- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

I hate spring. I hate the sunny weather and the birds chirping and people outside smiling and humming, while they spread mulch in their planters.

I hate the buds on the trees and the sweet smell in the air. I hate the way the sun falls gently over the hills at dusk.

I hate everything about spring, because I’m self-employed.

This time, every year, I’m a nervous wreck about my taxes. I worry that I’ll owe more than I think I will, and I will. I worry that I’ll not get everything organized and tallied up for my accountant in time, and it’s always close.

This is because our income tax system is complex. It is complex because drunk people (members of Congress) designed it so that a bureaucracy (the IRS) will convert the incomprehensible into the unfathomable (the tax code) in order to punish productive Americans (the self-employed) all in the name of good fun.

To comply with these onerous tax rules, I have developed a highly effective accounting technique: the Big Box Methodology. From the beginning of January through the end of December, I toss every bill, receipt, expense, etc. into a big cardboard box.

Every spring, I am forced to organize and tally every one of these items, so that I can document my business expenses. I must document my business expenses to accomplish what every self-employed person hopes to accomplish: to have made as little money as possible the prior year.

I have been in a mighty struggle with Big Box all winter. He’s been calling out to me. “Tom, come on, let’s get things in order.” But I ignore Big Box. I ignore his unreasonable demands week after week, and the more I ignore him, the more I worry.

As April 15 nears, I begin taking Big Box with me. When I go away for the weekend, he is in my trunk. I have high hopes of using my weekend break to organize every slip of paper into a brilliant rendition of how much I earned and spent in 2005, but I never do.

I never do until the last week before taxes are due. And without fail, the last weeks before taxes are due are the most beautiful and magical weeks of the year.

As the weather breaks and the world comes to life, I get calls from beautiful women who want to spend time with me. I am offered box-seat tickets to baseball games, invitations to cookouts, requests to partake in fun and frivolity of every kind.

But I turn them all down.

I must turn them down because of Congress. When members of Congress passed the 16th Amendment into law in 1913, they made the income tax deadline March 1. But in 1955 Congress pushed the deadline to April 15.

They did this so helpless American taxpayers would have more time to organize and file their taxes, right? Ha, ha. No, they did it to give the IRS more time. But I think there was an additional reason.

Dissatisfied that the cost and complexity of the income tax was not painful enough — last year Americans wasted approximately 6 billion hours and $200 billion preparing their taxes — Congress saw an opportunity to ruin spring, too.

That’s why I have been shut off from the world and the gorgeous weather. I’ve been hunkered down with an intensity and focus that would make the Unabomber wince.

I have been doing battle with Big Box, trying to make sense of all the receipts, bills, etc. he contains. I’ve been in English-major hell — adding, subtracting, documenting, palpitating.

The worst is yet to come. When I finally get everything organized, I will forward it to my accountant. He will use it to make complex tax-code calculations. Then he will tell me I owe way more than I thought I did.

And that is why I hate spring.

TOM PURCELL

Tom Purcell’s weekly political humor column runs in papers and Web sites across America. Contact him at TomPurcell@aol.com or visit his Web site at www.TomPurcell.com.

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