The world of comedy lost a giant this month. Joan Rivers may have topped out at just 5'2" and weighed 110 pounds soaking wet, but when it comes to influence, she towered above her peers. Rivers established that women can be just as funny as men and paved the way for the Sarah Silvermans and Tina Feys of today. She could alienate people with sometimes-offensive takes on her fellow celebrities. ("Is Elizabeth Taylor fat? Her favorite food is seconds.") But she was never afraid to turn her wit on herself. ("I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die, they will donate my body to Tupperware.")
Rivers hated Washington, and considered herself apolitical. But it's hard to go 50 years in the public eye without having something to say, especially when it comes to taxes. So here are three quick observations:
- Money was important to Rivers. ("People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.") She worked hard to make it and worked hard to keep it. Back in 2012, she criticized President Obama's proposal to raise taxes: "If I work very hard, I should be able to gather the fruits of my labor." Of course, this was a woman who also said "I'm definitely in favor of a monarchy because they're there, they look good, and always have good gift shops when you leave the palace." So, you might want to take her specific policy recommendations with a grain of salt!
- Rivers wasn't afraid to take on the jokers at the IRS. Back in 1993, she lost a Tax Court case involving disability insurance premiums. The dispute established the rule that a corporation can't deduct those premiums on an employee unless there's a contractually binding obligation to pay the benefits to the employee. (We'll skip the details because they're so boring and technical that even she couldn't make them amusing.)
- Rivers will get a pretty nice final tax break from the IRS, even though it comes too late for her to enjoy it. Code Section 2053 says that when it comes time to calculating estate tax, you can deduct funeral expenses. And Rivers made it clear that she wanted to go out in style. Here's what she said in her 2012 book, I Hate Everyone . . . Starting with Me:"When I die, I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action. I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing 'Mr. Lonely.' I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s."
She may not have gotten the funeral she joked about. But she did get a pack of celebrities, a troupe of bagpipes, and a celebration of a life well lived.
Joan Rivers entertained millions over the course of her career. But there's nothing entertaining about wasting money on taxes you don't have to pay. And you'll get the last laugh if you know you've done everything you can to keep what you make. So call us for a plan to pay less, before the comics at the IRS throw out the punch line for you!