The secret to avoiding taxes

   My wife, Fidelity, is not one for subtlety. When she has an idea, which is often, she insists on sharing it with me.
   This week, her idea was we should pay less taxes.
   "Great idea!" I cried when she told me the news. "But Iím going to one-up you with an even better idea Ė letís not pay any taxes at all!í
   "Iím not kidding," she replied. "I think weíre paying way too much."
   I had heard this before. "I agree with you wholeheartedly. But other than going to jail for tax evasion I donít think thereís much we can do about it."
   Thatís when she nailed my sorry hide. Unbeknownst to me, Fidelity had been doing research. With that look in her eye that clearly said I was the biggest bozo that ever walked the earth, she pulled from behind her back the January issue of Money magazine.
   "Check it out, Mr. Give-It-All-Away," she said triumphantly. "Youíve been missing the boat again."
   I glanced at the cover, which was now about three inches from my face. In huge block letters, it read "stop paying 40% of your income in taxes Ė how to cut your bills."
   I grabbed the magazine and looked at Fidelity, who was shaking her head in disgust. Here I was, the so-called patriarch of our struggling little family, and I was stupidly giving away money to the government because I was too busy to pick up a copy of Money magazine.
   "Have you read the article?" I asked.
   Fidelity is the master of many things, none of which have anything to do with finance. "No," she said, walking away. "Thatís your job. I just wanted to show you that youíre doing something wrong."
   I looked again at the cover. It seemed to be saying what I subconsciously always feel Ė only idiots pay their fair share of taxes. Everyone is dancing through the loopholes. Except me. No one ever taught me how to dance.
    I immediately thought about my worthless accountant, whom Iíve always suspected as secretly holding back valuable information from me. Iíll have to give him a copy of the Money article when I tell him Iím changing to another firm.
   I walked over to my reading chair, perusing the index of the magazine on my way. "Smart Ways to Stay Ahead of the Feds," by Teresa Tritch. "These money-saving strategies will work now Ė and through the Ď90s."
   Teresa, Teresa, my savior. Show me the way. I have been in the dark for too long, throwing money down black holes. I knew there was an answer. I knew it.
    Fidelity wisely removed the children from my area of concentration (approximately 40 yards) and I sat down to discover the secret of saving thousands and thousands of dollars each year that we could sorely use.
   I started with the story on federal taxes, which is the biggest chunk (the 40 percent refers to a compilation of federal, state and property taxes).
   I turned right to the section on self-employed taxpayers (Thatís me! Thatís me!). My own section! What a bonanza!
   What a disappointment.
   Gee, I learned that I should maximize deductions. I can deduct work-related travel and entertainment expenses, dues to professional organizations and, wow, subscriptions to business publications.
    Next I read that I should contribute "a healthy chunk of your self-employment earnings" to a retirement account, thereby avoiding taxes on the amount contributed.
   Duh. I have a retirement plan. End of article, except for a tidbit titled "Consider Incorporating," which warns that corporate status "could be a tax trap."
   Thanks, Teresa. The article was well researched and complete, and I'm glad it was brought to my attention.
   "Well," said Fidelity when she returned to the room. "Did you learn something?"
   "Yes, I did," I replied. "I learned to stop worrying that I was missing out on something. I learned that there are no secret loopholes for the self-employed."
    Fidelity gave me that look again. "There must be something we can do," she said. "You must have missed something."
   I thought about it again. Fidelity was right. I must have been duped. Money magazine had obviously joined forces with my accountant. They were in on the secret loophole and wouldnít give it up.
    Two-hundred million American taxpayers and Iím still the only one paying my fair share. No wonder Fidelity thinks Iím a bozo.



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