Defying death for the IRS

April 15, 1994|By Dick George

IT'S been a year since my near-death computer experience. In that time I've grown as a human being. Sunsets are more beautiful. I notice stars. I'm nicer to dogs.

Like many Americans, I use a computer software program to do my income taxes. Last April 14 around 11 p.m. I was finally finished after weeks of work. I felt a little relieved.

I had to send in some money, but at least it was done. All I had to do was print it out.

Then I noticed a "Final Review" command. The program would check the return for inconsistencies and offer tax-saving ideas. Sounded good, so I tried it. One suggestion was that I create a separate return for my daughter. So I made a return for her, crunched the numbers and found that no, it wouldn't save me anything. I went back to our return, and that's when it happened.

I called up our return, but it was gone. Not there at all. My heart stopped. I felt faint. I tried again. Nothing. I felt a flash of light. I heard celestial voices. I shrieked. My wife Fran came into the room. She said I looked like a ghost. I said, "That's because I'm dead. Our tax return, these weeks of work, is gone."

I felt very stupid. Finally I took a deep breath. I thought, well, my state return is still there, so at I went to fill out the first line. "Name of the deceased." Wrong form.

least I should print that before I mess it up, too. So I brought up my state return, and in that moment I took a giant step closer to the place where my ancestors dwell. For my state return came up, named "Dick and Fran George," and before my very eyes, it changed to "Jessica George." Arggh! My life flashed before me. Now I realized that I had replaced all our data, which had taken weeks to accumulate, with my daughter's data, which consisted of . . . her name!

I called the help line of the software company, but April 14 at midnight they're a little busy. I reached for a form I'd grabbed at the post office, which I thought was a request for an extension.

I went to fill out the first line. "Name of the deceased." Wrong form. I wrote my name in anyway. It's me, I thought. I'm the deceased.

My soul was cruising out there in limbo somewhere -- headed south, it seemed to me -- when I remembered that some weeks earlier I had found a command on a menu that said, "Backup Return." Had I actually done it?

I searched every floppy disc I had. I was about to give up when . . . There it was! The backup file! Of course, I had made a lot of changes, but still, when it buzzed softly into the program I felt . . . reborn. I had gone to the other side -- and returned. I was undead, undeleted, restored. After an experience like that, money doesn't matter. I made a few minor changes and printed it out.

The next day I sent the return in with a check, not realizing what a mess my taxes really were. Soon I got a notice from the IRS. They said they could either send me some money or name a space station after me.

I went for the check.

Dick George writes from Baldwin.

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