Tristan Yohan Jagroop, Esq., Joins Chip Fraklin on the Popular Tax Podcast “The Practical Tax Podcast With Steve Moskowitz”
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Well, welcome again to another edition of Practical Tax. The tax attorney, Steve Moscowitz. Steve, good to see you.
Thanks, Chip. Good to see you, too.
You and I talk a lot about my favorite movie. We’ve discussed it many times, which is The Verdict with Paul Newman about a personal injury attorney. And it’s kind of his arc, which was to get to realize that we do need people like you and others who defend people against the government in many cases where they need adequate or above adequate representation. And our first guest today is on practical taxes. Tristan Yohan Jagroop. And he does that right here in the Bay Area. Hello, Tristan. How are you?
Hey good afternoon, Chip. I’m doing just fine, thanks. How about yourself, sir?
Steve, how are you doing? Tell them.
Great. How are you doing?
Hey, Mr. Moskowitz. I’m doing just fine.
Mr. Steve is just fine.
Steve. Sorry, Steve. Steve, I’m just a simple guy, but.
Before I was a tax attorney, before I was a CPA, I was a New York City taxi cab driver. I’m really a simple guy.
Sounds good. Right back at you.
It’s funny, too, because Tristan and I were talking before the show, and he goes way back with you, Steve. Tell him, Tristan.
Yeah. So, Steve, way back in the day, maybe at least a decade or so ago, used to be on a show called Chronicle Live.
And that was hosted by, I believe, Greg Papa, Jim Cozamore.
And maybe a few other hosts. And I think you did that like, once per week, if I recall correctly.
I did that once a week for ten years.
Yeah. And I used to love Chronicle Live, watch that show every evening or every opportunity that I could. And I always wanted to make sure I tuned into your segment, Sports and the Law, because I’m very flattering.
Yes, a very big, avid sports fan and I loved hearing your takes and opinions and legal analysis as much as you could provide, even though you’re on the outside looking into some of these legal issues or whatever and just listening to your takes and opinions and just kind of a brief analysis with respect to just the sports and the law and how all of that kind of intersected. And I used to obviously watch your commercials that you had as well when I would see them on television. So always been a big fan of that segment and a fan of you.
Thanks so much.
You know what I loved, and I think all three of us will say this, we used to love about sports. Not so much now. It was clarity. I mean, there was a winner, there was a loser, and I think that’s what people love about it. Do you remember when the allstar game ended in the tie and they went after Bud Selig? You would have thought he just said that the world was flat, people lost their minds, and it was like, we love that clarity. You guys fight for that every day. And it’s interesting to see what Tristan I know that Steve is aware of all different types of law, but I’ve always been fascinated by personal injury law. And I know over the years, obviously, there’s going to be people that stand on different sides of the street on that. But you’re a young man, but you’ve been doing it a while. Have you found that we’re going in any particular direction about empathy towards either the plaintiff or the defendant in this?
I think it’s really case specific. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s something you can really throw a big general blanket over because sorry. During my experience as a solo practitioner, attorney now since about January 2017, even though I was admitted to practice law in the state of California on December 4, 2013, is that what I’ve learned over the course of my career is that generalities kind of go out the window in a way? Because when you enter the legal world and you’re entering the legal realm with respect to different areas of law, different facts, scenarios, whatever, is that everything is just so different for everybody. So, as much as I have empathy, let’s say, for my client, who may be a personal injury client, at the same time, I have an obligation under my duty of ethics to make sure that I am being as very open, transparent and honest about the direction of the case or just how things are going and what the possibilities or possible outcomes may be or whatever, whether that entails empathy or just being blunt to a certain degree, even though you’d be very professional in terms of how you convey that.
Can I jump in? One of the things I’ve learned over the years working with you is that it’s not all zeros and ones. For example, when people get a notice from the IRS, if you represent them as opposed to when they go in by themselves, there’s some nuance there. Why is that?
You have to remember that law is adversarial. That’s like a boxing match. So when you go to a boxing match, if your opponent notices, when you jab, you drop your other hand, it’s going to take your jaw out. That’s the way it is. Welcome to the practice of law. And let’s face it, I’ve dedicated my professional career to tax. The IRS guy has done the same. The client’s just not in that area. He’s not in that ring. He could be a dentist, a brain surgeon. I don’t try dentistry or brain surgery. And there’s so much to know that that’s why we get more and more into an area. And when I talk about taxes, I’ll say it’s like entering a boxing ring with a heavyweight professional. Nobody but another heavyweight professional that are getting there. And it’s the same with Tristan. Some insurance company says, broken back, no big deal. A few bandaids and Icy hot, you’ll be just fine. Here’s $100, sign this. Wait a minute. And that guy is doing his job because that guy is there to represent the insurance company. And if that representation means that that poor plaintiff is going to be a cripple the rest of his life and suffer and pain and not be able to afford his medical, that’s not the problem of the insurance company attorney.
