by | Apr 15, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

First of all, put down that sandwich. You cannot fill out your tax return one-handed, with tomato and mayonnaise dripping all over the 1040 form, because, come on, you did that last year. And the IRS keeps track of these things. Right now there is some IRS man in Cincinnati with all his pencils sharpened, tapping his foot, saying “Just let him try that mayonnaise bit this year. Just let him try it . . . “

Of course, the reason you are eating that sandwich to begin with — over a pile of forms, credit cards, bank statements, gas receipts, cocktail napkins, footballs, Mexican pesos and an abacus — is that this morning, if you are like me, you rolled out of bed, pretty late, because you had a very important meeting at the bar last night which involved seven men trying to push a piano down the dumbwaiter, and you looked at your digital-dated alarm clock and you said “AAAAAAAA! APRIL 15! I’M GOING TO JAIL! SELL THE KIDS!”

And then you realized it was Sunday. Whew! Even the IRS doesn’t work on Sunday. Besides, how much could you get for the kids on such short notice? So this was good news and naturally, you did what any responsible person given a 24-hour reprieve on his life, home and children would do, which was, of course, go back to sleep.

Ooops. Now it’s lunchtime. And you have not even begun your taxes because 1) You thought it was February and 2) You mean it isn’t February? But you are not panicked, because you figure you know exactly where all those receipts are, sort of, unless the dog got into them, in which case you will kill the dog and write him off as a PASSIVE LOSS. Do you feel like a zero?

This is one of the many phrases you must now deal with as you stare at the form 1040, 1020, RED DOG, HUT, HUT! Let’s see. PASSIVE LOSS. GROSS ADJUSTED INCOME. AVERAGE NET DIVIDENDS, KEOUGH PLAN TO —

Well, maybe just a bite of that sandwich.

And a nap.

And now it’s 4 o’clock.

At this point you figure, forget about deducting that mandolin you got in Ireland as a gift for your boss, before your 6-year-old plucked all the strings out with his teeth. Instead, let’s get to the meaty question: Are you a one or a zero?

For years, the IRS folks have been laughing over this one. Do you take an exemption for yourself, or don’t you? HAHAHA. Who the hell knows? They just stick this at the top, in hopes that, after six hours, you throw your hands up and say “NO! NO! THIS IS TOO HARD!” and send them everything you own, including that mandolin.

Wait a minute. Is that a baseball game on TV? Gee. Maybe you should watch an inning or two, seeing as it’s early in the season . . .

And now it’s 8 o’clock.

And here comes the dog.

And he’s got the American Express statement in his mouth.

At this point you are wondering 1) How your family will look next month dressed in barrels and 2) Why didn’t you take your taxes to an accountant, or at least one of those places in the shopping mall where you can drop them off, shop for some new deductions, and pick them up an hour later, in a nice envelope with a stamp on it. (By the way, that is all those people do. Put your papers in an envelope with a nice stamp on it. What did you expect? You’re in a shopping mall, you idiot.)

And it’s time for another sandwich. Trump doesn’t have this problem

OK, now we are thick into the paperwork, and here is the question: If line 64 is larger than line 67, subtract that one, add line 45 across, 34 down
“Roman king, abbr.” unless the total of line 38 and 36 equals the Keough plan of M squared, Dennis Rodman, what is the capital of Tanzania, times eight plus six?

You check “Yes.”

Using your abacus, you are able, through careful bookkeeping, to determine that the Egyptians must have really screwed up their economy. But it is too late to buy a calculator. And where would you get the money?

Meanwhile, as you fish for pennies in your pocket, you are sure that certain people, like Robert Redford and Donald Trump, have accountants who, right now, are stirring the little umbrella in their drinks and saying “Taxes? Come on, sweetheart. You don’t pay taxes. In fact, here’s a refund check for
$320,000! We took it from 100 poor slobs who eat sandwiches when they do their returns!”

And now it is midnight. If only you could find that gas receipt from Walla Walla.

Instead, you give up, and file 001-W, SHORT FORM FOR MORONS, in which you:

1) Take everything you earned.

2) Multiply it by 14.

3) That is what you owe the IRS.

And you go back to sleep. True, you may overpay a bit, but you can count on a nice Christmas card from the guy who did your file. He may even leave off the mayonnaise.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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