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Laura M. Mikeworth CPA, PA
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Happy New Year! 2019 is here, and it's almost time to file your first tax return under the new law. Washington sold the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as "tax simplification." And really, who can't raise a toast to that? Lower rates! Higher standard deductions! A 1040 you can fill out on a postcard! But many taxpayers, especially those in high-tax states like New York and California, can be forgiven if they feel like they woke up with a massive hangover. Deductions for state and local income and property taxes are now capped at $10,000, regardless of income. And employee business deductions are nixed entirely. That's going to be pricey for the Very Large Men we mention in this week's article.
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Just as Pinocchio always wanted to be a real boy, Bitcoin wants to be real money. That means accomplishing two goals. First, it has to serve as a store of value. You have to be confident that if you put something in, you’ll be able to get the same value out. And second, it has to serve as a medium of exchange. That means you have to be able to use it to pay for things just like you would use cash.
Last month, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced the Buckeye State would become the first to accept Bitcoin for tax payments. For now, the program is limited to business filers, although they can use Bitcoin to pay for any type of tax.
The world is changing — and, like it or not, we have to change with it. That’s true for tax professionals, too. The Flintstones may have been perfectly happy with someone telling them how much they owe. But the Jetsons want to know how to pay less. That’s where we come in — and we’re looking forward to helping you through 2019 and beyond!

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Take a look at our Internal Revenue Code. No, really, take a good look. (You can buy it on Amazon for just $161.89: two thick paperbacks totaling 4,968 pages. You even get free Prime shipping!) At first glance, it’s all about the revenue. For FY 2019, federal income taxes should hit nearly $1.7 trillion. Payroll taxes will top $1.2 trillion. Corporate taxes, $225 billion. And estate taxes will generate somewhere around $20 billion, depending on how many billionaires die (#dropinthebucket).

But taxes aren’t just about the revenue. Washington loves to use taxes to accomplish goals they can’t legislate directly. This generally takes the form of “tax expenditures” — special deductions, credits, or other rules designed to benefit specific favored activities or taxpayers.

The mortgage interest deduction may be the most famous of these carrots. For most people, homeownership is a cornerstone of the American Dream. But Congress would be hard-pressed to pass legislation requiring it, or even directly rewarding it. (Buy a home! Get a free $5,000 Target gift card!) So instead, they use taxes to subsidize it. For 2018, homeowners saved $68.1 billion by deducting mortgage interest on their taxes.

But every so often, the government uses taxes as a stick . . . or at least they try to. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial blowing the whistle on one such effort that may violate the First Amendment. Specifically, it accuses the IRS of punishing nonprofit organizations that advocate for legal marijuana.
Carrots Versus Sticks
Carrots Versus Sticks
mikeworthcpa.com
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If you were coaching your kid’s basketball team, you wouldn’t win many games if you told them to aim for the backboard. Your opponents might love you, but there would be at least one dad in the stands screaming at you the entire time. So why have some tax collectors given up aiming for the hoop and settled for rebounds?

At first glance, the tax code looks like 70,000+ pages of incomprehensible gobbledygook. (Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover.) But scratch the surface hard enough and you’ll find a semblance of order. Add up total income from various sources. Subtract adjustments to gross income and standard or itemized deductions. Calculate the tax based on the remaining net income. Finally, subtract any available credits for doing things Washington is willing to subsidize, like having kids, sending them to college, or driving your kids to college in an electric car.

Easy peasy, right? (Yeah, sure.) In practice, of course.
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Netflix has mined TV gold from all sorts of settings. Orange is the New Black explores life inside a women’s prison. Stranger Things is a love letter to classic 1980s sci-fi/horror films. And Bojack Horseman takes us inside the world of a half-man, half-horse, has-been TV star who drinks too much. It was only a matter of time before we’d see inside the upside-down world where the IRS unleashes investigators to chase business owners for . . . wait for it . . . paying their taxes.
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Fall is officially here, and that means whiskey season is back. Most drinkers probably don’t think much about taxes when they visit their favorite bar or spirits shop. Liquor levies are generally based on volume, not price, so you pay the same amount of tax on a $4 fifth of Olde Ocelot as the swells pay for their $269 Pappy Van Winkle. But did you know that whiskey played a central role in our country’s first tax protest, which took place around this same season 224 years ago?

