Chess and the art of taxes

Chess and the art of taxes

“Chess is everything: art, science and sport”- Anatoly Karpov

So what do chess, taxes and the IRA have in common?

In the height of the Cold War, an odd character by the name of Bobby Fischer took the world by storm. He won the World Chess Championship in 1972, defeating Boris Spassky of the USSR. Arguably, Fischer’s win is one of the greatest of upsets of any contest. Chess was a sport that Soviet players dominated. At the time, Fischer’s sister had a great quote, “Bobby did all this in a country almost totally without a chess culture. It was as if an Eskimo had cleared a tennis court in the snow and gone on to win the world championship.”

I was six years old when Bobby Fischer won the “Match of the Century.” While I cannot recall all the details of the media storm that literally took over the world, I do remember that everyone started to play chess in the United States. Soon after, I learned to play chess too. My understanding of the game is only pedestrian. I know how the pieces move, but I lack the feel, the movement and vision of the game. Players like Fischer could see the board and anticipate things most other player never could. It’s an intangible skill that’s difficult to explain.

Fischer dropped out high school in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 16. However, he taught himself several foreign languages so he could read foreign chess periodicals. To chronicle his craft and teach the masses, he co-wrote the book “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.”

For many of us, the tax code is like a chess match.

Most of us have a basic understanding of the game. But the real intricacies of the tax code are often missed. Luckily, the IRS has chronicled free resources that can help better understand the mysteries of the tax game. As April 17 (this year’s deadline) fast approaches, it’s a great time to review these free resources. They all can be found online at IRS.gov.

  • Do you need help with your taxes? The IRS offers an Interactive Tax Assistant with several online calculators you can use to answer your own questions. Forty-five calculators are currently available.
  • Wonder when you’ll receive your refund form the IRS? The IRS offers “Where’s My Refund.” With this online tool you’ll learn refund status immediately.
  • Are you getting audited? The IRS offers the IRS Audit Technique Guides (50 different guides). These are the same guides that IRS tax examiners use when conducting an audit. Why would the IRS give their secrets away? It is required by law. The audit guides can make your tax returns “audit proof.”
  • Free File is a partnership between the IRS and commercial providers of tax return software. This program lets taxpayers prepare and file their returns using commercial software free of charge. Taxpayers with income up to $66,000 can use Free File.
  • Can’t remember where you put last year’s tax return? The IRS offers a transcript of your tax account. If you ever need information from a past year’s tax return to prepare this year’s, improve your records, or for any other reason, you can request a transcript of your tax account. Transcripts are available up to three years back. You also can request a photocopy of a past year’s return by filing IRS Form 4506.
  • Do you have a problem with the IRS bureaucracy that you just can’t fix? Or do you believe you are being treated unfairly by the IRS regarding a collection matter, missing refund, or other issue? Your solution may be with the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that represents taxpayers to assure they receive fair treatment and will help to resolve their problems.
  • Want to stay informed on IRS happenings? The IRS offers an e-news subscription, videos and the IRS Newsroom. The newsletter brings the latest news on subjects including general tax news and advance copies of IRS rulings and notices. The videos range from the appeals process to IRA/Retirement rollover rules, Military Tax rules, etc. The IRS also has its own YouTube channel. In this week’s Newsroom, the IRS made an announcement of tax extensions for businesses suffering from winter storms.
  • Want more? The IRS Tax Map (taxmap.irs.gov) can provide you with lots of great information.

The life of Bobby Fischer was a strange ride. He went from a prodigy becoming the United States chess champion at age 14, to a winner of the biggest match in the world, and then became a recluse and fugitive. In 1992, he mysteriously reemerged to win a rematch against Spassky and collected over $3 million in prize money. Unfortunately for Fischer, the match was held in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo at the time. His participation led to a conflict with the U.S. government and charges of tax evasion. A warrant was issued for his arrest. In 2004, he was arrested in Japan and held for eight months while the U.S. built a tax evasion case against him. Eventually, Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship which allowed him to live in Iceland until his death in 2008. I’m not sure if Fischer ever took advantage of the free services the IRS provided.

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