Business Planning

The Rock Star, The Nude Estates and the Lithuanian Shopping Mall

We've all got an image in our minds of who uses "offshore tax havens" to host their business. Let's say you're a junior-varsity Russian oligarch. You've spent a lifetime looting your country's resources like an all-you-can-steal buffet, and now it's time to take some of your chipskis off the table. You buy a flat in London's posh Mayfair, or maybe a condo overlooking New York's Central Park. Then you stash the rest of your rubles in some sunny flyspeck of an island like Bermuda or the Caymans, where Putin's goons can't steal them back.

But most people who do business offshore aren't crooked billionaires. They're perfectly legitimate multinational corporations, business owners, and investors just like us. If you've worn shoes from Nike, made calls on an iPhone, or downloaded music from Sheryl Crow, you've even done business with them!

Toby Keith's "I Love This Tax Problem"

In 2003, country music superstar Toby Keith released "I Love This Bar," the first single from his Shock'n Y'All album. (For those of you under age 25 or so, an "album" is . . . oh, never mind.) Billboard predicted the song would become "a beer-joint staple for years to come," and it promptly shot to #1 on the charts, selling over a million copies.

"I Love This Bar" is just one of Keith's odes to drinking — he's also scored hits with "Whiskey Girl," "Get Drunk and Be Somebody," and "Get My Drink On." "Red Solo Cup," his 2011 smash, made the red plastic cups the symbol of "party time" for the under-30 set. Naturally, with that sort of appeal, Keith had to open a bar of his own. Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet pioneered the concept, opening dozens of Margaritavilles anywhere middle-aged men of a certain disposition gather to recall their youth. If Jimmy can do it, why can't Toby?

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."

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.")

An Apple a Day

Back when you were a kid, your mom probably told you "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Well here's something Mom didn't know — apparently, an apple a day keeps the tax man away, too. At least, that's the conclusion we might draw from recent Congressional hearings focused on Apple Incorporated and its strategies for avoiding taxes!

Last month, the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations conducted a hearing compellingly titled "Offshore Profit Shifting and the U.S. Tax Code — Part 2 (Apple Inc.)." The Committee graciously invited Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, to share how Apple avoids U.S. tax. (We can only imagine how delighted Cook was to receive the Committee's "invitation" — no doubt delivered on the same sort of elegant stationery you might use to announce a spring cotillion or send a "thank you" note to Grandmother.)

Tax Strategies for Asteroid Impacts

On February 22, 2012, a telescope in Spain discovered an asteroid, 150 feet across, in an orbit that would bring it uncomfortably close to earth. Astronomers reassured us that we would be safe — this time — but that it was "a wakeup call for the importance of defending the Earth from future asteroid impacts." Last month, that asteroid, named 2012 DA14, passed within 17,200 miles of earth at a speed of nearly 17,500 miles per hour. That's a hair’s breadth in cosmological terms — it actually flew under the ring of communications satellites orbiting earth before it headed safely back out into space.

Earth isn't always so lucky. Ironically, on the same day that 2012 DA14 flew by, a meteorite struck outside the remote Russian town of Chelyabinsk with the power of 30 atomic bombs. Amazingly, no one was killed. A century ago, a meteor broke up with similar force over Russia's Tunguska forest, flattening an estimated 80 million trees.