Sprudge, this very website you are presently reading, always digital, always free, founded in 2009, has published just about every last sort of coffee story you can possibly imagine over the last 11 years. Human poop coffee? We tried it. Shocking original horror fiction? An annual tradition. Music video premieres? Most definitely. Ancient Aliens? I want to believe. Strange addictions? Power rankings? Unspeakable mysteries? Bodily functions? We went there and then some on all of it.

But somehow, across the decade-plus of daily publishing, we've failed our readers and ourselves by never once talking about an omnipresent facet of modern life that comes for us all, whether we like it or not, the grand cosmic bill we each must pay. I don't mean death; we've talked about that plenty. No, the grim specter to which I am of course referring to is taxes.

Taxes! You gotta pay 'em. But for some strange reason, they are very rarely discussed in the coffee business. I think this says something important but I'm not totally sure what yet, other than, you know, it's usually a lot more fun to talk about beautiful coffee equipment or exciting new cultural initiatives. Fortunately there is a new project underway that seeks to change the conversation. It's called simply “Coffee And Tax“, and it's the work of founder Tiani Wright. This is a must-follow account on Instagram, and to me represents a huge missing piece for the ongoing professionalization of careers in specialty coffee.

“The biggest thing that people, in general, need to know when it comes to their taxes is their rights,” Wright tells me. Her mission is multi-pronged, and touches not just on general tax literacy, but also on specifically serving the growing Black community working as business owners, baristas, and professionals in the coffee industry.

  

This is all such an important conversation right now. Read on to learn more about Tiani Wright's work, and follow Coffee And Tax right now on Instagram to stay up to date on the project in the months and years to come.

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Coffee and Tax via Instagram.

This interview has been gently edited and condensed. 

Hey Tiani, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. By way of introduction for readers who are unfamiliar, please tell us more about Coffee and Tax. 

Coffee and Tax is an organization dedicated to designing and supporting initiatives that encourage, uplift, and financially support marginalized individuals in the current coffee space, as well as one that encourages and promotes tax literacy, specifically within the Black community.

One very important thing to know about me is that I am very much in love with coffee as I am in love with being of service to people. What started as genuine care and concern for how marginalized individuals are treated in the current coffee space, quickly turned to include care and concern over the potentiality of advancement when it comes to, overall, financial literacy among Black people. Truth be told, there is no accurate building of legacy and wealth sans knowledge of direct and indirect taxation. It is our goal here at Coffee and Tax to use whatever platform we are afforded to directly support those who are often and unfortunately undermined in the male- and white-dominated industry of coffee, as well as those that are under-represented, undermined, and mis- or under-informed in various Black communities across the country when it comes to business and individual taxes.

Tell us more about the work you're planning, and where the project is headed.

The vision for the future of Coffee and Tax include working toward attaining 501c3 status, developing programs to introduce middle and high school students to the idea of taxation and what it will take for them to be responsible tax-paying citizens, being a viable and reputable source of support, information, and assistance to coffee industry professionals with regard to individual and business taxation, as well as, a very special and personal project that will feature a wide array of beautiful marginalized, and very important, faces in the past, present, and future coffee space. The idea and prayer is for this project to draw beautiful attention to the contributions made by, and, the impact that these phenoms have had on the coffee industry thus far. If/when successful in the manifestation of the latter, the plan is for a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the project to go directly toward paying each coffee creative or professional for their time and feature.

Currently, I am in the process of stepping out in faith, preparing, as we speak to resign from my full-time position at a home health company in order to focus more attention on Coffee and Tax's overall mission. What I plan to do in the coming weeks/months is to continue to educate myself on current tax laws, as I currently only possess limited representation rights. To better serve my clients, the public, and my people, I will be furthering my pursuit to become an Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Until this goal is reached, however, I will continue to serve as a conduit for important information regarding current tax law.

