Sunday night, millions of Game of Thrones fans who waited breathlessly for 20 months finally got rewarded with their next installment of what's become the biggest TV show on the planet. Cersei discovered (redacted). Jon Snow learned that .... (sorry, no spoilers here). And that guy with the eye patch and flaming sword probably does great on Tinder. (Seriously, what fair maiden wouldn't swipe right on him?)
Last week, we speculated about how taxes work in Game of Thrones and concluded there are two groups of winners, at least as far as taxes are concerned. The first are the governments collecting taxes from the show's creators, cast, and crew. The second are those collecting taxes from tourists visiting the show's spectacular filming locations, like Spain's Alcazar Palace or Gaztelugatxe. (Remarkably, not a typo.) But there's another important lesson worth spending a second week on. (If you're not a fan, don't worry, we're not turning this into the Westerosi Weekly Tax Journal.)
Thrones creator George R.R. Martin modeled his fictional Seven Kingdoms after England during the Wars of the Roses. So taxes probably work in conventionally feudal ways. Smallfolk kick up to their lords in the form of currency, crops, or labor. The lords kick up a share to the great houses, and the houses kick up a share to the crown. If it all sounds like something out of "a certain Italian-American subculture," it should — remember, Thrones producers originally pitched their epic as "the Sopranos in Middle Earth."
But can taxes alone be enough to sustain a group of squabbling kingdoms against a more existential threat? Martin's characters spent seven seasons fighting amongst each other to make it to this week's premier. (Well, at least the few dozen who survived the first 67-episode slugfest of death.) Now they're facing a common enemy from the north. The Army of the Dead has lain low for thousands of years. Now they're marching south, and the night is dark and full of terrors. A man wants to know, how do you kill an army of soldiers who are already dead? (This isn't going to end well, is it?)
The Westerosis are going to need everything they can find to battle those enemies. They know that Valyrian steel, dragonglass, and actual fire-breathing dragons can destroy White Walkers. They've also got wildfire, the deadly green liquid that can engulf an entire navy or a portion of an ancient stone city with the spark from a single candle. We don't know for sure if wildfire kills the undead, but it certainly can't be good for them.
Are you one of those fans who likes guessing what comes next? (Who's going to sit on the Iron Throne when the series closes forever on May 19? Danaerys? Arya? Hot Pie?) If so, you've probably guessed we're using all of this to draw a metaphor. Taxes are like the White Walkers, advancing from the north to slow down your financial progress. And if you're like Jon Snow, you know nothing about strategies to pay less. You don't have Valeyrian steel, dragon glass, or wildfire.
But what we can give you is an ever-expanding menu of concepts and strategies to slow or stop the White Walkers of unnecessary taxes. If you want to pay the legal minimum, you need someone who speaks "taxes" as fluently as Danaerys's translator Missandrei, who can say "loophole" in 19 different languages. Are you selling a business and looking at a seven-figure tax bill? We've got the dragonglass for that. Looking to maximize your real estate depreciation deductions? We've got your Valyrian steel. So when you're done watching Thrones, call us to put our wildfire to work!
Learn more about how to get your business finances in order so you too can keep taxes at bay and maybe even learn how to grow your business a bit as well.
On April 14, millions of fans will gather around the biggest screen they can find for the start of one final season in Westeros, the setting of George R.R. Martin's epic Game of Thrones. The show, which producers pitched as "The Sopranos in Middle Earth," has leaped from television into the broader culture. In 2013, 241 babies were named "Khaleesi" after the title Danaerys Targaryen takes by marrying the Khal Drogo. UC Berkeley offers a class in "invented languages" featuring Dothraki, which sounds like what you'd get if you mixed Spanish and Arabic and ran it through a wood chipper.
Martin doesn't tell us much about how taxes work in Westeros. And HBO certainly isn't interested in exploring those details — how would they find time between introducing 257 major characters in Season One and killing most of them off in increasingly cringeworthy fashion through the next six seasons? But fortunately for us, the series leaves occasional bread crumbs to help us understand whether the show's tax collectors worship the lord of light or the lord of darkness.
The Iron Throne's principal tax man is Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, the King's urbanely oily Master of Coin. (Picture Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but with chainmail and some super-sketchy side gigs.) Apparently, collecting taxes is just another entrepreneurial opportunity for Littlefinger. In Clash of Kings, Martin writes, "Ten years ago, Jon Arryn had given him a minor sinecure in customs, where Lord Petyr had soon distinguished himself by bringing in three times as much as any of the king's other collectors."
Sadly, Littlefinger's greediest efforts aren't enough to satisfy King Robert Baratheon's lust for wine and tournaments. Baratheon spends down the surplus left by the Targaryens, then borrows millions of golden dragons from the House of Lannister and the Iron Bank of Braavos, Westeros's version of the International Monetary Fund. We don't know how much interest Braavos charges — but if you default, they don't just send swordsell goons to break your legs. They finance a rival power, then collect when the rival overthrows you!
As for those scheming Lannisters, we know "a Lannister always pays his debts." But do Lannisters always pay their taxes? Or do they cleverly avoid them? In Season Three, Lord Tywin Lannister imposes a penny tax on brothels, called "the dwarf's penny," to boost public morals and pay for Joffrey's upcoming wedding. Now, come on . . . is there any idiot in any village in Westeros who doesn't see through that blatant attempt to shift the burden from the 1% to the commoners? Discuss.
In the end, the show's biggest winners may be the real tax collectors across the world. Series creator George R.R. Martin earns a reported $25 million per year from HBO and book royalties. Thrones tourists have pumped millions more into the show's real-life filming locations, including Northern Ireland and Dubrovnik — a Croatian city most fans had never heard of before they saw it standing in for King's Landing. We can assume that all of their governments are happy to collect their share of all those Thrones dollars raining down like flaming arrows.
If you're like most "Thronies," you'd love a dragon of your own to ease your path to the top. (Or do you worry the King would find a way to tax them, too?) Fortunately, you don't need a fire-breathing reptile to keep more of your golden dragons. You just need a plan. So call us when you're ready to escape the King's yoke, and see how glorious a castle you can build with the savings!
Next workshop: Saturday April 27th!
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John Leidy, EA
DIY Books Coach
It was the third day of the very first income tax course when I realized that it will become my mission to help people understand their taxes better to be able to make better decisions and STOP wasting money on taxes they should not have to pay.