I'm preempting Bonus Bananas today to bring you guys this story so you'll have a little something to feel good about going into the weekend. I know most of us hate paying taxes and think we pay way too much, especially in New York. But I promise you this guy has you beat, and the ironic thing is that he didn't even know it.
Mitt Romney took some heat over only paying an effective 13.9% tax rate. So much so, that he took it upon himself to start claiming he actually paid a 50% tax rate, a claim so risible that it actually set a new high-water mark in the world of bullshit, which is no mean feat when you're a politician.
It was when I was running down that story that I discovered James Ross, a 58-year old PE guy from New York who paid an astounding 102% tax rate last year and didn't even realize it until he penciled it out.
"I had no idea I was paying such a high rate," he told me when we spoke this week. "I had trouble believing this was possible. I called my accountant, and I said, 'Do you realize I'm paying every penny I have in taxable income? I'm dipping into savings to pay my income tax.' He said, 'It's unfortunate, but at your income level' " - with high earned income and large itemized deductions that Mr. Ross can't take advantage of - " 'that's just the way it is.' "
Turns out that his high level of income (but not quite high enough) puts him in a taxation "not-so-sweet" spot where he pays more in taxes than both those who make less than he and those who make more. He is literally paying every penny he makes in taxes, and then going into his savings to pay what that doesn't cover.
Ross makes over $1 million a year - the level at which New York disallows any itemized deductions. The only deduction he was allowed to take was for 50% of his charitable contributions, and to his credit he gave a generous 11% of his earnings to charity. All the city and state taxes force him into an A.M.T. nightmare with the feds, further exacerbating his tax woes.
So the next time you think you have it bad, imagine making zero dollars in income and having to cut a check from your savings to the government just for the privilege of drawing air in New York City.
And James, if you're reading this, call Mitt Romney ASAP. You need to hire his tax guy.
Have a great weekend guys.