Tax Apprentice

Back in 2004, Donald Trump was just another overextended real-estate developer with two divorces and four bankruptcies under his belt. That all changed with the debut of The Apprentice, the show that made “you’re fired!” a national catchphrase. It’s safe to say that without the popularity of The Apprentice, Trump wouldn’t have just taken the oath of office to become the country’s 45th President.

Apprentice candidates completed all sorts of business-oriented tasks, like opening a lemonade stand, designing an ad campaign for a private-jet service, and managing a restaurant on New York’s bustling Times Square. So we got to thinking . . . what would happen if NBC rolled out a season of Tax Apprentice? Who would host it? Who would compete? And what sort of challenges would they embrace to entertain the breathless millions who would anxiously wait for each “very special episode”?

We’re going to need a colorful celebrity host, one who knows their way through the jungle of the 70,000-page tax code. We considered baseball hit king and convicted tax felon Pete Rose. We considered Venice Film Festival winner and convicted tax felon Wesley Snipes. And we considered legendary country crooner and tax scofflaw Willie Nelson. But we think the strongest pick is Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner, who launched a billion-dollar business and paid a $53 million civil penalty for hiding income in a Swiss bank account.

Beyond the draw of the host, the real action comes from the weekly competitions featuring a representative sampling of astonishingly good-looking CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and Registered Tax Return Preparers:

Light Bulb Challenge: How many tax professionals does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Let’s find out! The challenge starts with a bare bulb screwed into a 20-foot ceiling and a file cabinet full of back tax returns, brokerage statements, and miscellaneous travel receipts. The winning team will be the first one to stack the files high enough to climb up and change the lightbulb without incurring a deductible medical expense.

Deduction Scavenger Hunt: Teams sit down with a moderately-complicated and totally clueless business owner’s annual returns: three 1065s, an 1120S, an 1120, and a 1040. Their goal is to comb through the returns to find the mistakes and missed opportunities that cost the owners thousands in tax, then prescribe solutions to rescue those wasted dollars.

Audit Lottery: Everyone knows that switching a business owner from a sole proprietorship to an S corporation can slash their risk of audit by over 50%. Teams will scrub a business owner’s return, identify opportunities to “fly under the radar,” and make sure all the paperwork is in order. Then a panel of guest judges made up of experienced auditors will put on their green eyeshades and examine the returns to see who’s the cleanest.

(Hey, wait a minute, a couple of those are completely legitimate!) Here’s today’s bottom line. Paying less tax isn’t a game, and you can’t afford to treat it like a reality show. Tax planning is serious business and you deserve serious expertise on your side. So call us to pay less, and tell unnecessary taxes, “You’re fired!”