bill bryson one summer

Tax Evasion, Cash for Keys and Bill Bryson

Cash-for-keys.300x200Some concerned citizen and friend to a certain individual who had his home foreclosed upon sent me an email about cash for keys. So often these emails are from the individuals themselves — those who are directly affected by their own actions — but they are disguised as a mother, a girlfriend or a neighbor who is seeking an answer. They ask questions that make me wonder if they made it past the sixth grade.

The problem with relying on what you learned in school is so much of it is garbage. And that’s assuming in the first place that a) you paid attention in school and b) you absorbed the information given and c) you still remember any of it, especially when you get to that certain age in life. Finding out the real facts about what went on in history is a bit disturbing; it’s little like finding out everybody lied to you about Santa Claus.

No single person wrote a high school-mandated history book, and when you get committees involved, things get twisted. Oh, nooooo, we can’t put that negative thing in the book. So we’re spoon-fed a lot of fabricated details and shown only the bright and positive sides of our historical figures. If you really want to know the truth and what happened, you’ve got to read and you’ve got to give a crap, which a lot of people don’t and don’t.

So, this blog is not for those people who don’t and don’t. It’s for those of you who do and do. I am wholly engrossed in One Summer: America 1927, by Bill Bryson. Not just because I enjoy Bryson’s sense of humor, although, to be honest, he could write about a day in the life of an earthworm and I would read it. It’s about Charles Lindbergh’s extraordinary flight to Paris; how Commander Bryd never made it to the North Pole; what a slob and disgusting man the otherwise singularly talented Babe Ruth was; the illiteracy, stupidity and anti-semitism of  Henry Ford; the idiocy and profitability of Prohibition; why the greatest flood ever in America of the Mississippi River carried so little weight at the time; and how it’s a major miracle that our country’s leaders managed to shepherd America, stay out of jail and survive the year.

Of course, I’m only halfway through, so I’m probably not even hitting the highlights. The other thing that strikes me about this book is its parallels to modern life. So many things remain the same. Just the names change.

Above all, the book serves as a reminder that it wasn’t being a cold-hearted murderer or a crook that brought down Al Capone. It was tax evasion that put that guy behind bars. His lawyers could argue all they wanted that the government should not be condoning criminal activity by partaking in its profits through taxes, but it didn’t work.

Just like it’s tax evasion facing the guy with the cash for keys question. He wanted to know if after his friend’s home was foreclosed upon and the bank came out to offer the tenant cash for keys, if he would have to pay taxes on the money he did not allegedly receive. Shortly after that email, I received another asking if the recipient must report the cash for keys payment as income.

He probably didn’t appreciate my sense of humor when I said if money rained down from the heavens and he picked up $20 bills in the street, that’s income, even if he did nothing to earn it. I didn’t explain that the bank reports cash for keys payments to the IRS and probably issues 1099s, because people who have to ask that kind of question probably don’t file a tax return.

But I am a Sacramento real estate agent; I’m not a tax accountant. Ask your tax accountant for advice, and pick up a copy of Bill Bryon’s: One Summer.



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