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Getting Down to Brass Tax in North Salem

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - It seems to happen a little quicker each year. Before you know it, tax season is upon us. Local CPA Michael Kates has a few words of advice to filers.

“Always start by looking at your last year’s returns to make sure you don’t forget to enter anything,” said Kates, whose firm is on June Road in North Salem and is called Brass Tax. “And remember to check your credit card statements. People sometimes charge tax-deductible items to their cards, then forget about it.”

The significant tax deductible items include real estate taxes, interest on a mortgage, unreimbursed medical expenses, charity donations and unreimbursed business expenses. “Alimony is tax-deductible but maintenance, like child support, is not,” he explained.

“You’d be surprised how many people arrive at the office with a shopping bag full of papers and receipts,” Kates said. He usually gives them organizers and tells them how to get started.

Kates refers to his office as a place “where accounting is a performing art.” The reference seems obvious when you learn that Kates is from a long line of professional musicians. His father, David, was a violist with the New York Philharmonic for 43 years. His mother is from a long line of professional cellists. His late brother, Stephen, was a renowned solo cellist and professor at the Peabody Conservatory.

Kates himself attended New York City’s LaGuardia High School, formerly the High School of Music and Arts. The school was used as the basis for the motion picture “Fame.” Kates started piano at five, then went on to clarinet and finally french horn.

He majored in economics at the University of Iowa, with music as a minor. When he is not giving tax advice he plays with the Chappaqua Chamber Orchestra and with Norm Hathaway’s Big Band, among others. He has lived at Heritage Hills in Somers for 14 years.

Kates says there are similarities between accounting and music. “Both are based on certain rhythms.” He has combined his musical talent with his professional role by representing musical groups in their accounting needs. He is accountant for the Chappaqua Orchestra and the Alumni Association of LaGuardia High School. Locally, he represents the Ruth Keeler Library and the North Salem Open Land Foundation.

“I have music in my house every minute of the day.”

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