Turn the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1791. The fledgling U.S. government was struggling to pay off $79 million in Revolutionary War debt. (Today that wouldn’t cover a single F-35, let alone win independence from the greatest empire on earth.) Congress had already hiked tariffs as high as Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton felt they could go, so they were forced to tax domestic products. Americans loved liquor, in part because alcoholic drinks didn’t spread disease (and also because it dulled the pain). So, naturally, Congress slapped a tax on it.
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Some of the world’s most popular board games give players the chance to live out professional fantasies. Aspiring property sharks can cheat each other with the classic Monopoly. Would-be Sherlock Holmeses can track down killers with Clue. Armchair generals can settle down to an evening of Risk. But until today there’s never been a game to let aspiring tax planners outwit the Internal Revenue Code. Shouldn’t that be at least as much fun as figuring out it was Colonel Mustard in the Library with the candlestick?

Well, that all changes in the form of a new board game called “Transfer Pricing: The Game.”
All Fun and Games
All Fun and Games
mikeworthcpa.com
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Mother Nature knew exactly what she was doing when she made babies cute. In fact, evolutionary biologists at Oxford University recently concluded they evolved that way to survive by encouraging the rest of us to look after them. “This is the first evidence of its kind to show that cuteness helps infants to survive by eliciting care-giving, which cannot be reduced to simple, instinctual behaviours,” says professor Morten Kringelbach. (And couldn’t Oxford have found something less obvious to study?)

Half the fun of meeting a new baby is looking to see what features they inherit from their parents. Daddy’s bright blue eyes? Mommy’s adorable button-nose? (Hopefully not the next-door neighbor’s goofy jug ears!) But did you know that some babies inherit more than their parents’ physical features? In California, some babies inherit their parents’ tax breaks!
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The Infinite Monkey Theorem holds that if you sit an infinite number of monkeys down at an infinite number of typewriters, eventually one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare — or, at the very least, Hamlet. But do you know what those monkeys are banging out when they’re not banging out Shakespeare? The Internal Revenue Code, of course! (Sadly, the Infinite Monkey Theorem will probably never be more than just a theorem. For starters, can you imagine the smell in that room?)

The tax code may look like 70,000-odd pages of monkey-banging gibberish. But there really is a twisted logic to it. Think of it as a series of red lights and green lights. Red lights, like Section 1 (setting out rates), Section 1401 (imposing the net investment income tax), and Section 1432 (imposing employment taxes) make you stop and pay tax. Green lights, like Section 105 (making employer health benefits tax-free), Section 162 (making “ordinary and necessary” business expenses deductible), and Section 170 (making charitable gifts deductible) let you go without paying tax.

Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act added a new red light.
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The best marriages, so they say, age like fine wine. They gain richness, and color, and depth. They ripen and mellow as experience piles upon experience, bonding the couple and deepening the intimacy as husband and wife stroll hand-in-hand through the majestic tapestry of life. (Cue the rainbows, and unicorns, and George Harrison lyrics.)

Remy and Lara Trafelet didn’t have that kind of marriage. Their union aged more like milk. No, scratch that. Imagine strapping a toddler into his car seat to go see Grandma on a hot summer day. You hand him a sippy cup of milk to keep him pacified for the drive. Halfway there, he drops the cup and it rolls under the front seat — but you forget it’s there. Three weeks later, when you can’t ignore the smell, you find the results. What is it? Some mutant strain of . . . cottage cheese, maybe? Something even worse? That’s what happened to Remy and Lara’s marriage.
Love Stinks. Yeah, Yeah
Love Stinks. Yeah, Yeah
mikeworthcpa.com
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