What do you think are the biggest things that most young people working in coffee, and particularly young Black people working in coffee as relates to your mission, need to know more about regarding their taxes? What are some of the most common questions you receive? 

The biggest thing that people, in general, need to know when it comes to their taxes is their rights. These rights include the right to be informed, the right to quality service, the right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, the right to challenge the IRS and be heard, the right to appeal an IRS decision, the right to finality, the right to privacy, the right to confidentiality, the right to retain representation, and the right to a fair and just tax system.

When it comes specifically to young Black people and coffee industry professionals, the most important thing to remember is to keep good records. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. This will aid greatly in reporting accuracy and/or any grievances filed due to any inaccurate reporting. The IRS does allow taxpayers to claim certain deductions, credits, and adjustments to income, however, many people pay more federal income tax than necessary because they misunderstand tax laws and fail to keep good records.

When it comes to where information is lacking around the U.S. tax system, I’d have to say that here is a lot of room to educate on the individual taxpayer’s role and responsibility. The U.S. income tax system is based on the idea of voluntary compliance; it is the taxpayer's responsibility to report all income. Any attempt to evade paying taxes by failing to report all or some income is illegal. Tax avoidance, however, is perfectly legal. Tax Avoidance is an action taken to lessen tax liability and maximize after-tax income. Tax law is also very important to know, however, is very lengthy and can be extremely confusing, not to mention, intimidating, to those just starting on their journey toward tax literacy.

How did you personally come to love coffee so much? And where did you get this idea to fuse your love of coffee with a discussion about how it relates to taxes

My coffee story? Well, my coffee story begins when I was a little girl. Every Sunday, after church service, and even the times where we’d do mid-week service, we’d have brunch or dinner at one of our favorite local buffets, usually Old Country Buffet or Morrison’s. During brunch or dinner, my grandfather would always get a cup of coffee. Aside from a very distinct and robust aroma permeating from a stained tan or white porcelain cup, I remember feeling as if having that meant that you had an official place in this world. To five or six-year-old me, that meant the equivalent of being distinguished. To me, he was very distinguished. So, when he drank coffee, five or six-year-old me thought that that’s what distinguished people do. Now, thirty-eight-year-old me doesn’t care what distinguished people do, however, I do think that that is where my curiosity for coffee began. Quite naturally, curiosity turned into full-fledged love simply because, while my grandfather was stern in most of his ways, he was also very lenient when it came to allowing me to truly be a child and have, not all that I wanted, but definitely some of what was bad for me. Mind you, this was during a time when it was still considered inappropriate for young children to partake in the caffeinated beverage. Particularly, in most Black households back then, coffee was something that only “grown folk” drank. Nevertheless, not every, but most, Sundays, or weekdays, during brunch, or dinner, my grandfather would allow me to have coffee.

From there, my love for coffee turned into a dream for a cafe. A dream that I still do hold and have today; however, it's one that has taken a comfortable back seat to my recent and most important mission. A mission to encourage tax literacy among Black people, highlight and appreciate Black and marginalized contributions to the past, present, and future coffee space, and do it all with the hope and the intent of propelling God, myself, and my people forward.

Coffee and Tax became “a thing,” and, here we are today.

Coffee And Tax

How can people best support you now? For baristas and coffee pros looking for tax help, what's the best way to follow you?

If the Sprudge community would like to reach out to us about an opportunity to pray for or support our organization, they can reach out to me via email at tiani@coffeeandtax.com, Instagram @coffeeandtax, and Twitter and Facebook at the same, Coffee and Tax. If anyone has a need or desire to reach out to me with any questions, tax-related or not, then I certainly encourage them to do so. I love people and connecting and I think that that is definitely a part of what makes coffee so special. If we can ease a burden on the people simply by riding the beautiful wave of coffee, then I’m all for that! Reach out. Let’s connect!

Thank you. 

Follow Coffee And Tax on Instagram.

Jordan Michelman (@suitcasewine) is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. He is a 2020 James Beard Award Winner for journalism.