The IRS Would Likely Count the Avengers as a Pastime
July 27, 2020 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Sure, Batman and Iron Man are out there working for the public good, but Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are still filthy stinking rich and have been since birth. With that, they no doubt take advantage of every tax break, deduction and loophole they can get their hands on. As Batman and Iron Man spend their time stopping purse snatchers, pummeling the mentally ill and saving the city from rogue nuclear bombs, I want to know how they’re cheating the public via their accountants and tax lawyers. And so, I spoke to three tax experts to see what exactly these two are getting away with. Three Tax Experts on the Tax Breaks Batman and Iron Man Must Have Gotten
posted by chavenet (47 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd love to think heroes would pay their fair share. That they'd understand the impact they could make with even modest levels of charity (not that anyone should have to ever rely on charity of course). Even with all their knowledge I'm sure they are just a bunch of greedy punks that get their kicks out of getting their hands dirty.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 1:20 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


The really interesting question for Bruce and Tony isn't taxes, though - it's insurance. Especially for Tony, since the world knows he's Iron Man. His liability insurance premiums have to be astronomical. That's if anybody would even carry a policy, given the amount of property damage he's directly responsible for.

The legal division of Stark Enterprises must be very, very busy...
posted by jzb at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2020 [15 favorites]


Doesn't Batman get monthly payments from the state for adopting Robin, as well as tax bennies from claiming him as a dependent? This superhero gig sounds like a good racket...
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:28 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


States might give Batman payments as a foster parent, but I don't think any pay a stipend for adopting. There's a tax credit for adoption expenses up to something like $14k though.

I'm pretty sure Batman just buries expenses in the Wayne Enterprises R&D budget. Thing is it may be easier to pay out of pocket as an individual to preserve his secret identity.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:39 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


The analysis of the tax consequences of Robin's adoption is in the article, as is a consideration of the likelihood of Wayne losing custody as a consequence of child endangerment.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Where was the discussion of estate-tax planning? I assume Batman would be trying to shift as many assets as possible to Robin before he died - and he's got a pretty high mortality probability, so he should do it quickly.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:47 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]




Sure, but it's comics, so he also has to handle the scenario where he comes back from the dead.
posted by RobotHero at 1:51 PM on July 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


To deduct, you have to have a business plan and generate money consistently. (FL)

This is easy, send a bill for saving a city.

mask and jet pack costs are folded into societal gain and R$D futures.

extraterrestrials and all
posted by clavdivs at 2:03 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


Superman:
[looking out the window of the Watchtower --a satellite used by the Justice League for a headquarters]: Incredible...Do your stockholders know about this Bruce?

Batman:
A line item hidden in the aerospace R&D budget.


All that said, I think Bruce and Tony would have different tax concerns, primarily since Bruce seems to have a larger charitable presence (thanks to the Wayne Foundation) than Tony (whose Maria Stark Foundation mainly seems to be used to throw charity galas).

Bruce's current tax status will also have to be reconsidered, because (as I understand it from reading the headlines), he is currently broke, having been swindled out of this money by a certain pasty-faced nemesis.
posted by sardonyx at 2:07 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


any portmanteau got there before me. The World's Greatest Detective is also the World's Greatest Embezzler. I suppose technically he's stealing from himself in part; but when you're burning through 60 grand a month on grappling hooks, that money's gotta get laundered somehow.
And we've all been sure forever that there's a Delaware corporation with an officer on the Isle of Man controlling funds through the Cayman Islands that serves as Alfred's pension, so nothing new really.

I bet the Arc Reactor powering Stark Tower might be worth a bunch of green energy tax credits.
posted by bartleby at 2:08 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]


This is easy, send a bill for saving a city.


If he is going to try to be a contractor, the city is going to have to make sure there is a competitive bidding process. I bet there are other vigilantes who are willing to do the same work at a lower cost.
posted by skewed at 2:29 PM on July 27, 2020 [15 favorites]


Sure, but have they taken the Superhero Accreditation/Verification Exam through the state licensing board? Can't have non-SAVE compliant "heroes" running around.
posted by LionIndex at 2:35 PM on July 27, 2020 [9 favorites]


I’m pretty sure the X-Men are a 501(c)(3).
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


I’d like to announce the opening of Darkstar’s Discount Municipal Armageddon Abatement and Vigilante Services.*

Call me for a quote!

(*Not licensed, bonded or insured.)
posted by darkstar at 2:38 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


I am only a fictional billionaire apologist, real billionaires can kick rocks.

