Business Matters

I'd Like to Thank the Academy . . . .

Sunday night, millions of movie fans across the globe tuned in as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented the 86th Academy Awards. Viewers were amazed that Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews spun a $250 budget into a Best Makeup award for Dallas Buyers Club. They held their breath and wondered how much Kim Novak had to drink before she stumbled her way through the animation awards. And they thrilled as first-timer Lupitsa Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years a Slave. But there's one award we didn't see — and it's a key to getting any movie made. We're talking, of course, about the coveted award for Best Original Tax Planning.

When we think of movies, we immediately think of Hollywood. But most movies aren't

Le Grand Tax Savings

When you think of France, you probably think of food. The French are known throughout the world for their truffles, foie gras, and fine champagne. French chefs have spread the gospel of rich food and fine wine across the globe. Most of us think of "French" dining as the highest form of cuisine.

But it seems the French have a dirty little culinary secret they might not like the rest of the world to know. Would you believe they love McDonald's almost as much as we do? That's right, there are 1,258 golden arches across France, and France is actually McDonald's most profitable market outside the states. McDonald's outlets in France serve slightly more exotic fare than their American cousins — the "Premio au Parmesan" starts with the usual all-beef patty, then adds a ciabatta bun, parmigiano reggiano cheese, and creamy parmesan sauce. And French McDonald's serve beer, too. But — French gourmands can still sneak in anytime for "le Grand Big Mac."

"Ardente!" is Portuguese for "Hot!"

Tax collectors generally don't choose their line of work for the pay. Glassdoor.com, a gossipy website covering salaries and careers, reports the average Revenue Agent earns $73,967. Careerbliss.com tells us the average criminal investigator earns $99,000 — which makes sense considering there's at least a chance they get shot at while working. That's not bad coin . . . but it's hardly enough to party with the rich and famous.

But what's true here in the United States may not be true in the rest of the world. Our neighbors to the south in Brazil have been transfixed lately by a sordid scandal of glitz and bling featuring — you guessed it — a gang of tax collectors, accused of helping construction companies evade over $200 million in taxes.

Touchdown, IRS?

It's Week Nine of the 2013 football season, and millions of Americans are following every play. The Kansas City Chiefs are still undefeated. The New York Giants have finally won a couple of games. And playoff races are already starting to take shape. (Bengals, anyone?) So, what does any of this have to do with taxes?

Today's National Football League is the biggest spectacle since the Romans packed the Coliseum to watch the Christians take on the Lions. (Needless to say, the Lions were heavy favorites — and usually covered the spread.) Last year, the league generated $9.5 billion in revenue from a combination of TV rights, ticket sales, stadium concessions, and licensing agreements. The biggest part of that cash geyser goes to the players (who naturally pay tax on their salaries). More chunks go to the owners (who pay tax on theirs), and stadium vendors (who pay tax on all those eight-dollar beers).

A Sweeter Tax Than Most

When you hear the word "tax," you probably think of something the IRS takes out of your paycheck. Or you might think of something they take out of an inheritance. But taxes affect virtually every financial transaction you make. Take, for example, that simple jar of honey lurking on the shelf in your refrigerator.

Americans eat more honey than anyone else in the world — about 400 million pounds of it a year. Most of it goes towards sweetening foods like cereals, cookies, and breads. Even whiskey producers are adding honey to their blends to attract younger drinkers. (The Scotch Whiskey Association just stung Dewars for labeling their new "Highlander Honey" as "scotch" rather than "spirit drink.")

Hotties and Notties

Junior high school is a difficult time for parents as well as students. It's a time when boys start to discover girls, and girls start to discover boys. (Reports differ on exactly which group discovers the other first, but it's equally terrifying for most parents.) One of the very first things junior high boys and girls start doing when they discover each other is rating each other — usually on a scale of 1-10. The 9s and 10s form cliques to congratulate each other on their good fortune, while the 3s and 4s learn to tell jokes, plan on making money, or learn to get by with a "great personality." (In case you've forgotten, junior high school can be really cruel.)

It turns out, though, that junior high kids aren't the only ones rating the world around them. Now comes news that two German economics professors