Are Points Income Under the Tax Code?


downloadA couple of years ago I was a professor of tax law and had to write a final exam on the subject. Since April 15th is right around the corner, I thought I’d share with you the question:

‘Unlucky’ is a small business owner and world traveler. He recently signed up for credit card offers that give him points that he can use to purchase airline tickets, hotels, or simply redeem for cash. Most recently he signed up for a U.S. Generic Bank personal card and U.S. Generic Bank business card. The business card has a spending requirement of $5000 within the first 3 months of opening and awards him with 50,000 points. The personal card has no spending requirement but charges an annual fee of $75 for first use. The reward is 30,000 points.

The 50,000 points is redeemable for $500 cash or a round-trip flight overseas ranging in value from $5000-$10,000. The personal card’s 30,000 points is worth $300 in cash or five nights stay at a resort worth $500 a night.

Explain Unlucky’s tax implications for the personal and business cards. Assume rewards cannot be combined. Please focus more on the policy implications for your answer.



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