That being said:

One of my favorite points of Batman: The Animated Series is that he does aS much good work as Bruce as he does as Batman. I always thought it was sort a point on how deep Gotham’s corruption goes, even with a billionaire trying to make things right the legal way, Gotham still needs a dude that can beat up the right people. Hell, even with both Gotham barely breaks even.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 2:47 PM on July 27, 2020 [6 favorites]


The IRS Would Likely Count the Avengers as a Pastime

"I'm just a guy who's a hero for fun"
- Saitama aka Caped Baldy aka One Punch Man
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:56 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


This would explain what's going on whenever the Avengers are 'off planet' when they fail to turn up to sort out some global threat. They're minimising time in any tax territory.
posted by biffa at 3:09 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]


Reginald D Hunter on Batman
posted by CheapB at 3:22 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


It's never been clarified which state Batman or Superman live in, so they don't have to pay state tax.
Obviously they both have to pay supertax, which I remember from Monopoly.
Every time they save Washington DC they have to pay Capital gains tax.
By contrast, characters from alternative comics like The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers only have to pay Alternative Minimum Tax.
posted by w0mbat at 3:33 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


Surely off-shore accounts?
posted by Token Meme at 3:41 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


Like, if the Penguin claimed Batman was putting Robin in danger, he could testify to that, but even then, no one is going to believe him — he’s the fucking Penguin.
Wah wah wah
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:04 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


Who has the ham to play the Taxman against Adam West's Batman? I'd vote for Patton Oswalt.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


It's never been clarified which state Batman or Superman live in, so they don't have to pay state tax.

The general consensus depiction over the years is that Gotham is in New Jersey. Metropolis is a little trickier, as it’s been depicted as either in New York or Delaware with Delaware being the more likely location, but the most recent evidence (the inexecrable Doomsday Clock mini-series) says New York.
posted by star gentle uterus at 6:05 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Who has the ham to play the Taxman against Adam West's Batman?

Paul Lynde or Pat Paulson, depending on which way you wanted to take it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:21 PM on July 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


The Gotham/NYC connection goes back a while.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 6:24 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Whenever I see “GOTHAM” in all caps, as in the title of the recent TV series, I can’t help but see it as “GOT HAM?” a la “Got Milk?”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:59 PM on July 27, 2020 [5 favorites]


Who has the ham to play the Taxman against Adam West's Batman?

Paul Lynde or Pat Paulson, depending on which way you wanted to take it.



I like Paul Lynde for it. Charles Nelson Reilly also would work. You know, he already has experience as a supervillain...
posted by darkstar at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


Where was the discussion of estate-tax planning? I assume Batman would be trying to shift as many assets as possible to Robin before he died - and he's got a pretty high mortality probability, so he should do it quickly.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some

Sure, but it's comics, so he also has to handle the scenario where he comes back from the dead.
posted by RobotHero


There was indeed a story ten years back in which Batman was presumed dead and one of the Robins had to take over as 17-year-old majority shareholder of Wayne Enterprises to block a hostile takeover by Ra’s al Ghul.
posted by bettafish at 8:50 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


All this talk of comic book taxes, estate planning, and intellectual property law...
Do you want a She-Hulk tv show?
Because this is how you get a She-Hulk tv show.
posted by bartleby at 9:30 PM on July 27, 2020 [7 favorites]


I agree with the article that Batman should definitely sell merch.

BTW, Oklahoma does pay (some) adoptive parents of former foster children. Qualified adoptees are eligible for Medicaid regardless of family income, there are refundable tax credits, and even a cash stipend, as of ~10 years ago. I've got no idea if any other states have similar programs or not.

I can say with certainty the benefits available would not be worth moving to Oklahoma if you had Bruce Wayne's means and didn't actively want to be there, assuming Robin was at one time in foster care in the state. Even with his own fast jet, it would still take a couple of hours at best to get back east. I don't believe the batwing has ever been depicted flying at Concorde-like speed. Any supersonic flight would be inherently non-stealthy, after all. It's kinda hard to sneak around with a sonic boom following you around everywhere.
posted by wierdo at 9:32 PM on July 27, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'd agree that Batman and Robin probably do not commute between Oklahoma and Gotham, as the travel expenses would not be tax deductible. On the other hand, is the Batcave a home office?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:33 PM on July 27, 2020 [3 favorites]


The really interesting question for Bruce and Tony isn't taxes, though - it's insurance.

If you're sufficiently wealthy---and both are for plot reasons---it makes sense to self insure. Insurance companies are businesses too. They make money on payments (and secondary investment) to make more than they have to pay out each year. If you're as rich and as prone to property damage as Stark, it's cheaper for you to suck it up as a cost of business and simply pay directly.

Ultimately insurance will cost more if you have large premiums and lots of claims. Individuals with one or two big claims can come out ahead, but big organizations will always lose at insurance in the longer term. So they self-insure.
posted by bonehead at 9:06 AM on July 28, 2020 [4 favorites]


Ultimately insurance will cost more if you have large premiums and lots of claims. Individuals with one or two big claims can come out ahead, but big organizations will always lose at insurance in the longer term. So they self-insure.

I think most people would be very surprised at how many employers' health "insurance" isn't actually insurance. They contract with an insurance company to handle claims and piggyback on their negotiated rates and their networks, but the cost of care (plus admin costs of the insurance company) comes out of their cash on hand. Some companies buy reinsurance to cover the cost of employees with conditions whose treatment costs are extraordinarily excessive, but the vast majority of health care expenses still come straight out of their bank account.

