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Around the Bluhmin’ Town

4/12/17

Judy Bluhm

Oh beware, Dear Readers, the Taxman Cometh. That’s right, the deadline for filing your taxes is looming and it is causing quite a few Americans to become anxious and upset (if you owe) or deliriously happy if a refund is coming. Since people tend to procrastinate, the ones who owe money usually file at the last minute, file for an extension, or rush to the post office just before the stroke of midnight (this year it is April 18) with a “special envelope.” Yes, if you are sending the government a check, it might be done with a shaky hand and a slight feeling of nausea, followed by relief then remorse.

Taxation rules are complicated and sometimes downright goofy. And since people are creative, every single tax deduction (real or imagined) has been tried. Breast implants as a tax deduction? Of course! If you are in the “entertainment business.” How about the cost of a gym membership and organic food as a write-off? Sure, if your work dictates that you must “stay healthy.” One guy deducts his cat’s Vet bills and cat food, since keeping mice away from his barn is “imperative” to his health. Oh, and a man in Phoenix claimed his new built-in swimming pool as a tax deduction because he only swims for “health reasons” and never for fun. In other words, folks will try everything when it comes to saving a dime.

If you are an agent for the Internal Revenue Service, please stop reading immediately. Okay, so a survey conducted by Yahoo Finance claims that thirty-six percent of Americans say that they “cheat a little” on their taxes. This means “harmless” padding of gas mileage to the blatant making up of write-offs that don’t exist. One agent for the IRS has been quoted as saying that ten percent of all tax returns are pure “fiction” and ten percent of tax returns are complete “fantasy.” Not sure what the difference is, but if that is true, it makes we, the American taxpayers, look like a bunch of cheats and liars! And I say that is simply not true.

Taxation has a long (and troubling) history in the world. A revolt almost occurred in England when in 1784 a “hat tax” was started. Lots of women went outside without their headgear, leading to utter chaos and possibly “cultural decay.” The tax was promptly repealed. But what about the current television tax in England? You must pay an annual fee for each telly you own! And if you think our neighbors across The Pond are nutty, what about the five percent tax in Pittsburgh on anything that is considered “amusement” or entertainment? Not a very amusing tax! And in New York City how do you like your bagels? Because if they are sliced for you, then they will be taxed once as food and again as a prepared food, which is a “sliced bagel tax!” Enough! New Yorkers, get a sharp knife!

You see, governments have a long and illustrious history of taxing its citizens for some very important reasons…and some laughable silly reasons. Do you like blueberries? Me too. But in Maine there is a special tax on blueberries, so I am glad I don’t live there because I would hate to have to ration my berries. Do you like your pumpkins eaten (like in pies) or just carved for Halloween? Because in New Jersey or Iowa if you are buying a pumpkin to put in a pie you will not be taxed, but if you are carving a face in your jack-o-lantern, you will pay a tax.

How do you like your fruit? Hopefully not from a vending machine! Yes, only in California is it possible to get fresh produce out of a vending machine (is this true?) and then you must pay a 33 percent tax on it! Hold the banana…I will take candy. Good things happen to those who wait. Yep, if you live in New Mexico and are over 100 years old, you are finally tax exempt. Hurray. Every state should do this so we have something to look forward to!

Americans are a funny bunch. The IRS claims that about one percent of people who pay taxes write “odd and insulting” remarks on their checks. So instead of writing the check to United States Treasury, one guy wrote “Unscrupulous Sordid Thieves.” Other folks write things in the subject line by spelling out the acronyms for the IRS, such as “Internal Revenue Sucks.” I do think “I’m Really Sad” is better than “Internal Rear Sores.” Ouch! People, do not do this or an audit will be in your future. Of course, the IRS agents just say that they laugh and cash the checks.

Sure, they laugh and we cry. Some people are pushed over the edge of the ledger when it comes to paying taxes. From fiction to fantasy, it is one heck of a ride around April 15. If you are an accountant, get some rest. If you are getting a refund, spend it quietly and do not brag.

And if you have to pay taxes, just try to be happy. It is how this country operates – on our money. So let’s make a toast to “Intense Reality Shock” or whatever makes you smile. Tax Day is almost here, so gleefully plan how to spend your refund or have a stiff drink and write the check. Better luck next year.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.