Who is the most dangerous blogger on the internet today? This is a serious question. Think about it for a while.
What characteristics would cause a blogger to become dangerous? To start, the blogger would need an audience to be dangerous. A blog with a modest, but fast growing, audience would have an increasing influence in our society.
Another characteristic might entail new ideas masked as truth. Imagine a blogger telling a story with a broad concept that intentionally excludes many of the facts. A grain of knowledge is a powerful tool to expand learning or it can be a recipe for disaster on a colossal scale.
Have you thought of a few bloggers who might be dangerous? Can you narrow it down to one?
I’ll tell you who I think is the most dangerous blogger on the internet right now. You’re reading him.
That needs some explanation.
Things have been pretty darn good around these parts lately. The Wealthy Accountant received nominations in two categories for the Plutus Awards and traffic is climbing for a variety of reasons, including the nominations.
Traffic is over 80,000 in the last month with October looking to break into six figures. Blog revenues are climbing, too. Certain advertisers have turned me into a project. They want some real estate on this blog. Don’t expect more ads, however. I’ve included enough ad space to break up the page and flesh out the design. I love revenue, but user experience is more important than ads by a mile.
TWA is experiencing more traffic referrals. Other bloggers find my work acceptable periodically so they include a mention on their blog or in social media. It gives me the warm and fuzzy feeling so I always re-tweet and share mentions when I see them.
Interviews are more common now, too. People seem to think I have something important to say because my traffic is climbing. It’s a self-fulfilling feedback loop I have no qualms with. Traffic strokes my fragile ego. There is a satisfying feeling connected to acknowledgement.
Every blog appeals to a certain demographic. TWA has an inordinate number of tax professionals (and government officials) reading on a regular basis. That is why I needed to write this post.
Periodically, traffic spikes to 100 visitors here at the same time. It makes me nervous. This is still small traffic compared to most popular blogs, but it exposes a risk. What if these people actually believe what I wrote? Worse, what the heck did I write a year and a half ago? The risk prolific writers face is not remembering what they published the day before yesterday. It could be age, but it’s not! The sheer volume requires readers to refresh my memory when they ask about my previous work. Feels funny when I get schooled by my previous efforts.
Now we get to the part that makes me dangerous. What I write here is wrong 100% of the time! Sorry.
I better qualify the last statement before I’m hauled away.
When I write on TWA I avoid dry and stale tax explanations. My goal is to write high concept while knowing the details will require working out later.
Take a simple example. If I say donations to a qualified charity are deductible and move on I only told part of the story. On the surface I am right. Pull back the sheets and issues start to crop up.
Charitable donations are deductible if you itemize. Okay, that is still a lie. If your income is high, your itemized deductions might be limited so the deduction is partial.
I’m still a liar! If you retired and have a side gig with no profit and used a Roth IRA to fund your living expenses, you can’t deduct the charitable contribution even if you itemize because you can only deduct 50% of your AGI for cash charitable contributions. The balance is carried over for up to five years where it is lost afterwards.
And I’m still a sniveling liar! What if the alternative minimum tax interferes?
After all the qualifying of my first statement—charitable contributions are deductible—I am still pumping BS. Sitting here writing I can’t think of anything else that might affect my original statement. It doesn’t mean there aren’t any more out there.
As soon as I open my yap on a tax issue I’m a bigger liar than any fisherman who wet a line. And I know it every time I tap the keyboard.
In the tax profession we constantly say “facts and circumstances”. There is no way I can possibly cover every eventuality. I either write dry, staid tax articles where I cover a very, very narrow topic or I write something normal human beings want to read. I choose the later.
Helping the largest number of people requires I write something they want to read.
The Greatest Danger
Tax professionals hound me incessantly. They inform me how wrong I am. I get it.
When fleshing out a concept I intentionally choose what to include. You read that right. I intentionally get it wrong! If I didn’t, I would be bogged down in 30,000 word posts attempting to cover every possible option. Nobody would read it, including your favorite accountant.
Over the next six months I will publish some very complex tax concepts. The first one and a half years of this blog was tame. Now we will start pealing back the tax code in a serious way. Dropping 50 grand into a retirement account is a child’s game from now on. Now we will hyper-charge the wealth building and tax planning process.
And everything I say will be wrong . . . for you. In each post where I expose a massive tax concept I will be thinking of how it applies to a client or a small number of clients. Your facts and circumstances will be different and so the rules for you will be different.
Another example: A recent consulting session led a client to contact his attorney to set up a NIMCRUT on my advice. He cc’d me in on the email. I wrote back a few questions and upon reply came to the conclusion he would be better served with a donor-advised fund. This is a simpler and cheaper solution to accomplish his needs. Once again, it all hinged on facts and circumstances. And we didn’t even debate all the other pitfalls of charitable donations discussed above!
