by limiting federal deductions for state taxes to $10,000.

Logic suggests that any rational business would move the other way. And thousands of companies have fled California, citing taxes and regulations. But California’s job growth since 2011 has “easily outstripped” the rest of the country, and the Golden State’s economy is growing faster than low-tax states like Texas and Florida.

In 2016, Stanford sociologist Cristobal Young looked at tax returns showing million-dollar incomes over a 13-year period. His study showed that millionaire tax flight is occurring, but “only at the margins of statistical and socioeconomic significance.”

What do you think? Would high state taxes be enough to make you move? Or do the quality of your life and breadth of opportunity mean more than mere taxes? Either way, we’re here to help you pay less. So call us when you’re ready for a plan, and see where your wasted taxes have kept you from visiting!

Back in the early 80s, a group of Democratic legislators decided to room together to cut the cost of staying in Washington for the three nights or so per week that Congress is in session. The motley crew included Representative George Miller of California (owner of the blue-gray house in Southeast DC), Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer, future Defense Secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, and others. We can only imagine whose phone numbers they posted on the refrigerator in a house like that. Pizza delivery? Of course! Liquor guy? Oh yeah. Exterminator? Maybe not a bad idea . . . .

Visitors to the house could be forgiven for thinking they had mistakenly wandered onto the set of Animal House. The stove didn’t work, so the group lived mainly on Frosted Mini-Wheats. Durbin stopped making his bed when Bill Clinton was President. Schumer slept on a mattress in the living room, and his wife was so disgusted by the place she refused to stay with him. Still, the unconventional arrangement inspired news stories and even a TV series — Amazon’s Alpha House, starring John Goodman as one of four Republican Senators sharing a much cleaner house.

In 2014, Representative Miller retired after 40 years in Congress and sold the tenement fixer-upper. It seems ironic, then, that as Washington has become the most affluent city in America and home prices have climbed even higher, Congress gave up a tax break designed to make it easier to find a place to stay. From 1953 until 2017, lawmakers could deduct up to $3,000 per year for living expenses while they were away from their homes — but with last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they gave up that deduction for themselves.

Writing off $3,000 may have been a sweet perk back in 1953, when Elizabeth II became Queen, Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel, and Marilyn Monroe starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The average taxpayer earned $4,000 that year. The average car cost $1,650. And the gas to power the car cost just 20 cents a gallon. (Of course, there was no Facebook. Life is full of tradeoffs, right?)

Today, of course, $3,000 is a rounding error for most congresscritters. Their base salary is $174,000, which is enough by itself to put them in the top 3% or so of earners. But the average Representative’s net worth hovers around $1 million, and the average Senator is worth $3.2 million. Plenty are rich enough to essentially “buy” their seats. Longtime members can cash in for that much in a single year with cushy lobbying jobs after they leave — former Representative Billy Tauzin raked in over $19 million lobbying for drug companies in the five years after he gave up his seat.

Of course, those averages, by definition, include the 50% who are below average. Dozens of mostly-younger members sleep on futons or pull-out couches in their offices while they’re in DC. (They shower at the gym.) That group includes House Speaker Paul Ryan (net worth: $7.8 million), who earns an extra $49,500 as Speaker. Bunking at work can make far more sense than dropping a couple grand a month for an apartment when they’re only in town for 80 or 90 nights per year. (Durbin and Schumer paid about $800 for their squalid little spaces in Miller’s hovel.)

You may live by yourself in one of those fashionable new “tiny houses” or with a whole extended family in a mansion. Fortunately, you don’t have to score political points by giving up tax deductions. So why would you? Call us when you’re ready for a plan to pay less, and let’s see how much home you can buy with it!

On May 14, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act that had made Las Vegas the only state where bettors could gamble on college and professional sports. (Sorry, wrestling fans, no betting for you. Spoiler alert — the matches are fixed.) Imagine how much louder your neighborhood sports pub will get when the obnoxious drunk at the end of the bar who won’t stop jabbering about his fantasy team is actually putting his money where his mouth is!

