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I have encountered so many misconceptions about what is deductible when you purchase, own, and operate a rental property or a personal residence for that matter. Here’s the list of misconceptions and the correct answers:

  1. Misconception: You are allowed to write off the down payment. Wrong! This expense is part of the basis of the property and is not deductible on your tax return. You still get the write off, albeit indirectly, via depreciation. Here’s how that works: you buy a property for $100,000. You put down $20,000 and pay $5,000 in closing costs. Your basis in the property is $105,000. After deducting the value of the land, you write off the remainder over 27.5 years for residential property and 39 years for commercial property. Depreciation applies only if the property is a rental activity; you cannot depreciate your personal residence. You are allowed, however, to depreciate the portion of the home used as a home office in an active trade or business.
  2. Misconception:Closing costs are deductible. No they are not. They are added to the basis of the property and are deducted via depreciation over the useful life of the property as described above. But take a close look at the closing costs. There may be some expenses listed there that you paid for, e.g. insurance, points, and property taxes which may be currently deductible. Always give closing papers to your tax pro, whether it’s for a purchase, refinance, or sale of a rental property or your own personal residence. Insurance is not deductible for a personal residence but it is an valid write-off for a rental or home office.
  3. Misconception: Points are always currently deductible. Points are only deductible in the year of purchase of a personal residence. For a rental property, points may be deducted ratably over the life of the loan. If you refinance your personal residence and pay points, you may amortize those over the life of the loan as well. It’s taken as a deduction on Schedule A under mortgage interest.
  4. Misconception: When you sell a property, your mortgage balance is deducted from the selling price to determine your taxable gain or loss. No, no, no! Your mortgage balance is not a factor in the equation. The IRS couldn’t care less if you financed or paid cash for a property. The basic formula is: selling price less selling costs and the basis in the property. If you sold the $105,000 rental property purchased in #1 for $205,000 and paid out $19,000 in closing costs and sales commissions plus $1,000 for a roof repair, your taxable gain would be $80,000. $205,000 – $105,000 – ($19,000+$1,000) = $80,000. You may also have depreciation recapture which will be included as income on your tax return. Check with your tax pro.
  5. Misconception: Income received from rentals owned in foreign countries is not taxable. Check with Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) on this one. He was confused about the taxability of rents received on his villa in the Dominican Republic. Why was he confused? “Because,” he says, “I don’t speak Spanish.” Hah! This was one of the reasons he was censured by Congress. Don’t get yourself censured. It’s taxable income, okay?

 

 

If you play the stock market, it is wise to know about the tax consequences of your securities transactions.

Capital Gains Tax First of all, any profit you enjoy from the sale of a stock held for at least a full year is taxed at the long term capital gains rate, which is lower than the rate applied to your other taxable income.  If you are in the 10%-15% tax bracket your rate on capital gains is 0%.  That’s right, zero. The 15% capital gains rate applies to those in the 25% tax bracket. Capital gains peaks out at 20% for higher income taxpayers. If the stock was held for less than a year, ordinary income tax rates apply. It is therefore beneficial tax-wise to hold the investment for longer than a year.

Dividends. The capital gains rate applies to “qualified” dividends. For dividends to be classified as “qualified” they must be paid by a U.S. corporation or a qualified foreign corporation and the holding period of the stock must be more than 60 days. There are plenty of other exceptions and definitions so check with your broker or tax advisor to see if the dividends for your stock holdings are “qualified” or not. Dividends on stock held in a qualified retirement plan are not taxable income.

Congress enacted the lower capital gains rate to drive investment. After all, most tax laws are passed as a form of directing social behaviors.

 

The Wash Rule Many investors benefit from selling a stock in a losing position to offset a gain, then turn around and buy the stock right back.

Well, the IRS will not allow an investor to claim a capital loss if you sell a stock and buy it back within 30 days. It is called the “wash rule” and does not allow for a capital loss. If you sell a stock and buy it back within 30 days, the IRS will disallow the capital loss and you will lose the offset.

