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To Forgive Is Divine (Then Comes the Tax Bill)

To Forgive Is Divine (Then Comes the Tax Bill)
Photograph by Fuse

The people who brought you Occupy Wall Street have come up with an extremely clever idea: raising money to buy random citizens’ overdue debt, and then—poof!—forgive it. One day a debtor is fielding calls from a collection agency; the next day, she’s not.

If this vanishing act sounds too good to be true—and it might be, but we’ll get to that—it helps to start at the beginning. Debt is easiest to think about as a negative thing: It’s money you owe somebody. From that somebody’s perspective, though, debt is money coming due. That makes it an asset that can be bought and sold—at a discount based on the likelihood it will be repaid.