Monday, April 16, 2007

I Declare; or, Uncle Sam's Rake

The Beatles' Red and Blue Albums, on eight-trackNow my advice to those who die --
Declare the pennies on your eyes.

Will be jetting into McCarran International Airport day after tomorrow. Arrive midday, and so may even be able to sit down at a poker table somewhere there on the strip Wednesday afternoon.

Yesterday Vera Valmore and I went ahead and reserved tickets to one show -- O -- which we’ll be seeing in the theatre at the Bellagio on Thursday night. Gotta admit, I haven’t the first clue what it is about . . . but hey, why not? Would’ve preferred to see Love, that other Cirque du Soleil show featuring the music of the Beatles, but that one is shut down this week.

I suppose about everyone who has a pulse likes the Beatles. I do, too, thanks in no small part to my father, who saw A Hard Day’s Night in college and then soon was playing covers of early Beatles tunes in his band.

Some years after that experience, he could frequently be found driving around a young Shamus in a miserable, dirty white Plymouth Valiant (affectionately referred to as “the Bomb” around the house), the only redeeming feature of which was an eight-track player. Soon after acquisition of said Bomb, the glove compartment became home to four items -- the two cartridges of The Beatles 1962-1966 (a.k.a., the “red album”), and the two of The Beatles 1967-1970 (a.k.a., the “blue album”). The soundtrack to my youth. Almost typed the “uninterrupted” soundtrack, but as anyone who remembers 8-tracks knows, there were interruptions -- about every eleven minutes or so, as I recall. Eventually I’d pick up one of the many acoustic guitars we had laying around the house and learn to play by following the chords detailed in The New York Times’ Great Songs of Lennon & McCartney (compiled by Milton Okun).

Harrison’s “Taxman” doesn’t appear on the Red album. (I’d eventually get to Revolver and the rest.) Nor, obviously, is “Taxman” in the NY Times songbook. The tune is on the mind, though, as we Americans have until tomorrow to do our annual duty and file taxes on last year’s income. For that small percentage of us who play poker online and who managed to come out ahead for 2006, we face a decision: To declare or not to declare?

Have written before about getting started with online poker. After a few months of play money fun, I made my first $50 deposit on Stars in November 2004. Started out playing for pennies, and about three months later was still sitting on that initial fifty bucks. As I didn’t see a profit for the end of ’04, it didn’t occur to me even to think about taxes for that year. But by the end of ’05 I did earn enough to make me decide to go ahead and list what I’d won as “gambling winnings.” Am doing the same for ’06, reporting a good bit more this time around. By running the numbers both with and without those poker profits, I can see that I am giving back around 31%-33% of my winnings to Uncle Sam. Not as bad as “one for you, nineteen for me,” but still a hell of a rake.

At any given moment over on 2+2, there are usually at least a few active threads in the Legislation section where posters debate whether or not to claim their winnings. Some say they never pay; others insist paying is the only +EV option. Much of the discussion over there concerns those who list themselves as professionals (or are considering doing so), and so all the talk of deductions and whatnot doesn’t apply to me.

I know there are those who probably would view me as a sucker for paying anything at all. Some would probably look at the amount I’m reporting and say it falls under what they’d consider the minimum one needs to be worrying about when it comes to declaring. To be honest, if I’d made the money in a brick-and-mortar poker room, and received no W-2’s or other documentation recording how much I’d taken home, I probably wouldn’t bother declaring. Having played online, however, I did leave that electronic paper trail through the various poker sites, Neteller, and my bank, and so I figure I might as well own up.

As I’ve said before here many times, I ain’t so keen on gambling, and so regard this as another example of my having chosen not to take an unnecessary risk. What you do is your call. (I ain’t the taxman, so I’ve no opinion on that subject.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I suppose about everyone who has a pulse likes the Beatles. I do, too, thanks in no small part to my father"

Many of my generation were either raised on the Beatles or the Stones. While my father had many of their albums, he loved The Who above all else. A mother of one of my early teenage classmates a few years ago said ´many were either Beatles or Stones fans, Who fans were different´. I felt a little sparkle of pride in the memory of my late dad. He played guitar and his Great Gig In The Sky must be so much sweeter. When the skies are thundering, listen close :)

4/17/2007 1:57 AM  
Blogger GWC said...

You do whatever you have to do to be able to sleep at night. If that includes paying taxes on your poker winnings then so be it.

I still haven't worked out why I don't sleep at night. Maybe God is punishing me for disliking the Beatles?

4/17/2007 4:13 AM  
Blogger Swifty said...

I disliked the Beatles until I visited my father in hospital, and while he was sleeping read a 'Beatles Special' copy of Q Magazine, one of the more intelligent music monthlies over here.

It was so well written and painted such a vibrant picture of the era, the music, the style etc that I felt compelled to challenge my preconceptions.

I was wrong. Not everything they did was genius, but most of it was.

So far as poker taxes are concerned I find it risible that the US authorities will tax you on online profits which arise out of something they deem to be immoral and quasi-illegal. Bricks and mortar, fair enough. But online? How hypocritical.

4/18/2007 7:50 AM  

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