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Will the IRS benefit from Seminole Heights reward money?

The Naiboa family with Delonda Walker, the McDonald's worker credited with tipping Tampa police to Seminole Heights suspect Howell Emanuel Donaldson III's gun. From top left: Delonda Walker, Casimar Naiboa, Maria Rodriguez and Taino Naiboa. From front left: Karin Nubia and Guarionex Naiboa. [Photo provided by Casimar Naiboa]
The Naiboa family with Delonda Walker, the McDonald's worker credited with tipping Tampa police to Seminole Heights suspect Howell Emanuel Donaldson III's gun. From top left: Delonda Walker, Casimar Naiboa, Maria Rodriguez and Taino Naiboa. From front left: Karin Nubia and Guarionex Naiboa. [Photo provided by Casimar Naiboa]
Published Dec. 1, 2017

TAMPA — City officials are on record saying a McDonald's employee will get $110,000 in reward money for turning over the gun linked to a string of Seminole Heights killings.

"She will eventually get all the money," Police Chief Brian Dugan said Friday.

Well, maybe not all. The Internal Revenue Service will be waiting in the wings, a tax expert says, though it's unclear how much Delonda Walker will pay in taxes, or when she will collect the multiple money.

During the 51 days while police tried to solve the string of murders that left four dead and terrorized residents of Southeast Seminole Heights, private groups and law enforcement agencies steadily upped the reward.

After police arrested Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, 24, and charged him with four counts of murder, restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart gave Walker the $9,000 he promised.

So, just $101,000 to go.

Crime Stoppers, which normally requires tipsters to call a special phone number before contacting police, bent the rules and agreed to pay Walker $5,000 even though she first told an officer inside the McDonald's.

Most of the organizations that promised money asked only for information that leads to an arrest. But at least $20,000, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, requires a conviction before pay out.

Under those terms, Donaldson would have to be found guilty in court before Walker gets the ATF cash.

But waiting isn't necessarily bad. Breaking up the reward over a few years would actually be better for Walker, said David McQuay Jr., a certificate public accountant in Tampa. Receiving most of the money in 2018 would likely push Walker up the tax bracket where she could pay 28 to 33 percent on her earned income and the reward money, depending on what she earns at McDonald's, he said.

"Any reward over $600 is taxable," he said.

McQuay said to pay the least amount of tax, Walker could contribute to her 401(k), if McDonald's provides that. But, McQuay said he would be more than happy to help Walker with tax planning in January.

"For that lady, I would do it pro bono," he said. "I'd like to help her out. She did a good thing."

Contact Jonathan Capriel at jcapriel@tampabay.com. Follow @jonathancapriel.

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