January 9, 2015
While most of us were settling back into the office this week, Teresa Giudice from the infamous reality TV show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” was settling in to her new home at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. She’ll be trading the opulent, Italian-style divans inside her NJ mansion for a shabby, not-so-chic cot in a jail cell for the next 15 months (if she actually serves her full sentence).
According to the New York Daily News, Teresa and husband Joe were convicted of mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud. They took out millions in falsified mortgage and construction loans to support their lavish lifestyle. Joe was also convicted of tax fraud, since he failed to file a return in 2004 and admitted he didn’t pay taxes on some $1 million in income between 2004 and 2008.
At sentencing, Judge Esther Salas was infuriated by the Giudice’s lack of transparency in their pre-sentencing disclosure documents. Among the omissions the judge seemed to think had dubious justifications were the estimates of the family’s furnishings and jewelry. The courts and the IRS have increasingly sophisticated tools for identifying discrepancies in stated earnings and assets, but in this case a simple paperwork trail proved enough.
That’s because when declaring bankruptcy in 2009, the Giudices listed $60,000 in furnishings, but only $25,000 on sentencing day. Other recreational vehicles, cars and construction equipment seemed also to be missing from the probation office report that managed to make it to the Feds. When asked why no jewelry assets were reported, the Giudice’s lawyer said Teresa wore only the costume type.
Judge Esther Salas gave Teresa 15 of the maximum 27 months but allowed her to spend the holidays with family. The judge also allowed Teresa’s husband to begin his sentence after hers expressly to maintain a parent in the household for their four children.
For Joe the sentence is 41 months, but even then he may not be altogether free. Although he has lived in New Jersey for most of his life, he never became a U.S. citizen and will likely face deportation.
Albeit this couple offers an egregious example of misconduct, it goes to show the seriousness with which the courts take tax and bankruptcy fraud. Particularly if, as some believe, the judge in this instance was being lenient, whether owing to the couple’s fame or other reasoning.
Should Teresa miss the spotlight facilitated by Bravo, she can take heart knowing she’s staying at the prison made famous by the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” The reality of it all is that she’s likely to be back in the limelight fast, though maybe not at her NJ home since it was put up for sale. Once she’s free to go, she may very well pick up her hair extensions on the way out and get back to the celebrity life.
December 19, 2015
In a heated bidding war that ended last week, the Chicago Cubs scored big by signing left-handed pitcher Jon Lester with a $155 million deal for six years and a vesting option for a seventh. Lester’s annual $25.8 million earnings will put him in second place for the highest annual salary paid to a pitcher, behind only Clayton Kershaw with $30.7 million. To draw Lester to Wrigley Field, the Cubs raised their bid from $135 to $155 million in the final inning, and yet this wasn’t the highest offer Lester received.
The San Francisco Giants’ last bid gave him the largest potential contract: A seven-year deal for around $168 million. Lester’s pros and cons list with each team was sure to be a long one. On the money side, while the Giants offered the highest figure, California taxes would have put Lester in the 12.3 percent tax bracket and since his income is over the $1 million threshold, subject to an additional 1% tax due to the Mental Health Services Tax. With the Cubs, Lester will instead enjoy a rate less than half that, thanks to Illinois’ 5 percent flat state income tax.
So even with the $13 million premium the Giants were willing to pay, Lester’s take-home salary in Chicago will be at least $1 million more when factoring in state taxes. That’s more money he could give to his favorite charities. (Since Lester’s battle with lymphoma at 22, he has actively advocated for the pediatric cancer community.) As a free agent, Lester has been quoted saying, “I want to go to a place that appreciates what I do on the field and off the field, as far as with our charitable work, how we represent the team in the community.”
Lester may also have chosen the Cubs for the chance to reunite with two executives who drafted him back in the day for the Red Sox: now-Chicago president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
The Boston Red Sox made a lower final offer of six years for $135 million after starting with a low-ball $70 million contract that led to his trade to Oakland this past summer. Still, the star pitcher might have had sentimental reasons to head back, since it was with the Red Sox that he took two World Series Championships. But even the Giants’ prestige of having won the World Series three times in the last five seasons wasn’t enough. Lester still chose the Cubs, who in striking contrast haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years.
It’s not likely Lester’s decision hinged entirely on taxes, nor should any major life decision we make. But that doesn’t mean Lester or any of us can afford NOT to know what the tax impact of a particular choice holds. Having this knowledge in hand, regardless of which way we choose to go with a major decision, can help us find other ways to mitigate tax liabilities and preserve income.
In the event of any upcoming life or business change, whether planned or unexpected, consult with an advisor from the Talley & Company team to understand how your tax profile might be affected.
November 28, 2014
Creating a Charitable Giving Plan for Your Business
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, many of us are not only giving thanks for all that we have, but also giving back. Entrepreneurs in particular may feel the call: 89 percent donate money to charitable causes, while 70 percent also donate their time. Giving through your business can be a great way to make a difference while also placing your brand in a favorable light. Whether you choose to pursue this path by giving time or a percentage of profits, understanding how the IRS treats contributions from a tax-deduction perspective can help you maximize your dollars and efforts. Here’s what you need to know.
Not Every Charity is Eligible with the IRS
If you have a cause in mind that aligns with your company’s overall mission, you can determine if it’s an eligible 501(c)(3) for tax-deduction purposes using this IRS search tool.
What You Can and Can’t Deduct
There are many types of tax-eligible contributions, and the IRS handles them all differently. These are some general guidelines:
Donating Money – Typically, monetary contributions made within the current tax year can be claimed for a deduction and itemized on Schedule A of your return.
Donating Inventory or Property – You can deduct the fair market value of inventory or property donated, but the contribution must be made to the organization. For example, backpacks made by your company and donated to children at a youth center would not be ineligible, but if provided to the youth center itself to distribute, they would. The fair market value must be assessed for anything over $500, and items over $5,000 generally require an appraisal. Your tax attorney can help you properly value and classify all kinds of donations based on very specific IRS rules.
Volunteering – While the monetary value of services your business renders can’t be claimed, some expenses incurred for performing them can. For example, if your marketing firm has agreed to assist with the design and printing of invitations, t-shirts and flyers for an upcoming charity auction, the cost of t-shirts, printing, and mileage to and from the event can be deducted. However, your normal rate for designing and developing those projects cannot.
Getting Something in Return – If you receive something as a result of making a contribution, your efforts may be classified as something other than a donation. For example, let’s say your company makes soccer balls and you donate to a local soccer league that, in return, runs an ad for your business at their facility. This is now an advertising expense that can be deducted on Schedule C. Here’s a different scenario: You make a contribution of $1,000 to an organization and, in return, receive admission to a sporting event for which a ticket would normally cost $300. The IRS allows you to deduct the difference, which in this case would be $700.