'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
GOVERNMENT FORMS PUT ME IN THE POORHOUSE
All year long I try my best to maximize my income. At least once a month I ask my boss for a raise. At least twice a month I show up for work on time (to demonstrate to my boss that I deserve a raise). I take on freelance projects whenever possible for a little extra income. I even look under couch cushions for loose change.
But once each year, during the Spring, I try my best to be as poor as possible. You see, each Spring I am required to do two very distasteful things: file my 1040 income tax return and complete the hideous FAFSA application.
Everyone knows what the 1040 income tax form is. It is the result of a secret late-night meeting between accountants and politicians many years ago. After about 15 vodka and tonics, one accountant said, “Hey fellas, listen up. Let’s create a tax code so complicated, we’ll have more business than we can handle!”
One politician replied, “Oh Fred, don’t be crazy. We’ll never get away with that!”
Fred the accountant then said, “How about if we give half our profits to you guys in the form of campaign contributions?”
“Done!!” the politicians exclaimed in unison.
Anyway, with the 1040 tax return, the amount of taxes you must pay is directly related to how much income you have. But at least with the 1040 form, you can reduce your net income with “deductions” (from the Latin deduc, meaning “fabricate,” and shuns, meaning “numbers”).
Each year when I fill out my 1040 form myself (I refuse to pay one single couch cushion nickel to Fred or his pals), I yell to my wife, “Hey Hon, what did we donate to charity last year, about $40,000?” She replies, “Of course not. It was more like $3000.”
“OK,” I say, “I’ll just round that up to 40 grand.” So my tax liability ends up being much more reasonable when I deduc some attractive shuns.
Unless you have children in college, you may not be familiar with the dreaded FAFSA form. FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” and is the result of a secret late-night meeting between U.S. Department of Education officials and the American Sadists Society. After about 30 vodka and tonics, one education bureaucrat said, “Hey fellas, listen up. Let’s create a formula to tell parents what they can afford to contribute for their children’s college education.”
“That doesn’t sound very cruel,” one of the sadists said glumly.
“No wait,” the bureaucrat said. “Let me finish. We’ll make sure the formula always tells the parents they can afford to spend ten times more than what they really can!”
“Done!!” the sadists exclaimed in unison.
The FAFSA application is much more complicated than the 1040 tax form. You need a Masters Degree in Bureaucratic Gibberish just to complete the darn thing. I need to send myself back to college just so I can figure out how to complete the forms to send my kids to college.
Recently I spent an entire Saturday afternoon slogging through the application on the FAFSA website. Amazingly, there are no deductions. They don’t care that my car has over 200,000 miles and needs repair work every half-hour or so. They don’t care that I’m obligated to donate 40 grand (give or take a few) to charity. They don’t care that my heating oil bill is larger than the gross national product of some third world countries.
After finally completing the form, the FAFSA website analyzed my personal financial information and concluded that the amount I am able to contribute to college tuition is: $12,200. Yeah, right. I can afford to spend twelve grand on college tuition…if I stop paying my car insurance bill and if I stop buying heating oil and if my family stops eating.
A week later, when I filled out my 1040 tax return, at least I was able to list a new deduction: $12,200 for “FAFSA pain and suffering.”
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