Netflix: We Want to Know Your Mood

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Knowledge at Wharton had a piece about the company Netflix and how they use analytics to gauge

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Vegas Sets 2014 Sports Gambling Records

The numbers are in and sports investing broke records in 2014 for betting revenue. ESPN supplied the breakdown:

The state’s 187 sportsbooks won $227.04 million off of the $3.9 billion wagered on sports in 2014. Both amounts are all-time records, according to Nevada Gaming Control.

Football, per usual, carried the load. The sportsbooks won $113.73 million on college and pro football in 2014, a giant 40.73 percent increase from 2013. Overall, $1.74 billion was bet on football in 2014, $12 million more than in 2013. Nevada Gaming Control does not track pro and college football separately, but sportsbook managers estimate the NFL accounts for around 55-60 percent of their annual football handle. From September through December, the books are up $98.16 million on football.

In comparison, the books won $54.2 million on basketball and $21.2 million on baseball in 2014. Both numbers were down, 8.36 percent and 26.88 percent, respectively, from 2013.

MLB Spring Training Helps Players Pay Less Taxes

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While baseball purist fans rejoice in spring training opening up, so do the players not just for the game but also their paychecks. Spring training camps are located in Arizona and Florida which helps players pay less since they are legally working in those states. This helps cushion the tax blow they receive from the states they play in during the regular season.

Sean Packard, CPA, who is Director of Tax at OFS. He specializes in tax planning and the preparation of tax returns for pro athletes shared this tax benefit with Forbes.com:

Spring training is an opportunity for players to escape state income taxes on roughly 20% of their income. Professional athletes pay taxes in all states in which they play. This is known as the “jock tax.” Most states calculate a player’s jock tax based on the number of duty days spent inside the state divided by the total days a player works.

Unlike most sports, where preseason training occurs near the team’s home, spring training takes place in one of two states, Florida or Arizona. Florida does not have an income tax and while Arizona does, it does not begin taxing professional athletes until the beginning of their teams’ regular season. This means that duty days spent in the state prior to the season do not count as taxable days. Holding spring training in these two tax havens can save elite players hundreds of thousands of dollars in state income taxes.

Packard provides an example of how money a player can save just at spring training.

The portion of Santana’s salary allocable to spring training under the duty day calculation is $5.355 million. If the Mets held spring training in New York instead of Florida, this income would be allocated to New York and subject to their 8.82% income tax. But because the Florida (and Arizona) climate is more conducive to baseball in February, Santana will save $472,000 in state income taxes.

How the Wealthy Write Off Taxes

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Whenever I see someone famous on TV talking about the need for higher taxes or claiming they enjoy paying taxes I always say, “Their accountant is laughing”.
Senator Tom Coburn issued a report showing exactly what I mean.

The tax code is so peppered with special giveaways that companies such as Facebook end up getting refunds, and high-profile athletes and artists use their tax-free foundations to give friends jobs while avoiding taxes — all leading to higher income tax rates for the rest of us, Sen. Tom Coburn charges in a new report being released Tuesday.

Here is a snapshot of what was found by his staff:

-Baseball owners are able to claim their players “depreciate” over time, the same way farms are able to claim their tractors depreciate
– Athletes and Hollywood stars who form tax-exempt organizations that they then use as tax shelters, throwing parties or paying employees’ salaries from the tax-exempt accounts while dedicating almost no money to charitable works.
-Kanye West’s foundation spent more than $1 million in 2009 and 2010 but “gave virtually nothing” to charity. Fellow performer Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation raised $2.6 million but only gave away $5,000 in grants

You can read more via Washington Times

MLB Player Change Teams Because of Taxes?

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Pablo Sandoval few days ago signed with the Boston Red Sox in a free agent deal for five years and worth $100 Million. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes wrote why Pablo left San Francisco:

Massachusetts has a flat personal income tax rate of 5.2%. California uses a progressive rate topping out at 13.3% at and above $1 million of income. In other words, 95% of Sandoval’s income would be taxed at this 13.3% rate if he re-signed with the Giants.

The Giants play in the National League West, which boasts three teams from California, including the Giants. This means that in addition to the Giants’ 81 home games, the team plays another 18 road games in California. The Giants also play three road games against their cross-bay rival A’s, bringing their total California games to 103.While Boston has to play ten games next year at the New York Yankees, it also has division opponents in Florida and Canada, where the players will pay no state income taxes (and no federal taxes in Canada).

Baseball players living in no-tax states have about 18.4% of their 2015 salaries sheltered from state taxes due to Spring Training taking place in tax-free states (Arizona does not tax Spring Training days). The Red Sox enjoy an additional 14.3% of tax-sheltered income from road games, while the Giants only get to shelter another 5.8%.

Read the rest here

MLB All Star Game: Self-Serve Beer

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With the MLB All Star Game about to begin, fans will be able to buy their beer at a self-serve beer machines. The idea has been attempted before, but this time around the technology is a lot of better. Here is how it works:

After an ID check — “Just because it’s self-serve doesn’t mean it’s unmonitored,” Twins spokesman Chris Iles said — fans buy a card pre-loaded with $10, $20 or $40. Then they hop in line for their beer of choice: Budweiser and Bud Light for 38 cents an ounce (a little over $6 for a pint), or Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale and Shock Top’s Lemon Shandy for 40 cents per ounce. The self-pouring is monitored, too, to stop anyone who may be overserving themselves.

There have been some issues…..

Target Field’s new machines have LCD screens with pouring instructions behind each set of taps, but Spike said they ran into a few hiccups with messy pours on a test run last week, especially after the machines sat idle. The stations will stay at Target Field for the rest of the season, and plans for expansion or changes will depend on fan feedback.

It will be interesting to see the reviews on this machine. Many ballparks are facing actual physical fan attendance issues and this machine would easily replace many beer vendors if it was successful.