Friday, April 25, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
The calendar may say that spring officially begins on March 21. But for millions of golfers across the country, the season didn't really start until this weekend — specifically, when Bubba Watson outplayed 20-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth toclaim his second green jacket at the 2014 Masters.
Augusta National Country Club, home of the Masters, is America's temple of golf. Augusta's "perennial ryegrass" fairways are manicured to a smoother finish than your living room carpet, and its greens are so hard and fast you could play billiards on them. So, with all that lush green stretching as far as the eye can see, would it surprise you to learn that the residents of Augusta have "mastered" a lucrative tax break? It's become so identified with the legendary golf tournament that it's known as "the Augusta rule." But if you own your own business, you may be able to take advantage of it yourself.
Augusta, Georgia, is a small city with about 200,000 year-round residents. But for the second week of April every year, it becomes the center of the sports universe. Wealthy golfers descend upon the town from around the world. They want quality accommodations. But the nearest Ritz-Carlton is a looong drive away. (81 miles, to be exact. You don't even want to know what par that is.)
For many of those fans, the answer is to rent a house in town, just a chip shot from the tournament. Augusta National and the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce have even teamed up to create the Masters Housing Bureau to pitch week-long rentals — for up to $40,000. For lots of Augusta homeowners, that's a hole in one! (Of course, homeowners outside Augusta have taken advantage of the same rule for events like the Olympic games, the Final Four, and the Super Bowl.)
Now, ordinarily the IRS would take a big divot out of that $40,000 windfall. (Pro golfers typically tip their caddies 10% of their winnings, and if you think that's enough for Uncle Sam, think again!) But here's where the Augusta rule comes in. Code Section 280(A)(g)(2) provides that if you rent your home (or vacation home) for less than 15 days a year, there's no tax due on that income. In fact, IRS Publication 527 says you shouldn't even report it. So, if you have a house in Augusta, you've got that going for you! Which is nice.
Don't have a house in Augusta? Don't despair! Let's say you own your own business, and you want to host a customer appreciation event. You could hold it at your house and deduct the cost of meals and entertainment you provide for your customers. But the Augusta rule also lets you rent your home to your business — for a commercially reasonable "fair market value," of course. Your business will deduct the rent it pays, which gives you a birdie on your tax bill. But so long as you don't do it more than 14 days per year, you won't have to report the income on your personal return. Pretty slick, right?
If you're a golfer, you've almost certainly dreamed of someday playing Augusta. But you wouldn't dream of doing it without an experienced caddy — because, when you sign that scorecard, you want as few strokes as possible. When it comes to taxes, that's our job. We give you the plan you need, so that when you sign your 1040 . . . well, you get the picture. So call us before you "hit the course." And remember, we're here for the rest of your foursome as well! (419) 468-8509
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Last week, we talked about the IRS Criminal Investigation unit's Fiscal 2013 annual report. We told you about four of the 2,812 offenders who drew prison sentences for their efforts: the drag racer who applied for $83 million in fraudulent gas tax refunds, the surgeon who "operated" on his tax bill using foreign trusts and shell companies, the Japanese restaurant owner who hid receipts in boxes marked "seasoned octopus," and the prisoner who filed false tax returns for his fellow inmates and sent the refund checks to his mother. But the IRS report detailed over 100 such stories — so, at the risk of beating a dead horse, we couldn't resist sharing just a few more:
- They say everything is bigger in Texas. Apparently that includes public corruption, which is an IRS priority. Abel Limas was a former police officer and state judge in Brownsville who discovered he could supplement his government salary by turning his office into "a criminal enterprise to enrich himself and others through extortion." In 2008, Limas issued a series of pretrial rulings in a case involving a helicopter crash. Later that year, he joined a law firm working on behalf of victims in that same crash. It turns out the law firm had promised him a cool hundred grand, plus a share of their fees, in exchange for those rulings. Now Limas is spending six years in a federal prison camp.
- Whitney Houston once sang that she believed "the children" are our future. But some people believe the children are just another meal ticket. Take Nehemiah Muzamhindo, for example. Customs officials were searching the Zimbabwe native's house for evidence of passport fraud when they discovered he had scammed one of the world's largest children's charities out of $800,000. You think he remembered to pay tax on that money? Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez, who picked up the case for the IRS, said that Muzamhindo's crime was worse than the usual fraud because "he diverted money intended for children for his own greedy purposes." Now he'll spend six years in federal prison. Even worse, according to Muzamhindo's lawyer, the case has brought him "a great deal of shame"!
- You've heard that the family that plays together, stays together. But some families take that advice a little too far. Angela Myers operated Angie's Tax Service in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She used her daughter's preparer identification number to file false returns using names and social security numbers stolen from a nearby nursing home. Apparently, she needed the money to pay for a sweet RV. Now she's spending 11 years, not traveling in the RV, but in a prison in Alabama where she won't even need a driver's license. But wait (as they say in the TV infomercials) . . . there's more! The IRS is also investigating Angie's son for threatening a witness in the case!
- Lots of Americans grow up wanting to be President. The usual path is to spend years working your way up the political ladder, then run for the office. But who has time for all that? Alabama's Tim Turner declared that our current government is an illegitimate sham, then proclaimed himself President of the Republic for the united States of America (RuSA). Next, he started teaching fellow citizens how to pay their taxes with fake bonds. (Apparently, special paper stock, financial terminology, and elaborate borders help make them at least look legit.) Oh, and when one of his followers asked what really happened when that spaceship crashed near Roswell back in 1947, he let the cat out of the bag that every industrialized nation on earth has a treaty with the aliens! Now he'll have 18 years to negotiate his own agreement with the little green men.
We realize people are willing to go a long way to pay less tax. But you don't have to set up your own government! There are hundreds of legitimate ways to work within the system we've already got. You just need a plan. So call us at (419) 468-8509 for your plan, before the aliens come and take over for good!