Tax Attic August 15, 2013

Jerry Coon
Jerry Coon

In sports, there is a marketing problem when the same people or teams win all or most of the time. How do you market the sport or the league when it’s a foregone conclusion that unless something unique happens, we all know who is going to win? A few years ago, the world of golf was beginning to have a marketing problem with Tiger Woods. It seemed like he won every tournament he bothered to enter. Of course, he took care of that issue himself and now he wins some tournaments but not every tournament he enters. Week-in and week-out, but especially in the four major championships, the rest of the field has as good a chance to win as does Tiger. Just ask the winners of the last four Majors: Jason Dufner, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, and Justin Rose. I personally think that’s good for golf.

Baseball had a marketing problem when the New York Yankees dominated whole decades. They won darned near every championship in the 1920’s and early 30’s and the 1950’s into the 60’s. I’m thinking the crowds were small when the perennial first-place Yankees came to town to play the perennial last-place Philadelphia Athletics. How exactly did you market coming to the ball park to watch your home team getting crushed by the mighty Yankees? From time to time, the Yankees still put it all together. But from time to time, so do the Detroit Tigers, the Chicago White Sox, and the Oakland Athletics. Most teams have a chance of winning every few years and that’s good for baseball. Great baseball attendance reflects this trend as well.

NASCAR had a problem with Jimmy Johnson winning five championships a row from 2006 through 2010. The rest of the guys won some races but when it came to crunch time, Jimmie got it going and won another championship. NASCAR has been battling attendance issues and Jimmie winning every year doesn’t help, especially if you are a Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, or Tony Stewart fan. LeBron James and his teammates on the Miami Heat are so good they might win the National Basketball Championship for another few years. I wonder how the over-all league-wide attendance figures were when seven or eight teams had a chance to win as opposed to one, Miami. This marketing problem has also caught up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Car racing world.

Last weekend, Deb and I made our annual trek to Iowa to visit Dale and Jamie Boersma, ex-Rockford, Bostwick Lake residents. We play some golf during the day and then Dale and I go to the Knoxville Raceway to watch the Knoxville Nationals at night. The Nationals are a 50-lap race for the 410 cubic inch, 800 horsepower, sprint-cars around the one-half mile dirt track located in downtown Knoxville. It pays $150,000 to the winner while a regular night of racing anywhere in the United States might pay $10,000 to win. That means every sprint car driver who fancies himself a sprint car driver is in Knoxville the first week of August hoping to take home $150,000. Most of the big name drivers participate in The World of Outlaws circuit but, once in a while, someone from outside manages to win. Not lately, though.

Donny Schatz, who drives a car owned by Tony Stewart, has won seven of the last eight Knoxville Nationals and finished second by a whisker in that eighth race. Donny doesn’t win all World of Outlaws races but he seems to have a lock on the Nationals. That’s good for Donny and Tony but it’s not necessarily so good for those watching. Not everyone is a Donny Schatz fan. It’s a marketing problem of immense proportions. Why take a trip to the middle of corn country if you have a pretty darned good idea who is going to win anyway? That’s a great question. The Knoxville Nationals has to come up with an answer or the only ones in attendance might be the Donny Schatz fans.

It’s a given that all 20,000 of the fans in attendance at Knoxville were there voluntarily. Our tax system, however, is a horse of a different color because we don’t get to voluntarily participate in the tax system. We are all required participants in one of the most complicated tax systems in the world. In this case the Department of the Treasury’s Internal Revenue Service is the entity with the marketing problem. Tax bills for many taxpayers have increased. Income for many taxpayers has decreased. The tax system is caught in the middle. The IRS has to convince people sitting on the edge of legality to stay legal and stay in the system. Sports fans can decide not to go to a race or a baseball, football, or basketball game. Try not paying a tax bill and it will quickly become evident that was a bad idea. The IRS really doesn’t get much help from Congress either.

Last tax season had to have been a marketing nightmare for the IRS. When Congress passed a law on December 30 that was enacted in January that affected almost every return to be filed, that made last tax season one that the IRS as well as every tax preparer is glad to be over with. One tax preparer friend of mine printed up cards with the saying “I survived the 2013 Tax Season From Hell. Thank you Congress for a wonderful stress free year.” I agree, but at least tax preparers are getting paid to put up with the stress. On the other hand, taxpayers are paying tax dollars and still have to put up with the stress.

After going through this tax season, I have heard more people this year tell me they would now be willing to take a flat tax over the complications of our present system. Maybe it’s time to explore that option once again. Steve Forbes isn’t available to champion the cause but I bet there is someone out there who is willing to put some money into floating a flat tax option. Maybe even some of the IRS people might be in favor of it. This is Jerry Coon signing off.


Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent and

a Registered Tax Return Preparer.

He owns Action Tax Service on

Northland Dr. in Rockford.

Contact Jerry through his website:




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