Dozens of states are expected to legalize betting within the next few years. Naturally, there will be winners and losers. The American Gaming Association estimated that legal sports betting will generate up to $26.6 billion of economic activity and 152,000 jobs. Walmart and Target will make millions from fans converting their winnings into giant TVs. Even a few old-school backroom bookies will manage to hang on — they can offer credit, so they don’t have to start kneecapping until some poor loser fails to pay.

But there’s one group we can count on to win big no matter who else loses, and that’s the federal, state, and local tax collectors sharing the juice from the new action.

Gambling winnings are taxable just like any other income. The IRS doesn’t care who wins or loses; they just want their share. Winnings are taxable as ordinary income — you don’t pay any more if your favorite quarterback connects with a Hail Mary than you do for hitting blackjack at the casino. The biggest winners can even find their good luck pushing them into higher tax brackets.

Gambling losses are deductible, but only if you itemize (which eliminates about 90% of taxpayers), and only up to whatever amount of actual winnings you report. That means that if at the end of the year, you’re in the black, you’ll owe tax on your winnings — but if you’re in the red, there’s no deduction for your loss. That gives Uncle Sam the perfect “heads I win, tails I don’t lose” proposition. (Odds are good that whoever said the only way to win at gambling is to be the house never saw how the IRS rigged the game!)

Of course, the IRS won’t be the only tax collector profiting from this cash explosion. State treasuries, which generally start with federal adjusted gross income or taxable income for their own collections, will also share the bounty. State and local governments may impose their taxes directly on gambling activities as well. And they’ll collect even more in sales and liquor taxes from bettors flocking to sports books and other venues.

There’s one more quasi-tax worth considering here. Sports leagues like the NFL and NBA are pushing to collect an “integrity fee” equal to 1% of the total amount bet. (Sportsbooks generally collect a 10% commission on winning bets, so 1% of the amount bet equals about 20% of their gross revenue.) The leagues say this compensates them for their intellectual property rights in statistics used in betting. But critics say the integrity fee is more like just a simple shakedown: “Nice place you got here . . . it would be a shame if anything happened to it!”

Here’s a proposition we bet you’ll like. Bring us your taxes and challenge us to help you pay less. We guarantee we’ll find double your fee in savings, so you literally can’t lose.

Request a call today and see how much you’re losing — you can’t win if you don’t play.

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Early on Saturday morning, 29 million Americans woke up to take a break from school shootings, Russian collusion, and partisan gridlock to watch a California woman achieve a rare fantasy. The woman in question watched the sun rise as plain old Meghan Markle. But by the time it had set, she had become Her Royal Highness Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. (When she’s in Scotland, she’s the Countess of Dumbarton. In Ireland, she’s the first Baroness of Kilkeel. What did your grandmother-in-law give you on your wedding day?)

Lots of Americans grow up wanting to become a princess. Some of them spend years acting like it’s already true. (The best of this breed used to wind up embarrassing their families and everyone else they know on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen.) But, throwing aside concepts like social mobility and “intergenerational earnings elasticity,” once an American girl picks her parents, it’s pretty much game over.

Now Meghan’s parents can debate whether they lost a daughter or gained a son. And the royal wedding fans at the IRS can debate whether they lost a taxpayer — or gained a whole new source of revenue!

Markle will become a British citizen, which won’t put anything in IRS pockets. The real issue is whether she keeps her U.S. citizenship, too. If so, she’ll be subject to U.S. tax on her worldwide income, including anything she reports with Prince Harry. And if she keeps more than $300,000 in assets abroad, she’ll have to file Form 8938 reporting them. That may not sit well with the Queen, who recently saw some Cayman Islands holdings owned by her Duchy of Lancaster estate revealed in the 2017 “Paradise papers” leak.

Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could make things even harder for the new princess. The new law caps deductions for state and local income and property taxes at $10,000 per year. That could make keeping a pied-a-terre back home a bit pricier. It eliminates deductions for foreign property taxes paid on real estate she buys outside the U.S. It even limits deductions for capital gains taxes paid on foreign property sales to $10,000. Fortunately, she can still take a foreign tax credit for those amounts.