When I throw out ideas it is a starting point. Complex tax strategies completely fleshed out for every possibility is a book, not a blog post.
Tax professionals should know better, yet sometimes don’t. Shame on you. When I provide a concept you need to dig further. Sometimes I include links when I find web pages that add value to the argument.
You, kind readers, are my greatest concern. Some of you are very versed in the nuances of the tax code; others, not so much. Okay, I am not lying when I publish here, but I may as well be if I can’t communicate an adequate message. The concepts I outline work. Your facts and circumstances determine the value the concept has for you. Also remember, you can change the facts and circumstances sometimes to your benefit.
I understand the difficulty in finding qualified tax professionals to help you with this stuff. That is why I encourage tax pros to share their contact information in the forum. Readers, check the forum often. Post questions so accountants can help you and even offer their services.
It’s time for me to get back to work on the aforementioned concepts. The decisions are hard. Your favorite accountant is far from perfect. If you think I said something wrong, do NOT hesitate to leave a comment or contact me. I find real errors periodically and fix them as soon as they are discovered.
The tax code is too large and complex for my work to always be perfect. Tax professionals need to test me constantly for this to benefit the largest number of people, including you, my friendly tax pros.
Finally, everything you read here should be taken like a Margarita. With a grain of salt.
There seems to be an inordinate amount of interest in my writing notes. Periodically I will includes my working notes that spur the writing of a post for your entertainment. Sometimes these notes have been around a while before I write the post. The final product can sometimes be radically different than intended. Writing works that way at times. My working notes are unedited; I will not correct errors in working notes to preserve the process as it was originally produced. Enjoy.
Things have been going pretty good around here. Traffic is up and TWA has been nominated for a Plutus Award in two categories.
My head should be swelling, but instead I am nervous. When I watch the live traffic on Google Analytic I am nervous when 50 or 100 people are consuming my work all at the same time. WHAT IF THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE WHAT I WROTE?!?!
Blogging tax advice is dangerous and I know it. I make intentional errors for the sake of fleshing out a concept; I incl ideas few will benefit from but have to incl it. Posts need to stay reasonable in length. 20,000 words of taxspeak is sure to snuff out a few lives of readers. Three, maybe four, tax pros might stick around for the punch line, but I’m not holding my breath.
Tax charitable deductions as an example: to a qualified charity they are deductible. Right? No! First you must itemize, not make too much and phase out, have income because only 50% of cash donations count and AMT might be an issue. One simple remark is technically correct, yet fundamentally wrong and I know it when I write. Facts and circumstances change the answer.
So I tell readers donations to a qualified charities are deductible and hope for the best.
It’s the risk a blogger takes daily.
Considering the risks this blogger takes with the public it is a wonder he hasn’t been committed.
Margin of Saving
Wednesday 25th of October 2017
I work in finance. Any piece of information, especially when found online, has to be taken with a pound of salt. Use at your own risk.
Just be glad you're not giving out legal or medical advice:)
Wednesday 25th of October 2017
. . . or explosives. Just say'in.
Not a Fire Blogger
Friday 13th of October 2017
I respect this post very much. If anything, it adds credibility to your site. It is my hopes that all blog readers keep this in the forefront of their minds as they read (and carefully screen) FIRE blog posts.
Thursday 12th of October 2017
Congrats, Keith! Good luck when the awards are announced.
Keep up the great work here. Writing about the tax code and keeping it spicy seems challenging as heck, but you're getting 'er done.
Physician on FIRE
Thursday 12th of October 2017
As you point out, you can't possibly cover every combination and permutation when discussing investment and tax concepts. As long as you're giving factual and honest advice, you're not a dangerous man. Well, maybe you are, but not for the words on this site.
The dangerous bloggers are the ones with questionable kknowledge and information that is just plain wrong. In the last few months, I saw a personal finance blogger legitimately ask if he should move his retirement accounts from Vanguard to ED Jones. I read a post the other day on a dividend focused site that said most states don't tax dividends. Wrong.
Thursday 12th of October 2017
Yeah, I know what you mean, PoF. Some bloggers are really dangerous. Many political and hate blogs are a problem. What I was pointing out is that when a blogger with good knowledge (you and me) say something it can be dangerous because we a be right, but might miss a nuance. I don't really think I'm dangerous. My goal was to inform readers I tell the part of the story I think is relevant; something could be missing, therefore, readers should use my information as a starting point.
I've read some of the blogs you refer to. There is a lot of outright "wrong" info out there.
Full Time Finance
Monday 9th of October 2017
I struggle with some of the same concerns. Really any finance advice, even that outside of tax, is dependent on a persons unique situation. I always try to give equal air time to multiple ideas and add a disclaimer to each post regarding the personal aspect of finance. One can only hope people read that part and take it to heart.