Celebrities, Perception Management and Tax

I was invited last Thursday to speak at an event organized for entertainers. The aim was to encourage celebrities to pay tax and embrace the ongoing voluntary assets and income declaration scheme (VAIDS).

Interestingly many of the entertainers opened up about the myriad of challenges they face ranging from piracy, to lack of access to finance, society’s expectations of them often involving maintenance of expensive lifestyles while living on handouts. While some of the celebrities may be financially buoyant, the vast majority of them are really struggling to stay afloat.

I know that nobody is excited paying taxes and so people will find any excuse to avoid paying taxes but here are some of the key lessons I took away from the event which I thought to share as some of them affect everyone, whether you are a celeb, self-employed, high-networth or just a regular individual.

  1. Documentation is key - No matter how compelling your story may be, nobody will believe you without proper evidence or documentation and it’s almost impossible to get finance or attract investors to your business. You may not even have tax to pay if you haven’t made a profit but even then you have the obligation to file returns. Wesley Snipes went to jail for failure to file returns. As much as possible get receipts for your purchases, use credit/debit cards and online banking instead of cash. Make sure you know your income and expenses and you can substantiate if required.
  2. Tax is a legal matter - Society agrees that tax is important for there to be a government but most people wish they don’t have to pay. You can say all you want about whether government deserves your money but make sure you are on the right side of the law. The fact that other people are not compliant is not an excuse neither is ignorance.
  3. You can do something about the Law, Tax and Governance - Some of our laws are clearly obsolete and unfit for modern day realities such as the stamp duty act which was enacted in 1939 but being applied to electronic banking when in fact there was no internet at the time. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way, you and I can change it for good. We can hold government to account and ensure that only credible people who have paid the right amount of tax get elected or appointed into office to manage our collective resources - taxpayers money!
  4. Perception management inflicts pain - You don’t have to live up to society’s expectation even if you can afford it. Some people share their pictures on social media regularly but don’t ever want to wear the same outfit twice (check the richest people in the world, they can’t be bothered). If you are trying to prove a point by showing off (flying business or first class, expensive jewelries and accessories, gadgets, luxury cars etc), you may unknowingly be exposing yourself to not only kidnappers, robbers but also the taxman - it’s like blowing the whistle on yourself, there is everything to lose and nothing to gain

Setting The Right Goals

For many people, it is customary to set goals (or new year resolutions) at the beginning of every year. However only a few really pay attention to how their goals are set. It is true that setting goals doesn’t guarantee success but not setting any makes failure almost certain.

Common goals include financial security or freedom, career growth, health & fitness, spiritual, education, family, vacation, self-development and so on. Here are my top 10 tips to help you achieve desired outcome.

  1. Determine what really matter to you (not to society, friends or anyone else) and focus on them. As a guide, ask yourself if it will matter in 5 years' time. If it won't then it's probably not worth it.
  2. Set life goals (not just annual goals), review and monitor regularly not just at the start of a new year. Your life may be measured in years but your achievements are measured over your lifetime.
  3. Be in control - Take full responsibility for your destiny, don't anchor your goals on other people or events that are totally outside your control.
  4. Be realistically optimistic – Okay to be ambitious but be reasonable. Don't commit to an impossible list, keep it simple, few and “SMART”.
  5. Pursue your goals each day as if it is your last opportunity to accomplish it.
  6. Help others achieve their goals. You will need people to help you too.
  7. Share your goals with someone you trust and respect to keep some level of pressure on yourself and to be accountable.
  8. Avoid relativity, it limits you. Don't just aim to be the best in your class, your village or workplace, rather aim to be the best that you can be or that is humanly possible.
  9. Stay focused but be adaptive. Think about what to start doing, things to do more or less of, and things to stop doing.
  10. Celebrate the process as much as the final outcome. Even if you don't succeed learn from the process, review, reflect and re-set your goals.

Your goals should make you want to wake up in the morning, keep you going during the day, make you reflect at the end of the day, and give you something to dream about when you sleep.

Life is not fair so things may not exactly work out as you planned. Success is not always determined based on how well you diligently implement your plan but how prepared you are for events you didn't plan for and how you respond to those you couldn't have planned for.

In the end, how well you achieve your goals is not a function of your academic and professional qualifications, who you know or those who know you, where you come from, your religion or faith, neither is it about how hard you pray but your WILL to succeed.

As you set your goals, like Nelson Mandela once said, may your choices (and goals) reflect your hopes, not your fears.




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