If Her Royal Highness chooses instead to give up her U.S. citizenship, she’ll have to fill out some paperwork, take an Oath of Renunciation, and pay a $2,350 expatriation fee (the highest in the world). It’s easy enough that 6,800 people did it in 2017, mostly to quit paying U.S. taxes. The IRS helpfully publishes a list ratting them out by name every quarter.

But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one. If the princess’s net worth is over $2 million (which it probably is), or her annual tax for the five years before she leaves was more than $162,000 (which it probably was), she’ll owe tax on any appreciated assets she owns, calculated as if she had sold them on the day she leaves. There’s a $680,000 exemption . . . but the whole thing still sounds like a royal headache!

Prince Harry may be off the market, but if you’re still hoping to marry royalty, don’t give up hope! Vanity Fair magazine just introduced the 12 most eligible royals in a post-Harry world. The list includes Harry’s cousin Princess Beatrice, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand, and Kgosi Leruo Motolegi of the Royal Bafokeng Nation in South Africa. Just remember to call us before you walk down the aisle. And remember, we’re here for the rest of your court, too!

On May 2, fire broke out at the Meridian Magnesium Products of America plant in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. The factory supplies components to Audi, BMW, Daimler, Fiat, GM, Tesla, Jaguar and Mercedes. But their most important product may be the die-cut radiator “front bolster” supports in Ford’s F-150 pickup. Workers pressure-feed molten magnesium into a mold, then rapidly cool it like Jell-O. And Meridian is the only factory that does it. No bolster, no truck. The fire has forced Ford to shut down production of the truck completely while they scramble to come up with the part.

The F-150 may look like just another pickup truck rumbling down America’s fast-crumbling roads. It’s not. It’s been the best-selling vehicle in the entire country since M.A.S.H was on primetime and the most profitable vehicle of all time. The average truck sells for $47,000 and you can pay north of $70,000 for a fully-loaded Limited SuperCrew model. Celebrity drivers include Walmart founder Sam Walton, actors John Goodman and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Michael Jackson’s son Prince, and even singer Lady Gaga.

So, shutting down production is a big big deal. But we’re not here to talk about about the downsides of just-in-time manufacturing, cascading supply chain failures, or black swan events. We want to know what the IRS and other tax collectors think about this sort of manufacturing mishap!

Ford has already laid of 7,600 employees. Idled employees will qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, which are taxable because they replace wages that would have been taxable. The United Auto Workers also provides members with taxable supplemental pay after a certain point. So the IRS likely won’t see much loss on the employee side.

What about Ford itself? The company recently decided to scrap production of that quaint product we used to call “cars” (other than the iconic Mustang) in favor of trucks and SUVs. Ford has already sold 300,000 F-150s this year, at an average profit of $10,000. One Wall Street analyst recently calculated the “enterprise value” of Ford’s truck business at $20 per share. That’s a neat trick, considering the whole company’s stock is just $11 per share.

Right now, Ford has an 84-day supply of trucks waiting for buyers. But Meridian says it could take 120 days to get their plant back to normal. You don’t have to be a math major to see the problem. Losing just one week of F-150 sales could cost the company $175 million in profits. And that, in turn, suggests that with the current corporate rate at 21%, the IRS could miss out on over $35 million in tax.

Or would it really? It turns out that Ford is carrying billions of dollars in net operating losses on their books. They use those losses from previous years to offset their current income. In 2013, they even paid their CEO more than they paid the IRS. (Alan Mulalley took home $23.2 million, and Ford snagged a $19 million refund.) So if the factory fire really does cost Ford millions, the tax hit may not show up in Uncle Sam’s pocket for years.

Nobody plans on a freak accident taking out production of a key part. That’s why you buy insurance. But there’s nothing unexpected or surprising about tax bills. You know the IRS wants a share of your production. So call us when you’re ready to plan for that, and be sure to keep a fire extinguisher handy!