He did his job. He settled that for the best interest of his client. It’s Tristan’s job to say, wait a minute, my client has all kinds of injuries here, and he’s going to need medical the rest of his life, not to mention pain and suffering, not to mention compensation, not to mention a whole bunch of stuff. And the tax attorney comes in and says, well, wait a minute. This portion is to make up for the physical injury. So it’s not taxable. That’s how we work together.
So what you’re saying, in essence, is that it’s knowledge and experience that the person doesn’t have who is going into the IRS or wants to represent themselves in any type of court.
You’re a smart guy. If you had chest pains, would you try to figure out what it is or would you go to cardiologist?
Yeah, go to the doctor. Right, exactly. Right away I would. But I think most people I mean, I had a friend who I sent to you guys hadn’t filed for almost nine years. And he wasn’t a cheat. He was in business with his wife. And when they stopped doing it, it was like he would have to go back to her. And he just felt lost. Right. So I put him in touch with you guys, and immediately you could see £1000 have been taken off his back. After a couple of phone calls, he realized, oh, this isn’t a lost case anymore. And, you know, it makes me it’s one of the things that one of the reasons I wanted to have you guys together today is so people can understand not just the complexity, but the experience and the acumen that you get from Navigating through that complexity.
Absolutely. And I ask a surgeon one time, is it why is it physically you’re the same as everybody else? Why is it when a doctor looks at a horrible, messy, gushing wound, he doesn’t get sick, and when a regular person does it, they get sick or pass out? I know what to do. And that’s exactly right. If somebody gets run over by a truck and they can’t work anymore, Tristan knows what to do. If someone has a tax problem, I know what to do. If you have those chest pains, the cardiologist knows what to do. And unless you’re in that area, you don’t know what to do. And panic. It’s like a dark room. You say, oh, my God, there’s a monster here that’s going to eat me alive. It turned on the light. No monster. It’s your cat hopping around.
Tristan, let me ask you this. So you also do family law as well, right?
Yeah, I do.
I’ve heard that’s one of the most difficult to traverse just because of all the emotion and all the baggage that comes up to a couple that have separated their lives.
And a lot of times you’ll be in a situation where the IRS, pretty much, except in a criminal case, keeps business hours, whereas Tristan may get a phone call and say there’s no food in the house and he’s got to hurry up and do a quick motion.
How does the IRS look at couples that are breaking up? Is it almost like there are many corporations that are dissolving?
No, the problem is this if you have a situation where they filed a joint return, and most people do, they’re jointly and severally liable. So you can have a situation where hubby has a business and he doesn’t report all of his income and he uses the money to buy drugs and support his mistress, and then they divorce, but they filed a joint return. The IRS comes after the missus and says, hey, you owe the taxes because you’re jointly and severely liable. Pay up. Then the missus should say, well, wait a minute, I’m an innocent spouse because I didn’t have knowledge, I didn’t have benefit. Don’t look to me. And that’s really important. And there’s all kinds of ramifications here’s. Another one comes up all the time. Wife is married to bad husband one. They file a joint return, they divorce wife, then marries good husband, two. They also don’t have a prenup. Now, because of California community property, the IRS goes to collect from husband two for the taxes husband one didn’t pay. So one of the things that I always say when I say this, people think I’m joking. They tax attorney joke, but I really mean it.
Marriage is a major tax event. So before you get married, how sexy, Steve, that’s what I get. And you say that until you marry the problem. You say, oh, my God, I could have avoided that if I had that non sexy talk with Steve. But I didn’t think it was sexy, so I didn’t. And there’s a few areas there like you should talk about, for example, do you want kids or not? And you can have a couple marry, and then on the honeymoon, one of them says, okay, we can start banging out the kids. And the other one says, Well, I don’t want any kids. Now, there’s no compromise from that. Somebody’s going to be very unhappy and very unsatisfied. So you need to talk about kids. Religion may play a factor for some people. You have to talk about finances. And I think Tristan will agree that the number one problem in marriages is money, and tax is a big part of that. So what happens is you need to have some real heart to heart before you get married, like with your taxes. Tell me the truth. Do you have some tax problems?
And if you have some tax problems, you can do something about, like not get married, which is the best, or if you say, well, for whatever reason, we’re going to marry, okay. At least you have a prenup to protect you from a lot of stuff. Just like if you had a certain medical problem that you could give a disease to somebody, you want to tell them or other things. So it’s really important to have that non sexy talk, and that’s exactly what prevents it in so many cases. Oh, it’s not romantic, it’s not sexy.
You sound like Borat when you say that, Steve. Like sexy time, whatever.
You’re laughing now. But you wouldn’t somebody that has a tax problem and you find out about a chip when the IRS agent wipes out your bank account.
I’ve ever told you this?
Then I had you on my show, Once Steve, and you said something along the lines of, like, you know, getting married is not always the best idea. And all these people wrote these letters and goes, what is he saying? This is about seven or eight years ago. And I remember I go, well, you didn’t listen to what he was saying. He just said, you’ve got to look at all the different options. And I’m sure with Palimony in the state, have you had couples come to you that weren’t married, that had been together and she or he felt that they deserve something? The dissolution of this?
