Blockbuster Taxes

5/27/2015

For most of us, Memorial Day represents the beginning of summer – a magical time of year that includes afternoon barbecues, icy drinks, and the beloved seasonal pastime of cooling off at the movie theater with an extra-large bucket of popcorn and a gallon-sized cup of cola. Production companies wait all year to release eagerly anticipated summer blockbusters, which are frequently fraught with comedic dialogue and high-charged action.  

So with Memorial Day behind us and summer drifting lazily toward us, we couldn’t help but wonder…what would this year’s blockbuster entertainment look like from a tax perspective?  

  • San Andreas: "The Big One" finally hits California, and helicopter rescue pilot, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, melodramatically sets off to save his estranged daughter. Meanwhile, up and down the California coast, accountants stay busy rescuing clients with casualty loss deductions.
  • Hot Pursuit: Reese Witherspoon plays an uptight policewoman charged with protecting the widow of a high-profile drug dealer as the pair flees crooked cops and murderous gunmen. Proceeds from drug trafficking are taxable, of course (we all know who finally got Al Capone). But, sadly for our widow, Section 280E of the tax code prohibits deductions for any trade or business that "consists of trafficking in controlled substances." Who would’ve thought being tied up with a drug cartel could be so complicated!
  • Inside Out: Pixar's newest computer-animated film is set inside the mind of Riley - an 11-year-old Midwestern girl who is attempting to navigate through the turmoil of growing up with the help of the five Emotions who guide her life: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Joy holds as Riley’s most steadfast motion throughout the film, but someday, after Riley earns her first paycheck only to discover that FICA has already taken their share, one might wonder which of the five emotions is going to take over her mind then…and it might just be all of them!
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Max and his fellow rebel, Furiosa, race across a post-apocalyptic Australian "Wasteland," desperate to escape the tyranny under which they live, and determined to find freedom, peace, and a place to call home. The majority of the film plot is played out through various road battles across desolate freeways, and tax collectors weep as not a dime of tax gets paid into the Highway Trust Fund. Of course, there may not even be a Highway Trust Fund in Australia…then again, there may not be any tax collectors after the apocalypse, either!
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron: An all-star team of superheroes including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow team up to save the world from the creepy Ultron. No tax "hook" here in the movie, but if “Iron Man” Robert Downey Jr. cashes another $50 million paycheck like he did after Iron Man 3, he'll be “Man of the Year” at the IRS.
  • Terminator: Genesys: Arnold Schwarzenegger returns for a fourth go-round since his time-traveling robot debuted back in 1984. The new movie reshapes events from the first set of films in an alternate timeline, and we won’t ask any questions about what that means. However, maybe the question we should be asking is: shouldn't the Terminator be paying estate tax by now? And when he does go back in time, does he get a refund of whatever estate tax he already paid?