paying taxes

Taxes and patriotism have been wrapped up together pretty much since the Boston Tea Party. The consensus has long been that while paying taxes is a patriotic act, overpaying on your taxes is not. The United States has one of the highest rates of tax compliance in the developed world, and while a majority of taxpayers in the United States see taxpaying as their civic duty, there is no reason to overpay what is legally, ethically, or morally owed. A basic business fundamental is to maximize money coming in and minimize money going out. The easiest way to increase profit is to ensure that you aren’t spending money unnecessarily. A strategic tax plan from Financial Gravity is the business fundamental you are missing to make sure you aren’t paying more in taxes than what is required.

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The Infinite Monkey Theorem holds that if you sit an infinite number of monkeys down at an infinite number of typewriters, eventually one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare — or, at the very least, Hamlet. But do you know what those monkeys are banging out when they’re not banging out Shakespeare? The Internal Revenue Code, of course! (Sadly, the Infinite Monkey Theorem will probably never be more than just a theorem. For starters, can you imagine the smell in that room?)

The tax code may look like 70,000-odd pages of monkey-banging gibberish. But there really is a twisted logic to it. Think of it as a series of red lights and green lights. Red lights, like Section 1 (setting out rates), Section 1401 (imposing the net investment income tax), and Section 1432 (imposing employment taxes) make you stop and pay tax. Green lights, like Section 105 (making employer health benefits tax-free), Section 162 (making “ordinary and necessary” business expenses deductible), and Section 170 (making charitable gifts deductible) let you go without paying tax.

Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act added a new red light. Specifically, it capped deductions for state and local tax deductions at $10,000 per year. That’s an obvious blow to the states that reach the deepest into their residents’ pockets. In New York, for example, one-third of taxpayers claimed the deduction, averaging more than $20,000. In Alabama, just one-fourth claimed it, averaging just $6,000.

But the new limit hits taxpayers all over the country. Microsoft founder Bill Gates lives in Seattle, where there’s no state income tax. (Washington has one of the highest sales taxes in the country.) But last year, he paid $1,024,292.55 in property tax on his 66,000-square-foot mansion, “Xanadu 2.0.” It used to be that Uncle Sam picked up 39.6% of that bill. Now Gates has to cover it all himself.

Of course, human nature being what it is, we don’t always want to stop at those red lights. So society has developed an entire profession, called “the law,” dedicated to finding ways around them. (Even Pope Francis, when he announced the church’s opposition to capital punishment, left exceptions for people who drive the speed limit in the left-hand lane or bring Popeye’s fried chicken on an airplane.)

So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that officials in some states are working to let residents turn right on that red light. New York and New Jersey have set up so-called “charitable” funds to pay for essential services like schools, then authorized dollar-for-dollar credits against their own taxes for contributions to those funds. Just like magic, your state tax bill transforms into a charitable contribution, not subject to the new limit. (We think Harry Potter would call this spell a “sketchius loopholius.”)

Of course, our friends back in the Home Office in Washington aren’t stupid. Last week, the Treasury Department issued proposed regulations effectively eliminating charitable deductions for gifts tied to state tax credits. But will that be the end of the story? Not if the states have their way, and they’re sure to take the Treasury to court. Round and round it goes . . . and now you know why tax lawyers drive Jaguars!

Bottom line? Most tax professionals focus on the red lights. That’s important, because blowing through them gets you in trouble. But that’s also where most tax pros stop. We’re different. We focus on finding the green lights that can save you thousands. So call us when you’re ready to go, and we’ll help take your foot off the brake!

Americans love a champion, and every year, sports fans get to see new champions crowned. We’ve got a World Series, a Super Bowl, and NBA finals that drag on for months. We’ve got the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, and the Nathan’s Famous National Hot Dog Eating Contest. And every even-numbered year, the Olympics bring us more exotic champions in curling, synchronized swimming, and dancing horses.

But there’s one event that mobilizes the rest of the world in a frenzy of competition: soccer’s World Cup. A billion people watched France defeat Argentina, 4-3, in a perfectly ordinary first-round-of-finals game. And more than three billion will watch the final match on July 15 in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. That’s almost half the population of the globe.

Tax collectors across the world will join their countrymen to cheer their countries’ teams. But they’ll have another reason to watch. It seems the folks in the soccer world don’t like paying taxes any more than the rest of us. And there are nearly enough tax cheats in the sport to fill out an entire bracket’s worth!

In 2011, IRS investigators used tax charges to “flip” Chuck Blazer, a member of soccer’s international governing body, into wearing a wire to help indict 14 corrupt officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. Blazer, a 450-pound Falstaffian figure, lived large on his share of those bribes, keeping two apartments at Trump Tower: an $18,000/month three-bedroom for himself and a $6,000/month one-bedroom next door for his cats.

IRS Criminal Investigation head Richard Weber couldn’t resist some obvious puns after the eventual arrests, announcing “This is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card,” he said. But really, the jokes just write themselves. How about “Corrupt soccer officials couldn’t keep hands off the cash”? Or maybe, “Prosecutors score GOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL against corruption”?

In 2013, Spanish authorities accused superstar striker Lionel Messi of using companies in Belize, Uruguay, and Switzerland to evade €4.1 million in tax on endorsement earnings. Messi, an Argentinean who plays professionally for Barcelona, said he wasn’t involved in the details. (Like a player faking injury for a ref, he said “I just played football,” and claimed he signed whatever his father put in front of him.) Nevertheless, he made a €5.3 million “corrective payment” equal to the tax plus interest to settle the charges.

But prosecutors insisted on penalty kicks, and in 2016, a court found Messi and his father guilty on three counts of fraud. (Clearly not Messi-ing around, right?) The court imposed a 21-month prison sentence (which was automatically suspended under Spanish law) and fined the pair another €3.1 million.

Not to be outdone, Messi’s arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays professionally for Real Madrid, just announced he would pay Spain €18.7 million to settle tax charges centered on his endorsements. Now, fans who bicker over who’s the better player can start bickering over who’s the better tax evader.

What kind of football do you prefer, the kind with headshots or the kind with helmets? Either way, we’re sure you’d rather follow your favorite team than spend time looking for missed opportunities on your taxes. That’s where the Financial Gravity team comes in! So call us for a free Tax Assessment, and see where in the world you can go with your savings!Let's Talk - Has your CPA Warned You about the Self-employment Tax?