Baseball is back in swing, and several teams have already made it clear that they won’t be contending for playoff berths. The Cincinnati Reds are leading that sorry pack, the first team to lose 20 games in the season. But the Orioles, White Sox, and Rangers are all nipping at their heels. If any of them are serious about winning this year, it might be time to take a look at signing some free agents. Find an unhappy veteran, steal him away with a big salary and signing bonus, and maybe you’ll be at .500 by the All-Star break!

Big corporations with thousands of employees generally prefer playing “Hometown Hero,” so long as it suits their business goals. But corporations can play “Free Agent” too. They can even pocket fat signing bonuses when they do it, in the form of rich tax breaks in their new hometowns.

AllianceBernstein is an investment manager supervising $550 billion in assets for institutions, individuals, and mutual fund shareholders. (We’re not sure why they spell it as just one word; maybe they just couldn’t afford the space.) You’d expect to find that kind of firm in Manhattan. And you’d be right — their current headquarters is a blandly intimidating black-glass slab in midtown. (Fun facts: it’s the building Gwen Stacy falls from in the crane scene in Spider Man 3, and it’s the office for the fictional law firm in Michael Clayton.)

But life in the big city, including taxes, is pricey. So AllianceBernstein declared free agency to find a new home. Last week, they announced they had picked their new team. They’ll be moving 1,050 jobs, including the CEO, legal, marketing, and IT staff, to fast-growing Nashville. (Traders and portfolio managers stay on Wall Street.) Of course they cited lower taxes as a prime reason for their choice.

So how is Tennessee stepping up to the plate? They just passed a new law implementing a “single factor sales apportionment” formula (don’t ask) for publicly-traded financial asset managers whose physical presence in the state is larger than their customer base. That new law could add as much as 2% to AllianceBernstein’s gross margins. Tennessee also dangles a $5,000/employee “Super Jobs Tax Credit” to companies who create 100 or more new jobs in the state.

Staffers moving from the Big Apple to Music City can certainly expect some culture shock. They’ll miss the bright lights, Broadway shows, and Michelin-starred restaurants of Manhattan. (They’ll miss the Yankees and Mets, too.) But they’ll get to sample Nashville’s “Music Row” entertainment scene. And who knows, maybe they’ll fall in love with Nashville-style hot fried chicken, a local specialty breaded with spicy cayenne pepper paste and served on slices of white bread with pickle chips. (Then again, maybe they won’t.)

But we can be sure that Nashville’s newest residents will love their tax savings, too. Tennessee has no state income tax and is phasing out its investment tax. Property taxes are lower than in New York. And housing dollars stretch a lot farther in Nashville, even for those who glam it up in nearby Franklin (the “Greenwich” of Nashville) with the country music superstars. No matter how good the corned beef is back at the Carnegie Deli, it can’t hold a candle to the tax-savings “W” AllianceBernstein picks up by going free agent.

What about you? Have you tried Nashville-style hot chicken? Are you a fan or not? Either way, we’re pretty sure you’d appreciate a recipe for tasty tax breaks. That’s where we come in, of course. So call us if your mouth is watering for savings and we’ll see what we can serve you!

The lights of Broadway have long shone bright as the show business capital of the United States. (Hollywood may have the movies, but it’s just not the same. And Vegas? Puh-leaze.) New York theatres attract millions of visitors and billions of dollars every year. Naturally, sharp New Yorkers have co-opted show business tactics to promote all sorts of unrelated businesses. So now, we have fashion-as-theatre, restaurants-as-theatre, and even real-estate-as-theatre.

Michael Shvo may be the most theatrical real estate guy of all. He started out as a brash Manhattan broker, squiring buyers in a chauffeur-driven limo and trademarking the slogan, “Let’s Shvo.” He enlisted celebrity designers like Giorgio Armani and musicians like John Legend to help sell showy condos to showy buyers. Now he’s reinvented himself as a developer, with current projects designed to make everyone else’s projects look like college dormitories, or maybe Soviet-bloc worker collectives.

