Monday, April 14, 2008

Humor Me: Taxing times for Americans

By MATT WIXON

The tax deadline is a day away, but if you haven’t started filling out your forms yet, don’t panic. Just remember this:

One of the Internal Revenue Service’s customer service standards is “simpler forms.”

That’s why this year’s instruction book for the 1040 form has been streamlined to several pages short of War and Peace. OK, slight exaggeration.

Still, the instruction book’s length makes it hard to find critical information such as “How do I claim my inner child as a dependent?” and “Can my daily commute to work be considered a moving expense?”

Sadly, those answers are not included. But here’s a piece of information that is in there:

“The parent of a child who is presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a family member may be able to use that child as a tax deduction.”

Now that's a sign that kidnapping is a serious problem in our country.

It’s also one reason why tax forms and instruction books are so convoluted and time-consuming. The tax laws need to apply to every situation, whether you’re the parent of a kidnapped child or an artist depicting the horrors of kidnapping through a Jell-O sculpture.

(Note: In that case, you can deduct the Jell-O as a business expense, as long as you don’t eat it. Cool Whip can also be deducted as an artistic accessory, but not as a non-dairy topping.)

Anyway, as the tax deadline approaches, remember not to stress out. You can even seek out comic relief by turning to the page in the 1040 instruction book that features the unintentionally funny “How do you make a gift to reduce debt held by the public?”

That’s right! Every one of us proud Americans can add a little “tip” to our tax burden to help the government pay down the federal deficit, which currently has more zeroes than an audition for American Idol. It’s a daunting figure, no doubt, but every little bit helps.

Consider this: if all the taxpayers in America would simply add a $10 gratuity to their tax forms — about the cost of going out for lunch — we could knock more than $1 billion off the federal debt. Pretty exciting, huh? Before you know it, that budget deficit would be history.

Well, actually it would take about 84,000 years. Maybe a few less if the government tightens the budget, maybe a few more if the government decides to award some more grants for Jell-O sculptors.

Either way, it’s a little disheartening. So maybe we should just keep the 10 bucks and get that value meal at lunch today. I think that’s what I’m going to do, and now that I’ve mentioned the words “synergy” and “value-added strategic plan,” I plan to write it off as a business expense.

Sure, I could be audited. But I would like to point out to IRS agents, who all look lovely and/or handsome today, that a bodybuilder once got a tax write-off for posing oil. In another strange deduction, the owner of a scrap yard was allowed to write off the cost of cat food to attract wild cats that would scare away snakes. An exotic dancer even got to reduce her tax liability by enlarging her tools of business.

As for me, I’m just asking that every lunch be considered a business expense. And that my male-pattern baldness be considered a capital loss. And that the value of my charitable donations, made up of the items that nobody would buy at our neighborhood garage sale, be estimated at $43,750.

That might be asking too much, but I’m hoping to get a refund big enough to put a swimming pool in the back yard. Then you can all come over to swim.

Just don’t ask to see my 17 children.

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