'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TAXING AND WAXING POETIC
As I write this, it is a nice leisurely Saturday afternoon in April. However, it is the last Saturday before the tax deadline. I am sitting at my computer typing out some random thoughts. Unfortunately, I should not be sitting at my computer typing out thoughts, random or otherwise, since weeks of procrastination have brought me to the point where I MUST do my income tax returns—now.
But I just can’t bring myself to dig in and get it done. Every time I start to sift through the massive pile of forms and schedules and instructions and receipts and donut crumbs, my head starts to spin. How in the world can the federal and state governments expect a middle-class schmoe to comprehend this stuff?
For years I’ve known that I should hire an accountant to do my tax returns. But besides being cheap, I’m also stubborn. When I’m tempted to call an accountant, I angrily proclaim, “Dammit, if a person with an advanced degree in mathematics cannot figure out his own tax returns, then there’s something wrong!”
Not that I have an advanced degree in mathematics. It just makes my indignant proclamation sound more dramatic. On the other hand, I did score over 700 on the math portion of the SAT exam back in the mid-1970s, which ain’t too bad. Well, at least it’s better than the low 500s I got on the verbal portion—something you’ve probably already concluded based on my mediocre composition skills and my proclivity for using phrases like “ain’t too bad.” But the point is, I’m not a math dummy. I’ve always thought the language of mathematics is far more elegant and graceful and pure compared to the language of, well, language.
Be that as it may (hey, how’s that for fancy phraseology, huh?), I could sit here all day and wax poetic about the artistic and creative qualities subtly contained within the science of mathematics. But that ain’t getting the tax returns done. And as far as I can figure, our good friends at the I.R.S. (I am, of course, using the definition of the phrase “good friends” that means: minions of Satan), do not take kindly to folks who ignore the tax filing deadline.
So let me step away from the computer and return to my incomprehensible pile of papers.
* * *
Four hours later, it is now a nice leisurely Saturday evening in April. My preliminary calculations indicate that I either owe the I.R.S. $740,000, or they owe me a refund of $7 million. I might have been a tad bit sloppy regarding the placement of a couple of key decimal points. I think I shall choose the set of calculations that seems the most elegant and graceful and pure. (Isn’t it fascinating how the artistic and creative qualities subtly contained within the science of mathematics just blossom forth unexpectedly, especially when one is desperately trying to invent some believable deductions?)
Well, the bottom line turned out to be that my wife and I had to write a sizeable check, painful but not devastating, to Uncle Sam. Plus a slightly less sizeable but still painful check to our state governor, Aunt Bea. With relatives like this, who needs enemies?
A cynical person might think the tax code was written in such a complex and confusing way solely to provide jobs for accountants. I knew I should’ve gotten my advanced degree, not in mathematics, but in accounting. Hey, if I’m taking artistic license with my deductions, I can take artistic license with my résumé, right? (Note to minions of Satan: just kidding!)
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