Yeah, not like actual hired clients. There’s something in the law called it’s called a principle called Marvin. It’s a Marvin principle. Basically what that is.
I remember the Palm case, right?
Me, Marvin and somebody else I can’t remember who.
Yeah, right. So that’s the situation that you’re talking about, Ship, where you have unmarried couples who have been together for such a long time and accumulated a lot of different items and items and different things like that. So I’ve had calls about that. I’ve never taken a case on like that in terms of actually having a hired client or any higher clients with respect to that. But, yeah, that situation has definitely come across my telephone every once in a while, for sure.
Steve. So let me ask you this, and I’m not mean to put you on the spot like this, but so was it better for a couple to stay together, have children, everything, and not be married? Are there tax advantages to that? Or do they get to a certain point they’re considered married?
In California, you’re talking about common law marriage. California doesn’t recognize common law marriage, but some states do. And if you’re in a state that recognizes common law marriage, and then you move from that state to California, california says, although California doesn’t recognize that the state you came from did. And they recognized what another jurisdiction recognizes unless it’s repugnant to the state. So the bottom line is you might need a divorce in that case. But what happens here, what you’re asking about, is something called the marriage penalty tax. And back when you and I were little boys and Jimmy Carter was president, he talked about this. And what happens is that essentially, if you are married and one spouse works borrowing a whole bunch of other things, usually you pay less taxes because the tax rate is lower for the married person.
But if they both were, then they pay more taxes. And the reason for that is called the marriage penalty tax. And that’s what Jimmy Carter was talking about. He wants to eliminate that because he had moral problems with people living together and not being married. But what happens is that really why.
He wanted to get rid of it.
Yeah, because he was concerned that people had an economic incentive thing with Social Security. Older people had incentive to live together, not married. Because they married, their Social Security payment went down. So what happens? He said, well, okay, take a look at this. Suppose you have a guy that’s making ten grand a year. The percentage tax on ten grand is very little, and his girlfriend makes 100 grand a year while her percentage tax is higher. So they have withholding from their employers. And this is something comes up all the time in my office, for all the time they’ve been working, they always got refund. Then they get married, and now they owe taxes. Now, something must be wrong. You mustn’t return wrong, because we always got refunds and we have done anything differently. What’s going on? You got married. So what happens is you take his ten grand and his employee withheld at the ten grand percentage, you put it on top of her 100 grand. Now he’s taxable at 110%, but he only had withholding a 10% percentage. That’s why they get taxed.
Got you. Wow.
Again. And one of the things too, I’ll tell you a story from practice is a lot of times people would come in and they would at the end of the year say, well, look, I’m thinking about getting married, but I get married in December or January. How will that affect my taxes? And I remember I had a client like that. He came in December, and I said, well, you’d pay extra if you got married. And he said, okay, he’d wait until January. Now, he asked me the same question four years in a row, and four years in a row, the calculation was essentially the same. The fifth year, he came back, and in the fifth year, he finally got married. And I said congratulations. It’s about time. He said, oh, but he married somebody else. So I understand and respect that I’m not like a typical financial guy. Only look at the numbers and numbers and numbers. I know there’s an emotional aspect of people’s lives, too. The only thing I say with the taxes, understand, it’s a factor. It’s like if somebody has a disease and you still want to get together with them, that’s okay, but you should know that they could transmit that disease to you.
Well, I mean, you’re great at the numbers, but you’re empathetic as well, too, Steven. And everybody I know that works for you are thinking about the client, and more than just as a client.
Tristan, thank you so much for being here, buddy, will you come back? We’ll talk more later.
Sounds good to me. Yeah. Thank you guys for having me.
Thanks so much for the kind compliments. And I’ll give you one last one. Good evening, sports fans.
Thank you, Steve. Thank you. I appreciate it very much.
Tristan Yohan Jagroop. Thank you so much, my friend. You’re welcome.
Yes, it’s funny, you know, the thing about just exactly what goes into being an attorney, representing somebody, defending somebody in many cases. And just we all know, we can all imagine. We watch things like Dateline and we think, but when it happens to you, when you’re being charged, when the government.
Is coming after you, that’s when I started my practice. I was a law professor at night, and I always told the new lawyers, and I also taught in university with accountants as well, but especially with the new attorneys. And I even taught a class called Accounting for Lawyers, which I said, there’s no accounting. But anyway, what I explained is you’re not dealing with a bunch of dusty old law books and reading about some case from England and some precedent. You are dealing with people’s lives. And they laugh and cry and breathe and scream and bleed and heal. So you got to remember, you’re dealing with people’s lives. It’s not a piece of paper. It’s somebody’s life.
And I know you take it home. I know the people that work for you.
And the practical Tax podcast with Tax attorney Steve Moskowitz.