Tax Tips For Future Felons


April 10, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

Today I am pleased to present the results of the Amateur Tax Tips contest, in which I asked readers to submit their tax-preparation tips on postal cards and send them in for a chance to win a valuable used pair of men's briefs signed by humor writer Roy Blount Jr. Needless to say, this prize stirred up plenty of excitement. Many of the entries mentioned it by name ("Do not send me the underwear").

I pored over the postcards for hours, and I have concluded, via a complex and sophisticated statistical analysis, that a lot of them feature photographs of semi-naked women. These are postcards from seaside resort areas. Most of them show women standing on a beach, wearing swimsuits no larger than Sweet 'n Low packets and smiling brightly to express the theme: "Greetings From Ocean Squid Isle! Here Are Our Bosoms!"

But getting back to the contest: In poring over the postcards, I also briefly glanced at the sides that had writing on them, and I found some excellent tax tips that you will definitely want to try out this year if you have not already done your taxes and have no more sense than a musk melon. So get a pencil and paper ready, because here come the:

Runner-up Amateur Tax Tips

* "The IRS encourages taxpayers to round off numbers. For example, my income is $34,500, so I round this off to $30,000." (John Soennichsen-Cheney)

* "Don't report any income from Jeff Gillooly." (Steve Peters)

* "You will never get audited if you write possibly insane statements all over the margins of your tax return like, 'The CIA is monitoring my shoes and you know it!!!' " (John Averill)

* "If you are dead as of midnight, April 15, you may request an extension to file." (George Ellerman Jr.)

* "Use that standard $20,000 deduction for church donations. What to say if audited: 'Look, did you see that Popemobile? Well I paid for it.' " (Darrell VanDyke)

* "Do not cheat on your tax returns. I cheated last year and was immediately given a high-ranking congressional office. It really scared me." (Phil Harvey)

* "Marry your car. Assuming your car produces no income and you file jointly, you can save up to 50 percent of your tax bill. The tricky part is finding the right minister." (Jon Kelly)

"Being poor has always worked for me." (S. Dailey)

I think we can agree that these are all excellent tax tips, and in an ordinary year, any one of them would be good enough to win used underwear signed by Roy Blount Jr. But this is not an ordinary year. This is a year when a truly wondrous Amateur Tax Tip has been suggested by the Internal Revenue Service itself.

Here's what happened: In 1992 the IRS got audited, for the first time ever, by the General Accounting Office. The results were just released, and guess what, taxpayers? It turns out that the IRS has been doing a terrible job of record-keeping. The Associated Press states: "The IRS system for administering its own money was so bad that auditors were unable even to review 64 percent of the IRS's $6.7 billion budget in 1992." In auditing the IRS's cash accounts, the GAO also found "unresolved differences of $63 million."

Now get this. In response, IRS Chief Financial Officer Morgan Kinghorn explained that -- I am not making these quotes up -- the IRS had been using an "old system" of accounting that "just was simply not auditable and not designed to be auditable." But now, he said, the IRS has a new system.

"My guess," Mr. Kinghorn said, "is we'll have a clean opinion next year."

Isn't that marvelous, taxpayers? Doesn't that just make you want to hurl your tax forms and your cardboard box full of 12,837 unintelligible tax-related pieces of paper into the air with joy? Finally, we have an Official IRS Excuse! From now on, if you have any problem with the IRS, and the amount in question is $63 million or less, simply state that your accounting system was "not designed to be auditable," but that you have a new system, and that your "guess" is that everything will be OK next year. I'm sure this will be fine with the IRS.

So that is our winning tax tip, and I am going to launder the grand prize and mail it to Mr. Kinghorn. I'm sure he'll accept it with grace and good humor. Please bring me food in prison. Also bring some for Roy Blount Jr.

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