Capital Losses One of the big limitations in stock investing is the amount of losses you are allowed to deduct on your tax return. If you sell stocks at a loss, you may deduct only $3,000 in losses per year. The remainder of the loss is carried forward to future years. You may apply capital losses against capital gains in the current and future years to net out the overall profit or loss.

Deductible Investment Expenses A tax deduction often overlooked by investors is the cost of management fees paid to brokers, usually for management of mutual fund accounts or for advisory services. You may deduct these fees as an investment expense on Schedule A of your tax return.  Some brokerage 1099s or year-end statements will state the total paid for the year.  But many do not. You may have to call your broker to find out how much you paid. Be sure to provide this information to your tax pro.

Stock Sales When determining your profit from a stock sale, it’s important to understand not only the formula but the meaning of the variables in the formula. Certain circumstances applied to the variables can reduce your tax liability when you sell. Many taxpayers believe they must pay taxes on the full amount of the check they receive from the sale. That is not true. You can subtract your basis.

The formula is: Sales Proceeds – Basis = Taxable Profit or Deductible Loss.

Sales proceeds can be reduced by commissions paid to the broker.

Basis is the cost of the stock plus any reinvested dividends and commissions paid for acquisition.  If you inherited the stock, the basis is the fair market value of the stock on the date of the decedent’s death or the alternate valuation date. If the stock was received as a gift, the basis is the lower of the fair market value or the basis of the donor at the time the gift was made.

Audit Taxpayers oftentimes forget about a stock sale when compiling their income tax return. This results in a CP-2000 letter from the IRS. The letter is about eight pages long and somewhere in the middle is a listing of omitted items and a calculation of the tax liability on those items. If you receive one showing an omitted stock sale, don’t just pay the tax bill. The IRS only knows about the stock sale; they have no clue as to what your basis in the stock is. Remember the formula earlier? You may actually have taken a loss on the stock and that means no tax liability whatsoever. In fact, you may be entitled to a refund. So call the phone number on the front of the letter and let them know that you will amend that tax return. The IRS may instruct you to complete a Schedule D declaring the details of the stock sale and ask you to fax it to them. They will adjust the tax due (if any) accordingly.

However, beginning January 1, 2011 as a part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, brokerage firms are required to report the cost basis and gain/loss information to the IRS on their form 1099. This streamlines the tax preparation process considerably.

 

For most folks, the only time you’ve had to deal with gift tax was when you drew that dreaded card while playing Monopoly and had to throw a piece of pink currency into the center of the board. But if you know a little about the tax law surrounding gift tax, you’ll find that a little planning can keep you from paying lots of green into the center of the gaping mouth of the IRS.

Over the years, I’ve fielded a number of questions relating to the taxability of gifts. They usually go like this: “My grandmother gave me twenty grand for Christmas. How much tax do I have to pay on that?”

The answer always surprises them. The answer is none. Zero. Nada. Grandma can give you twenty million bucks and you wouldn’t owe a dime in taxes. How can that be? Well, the first rule on gift taxes is that the recipient isn’t taxed. It’s the giver who winds up with the tax bill.

Of course, I always get a different question from the giver, namely, “I gave my grandson twenty grand for Christmas. Can I write that off?” They just hate it when I tell them that not only is it NOT a write-off, but they could be liable for gift tax.

First of all, what is a gift? According to the IRS, “It’s a transfer of property (including money), or the use of or income from property, without expecting to receive something of at least equal value in return.” If you sell something for less than its fair market value or if you make an interest-free loan or even a reduced-interest loan, you could be making a gift.

Just about anything you give away could be subject to gift tax. But there are exceptions:

  1. Bestow all you want on your spouse. Get lavish. No gift taxes for transfers to a husband or wife. But you will have to file a gift tax return if you give your spouse an interest in property that will be ended by some future event.
  2. Pay tuition or medical expenses for anyone – as long as you pay it directly to the medical or educational institution. No tax will be due.
  3. Be generous with bona fide charities – these gifts are deductible and not subject to gift tax.
  4. Gifts to political organizations are not subject to gift tax, nor are they tax deductible.
  5. Gifts, excluding gifts of future interests, that are less than the annual exclusion for the calendar year are not taxable transactions.

