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OFF THE SCENE: Tax time

April 22, 2011
NAJ WIKOFF
“Joe, I’d like to schedule a time to see you, maybe Sunday afternoon or Monday,” I said to Joe Brooks, my accountant, around 10:30 a.m. Friday the 8th.

“Sunday when, the 17th?” I’ll have a lot of time then,” he said.

“No, no I was thinking this Sunday, you know, before the 15th,” I said.

“Oh yes, the 15th. Why am I only hearing from you now? I was told you were going to call me two weeks ago,” he said.

“Really, by whom? Oh wait, by Bernie (McGee),” who advises me on my modest investments that became even more modest over the past several years when the stock market tanked. They would have done far better stuffed in my mattress.

“Yes Bernie.”

“Did he drop off anything for you?”

“No, why should he? How do I know if you are coming if you don’t call me?”

“It is not like I died,” I said. “I always see you about now.”

“You could be stuck in Siberia, it has been known to happen,” he said, which in fact did happen a few years ago, not an easy place to reach an accountant from and say, by the way, could you file for an extension.

“Where is Bernie?”

“He’s skiing.”

“Skiing? He told me this was his busiest time of year.”

“Maybe he decided to take a break.”

“OK, I’ll call him, but what about this Sunday or Monday?”

“What about today or tomorrow? I might be able to slip you in then,” he said. “Sunday I’m booked and I’m even more booked on Monday.”

“I’m running behind, I accidentally erased three months of inputting receipts into Quicken.”

“Work late, call me when you are ready, and I mean really ready – everything done.”

I agreed. Then I called Bernie, who answered after a couple rings. “Bernie, are you at Whiteface?”

“What makes you think that?” he said.

“Joe Brooks.”

“The conditions are terrible,” he said.

“Yea right, 45 degrees and sunny and Whiteface just picked up 6 inches the other day. Here I am home working on my taxes and you are out enjoying yourself.”

“Take a break,” he said.

“I can’t. Joe said he can only fit me in today or tomorrow I will be stuck here all day working at this so I can bring my materials in to him tomorrow. So he needs to hear from you before then.”

“I’ll see him tonight,” he said. “I’m staying at his Bed & Breakfast. Just remember the conditions are terrible, and being inside you avoid the risk of sunburn.”

I stayed up past midnight getting everything done, clipped together all my income statements, interest statements and other details, printed out my Quicken reports, and put them and my mileage log into a folder and went to bed. In the morning instead of calling Joe right off, I decided to pull a “Bernie,” and head to Whiteface. There I met Kate Fish, PJ LaBarge and a few other friends and we were amongst the first to catch the gondola. The conditions were perfect. We skied Excelsior, then Mountain Run, then went up to the top to do Paron’s Run, Cloudspin and a few others before I called Joe at 10:15 while riding up the Summit Quad chair with PJ.

“I’ve got everything finished,” I said to Joe.

“How soon can you get here?” he asked.

“I1:30?” I asked back, “Will that work?”

“Perfect, see you then,” he said.

One of the things I like about Joe is that he is married to an artist, has been for 46 years I think. It means he can talk with creative people. He understands what they say and knows how to ask them questions in a manner that they understand. Another is that he has you sit right next to him as he inputs your data so he can ask you for any clarification, or help explain what he needs from you so you are better prepared next time, or answer any questions you might have about the process. He starts by first sending you a booklet to fill out which helps a person like me, an independent contractor for lack of a better expression, organize my various income and expense reports.

“What’s this?” he said pointing at the letters REM.

“It stands for reimbursed,” I said. “Those travel expenses were reimbursed by one of my clients.” I occasionally do consulting work for hospitals and other health institutions around the country on using the arts to enhance the patient experience and staff’s working environment.

“And this?”

“That’s to total mortgage payments, the combination of the principle, interest and property taxes. This form from the bank shows the break out,” I said.

“And the one purple and the other pink shoe?” pointing to my mismatched Crocs.

“Purple for Lent and pink for Easter,” I said. In truth they happened to be what I grabbed while heading out the door.

“Just checking,” he said.

“Did Bernie drop off the materials?” I said.

“No,” he said. “He didn’t believe you would get finished and show up today.”

“But I said I would,” I said.

“He doesn’t know you the way I know you,” he said. “Call him. Do you need his number? I emailed him, but maybe you should call him.”

So I did. “Bernie. It’s me, Naj. I am at Joe Brooks. Where’s the stuff?”

“Really,” he said. I pass the phone, they chit chat, we agree to all meet Tuesday at noon, and Joe passes back the phone back to me.

“Tell him to bring lunch,” said Joe.

“You hear that?” I said. He did. I look at Joe who has a glint in his eye. “Make it a nice lunch,” I said. “And don’t forget.”

 
 

 

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