Short Story: “I.R.S. I.O.U”
A Rett Bonneville Story
By Anne M. Freeman©
I’d heard that the IRS was getting friendlier, but an at-home visit? Anyone I knew who had tax problems went to the local IRS office. I’d fudged a few items on my tax return, but nothing ridiculous – nothing I couldn’t attribute to bad math. But, Ms. Henning, the agent who contacted me, insisted that coming to my home was no trouble as she was heading to the IRS headquarters in Philly and would drive near my home along the Delaware River, anyway.
Ms. Henning arrived exactly on time, was neatly dressed in a navy blue suit, and was probably in her early sixties. She was almost a stereotype of what one would expect an IRS agent to me, at least in my mind. I showed her to my kitchen table, which I hoped would create a homey, friendly atmosphere. As she set her brown leather briefcase on the table and pulled out a thick file (mine, apparently), the tea kettle whistled.
“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee, Ms. Henning?” I asked in a light voice.
“Thank you, no,” she replied and sat down at the table. Her manner was strange – a weird cross between all business and nervousness, not how I’d expect a seasoned IRS agent to behave. Maybe her big meeting in Philly had her preoccupied. Maybe she wasn’t sure of her case against me, and it made her nervous. Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part.
“Well, Ms. Bonneville,” she commenced, “there appears to be an irregularity with your travel expenses. They were significantly higher than the national average last year, and that is what triggered this review. You do have receipts?” she asked with an emphasis on “do.” Ms. Henning’s face took on that classic “arched eyebrows, looking over the top of her glasses, we’ll just get right to the smack-down” kind of look. Wishful thinking.
In my best down-to-business voice I replied, “Of course, Ms. Henning. Do you want originals or will copies do?”
“I’ll review the originals and bring the copies back with me,” she answered.
I went to my filing cabinet and placed the stack of receipts and copies on the table. I felt somewhat relieved because I am anal about keeping receipts and records of all of my travel expenses, for a day just like this. I could have asked if she wanted my mileage records, as well, to prove where I traveled, but a friend said to never offer anything beyond what the IRS asks for, as that opens up new avenues of investigation to them. I made a cup of tea for myself while Ms. Henning began reviewing them.
“You seem to travel a lot. You are …” she looked at her file “… a music performer?”
“Yes. I’m a singer-songwriter.”
“Really?” She asked with what appeared to be feigned surprise. “Is that why your name is familiar?”
So that’s what this visit was all about. A fan. I relaxed a little bit.
“I’ve had several songs make it to radio.”
She sat for a moment, her eyes looking off into the middle distance.
“I know – you’re the singer my granddaughter is so crazy about,” she exclaimed. “She loved the song in that movie … But, I digress. Now, about those travel expense. I guess you have to do a lot of touring. Is that why your travel expenses are so high?
I got up and walked to my filing cabinet in the far corner of my kitchen, opened the top drawer and took out a few copies of my CDs.
“I did a lot of touring last year to promote my new CD and that song last year, more than was typical, “I said as I walked to a kitchen drawer, pulled it open and took out a Sharpie. “And sometimes I don’t get reimbursed by sleazy promoters who promise the world and then don’t deliver on the contracts. I lost a big chunk of travel pay last year because of one particular promoter who never paid my travel, so I had to deduct it from my taxes rather than pay taxes on it. That’s why my travel expense deductions were unusually high last year.” I sat down at the table and began unwrapping the CDs. “Son-of-a-gun probably deducted the travel pay he stole from me from his taxes, claiming it as an expense.”
Ms. Henning had been viewing receipts all the while I spoke. When I had finished, she bent over and took out an iPad from her briefcase and set it on the table.
“Well, let’s see if we can do something about that, Ms. Bonneville,” she said. “Do you have Wi-Fi?”
I logged her in, and she still hadn’t looked at me. The unspoken deal was made.
“What is your grand-daughter’s name?” I asked as I uncapped my Sharpie.
“Katie,” she replied while typing something on her keyboard. “What’s the name of the promoter who didn’t pay you?”
I told her, and then signed the CDs.
I few minutes later, Ms. Henning closed her iPad. She put everything – including the CDs – into her briefcase, and stood up. She looked at me.
“The owner just received notice that he would be fined for nonpayment of taxes on any expenses claimed that were not, in fact, paid to any performer for the past five years, unless he could produce proof of payment, in which case, the fines would be waived.”
Ms. Henning smiled and stretched her hand out to shake mine. “Let me know if you don’t receive a check from him within a month. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Ms. Bonneville. My grand-daughter will be so excited to know we met.”
Her handshake was firm and brief.
“The pleasure was mine, Ms. Henning,” I smiled, and opened the door for her to leave.