Never Lose Sight of Survival
Ernie Neve, CPA
January 9, 2019
Movie fans, quick: what do you get when you combine Night of the Living Dead, Deliverance, and The Mist — with just a hint of Sophie's Choice? It probably looks a lot like like Netflix's newest hit, Bird Box. The movie imagines a shattered future where an unknown presence has driven everyone who sees it to suicide, and follows Sandra Bullock and two five-year-old children on a desperate blindfolded gauntlet down a raging river in search of safe haven.
Netflix dropped Bird Box on December 21 — a time when they shrewdly calculated most Americans would be fed up with Elf and Christmas cheer, and grateful for the sweet release of post-apocalyptic chaos. Critics generally said "meh." But that didn't stop the "disappointingly clunky waste of a star-studded cast" from attracting record views. The show has also spawned memes like the #BirdBoxChallenge, where people who wouldn't survive five minutes in a real apocalypse bid for internet fame by posting videos of themselves pulling stupid stunts while blindfolded.
Now, we may be biased here, but we assume that at least of few of those millions of viewers wondered what would happen to income taxes after civilization collapses. (We sure did.) And we know you'll be pleased to discover that our friends at the IRS have planned for that sort of disaster and more!
The first level of IRS emergency preparedness deals with garden-variety disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. These focus on helping taxpayers manage their obligations until things return to normal. They include predictable tips like taking advantage of paperless recordkeeping for tax files, documenting valuables and equipment, checking fiduciary bonds (to protect yourself if your payroll processor goes bust), and updating emergency plans. They also include policies extending due dates to give taxpayers living in disaster zones time to recover.
But the real action for IRS preppers involves "continuity planning" for existential threats like biological warfare, nuclear winter, or alien invasion. (Aliens from space, not across the border.) Official IRS documents outline several proposals, dating back to the earliest days of the Cold War, to help re-start collections. These include government economists holed up in the usual "undisclosed locations" dispensing cash to restart the economy, deciding when to forget about trying to collect pre-disaster taxes, and probably ditching income taxes altogether in favor of a 20-30% sales tax.
As for our friends at Netflix, word on the street has it that Bird Box producers are readying a sequel called Cat Box, where survivors escape death, not by covering their eyes, but by plugging their noses. (Trust us, you don't want to take on that monster.) And they've created even more buzz now with Bandersnatch, an interactive episode of their Black Mirror series where the bottom border of the screen periodically pops up to let you make choices for the characters and "write your own ending."
But we can't see why Bandersnatch is such a big deal, simply because we've been doing that for years. Just like television dramas follow a basic structure built around plot, characters, and similar elements, so does a life fueled by money. Lots of people want access to your money pool, and for most Americans, the biggest slice goes to government. But no one else is using tax planning to script your financial life, with lower taxes as your central character. That's why you need to call us now, to avoid tax apocalypse with your eyes wide open!