Bloody Complicated


August 20, 2020 3:51 pm
August 20, 2020 3:51 pmLeave your thoughts

Allan Rolnick, CPA

In 2004, Stephanie Meyer sparked a bona fide cultural phenomenon with her debut novel, Twilight, recounting the romance between the story of 17-year-old schoolgirl Bella Swan and 109-year-old “vegetarian” vampire Edward Cullen. (He only drinks animal blood, not human.) The story spawned four books, five movies (because you’ve gotta double up that final book to sell more tickets and popcorn), and billions in revenue. If you were a teenage girl at any time during those years, or know someone who was, you went through a Twilight phase.

Last week, Meyer released a long-awaited fifth volume, Midnight Sun, retelling the original story from Cullen’s point of view. While it’s too soon to know if the book launches a new generation of twi-hards, we can be sure that millions across the country will eagerly return to Forks, Washington, for the Twilight renaissance. If movie studios can churn out a new Batman every year, surely there’s room when theaters re-open for more of Twilight’s vampire clans and werewolf packs.

We realize that when you hear the word “vampire,” you probably don’t think “taxes.” But we do. (It’s either a sickness, or a gift – really, who the heck knows in 2020 anyway?) But the books raise enough tax questions to fill an entire law school exam. So pace yourself, and stay hydrated:

  • Carlisle Cullen, patriarch of Edward’s clan, turns him into a vampire in 1918 during the Spanish Flu. (Edward may not have been paying much – the 4% bracket didn’t kick in until the equivalent of about $85,000 in today’s dollars.) But turning him into a vampire by definition means raising him back from the dead. So should Edward even be filing a return in the first place? Or is anything a vampire earns “income in respect of a decedent” and better reported on Form 1041 for estates and trusts?
  • Bella and Edward get married in the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, on August 13. That means on December 31 they become eligible to file jointly. But can they, really, if Edward is undead?
  • Should Bella file an estate tax return when Edward turns her into a vampire after she dies in childbirth?
  • Vampires live a long, long time. That makes getting rich easy: the only thing more potent than vampire venom is compound interest. In fact, Forbes placed Edward’s mentor Carlisle first on its list of the 15 richest fictional characters, beating Jed Clampett, Tony Stark, Richie Rich, and even Scrooge McDuck. Carlisle’s $34.5 billion fortune is built on 370 years of mostly tax-advantaged growth. (His adopted daughter Alice can see the future, which we imagine helped avoid buying Theranos, the blood-testing startup that turned out to be a scam.)
  • In the books, Edward Cullen has his own supernatural ability: mind-reading. Would he please tell us whether Washington is going to raise taxes next year so we know whether to contribute to traditional or Roth retirement accounts?

If you’re a Twilight fan, enjoy the new book – and don’t worry about taxes. We’re pretty sure we’ve never worked with a real vampire before, but in the unlikely event that you get bitten, by all means tell us so we can help you work through these complicated questions!


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