I started my own business when I was twelve years old.
It was nineteen ninety-eight and the internet was still new and exciting. It was the new frontier. It was as though someone had brought the wild west into my living room. You could find anything on the internet. Click here for more information about internet regulations in the United States.
And that’s exactly what I did. I went into chat rooms and asked people on the other side of the world what time it was there. It was the height of sophistication, as far as I was concerned. Day or night, breakfast or dinner, there was no time someone could give me over the internet that I would doubt or wouldn’t find fascinating.
“Wow, six o’clock there,” I would say. “Not here. Not even close.” I can’t believe my parents let me spend so much unregulated time on the internet.
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A New Frontier
It wasn’t long before my parents were delighted with how I spent my time on the internet.
If you’re over thirty, you might have been a part of the beanie baby craze the first time around. Maybe you remember waiting in line at McDonald’s to get the teeny beanies and the total anarchy that entailed.
Or maybe you remember comparing them on the playground until they got banned from pretty much every school for being a major distraction. We were obsessed with finding and collecting as many as we could. And since I lived in the affluent northwest suburbs of Chicago, collecting was within everyone’s reach.
But I took it one step further. Ebay was still pretty new; no one knew that it would become the place to buy and sell online. Some people were already selling their beanie babies online through that marketplace, but I thought I could do better.
I made my own website exclusively to buy and sell the little bean bags with big eyes. And it worked. I started by selling some of my extra critters. They went in a matter of minutes. It was pretty amazing to watch the numbers climb.
I had one of those little site counters at the bottom of the page, the kind that used to look like digital clocks and sometimes would even flip over like those old-school alarm clocks like my grandparents used to have.
When I ran out of my own animals to sell, me and my parents were back on the hunt. We were hitting up every gift shop and collectibles store within a hundred-mile radius. When I listed them on the site, first I doubled, then tripled their price.
Eventually I quintupled their price, and they were still selling like hotcakes. Even hotter than hotcakes at McDonald’s, which no one was buying because they didn’t come with a teeny beanie.
The numbers kept climbing. And then, one day, it happened; I had officially made a million dollars on the website.
Me, a kid in middle school, now had more money than most of the adults I knew.
Whenever a commercial for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire came on the television, I would cackle with glee. “Not me,” I would say. “I already am one.” Click the link: https://taxfoundation.org/tax-basics/internet-sales-tax/ for more information about taxes on internet sales.
“This is getting ridiculous,” my mom said. “I don’t want your website interfering with your schoolwork.”
“Oh, let her do it,” my dad argued. “She can pay for her own college with this business.
So, it was decided. I could go ahead and continue doing what I did best.
Neither of my parents could help me run the site. They just didn’t understand what it took to do even the basic coding I was doing as a kid. It was a different time. They had learned about computers with punch cards that were the size of a whole house.
Sure, they could locate their cursors on the screen no problem. They could turn the thing on and off without a hitch. But manage a website with over a hundred thousand unique views in a day? That way beyond them.
They both agreed. It was my project; it was my money. They didn’t even bring up that they had bought me the toys in the first place. They didn’t try to get back their fifty-dollar investment, which I thought was really big of them, even back then when I was twelve.
So, when the letter came, it came only to me.
I don’t know how they knew. “They” being the IRS, of course. Click here for more information about the IRS.
At first it seemed really neat. I had a letter from the US government with my name on it. It made me think of that scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie gets the decoder ring in the mail.
“Honors and benefits,” he thinks as he spins the ring around and around trying to decode Little Orphan Annie’s secret message from her radio program, “already at the age of nine!”
I should have seen it coming. After all, Ralphie has a major disappointment when he decodes the message and discovers it’s an ad
“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine? Blech,” he says. And then, in one of my favorite cuts in cinema history, he lifts the toilet seat and the scene cuts to a pot of cabbage mom is downstairs cooking on the stove. So good.
The letter said I owed over three hundred thousand dollars in taxes.
So I took to the internet, the very thing that had made me my money in the first place, and I searched for the best tax relief experts and never looked back. Within minutes, I had a team of experts available to help me – and my parents (they didn’t leave me out to dry) – navigate my new tax bracket.
With the help of qualified experts, I was just a twelve-year-old millionaire and not a twelve-year-old tax evader.
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