Shvo is also a noted art collector who favors paintings by Andy Warhol and sculptures by Francoise-Xavier and Claude Lalanne. He paid $14 million to combine two 68th floor condos overlooking Central Park, then stuffed the resulting 4100 square feet full of treasures. (The living room rug is beaver fur.) He dropped another $6 million on an all-white Hamptons house to stuff with more treasures that wouldn’t fit in the Manhattan pad. And he’s currently developing a 50-acre private island resort in the Bahamas.

So we know that Shvo likes buying showy stuff. It turns out, though, that he doesn’t like paying tax on it. Back in 2016, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. indicted Shvo on 28 counts of criminal sales tax fraud. And on April 26, he plead guilty to two of those counts. “Michael Shvo’s brand of tax evasion was an art form unto itself,” said Vance. “Through ornate ruses — like creating a sham Montana corporation to avoid taxes on a Ferrari — the defendant dodged more than a million dollars in state and local taxes.”

Shvo’s favorite ornate ruse involved a Cayman Islands company called Shvo Art, Ltd. He told the galleries and auctioneers who sold him art, furniture, and jewelry that he was shipping his purchases to the Caymans, where there would be no tax. Instead, he sent them instead to his Fifth Avenue office or one of his homes.

As for the Ferrari — a 458 Spider that stickers at $230,000 — Shvo set up a Montana LLC to buy it and register it. But he actually drove it in New York, which made it subject to the Empire State’s use tax. (Montana has no sales tax and lets LLCs register vehicles, which makes the “Montana license plate scam” a favorite for high-end vehicle buyers. Of course, the rest of the states generally fail to see the humor in that move — California even has a special website for ratting out vehicles with out-of-state plates.)

The guilty plea calls for Shvo to pay $3.5 million in taxes, penalties, and interest. But something tells us he’s not particularly worried about his sentencing, scheduled for June 7. After copping his plea, Shvo and his wife, a Turkish actress and model known for her vast collection of one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls (including one dressed by designer Christian Louboutin), left court in a $400,000 Rolls-Royce.

We tell quite a few stories here about celebrities who don’t seem to understand the difference between a “tax plan” and a “felony.” Sadly, the moral is always the same: you don’t have to cheat to pay less. You just have to call us. So what are you waiting for? The curtain is ready to rise on real savings!

Tax Day 2018 has come and gone. Have you cleaned up the mess from the celebration? Has your hangover faded into memory? Now all that’s left is to box up those records and store them somewhere safe, for . . . how long? Storing tax records is lots of fun, said no one ever, but it is important. The IRS says you should generally keep your records for three years from the date you file your return, or indefinitely if you file a fraudulent return. Having said that, some tax records have lasted a lot longer than that!

Around 6000BC, ancient Mesopotamians had invented a form of writing called cuneiform. Scribes carved the cuneiform symbols into soft clay, them baked the clay into tablets to serve as permanent records. Archaeologists excavating the city of Labash have found what they believe to be the oldest tax records among those tablets. They show the king used a system called bala, or “rotation,” to send assessors to different areas each month to maximize tax revenue. (Apparently, the Mesopotamians invented “auditors,” too.)

By 1900BC, the Mesopotamians were levying taxes on everything from livestock to funerals. So someone invented “smuggling.” But smuggling didn’t always work. The University of Pennsylvania museum includes a letter from a trader cautioning his employee not to play it straight: “Irra’s son sent smuggled goods to Pushuken but his smuggled goods were intercepted. The Palace then threw Pushuken in jail! The guards are strong . . . please don’t smuggle anything else!”

Ancient Egyptians levied taxes on everything from cattle to grain to labor. Egyptologists have unearthed a wealth of documents and scenes from tombs referencing taxes, including a letter from a New Kingdom priest protesting that one particular levy “is not my due tax at all.” The Egyptians even invented “tax shelters” — royal charters granting temples and their staff immunity from taxes and compulsory labor.

