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Some things worth consideration in order to avoid tax issues, legal action

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, 1997 at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota Timberwolves were playing the

Chicago Bulls.

During the game, Dennis Rodman stumbled out of bounds and landed in a group of photographers, twisting his ankle. A cameraman named Eugene Amos, who was in the group, turned his camera on Rodman, who then kicked him in the groin [the incident can be seen on YouTube].

The game was delayed seven minutes while Amos was taken out of the arena on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to the Hennepin County Medical Center.

After his discharge from the hospital, Amos filed a police report claiming that Rodman had assaulted him and then retained an attorney. The final agreement between Rodman and Amos specified that Amos was to receive $200,000.

Part of the agreement was an obligation by Amos to keep the agreement confidential and to refrain from publicizing it or prosecuting Rodman in the future.

But the story doesn’t end here.

Amos filed his 1997 income tax return omitting the $200,000. Sure enough, the IRS came calling.

They audited Amos and proposed an additional tax of $61,668 on the $200,000 award. The case wound up in

Tax Court.

Ultimately, Amos had to include only $80,000 in his tax return. $120,000 was to compensate him for physical injuries and was therefore exempt from taxation.

Anyone taking a class in tax research or individual income taxation is likely to run across the Amos case.

For the rest of us, some non-tax lessons are worth noting.

First, controlling oneself is paramount. While it might seem emotionally cathartic at the moment to give in to impulsive anger, the consequences can be devastating.

Second, don’t depend on confidentiality of any kind. Legal confidences can be broken, as Rodman, the Timberwolves and the NBA found out.

The Biblical reference, “nothing is hidden that will not be revealed” is still valid. And sometimes the revelation comes at the most inconvenient or embarrassing time.

Just ask anyone who posted intimate pictures on the Internet that were later viewed by potential employers.

Third, the agreement between Rodman and Amos should have specified the amount due to compensation for medical injuries and for other items. The result: a judge had to make the decision.

Being precise and specific is not only praiseworthy; it’s sometimes the least

expensive approach.

Fourth, basketball is perhaps the only major sport where no barrier is erected between the spectators and the players. Football has photographers close to the sidelines and end zones, but there’s considerably more room in a football stadium than on a basketball court.

While it might be nice to be “close to the action,” having some sort of protection at basketball games would have eliminated at least one groin injury, a twisted ankle and the resulting legal and tax costs.

Finally, resolving disputes takes time, especially if the legal system is involved.

Amos sustained his injury in January 1997. The final decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding his tax return was handed down December 1, 2003, nearly seven years later.

By the way, Chicago beat Minnesota 112-102 that night.

Respond to Phil at

[email protected]

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