The annual exclusion for all tax years beginning January 1, 2014 is $14,000. This exclusion amount did not change for 2015. It’s still $14,000. You can give that much without incurring a tax liability or having to file a gift tax return. Anything above that amount may be subject to gift tax. Married couples can gift a total of $28,000 (twice the annual exclusion) to a single recipient without incurring a gift tax liability.

If you wish to give more than the annual exclusion, you may be able to defer taxes on the gift by applying the unified credit (from your future estate tax) to the gift. This reduces your unified credit in future years but is a good tool to legally avoid paying gift tax now. You are still required to file Form 709 to declare your gifts.

Business Gifts:

Some gifts, other than charitable contributions, are deductible. You may give business gifts up to $25 per year per recipient to clients, associates, and employees and deduct them on your income tax return. Wrapping paper, gift cards, engraving, insurance and mailing are considered incidental expenses and not included in the $25 cap.

The $25 limitation has been around since Day One and I find it aggravating. You’d think the IRS would have adjusted that amount for inflation.

And you can’t double this gift deduction by including your spouse or business partner as a giver to the same recipient. Under this definition, you and your spouse or you and your business partners are considered one giver.

If you wish to spend more than $25 – you know, like if you don’t want to appear cheap – and get the write-off – you may consider giving something that would fall under the category of meals and entertainment. These expenses are subject to a 50% hair cut but what the heck. It could be more advantageous and enjoyable to take your client to a $100 dinner and get a $50 write off than spend $50 on a gift but enjoy only a $25 deduction.

If you are planning to make gifts above the annual exclusion, especially this year with no estate tax to worry about, check with your tax pro to decide how to gift in the most economical and least taxable method possible.

I trust everyone had a safe and fun 4th of July weekend! I went to the plaza here in downtown Sonoma and enjoyed the parade. Talk about a Norman Rockwell setting and slice of life. Well, when my husband and I were setting up our chairs, who happened to be right next to me but a good business associate. Not a client but a networking buddy. We chatted, ran over to Steiner’s and had a bloody Mary together. Hung out at the BBQ in the plaza afterwards. Never did talk business but we cemented our relationship a little more. He’ll remember me when it’s time to refer clients.

So what do you think? Can I write off that Bloody Mary? Can I write off the hot dog and potato salad? Is this a deductible business entertainment expense?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but a smug IRS agent quizzing you about this scenario would joyfully proclaim, “Disallowed!”  There are rules. And essentially, the rules say, “If you’re having way too much fun, it’s not a deductible expense.” But let me quit mincing words here and give you the real lowdown.

Rule #1 – First of all, any entertaining you provide must be directly related to the active conduct of your business or associated with a directly related discussion that preceded or followed the meal or entertainment. This means that hanging out with a business associate or even a client simply to promote goodwill is not deductible nor is giving a party for the sake of establishing goodwill. In order to deduct the cost of entertainment, you must conduct business before, during, or after the event. So we’re talking product demonstration, reveal of a new product or service, or a sales pitch. And the environment must be conducive to conducting business. The IRS believes it is impossible to convince a table-dancing drunk with a lampshade on his head to try your new and improved product.

The IRS once disallowed the write-off of tickets to a baseball game because the loud atmosphere at a ball part does not allow for a comprehensive business discussion.

And giving a sales pitch at the end of a party is much like talking politics with sugar infused 5-year-olds. As a write-off, it’s not going to fly.

Rule #2 – The guest list determines the extent to which you can write off an event. Given you are following Rule #1, you have a 100% write off if:

  1. The party is open to the general public, or
  2.  The party is for employees and their spouses.

You follow the 50% limitation rules that apply in general to meals and entertainment and write off half the cost if:

  1. The party is for customers and prospective customers and/or
  2. Independent contractors associated with your firm (they cannot be classified as employees for this purpose).

There is no write off for attendance by family members even if they are employees or owners. The expense is considered personal and no deduction is allowed. If there is a mix of employees customers and family members, allocate the expense and deduct accordingly. For example, if 10 employees and 30 customers attend, and the party costs $400, you may deduct 100% of 25% of the cost (employees) and 50% of the remaining cost (customers). And you thought there’d be no math. Sorry about that. Your deduction works out to $100 (cost allocated to employees) + $150 (cost allocated to customers) for a total write off of $250.

