Accounting For Your Tax Dollars

DAVE BARRY'S TO WIT

February 25, 1996|By DAVE BARRY

It's income-tax time again, Americans: Time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.

No, seriously, contrary to what many so-called "people" say, doing your income taxes is not difficult, as long as you're willing to take the time to read the instructions carefully and make up numbers out of thin air. I'll have some helpful tax-preparation advice later in the column, but first it's time for a patriotic message on the topic of: Why You Should Pay Your Taxes.

Basically, you should pay your taxes because, in the words of the late Abraham Lincoln, "Otherwise, we throw you in jail." Your federal government needs your money so that it can perform vital services for you that you would not think up yourself in a million years. Of course, not everybody feels that these services are so vital; some critics note that during the recent Budget Crisis, when the government was shutting down every 15 minutes, hardly anybody seemed to be affected except government employees. This led some critics to conclude that the main service provided by the federal government is employing government employees.

Well, here's what I have to say to some critics: "Oh, yeah?" I say this because I happen to believe that our government provides some extremely vital services, by which I mean "The X-Files." This is a special FBI operation that is portrayed on a weekly TV show, also called "The X-Files," featuring two agents, Mulder and Scully, both of whom always look depressed. Not that I blame them: They are responsible for investigating every paranormal event in the United States, which means they hardly ever talk to anybody who has not, at minimum, been abducted by space aliens.

Recently I saw an episode where Agents Mulder and Scully were chasing around after this really disgusting, slimy, sewer-dwelling creature that was partly human and partly lung fluke. (If you don't know what a lung fluke is, trust me, you are better off.)

This creature reproduced by biting a sewer worker (whatever we are paying our sewer workers, it is not enough) and putting a larva inside him; later on, the sewer worker coughed up a baby fluke creature in a shower scene that I will never forget as long as I live because I happened to be eating a meatball sandwich at the time. The episode climaxed with Agent Mulder fighting the creature in a sewer, and I recall thinking, as I watched them splash around in the slime, that if the government is going to take my money, this is exactly the kind of program I want it to be used for.

So I'm sure we all agree that we should pay our Fair Share of taxes to the best of our ability to figure out what was going through the minds of whoever, speaking of space aliens, wrote the U.S. Tax Code. This is why I'm going to devote the rest of this column to answering Your Common Income Tax Questions. The most commonly asked question, of course, is:

Q: Can you legally deduct the cost of the meatball sandwich, since you mentioned it in this column?

A: Don't be absurd. Yes.

Q: Does O. J. Simpson have to pay taxes on the profits he receives from his new video?

A: No, because we cannot conclusively prove that the person in the video is O. J. Simpson.

Q: How is the Internal Revenue Service coming along in its mission to develop a tax form so scary that merely reading it will cause the ordinary taxpayer's brain to explode?

A: Extremely well. The latest effort, sent in by alert accountant Craig Podosek, is Schedule J, Form 1118, which is titled -- I am not making this up -- "Separate Limitation Loss Allocations and Other Adjustments Necessary to Determine Numerators of Limitation Fractions, Year-End Recharacterization Balances, and Overall Foreign Loss Account Balances."

Q: What do the IRS instructions for this form state about Line 1?

A: They state: "Be sure to consider on this line the possible interplay between the separate limitation losses and any net operating losses or net capital losses of which they may be a part."

Q: What?! People have to be told to do this?

A: That is the pathetic state of our society today.

Q: I understand that Congress is considering a so-called "flat" tax system. How would this work?

A: If Congress were to pass a "flat" tax, you'd simply pay a fixed percentage of your income, and you wouldn't have to fill out any complicated forms, and there would be no loopholes for politically connected groups, and normal people would actually understand the tax laws, and giant talking broccoli stalks would come around and mow your lawn for free, because Congress is not going to pass a flat tax, you pathetic fool.

Got a question or comment for the IRS?

Speak it clearly into any electrical fixture in your home. Then just wait.

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