MY TAX PRIMER: IT’S REALLY A SNAP

Monday is tax day. This means that we Americans will obediently lug out our receipts, pay stubs, checkbooks and calculators to answer the always perplexing question: What time does the post office close?

There is a myth that the average American does not know how to do his taxes. Ha! How silly! We all know how to do our taxes. You wait until April 15, then file an extension.

There is also a myth that the IRS lacks a sense of humor. Clearly, those perpetuating this myth have never read the Intangible Drilling and Developmental Costs section of the tax return. I mean, it’s a hoot! And if any IRS agents are reading this right now, I want to say YOU GUYS ARE FUNNIER THAN CHRIS ROCK, DUDE!

Just to prove the breadth of knowledge of the average on-time American taxpayer — both of them — I have devised the following quiz.

These questions are, you will notice, rather simple. You need only subtract Line 17 from Line 23, add it to Line 49, divided it by Line 12 and then mail the IRS your dog.

Pick a, b or c …

1. What is a “Capital Loss”?

a. Colin Powell retiring.

b. Red Wings 3, Washington 2.

c. Anyone in the stock market this year.

2. If you live 100 miles from work and you commute each day for several hours just to eke out a living, can you deduct the enormous cost of gas?

a. Sure. Go ahead.

b. Only if you are Dick Cheney.

c. Ha. Haha. Hahahahaa!

3. What is an IRA distribution?

a. Guns and rifles.

b. Dark beer.

c. The opposite of a YOU-RA.

4. What is the alternative minimum tax?

a. Prison.

5. When would you do a joint return?

a. When the stuff was no good, man.

b. Your second arrest.

c. When neither you nor your spouse can get to the post office on time.

6. Define “Long Term Capital Gain.”

a. Condoleezza Rice.

b. Michael Jordan coming back.

c. 100 years, if you own Lucent.

7. If you employ a woman to clean your house, are you responsible for her taxes?

a. Of course.

b. Only if you want to be attorney general.

c. Depends. Does she do windows?

8. If you tally up your taxes and you find that you are due a refund thanks to changes in the IRS code, you can expect that refund:

a. In 17 years.

b. Go back and add again.

c. You can expect it whenever you want. Heh-heh.

9. Is it better to be married or single when filing taxes?

a. Married.

b. Single.

c. Married, if your husband is Marc Rich.

10. If you don’t pay taxes for years, you can expect …

a. To have more money.

b. Black helicopters.

c. A presidential pardon.

The bottom line . . .

OK. So how did you do? Not that it matters.

As any intelligent American will tell you, the key to paying your taxes is subtracting Line 14 from Line 11, dividing it by Line 56, adding the total of Lines 67, 68 and 71, then subtracting the net worth of Algeria.

If, after that, you still owe taxes, get out your checkbook, get out your pen and file an extension.

Or mail them your firstborn. Your choice.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and simulcast on MSNBC 3-5 p.m. Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.

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