September 24, 2004
It's funny how the media loves to spit on the Samaritan. Earlier this month, everyone was gushing over how Oprah Winfrey gave away 276 shiny new Pontiac G6 sedans. Now journalists are up in arms over the fact that these car owners will have to pay as much as $7,000 in taxes on what some had assumed was a free ride.
I don't know what's worse, the idiots who are outraged over this or the media trying to stir up a tempest in a wading pool. When someone wins the lottery, we all realize that a good chunk of that is going right back to Uncle Sam. Strike it big in Vegas or nail the winning showcase on The Price Is Right and the press will never make a stink about how these are all taxable events.
While I had written that General Motors (NYSE: GM ) may have to pay the price for giving away so many new model cars, the last thing I would expect is keyboard-pecking journalists that lack rudimentary tax know-how to expose their shortcomings for the sake of sensationalism.
Poor Oprah. Poor GM. In a humbling poll conducted on Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) America Online service, just 40% of the nearly 200,000 early respondents voted that they would keep the car and pay the taxes. Kicking GM in the grill, 51% of those polled would prefer to sell the $28,000 car instead.
And as a personal note to the 8% that cast their vote in favor of forfeiting the prize, I have two pieces of advice for you: Fool.com and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) . Seriously. If you don't think that you could double or triple the amount that would be due on that tax bill by flipping the mint-fresh cars into the automotive aftermarket, you really do need some basic personal finance training and Meg Whitman on speed dial.
What did one expect? For GM or Oprah to kick in another $10,000 to help pay for the income tax due on the car as well as the $10,000? I've heard of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but try walking a mile in those horseshoes.
It's Oprah Winfrey -- not Oprah Win Free! Have you ever had to pay taxes on something you won? What about smaller freebies that are readily available all the time? Do you know where to find these free deals online? All this and more in the Free discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that the only two certainties in life are death and folks misunderstanding taxes. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.