Rule#3 The entertainment may not be “lavish or extravagant.” That’s another one of those subjective, gray areas that can be argued to death with an auditor, his manager, all the way up to tax court. But why go there? Keep it simple. If your company grosses $100k a year, you likely shouldn’t be helicoptering in your guests. You get the picture.

It’s fine that you follow the rules, but proving you did is another matter. You want to have documentation to prove your case in the event of audit. Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure the invitation announces a business purpose. Such as “Brunch on us! Test drive our new cholesterol-free egg beater omelets.”
  2. Keep a guest list. Have attendees sign a guest book or track RSVPs so you can prove an accurate allocation of the expense.
  3. Take pictures of guests looking at your new products or a video clip of your product demonstration; anything that proves the business purpose.
  4. Keep all receipts for all expenses incurred.
  5. Maintain all of the above documentation in your tax file.

And a final tip: When providing the expenses to your bookkeeper, separate the cost of the party that is 100% deductible to a different category from “Meals and Entertainment.” Track it under “Promotion” or “100% Entertainment” to ensure the full write-off at tax time. Otherwise, your accountant will likely apply the 50% rule to everything under “meals and entertainment” and you will have lost a valuable write-off.

Okay, ready now? Cool. Let’s party!

Bob, a longtime client, showed up at my office during tax season bringing all his receipts and organizer. “You don’t have much in the way of medical expense,” I told him as I perused his itemized deduction worksheet.

“Nah, just some co-pays.”

I looked up from his organizer, surprised he hadn’t said, “WHAT?” After all, Bob is deaf as a stone and has been for years. That’s when I noticed a hearing aid in each ear. “You just get those?” I asked.

“I got them last year.”

“Did Medicare cover them?”

“Nope, I paid for them out of my own pocket. I got top of the line too. These suckers cost me seven grand.”

“And you got them in 2014 – last year – right?” He nodded. “You didn’t list the expense in your organizer, Bob. What’s the matter? You don’t want to write them off?”

His jaw dropped. “I can write them off?”

“Yeah, it’s a valid deductible medical expense. Good thing I noticed because I just saved you $2500 in taxes. How about that Bob?”

And Bob’s not the only one who doesn’t realize what is and what isn’t allowable when it comes to medical expenses. Lots of folks have misconceptions about what can be deducted.

First of all, one must be able to itemize deductions in order to take the medical expense deduction. The IRS grants us an option of the standard deduction – generally taken by renters and lower income individuals or itemized deductions – generally available to homeowners and higher income individuals.  Either the standard deduction or the total of itemized deductions (reported on Schedule A) is subtracted from your income. Income tax liability is calculated on the remainder. So the more itemized deductions you can list, the more you will save in taxes.

Know this; you generally have to have an awful lot of medical expenses in order to take these expenses as an itemized deduction. You don’t just list your medical then deduct it. After totaling your medical expenses, the IRS requires that you subtract 10% (7.5% if you are 65 or older) of your adjusted gross income from the total of your medical expenses. You then write off the remainder.  So if you made $100,000 last year, you can write off the amount above $10,000 ($7,500 if 65 or older) in medical expenses. If you’re healthy, you might not have enough medical bills to enjoy the write-off. But don’t quit reading yet. You can deduct more than just doctor visits.

A complete list of deductible medical expenses is available in Publication 502. Most people track medical insurance, doctor visits, prescriptions, eye and dental care. You may be surprised to find the following are deductible medical expenses:

