Thursday, April 17, 2014

Master This Green!

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 to
claim 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

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