Someone once said that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. I would argue that death and taxes are really one and the same, the only difference being that death can only claim you once, while taxes can kill you every year.
I die a slow death every April 15th. I'd rather go on a one-way tour of the wreckage of the Titanic in a minisub that has a slow leak than do my taxes. Even if my mother-in-law was at the wheel and my rear end was on fire, I'd still rather take that ride than to try and muddle through the latest assortment of forms and attachments from the IRS. (I'm warning you, you're going to need Indiana Jones to decypher all the new tax code). I'm especially wary of the IRS this year because it was recently reported that the majority of Americans audited in the last few years have been poor, white southerners. Like tornadoes, it seems living in a trailer home attracts the Tax Man, too.
My dread of tax season stems from the belief that no matter what I do, no matter how honest I try to be (and I really do try to be honest), I will somehow end up owing the government a gazillion dollars more than I actually earned. I have my own little IRS representative in my head and she speaks to me whenever I get too near the edge of reportable sanity.
"But I didn't even make a gazillion dollars last year!" I cry.
"That doesn't matter, sir," the voice says. "You incorrectly calculated the accrued interest and long term capital gains from the sale of that certain property from the party of the first part to the party of the second part, which resulted in a $3.12 profit on your part that was not reported to the IRS on forum 1099FU. The penalty for not submitting the required form and the $3.12 to the IRS within the allotted amount of time is a gazillion dollars PLUS interest. Have a nice day."
Then there's the question of exactly what qualifies as a dependent. This one always gets me because in my mind, if something depends on me for its existence and I have to take time out of my day to tend to it, it's a dependent.
"I'm sorry, sir, even though it would probably die if you didn't feed it and give it water everyday, your dog does not qualify as a dependent."
"What kind of logic is that? Do you have any idea how much I spend on that dog? Now I'm not so sad about letting all my plants die over the winter! With stupid rules like that it's no wonder people cheat on their taxes!"
"Did you say something about cheating, sir?"
"Me? Cheating? No, of course not. That wouldn't be right."
Surveys (not conducted by the IRS) have shown that even the most honest, God-fearing Americans have thought about cheating on their taxes at one time or another. It's a natural reflex, like opening your mouth to breath when you're six fathoms underwater. In truth, I think God created taxes as the ultimate test of human faith.
"Hmm," God thought one fine April day. "That apple thing was just too easy. How can I really test man's ability to resist temptation? I know, I'll create taxes! And what shall I call the entity I create to collect these taxes? Hmm, I've already used the name, Hell... I know, I'll call it 'The INFERNAL REVENUE SERVICE!' No, wait a second, 'The INTERNAL Revenue Service' is even scarier! And for those who can not resist the temptation to cheat, I will create THE IRS AUDIT!"
Most Americans would rather go down a buffet line with Jeffrey Dahmer than have to sit through an IRS audit. Being audited is like going to the dentist even though there's nothing wrong with your teeth. "Yes, I'm here to have my gums scraped with a rusty ice pick. No, ma'am, there's nothing wrong with my gums, but the dentist sent me this notice to come in, so here I am..."
Why do we fear the IRS, even though the majority of Americans have never and would never cheat on their taxes? Maybe it's because of all the horror stories that came out during last year's congressional probe of the agency. It was reported that both Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earheart were on their way to IRS audits when they disappeared. It was also revealed that three out of five people audited wet their pants during the process. This came to light only after the IRS sent the General Accounting Office a bill for $324,000 for plastic chair covers and potpourri air fresheners. Scary stuff, my friends. Very scary stuff.
"Internal Revenue Service. How may I help you today?"
"I have a question about the new tax code."
"I don't get it."
"Don't get what, sir?"
"I don't get any of it. I don't understand it."
"You're not supposed to understand it, sir. That's why we call it code."
"But that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
"I'm sorry, sir, but that's just the way it is. Is there anything else I can help you with today, Mr...Knox?"
"How'd you know my name?"
"We're the IRS, sir. We know everything. Do you have a problem with that?"
"Problem? Nope, not me. I think you folks do a great job! In fact, I was just about to mail you a check for a gazillion dollars!"
"Thank you, sir. The IRS appreciates your patronage. And Mr. Knox?"
"You have a nice day."
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Tim Knox, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Radio Host
Founder, The Insiders Club, Giving You The Power To Start Your Business Today
Bestselling Author of: "Everything I Know About Business I Learned From My Mama"
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