  1.  Capital improvements to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability
  2. Transportation and lodging in another city if the primary purpose is medical care
  3. Medicare premiums deducted from your Social Security check
  4. Chiropractor, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, naturopath
  5. Alcohol and drug addiction for inpatient treatment at a therapeutic center, including meals and lodging
  6. Dentures, birth control pills, and pregnancy test kits, fertility enhancement
  7. Cost of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal when required to assist you or your dependent with physical disabilities
  8. Unused sick leave to pay for your health insurance premiums
  9. Cost of medical conferences and transportation to same if the topic concerns the chronic illness of yourself, your spouse or your dependent
  10. Adapters to television sets and telephones for the hearing-impaired.
  11. Braille instruction, Braille books and magazines
  12. Bandages
  13. Health, dental and eye insurance, long term care insurance, HMO fees, disability insurance withheld from your paycheck
  14. Lead-based paint removal in your home
  15. Cost of weight loss clinic if prescribed by a doctor for treatment of obesity or hypertension
  16. Cost of medical care, lodging and meals in a nursing home if there for medical reasons
  17. Medical mileage – trips to see practitioners, pharmacy, etc
  18. Cosmetic surgery for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy for cancer or to correct a birth defect or other condition that interferes with one’s health.

Generally cosmetic surgery is not deductible.  However, a stripper won a court case several years ago and was allowed a deduction for breast enhancement. However, it was not allowed as a medical expense. Instead, she was able to write it off as an “ordinary and necessary” business expense.

Also not deductible are vitamins and supplements, gym membership, dance lessons and swimming lessons even if recommended by your physician, prescriptions for controlled substances (marijuana, laetrile, etc. that violate federal law) or prescription medicines from foreign countries, hair transplants and teeth whitening.

Taxpertise tip of the day: stack your medical expenses into one year. So for example, if you had a surgery this year and also need a root canal and new glasses, don’t wait until January to have that work done. Do it now so you can maximize the tax benefit. You cannot pay for them now and take the deduction unless you actually undergo the treatment or procedure.

If you are self-employed, you likely use your personal car or truck for business as well as pleasure. If so, the business portion of your vehicle expense is deductible.

 

If you work for The Man and use your vehicle on the job and are not reimbursed for your mileage, you have a write off as well.

 

Did you know that you can write off mileage every time you run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription or visit your eye doctor or embark other trip for medical purposes? And if you do volunteer work for a qualified nonprofit, your unreimbursed volunteer mileage may be deductible.

 

It gets better. If you work two jobs and drive between job #1 and job #2 (without going home first), you can deduct those miles. I have a client who saves about a grand a year in taxes because he writes off the mileage between his two jobs.

 

You’re thinking, “Yeah! This is great!” Sure, it’s great, but it’s not necessarily easy. Naturally, there are rules to follow, forms to complete, data to track. In fact, the IRS regulations state that you should basically attach a clipboard to your steering wheel and keep a mileage log. You need to track every deductible mile you drive. You must report the exact number of total miles you drive every year breaking out commuting mileage, which, by the way is not deductible, personal miles driven, and business miles; like you’re really going to jump on that one. Even if you make it a New Year’s resolution, it’s hard work to keep a complete and accurate mileage log.

 

I’ve been representing taxpayers in audits for more than 20 years and here’s the deal when it comes to that mileage log: The auditor asks for it and I say “Come on, you know nobody, absolutely nobody, keeps one.” (Well I did have a client once who kept one but was he ever audited? No!) So the auditor will argue for a bit saying he can disallow the deduction because no contemporaneous records were kept. I carry on about how it’s unreasonable to expect folks to really do this, and finally the auditor consents to a reconstruction.

 

So if you have an appointment book (always retain your appointment books in your tax file) you can go through it and using Mapquest if necessary, compile the numbers the IRS is looking for.

 

You should keep some basic records that are easy to manage:

 

  1. On January 1 log in your beginning mileage from your odometer into your appointment book.  If you use a PDA, record the mileage on a sheet of paper and place it in your current year tax file.
  2. Put a note on your December 31 calendar to list your ending odometer reading.
    1. Note: If you’re going through an audit and don’t have odometer readings, look for repair receipts near the beginning and end of the year. The odometer reading will be listed there and it’s possible to extrapolate the numbers.
  3. By subtracting your beginning from your ending odometer reading you will have your total mileage figure for the year. The IRS asks for this number on your tax return.
  4. Mark as many business destinations as you can throughout the year in your appointment book. At year end do a rough calculation to determine what your deductible business usage is.
  5. If your business usage is greater than 50% you may qualify to deduct that percentage of your total actual expenses including: gas and oil, tires, repairs, maintenance (car washes, etc.), insurance, loan interest, vehicle registration, and depreciation. Or you may elect to take the standard mileage rate times the total business miles driven. Your tax pro can help you decide which method is best for your particular situation. If you use your vehicle less than 50% for business, you can only take the standard mileage rate.

