By Mordechai Schmutter
It’s tax time again.
“Again?” you’re asking. “Didn’t we just do our taxes last year?”
No one likes doing taxes. It kind of feels like the government is a mugger coming up to you in an alley, except that the mugger doesn’t sit you down first and make you fill out forms.
One big fear that people have is that they’re going to make mistakes, because the whole system is very confusing. But there’s really nothing to be afraid of, because you’re not the dumbest person in the country. You’ve met other people, right? You’ve read the back of a shampoo bottle, right? So you should be fine.
And besides, even if you do make a mistake, the folks at the IRS are actually very agreeable. I have a friend whose wife runs a sheitel business, and one year they missed out on paying some taxes. (It turns out that sheitel businesses are covered extensively in the tax code, because back when they started writing the tax code, all the men wore sheitels.) So my friend felt terrible, of course, and he called the IRS and arranged some kind of plan wherein he’d pay in installments and finish paying the entire thing by December.
Then one day he got a letter from the IRS saying that he has to finish paying it by July, so he called them up, and he said, “I got a letter that says July,” and they said, “Yes, you did.” And he said, “Well, I have a payment plan wherein I don’t have to finish paying until December.”
So the representative checked his records and said, “Yes, you do.”
So my friend said, “You see that I have that extension though, right?”
“Well, I got a letter that said July. I can ignore that, right?”
“No, you can’t. The deadline is July.”
So my friend felt like he was going in circles. “But I have a payment plan,” he repeated. “I don’t have to finish paying until December.”
And the rep said, “That’s right. December.”
And this went around and around for a while. But my point is that the IRS is very agreeable. They were willing to say “yes” to whatever my friend said.
But despite that, there are other uncomfortable things about doing taxes. For example, there’s the fact that the government is basically a bunch of people you don’t know, but you have to give them some highly personal information, like your income and your social, which, as I always understood it, is very impolite to ask for, and frankly none of their business, yet the tax forms ask for them straight up.
Sure, they start off asking some polite things. They ask where you live, what you do for a living, how many kids you have, and whether you have a boat. And then they transition right into whether you honestly really only ever use your home office for business reasons. Really? You don’t store all your Costco stuff in there? You never take a nap? What about that time you were researching that tax article and you got so bored you passed out on the keyboard?
But we have to pay taxes so that we can fund the various government services, such as:
Jails. For the people who don’t pay taxes, or make teeny tiny mistakes and don’t bother trying to get them cleared up over the phone.
White-collar “prisons.” For the people who, if you ask us, should be able to afford to pay for their own jail time.
Roads. Besides the ones adopted by major corporations. (At what point do you tell a road that it’s adopted?) Actually, the part of “roads” that we pay for is the construction, which is also the part that annoys us the most and forces us to take other roads.
Street cleaning. This is when you have to figure out how to take all the cars from both sides of the street and fit them on one side without anyone communicating with each other, so that a truck with big round brushes on the bottom can come by and swirl the garbage around.
Snowplows. Which push the snow out of the street so you can drive, but push them in front of your driveway that you just shoveled so you can’t get out and drive on them.
Sanitation people. If not for them, you’d have to load up the back of your minivan, floor to ceiling, on a regular basis, with drippy garbage bags, and drive it out to the dump with the windows rolled up, because you know there’d be a law against rolling them down and having your trash blowing around the highway so that the street cleaner has to come by and swirl it around at 65 miles per hour. But sure, keep complaining about how you need to remember to bring the bags outside twice a week.
The police. No offense to them, but we try to avoid them as much as we can.
The troops. A huge necessity, seeing as the rest of the world hates us. And that way our government officials can say cool things like “Send in the troops!” which is about the only cool thing our government officials get to say.
The actual governing body. Who put on suits every day, except federal holidays, and get together to discuss what other people should do that they can take credit for. Kind of like when your wife tells you to take out the garbage, and you do, just in time for the truck, and then she says, “I told you to take out the garbage,” like that was most of the work. All the people who are out actually doing things don’t have time for these meetings to discuss what they’re going to do, because they’re too busy actually doing things.
“What do government officials do for us?” you ask. Well, they go to those meetings, which are boring and take way more time than they need to. If we’d have to go to these meetings, after a while we’d find ourselves bribing our spouses to go for us.
“I’ll pay you to go instead of me. How much do you want? Up to half the kingdom.”
So you’d end up paying for it anyway, because talking isn’t cheap. And frankly, if we kept all this tax money ourselves, we would just squander it away on things like food and shelter. “I need to feed my family,” you say. My family. How selfish is that? You’re so selfish it makes the government sick.
Luckily, if you give some of your money to charity, the government lets you deduct that. (It’s only your family they don’t like.) For example, USA Today recently reported that they’d gone through the tax records of Joe Biden (our emergency backup president) of the last few years, and when they came to, they realized that he’d given, as charitable contributions, on average, about $369 a year. So he didn’t have to pay taxes on that.
Now, I’m not judging him. I’m sure Joe works very hard for his money. If a government official’s job is to keep talking, Joe Biden does that in spades. The guy goes to work and doesn’t stop talking until he gets home at night. And he didn’t even get to the part of his vice president job where he misspells tomato or invents the internet or accidentally shoots a lawyer in the face. (“Sorry, I thought you were a bear.”) Obviously, though, when Mr. Biden filled out his tax form, he was sure they wouldn’t broadcast his information to the whole country. So you have no guarantees.
But $369 a year? And that’s an average. In fact, in 1999, he gave $120. My point is that clearly, Mr. Biden isn’t making enough money, and we should send as much taxes as we can to help this poor man. Though I’d seriously worry that when the government sees how much money you gave to charity this year, they’re going to assume you make more than him. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.