Bruce's broken back may have been enough to trigger Wayne Enterprises' reinsurance policy, but all the care for his less severe injuries are probably an expense for the company.
posted by wierdo at 9:55 AM on July 28, 2020


I'd doubt that Bruce is paying doctors and dentists via insurance. He wouldn't want some pencil-pushing admin type to start asking awkward questions like: "why are you getting your front tooth replaced for the third time this quarter?" and "this is the code for treatment of gunshot wounds, so how did you get a gunshot wound while you were supposedly skiing in Colorado and if you didn't get shot, why is your doctor billing for treating a gunshot wound?" That's not the best way to keep a secret identity secret.
posted by sardonyx at 11:19 AM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


Bruce Wayne doesn't want to file over a fenderbender for the Batmobile. Batman can't. Wayne Enterprises probably shouldn't.

For a long time, Batman got them built by a stunt driver who owed him a favour.
posted by bonehead at 11:34 AM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


Bruce Wayne doesn't want to file over a fenderbender for the Batmobile.

"We don't need to involve insurance companies. The city needs me. Just send me the bill from your repair shop." /Christian Bale’s Bat-voice
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2020


For a long time, Batman got them built by a stunt driver who owed him a favour.
posted by bonehead at 11:34 AM on July 28


Then there was that hunchback who lived in the cave, and yeah, we don't talk about that particular story arc anymore.
posted by sardonyx at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


(FYI, sardonyx, that term is derogatory! Given the context I’m assuming you weren’t aware.)
posted by bettafish at 1:18 PM on July 28, 2020


I'm very aware of that. I just had no other way to describe the character in a way that was in keeping with the way he was described in the comic. I could have said Harold, but that wouldn't have meant anything to non-Batman readers. I don't have actual issues at hand, but I can pretty much guarantee that's a canonical term. It's why I couched my comment the way I did (i.e. saying that we don't speak about that story arc). He was a terrible (although supposedly sympathetic) character, who was treated terribly by the other characters in the comics (and, of course, by the writers). The whole thing was a big mistake. (Seriously, the character was also completely non-verbal, i.e. in the lingo of the comics at the time, "mute". Bats essentially kept him locked away in the cave, "safe" from the world that just wanted to beat him up.)
posted by sardonyx at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


So, I don't think that Batman could adopt Robin, because I don't think that either of those personas have separate legal status as individuals. Bruce Wayne could adopt Dick Grayson, or whomever, but I don't think the state's child protective services would sign off on one unknown person in a mask becoming the legal guardian of another unknown person in a mask.

Regarding the labor to build the Batcave and all the other tech, I don't know if it is an idea that I read somewhere or if someone actually wrote a story about a Batman-type character using this concept, but I think it'd be a pretty interesting storyline about a masked vigilante who brings over a bunch of immigrant workers from China or someplace and then either ships them back or kills them to keep his secrets. I guess that's what Ozymandias does in Watchmen, but I was thinking of it as being a story about Western Imperialism and racism -- the hero is willing to sacrifice foreigners if it helps him keep his city safe. Maybe an investigative reporter researching the foreign labor practices of Not-Wayne Enterprises finds evidence that leads to uncovering Not-Batman's true identity...

I felt like there were vague elements of a capitalist critique throughout Nolan's Batman trilogy, and I always wished he'd done more with that. Not just the stock market raid in Dark Knight Rises (which was botched as an interesting idea and used just as a plot point), but also the shady dealings of Earle in Batman Begins, the suggestion that Wayne Enterprises has some shady overseas dealings... Those films would have been a lot better if they had connected the obscene wealth of the Wayne family to the corruption/crime that Batman fights.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:10 PM on July 28, 2020 [1 favorite]


I just had no other way to describe the character in a way that was in keeping with the way he was described in the comic.

Why would you need to describe the character in keeping with the way he was described in the comic? Or link to multiple wiki entries using language that you're clearly aware is ableist, without a content warning? I'm also familiar with the character in question, and I honestly don't get why you couldn't have said "Harold, a non-verbal character with kyphosis who was described with derogatory language and treated terribly by etc etc etc."
posted by bettafish at 2:57 PM on July 28, 2020


The cheapest solution would be to send Alfred through medical school.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:15 PM on July 28, 2020


I’m trying to imagine how you’d calculate depreciation on a cave, the majority of which has been extant for millions of years already.

The capital expenses like the BatComputer, lab equipment, satellite uplink, and miscellaneous vehicles probably could be depreciated.

But, as asked above, does Batman even have his own tax ID#? If so, does he list an income (separate from Bruce Wayne)? I can’t imagine him declaring a lot of income. Is he — legally, at least — indigent?
posted by darkstar at 3:40 PM on July 28, 2020


Maybe Batman is a part of the sovereign citizen movement, along with Blade/Snipes.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:59 PM on July 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


BatCo is just Bruce Wayne’s tax shelter.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:05 PM on July 28, 2020


Bats and Blade would be a pretty fun DC/Marvel crossover. Both of them creatures of the night, fighting a nebulous collection of bloodsucking tax collectors and auditors. It would be a right-wing dream team. Could even get Frank Miller to do the writing.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:14 PM on July 29, 2020


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