Due to the advent of PDAs, appointment books are becoming obsolete. If you use an electronic calendar and printout capability is not available, than you will want to log reminders to mark the odometer readings and store that information in your tax files. Quarterly, you should manually track business versus personal usage to establish and substantiate your percent of business usage.

 

It’s unfortunate that we have to spend so much time keeping these sorts of records, but you will be happy you did if the IRS knocks at your door.

Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, the standup/movie/music icon, has added entrepreneur to his list of achievements. But the businessman is staying in character with the Tommy Chong we have all grown to know and love. It’s all about weed. His new business venture in Colorado is manufacturing two products for distribution: Chong Star, a form of weed high in CBD and THC named after Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) in which Chong was a contestant last season, and “Tommy Chong’s Smoke Swipes” which instantly rid clothes and hair of smoky smells from cigars, cigarettes and cannabis. Chong tells me that Len Goodman, a judge on DWTS and a heavy cigar smoker, swears by the swipes product.

According to Chong, growing, distributing, and selling marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is legal in Colorado as long as the product stays within the state borders. The product is also subject to sales tax which is levied at the dispensary level. Chong believes that levying a sales tax is tax overload on citizens. He says, “We are already taxed to death on everything.”

However, these activities are still illegal at the federal level. Even so, Chong does not fear reprisal from the Feds. He feels that pending court cases on the side of legalizing marijuana and, finally, recognition of its medicinal qualities will soon result in federal legalization of the drug.

Chong credits his remission from prostate cancer to the use of a hemp product under the direction of his naturopath in Canada. He strongly believes in its medicinal qualities. You certainly don’t have the litany of “side effects include…” when it comes to marijuana. “After all,” Chong adds, “The worst thing that can happen if you smoke too much marijuana is that you will regurgitate. This demonstrates that the body is equipped to handle it. When it comes to marijuana, the medical benefits far outweigh these issues.”

Chong adds that government resistance to legalization can also be attributed to their inability to regulate. He states, “You cannot regulate marijuana in the same way you can regulate alcohol because there is no one manufacturing point. It’s a cottage industry.”

The trend toward legalization is also evident with the leniency the IRS has demonstrated the last few years towards the marijuana industry. Previously, business owners were required to report their illegal income without the benefit of taking deductions against it. Things have changed. Beginning in 2011, deductions for cost of goods sold, which are the costs involved in production are allowed on tax returns. Most marijuana farmers are using the “full absorption costing rules” and “unified capitalization rules” to include administrative, overhead and direct costs normally not associated with cost of goods sold. In other words, they are basically writing off every expense. And the IRS is allowing it.

Chong is excited about his new enterprise. Although, he says, “Owning a small business is like doing time in jail. You are dedicated to that business. You don’t have a life. It absorbs all of your time. When I was in jail I had more time to myself than I had on the outside.”

Chong was jailed in 2003 for 9 months for selling marijuana paraphernalia.

Chong is joined by his son Paris and John Paul Cohen, a former Sanwa Bank executive, in his new business. “These guys handle the business end of things. I am not a businessman; I am an artist,” Chong states. It’s his wife Shelby, who he says has the business brains in the family. She has an accounting background. He always heeds her advice.

Chong says the best business advice he’s ever received is to prepay his taxes. “If you pay too much, you get a refund. And you’re not on the red flag list. Because you paid in advance, they’ll likely leave you alone.”

The best advice he has to offer to other entrepreneurs, however, is what he tells his son, “Research, research, research. You need to know habits and trends. There’s no excuse to not know everything you need to know. The knowledge is at your fingertips.”

