A Taxing Issue

by J.D. Tuccille

Most every year I manage to handle my income taxes without making an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam -- which is a nice way of saying that rather than expecting a tax refund like most folks, I just cut a hefty check to the people at the Internal Revenue Service. As you might guess, I'm not in a very good mood right now. In fact, the one bit of cheer I feel at the moment is the sight of my stamped tax envelope sitting here waiting to be mailed at the very last moment so as to arrive amidst a barrage of similarly almost-tardy returns stacked in cavernous flickering-fluorescent-lit IRS offices in all their mountainous glory. I just wish I had a nasty virus so I could sneeze a suitably infectious postscript to my check.

One of the things that bothers me about tax season (other than the highway robbery involved) is the knowledge that part of my tax payment goes to pay the salaries of the swine at the IRS. It's a bit like being mugged on an annual basis by a semi-competent gang that uses the proceeds to plan the next mugging. It adds a sad touch of masochism to the act of stapling the check to the 1040 form.

But at least I didn't use the new 1040-V Payment Voucher intended to help the IRS "process your payment more accurately and efficiently." Make the IRS a more efficient extortion mechanism? I don't think so.

Of course, whatever petty annoyances I may throw Uncle Sam's way, whatever personal satisfaction I may gain from making the tax collectors' jobs just a little less pleasant, in the end the feds care about just one thing: Getting their cash. And since I haven't yet gathered the courage to stage a one-man tax strike, they will in fact get their money.

And that's what the government relies upon, of course. That we may build up a head of steam over our tax burden, but that we'll confine ourselves to little more than nuisance protests. By tolerating last-minute filings and refusals to use a new optional tax form, the government lets the public harmlessly vent a little anger without threatening the real business of extracting an average of roughly 40 percent of the average American's income once all is said and done. As long as we confine ourselves within the allowed boundaries we're free to throw our annual tantrums, stage Boston tea party reenactments (which now must adhere to EPA guidelines -- can't pollute Boston Harbor with Earl Gray, ya know), or hold our breath until we turn blue if it makes us feel better. But taxes will still be plucked from our paychecks before we ever see 'em, and we'd better file those 1040s on time.

So what's to be done? Well, you could make your personal declaration of independence, reduce your withholding tax, and stop filing 1040s every April. You could, that is; I'm not ready to throw myself in front of that particular truck (like I trust you to back me up -- right). Or we could work on a program of sabotage that isn't quite so petty as refusing to file the Payment Voucher with the 1040 form. There must be ways of stretching beyond the boundaries of protest that the IRS has left us that won't be the equivalent of wearing a sandwich board saying "arrest me." One entrant in my Monkeywrenching Contest suggests filing reams of phony 1040 forms -- especially helpful if you're creative about the names and social security numbers on the forms. It's an interesting approach since it gums up the system with tax forms filed in the names of bureaucrats and blowhards of your choice.

But I'll bet you can do better. Think about it. And while you're thinking, pull out your W-2 form and look over what's left of your income. That should get your creative juices flowing.

Oh, and remember, you have until midnight to mail that tax form.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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