Tax Legislation

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!

Names!

Every year, the IRS gives us a peek inside the wallets of the highest-earning 400 Americans. It's full of juicy facts like their average income ($318 million in 2014), how much they give to charity ($37 million each) and how much they pay Uncle Sam ($73.5 million). But there's one set of facts the IRS guards as carefully as the secret formulas they use to decide who gets audited — the top taxpayers' names.

That wasn't always the case. Back in 1924, the stock market was soaring, flappers were dancing the Charleston, and

It's Freezing Where?

Taxpayers across much of the Midwest and east coast have enjoyed a relatively light winter this year, with mild temperatures and little snow. But Old Man Winter made up for it last week. Temperatures dropped well below zero and wind chills broke records across the country. Friday morning saw thermometers dip below freezing in the Florida Everglades, and parts of North Carolina were colder than in Barrow, Alaska!

Care to guess where else temperatures have been falling? If you said "in Hell," you're right. That's because the House of Representatives, where gridlock appears to have found a permanent home, actually passed a bipartisan tax bill last week. The America Gives More Act would take three of those maddeningly "temporary" tax breaks that Congress barely manages to extend every year, and make them permanent. As the name implies, all three are intended to reward charitable giving:

State of the Union 2015

Hopefully you were not waiting until President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20 to hear about his plans to shake up the tax laws. After all, the details of his tax plan had been leaked days earlier and the entire text of his speech was posted online before the event.

Apparently we have a new State of the Union address tradition. In each of his six previous State of the Union addresses he also proposed tax hikes.

Here are the more significant tax provisions that were proposed.

The New Known Unknown

Donald Rumsfeld may be one of the most controversial figures of our time, but you have to respect his resume. He won a seat in Congress at an age (30) when some of today's college graduates are still living in their parents' basements. He served as the youngest Secretary of Defense in American history (under President Ford) and the oldest Secretary of Defense in American history (under Bush #43). Between those positions, he headed G.D. Searle, General Instrument Corporation, and Gilead Sciences, Inc. Those corporate posts helped make Rumsfeld the second-richest member of Bush's cabinet, with a net worth north of $62 million.

Rumsfeld is also known for his unique, sometimes blunt and sometimes slippery, speaking style. Who can forget this response he gave a reporter who asked him about the lack of evidence tying Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government to weapons of mass destruction?

The verdict is in... Bitcoin will be taxed as property, not as currency

We have had more than a few clients this past year ask about Bitcoin and trading in Bitcoins from an income tax perspective.  There has been a lot of urban legends out there that claim, since the IRS has not given any formal guidance, that income taxes don't apply. Like most urban legends, that is simply wrong and making that assumption can land you in some real tax trouble.

When we delivered that news it was sometimes not what our client, or prospective client, wanted to hear. We've had to remind everyone that the primary premise of the U.S. Tax Code, Section 61, is pretty simple. It says that "gross income means all income from whatever source derived." So, unless there is a specific exclusion from taxability for the income source, you're on the hook for taxes.