Tonight will be our first date. Luke is taking me to dinner. Just two more hours before I get to see him! I feel a tingle as I move the queen of hearts below the king of spades. I’m like a teenage girl with the rush and crush of it all. You’d never know I was a 34 year old professional woman. I feel like snapping my gum and calling my girlfriends flat out on my stomach on the bed with legs raised behind me kicking off shoes and yammering into the phone, “and he’s all, and I’m like, and he’s like…” Christ. But I can’t help the delicious burst of joy that’s running from my tummy into my chest.

My life is about to change. I smile and move the four of clubs across to the five of hearts. Yes, my life is about to change. I can just feel it. A new man. A new adventure.

I look up. Andie is shouting, “You can’t go in there! You can’t go in there without an appointment!” And from the hallway, the thundering of heavy footsteps advancing across the oak plank floor. “Wait!”

Then a man rushing through my open office door. His handsome face is puffy, red and vaguely familiar. It blurs as he speeds to the front of my desk. He upends a black satchel and my eyes grow large as they move from his face down to stacks of bound hundred dollar bills tumbling onto the desktop, off the desk onto the floor. Mounds and mounds of them. I can’t even guess how much.

“Pay the IRS for me.” The words tumble just as rapidly from his mouth as the packets tumble onto the desktop. A waft of stagnant scotch hits my nose. Is he drunk?

I finally recognize the new client with the horrendous tax problem who paid me a small advance a couple of months ago, signed the IRS’ Power of Attorney form, but never returned with the paperwork I needed in order to proceed. “Simon? What’s going on?” He is so intent on his task that he doesn’t answer. “Simon?” I prompt again this time a little more insistently.

Simon scoops the last banded pack from the satchel, finally looks at me and says, “I trust you Kim. Pay the IRS for me. I’ll be in touch.”

By then Andie is in the doorway but rears back quickly when he barrels back through it. We watch him leave then stare at each other slack jawed for a beat. Then I’m up and running after him. “Simon! Wait!” He’s gone through the front door. I whip the door open, step out to the landing, and pause. I look to the right, nothing. I look to the left and see him running down the sidewalk. Shielding the late afternoon sun from my eyes with one hand, I call out to him again, “Wait, Simon. You have to come back!”

A squeal of brakes causes me to look across the street. A bronze vintage Oldsmobile, something out of the 1960’s, pulls to a stop. A woman in big round sunglasses, sun hat, and gloved hands, lowers the window, brings up a revolver and shoots Simon. I watch as he crumbles to the ground and the satchel flies out of his hands.

The car door swings open and the woman starts to get out but looks over at me as I scream. She turns toward me, raises the gun and before I can react, she fires. I hear a hiss and smell gunpowder as the bullet whizzes by my ear and lodges into the door frame behind me. Throwing myself to the ground, I crawl back inside and slam the door with my foot. I hear the crack of one more bullet then hear the sound of peeling rubber.

I stay on the floor. Tears erupt from my eyes as I hyperventilate. Alarmed, Andie is leaning over me. “What happened? What’s going on?” Her voice is anxious.

I put my hand over my heart and breathe deeply, exhaling loudly, trying to slow my breathing. Finally, I can speak. “Call the police, Andie. Call the police. And get an ambulance. She shot Simon.”

“What? Who? Who shot Simon? What?”

I glower at her. “Andie. Just. Call. Now.”

The door bursts open. I scream and pull myself into a fetal position, covering my face with my hands. Andie jumps back. After a terrifying moment, I hear her say, “Damn! I was just about to call you.”

Slowly, I pull my hands down from my face to see a police officer, hand poised over his weapon. It’s Mac, Officer McCarthy, who interviewed me several months ago when Dominic Rodriguez disappeared. Outside I hear another officer speaking into a two-way, asking for an ambulance.

I sit up feeling a tad embarrassed. Andie lowers a hand to help me up. I brush off my skirt. Mac sighs and drops his hand to his side. “It’s Kim, right? Kim Stillwell?” I nod as he pulls a small notebook from a chest pocket. “Well, you want to tell me what happened this time?”

Harley the Dawg says: You may be able to write off a service animal, security dog (they scare me), and herding farm dog. Talk to your tax pro to see if you qualifyPicture of a dog  in a party hat

I’ll bet you didn’t know that some of these are deductible!

For more information, read my article for FOXbusiness.com

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