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.
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 Claus 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 doesn’t hurt nearly as much for you as it does for a "master of the Universe" named John Paulson.
Everyone has a mental picture of what a tax professional or accountant looks like. Probably pretty boring, right? Dull. Predictable. Not quite smart enough to do useful work, like engineering. Definitely not slick enough for sales. Probably balding and paunchy, bleary-eyed from too many late nights at the office typing numbers into boxes on government forms. But that's not always the case . . . so let's take a look at a couple of fun stories that shatter that stereotype.
Baseball is back, even as some teams are looking at early-season snow days. Little-leaguers across the land are donning gloves and getting ready to watch their favorite big-leaguers take to the field. Stats geeks are prepping spreadsheets to crunch numbers like WAR (Wins Above Replacement), BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), and LWCT (Largest Wad of Chewing Tobacco). And the umpires at the IRS are watching a new pitch that Washington just threw across their plate, too.
St. Patrick's Day was here last week, and every "Irish for a day" tippler in your social circle will take advantage of this convenient excuse to haul grandma out of the house for a little day-drinking. (It seems unnecessary on a Saturday, but whatever.) Faux-Irish saloons across America are tapping kegs of Guinness, pouring shots of Jameson, and covering their walls and ceilings in every Celtic cliche they can find: the shamrocks, the hats, the green beads, and of course, the leprechaun jealously guarding his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The three-martini lunch has a long and mostly honorable history as a deductible business expense. As former President Gerald Ford once said, "Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful, and snootful at the same time?" Ford's successor, famed buzzkill Jimmy Carter, tried (and failed) to cut the deduction from 100% to 50%. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 succeeded in that goal, and today's business dinner has probably switched from martinis to white wine. But old habits die hard — check any happening lunch spot and you'll find happy diners eating partly on Uncle Sam's dime.
We Americans have fought with our internal revenue code since 1913. But slicing and dicing income, deductions, and a dizzying array of business and personal credits is hardly the only way that Uncle Sam could raise the money he needs to pay for guns and butter. State and local governments also use sales taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, excise taxes, and "gross receipts" taxes to fill their hungry coffers, too.
To reduce your spending, you first need to know where your money goes. Start out by keeping track of all of your expenses for a month. None are too small or insignificant: the daily newspaper, coffee on the way to work, an extra gallon of milk, that burger at the fast-food outlet. Next, categorize the expenses so you can see what you spend and where you spend it. Be sure to factor into your monthly expenses a prorated portion of the annual cost of your irregular expenses (e.g., clothes, gifts, car maintenance, insurance premiums).
Country music embraces a long tradition of songs about sadness and ruin, heartbreak and pain. It just makes sense, then, that country sometimes runs afoul of the tax system. Most famously, Willie Nelson found himself on the wrong side of a $16.7 million tax bill. And outlaw country icon David Allen Coe, who penned Take This Job and Shove It, drew three years probation and $980,000 in restitution for failing to report his income, which he insisted on taking in cash to hide from the IRS.