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, the center of civilization had shifted northeast to ancient Greece. By then, someone had invented “cash.” (Unlike cuneiform, cash is still around. However, if ApplePay and Bitcoin have their way, that won’t be true much longer.) Greek society cleverly positioned paying taxes as an ethical obligation, and the richest citizens actually competed to see who could give more. (This tradition survives today, in slightly different form, as today’s richest citizens compete to buy themselves Senate seats and governors’ mansions.)

As Greece faded, Rome grew. By the time Rome became an empire, she extracted so much wealth from her colonies that she didn’t even need to tax the citizenry back home. The Romans even invented “outsourcing,” auctioning the right to collect taxes to “publicans” who got to keep the difference between what they paid and what they actually collected. (Can’t imagine that ever led to problems, right?) The Romans kept most tax records on parchment, papyrus, or vellum, so few survive today. However, you can buy genuine Roman coins on Ebay for just a few dollars each.

Today, of course, we store our tax records on paper or in the cloud. But we’re pretty sure you don’t want your records to show you paid too much. So pick up the phone to book an appointment, and maybe someday future historians will record your plan to pay less!

By all rights, “Tax Day” ought to be one of our favorite holidays, like “Christmas in April” without the carols, the hype, or the eggnog. That’s because eighty percent of us get refunds, averaging $2,782 each in 2017. (When was the last time Santa Clause left three grand in your stocking?) Of course, that means 20% of us are writing checks to the IRS. And if you’re among that 20%, we sympathize. We know it hurts. But we’re confident it does’t hurt nearly as much for you as it does for a “master of the Universe” named John Paulson.

Paulson started his first fund in 1994 with $2 million and one employee. He built a reputation for “event-driven” investing, betting on mergers, acquisitions, proxy fights, and similar opportunities. A decade ago, he made a fortune shorting the U.S. housing market (the same story that author Michale Lewis spotlighted in his book and movie, The Big Short). Paulson earned $15 billion on that trade. By 2011, he managed $38 billion for some of the world’s most sophisticated investors.

Naturally, much of that money found its way into Paulson’s pocket. He charges a 2% management fee, which is standard for hedge funds. But he also takes 20% of his funds’ profits, and that’s where the real money is. In 2007, he took $4 billion for himself. In 2010 he topped himself to take home another $5 billion.

Paulson isn’t flashy. He generally avoids the press, and he’s not looking to buy himself a Senate seat. But he seems to enjoy his fortune. He splits his time between a 28,000 square-foot townhouse on Manhattan’s East 86th Street, a $49 million Aspen ranch, and a $41.3 million Southampton estate. In 2015, he donated $400 million to put his name over the door at Harvard’s school of engineering and applied science.

What does all that have to do with this year’s tax bill? Up until 2008, hedge fund managers could defer tax on most gains by simply leaving their money in the fund. But then Congress changed the rules and gave them until this year to pay the tax on the gains they had accumulated before that date. Now, time is up. Just how much does he owe? He’s looking at stroking a billion-dollar check to the IRS!

(Who are we kidding here? Paulson can’t even write a check that size. The most the IRS will take is $99,999,999. Theoretically, he could write ten of them. But whose handwriting is small enough to fit “Ninety-nine million, nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and zero cents” on a check in the first place? He’ll wire the feds the money and pour himself a really stiff drink.)

You would think sending a billion to the IRS would be easy for a guy who’s stacked that much paper. But what goes up often comes down. In 2015 and 2016 Paulson made a series of bad calls, and on Wall Street, memories are short. Investors fled, and now Paulson is down to his last $10 billion. He’s sold enough shares in one holding, Caesars Entertainment, to help drive the price down 15%. (Imagine being a retired casino dealer somewhere out in the Nevada desert, watching your 401(k) shrink because some New York billionaire needs to pay his tax bill!)

We realize you aren’t looking at the wrong end of a billion-dollar tax bill. But paying more than you have to still stings, no matter how much it is. That’s where we come in. We give you a plan to pay less, no matter which of your three homes you’re enjoying right now. So call us for that plan, and let’s see how much we can help you save!