- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2014

Praying for an filing extention on your income taxes?

Well, St. Matthew — the tax collector-turned-apostle of Jesus — might lend an ear. After all, he is the patron saint of accountants.

“I think, for accountants, if they can relate to St. Matthew, it would be his understanding of languages,” said Bill Kirst, assistant professor and director of accounting programs at Catholic University. “[That’s] accounting. You have to take numbers that are not necessarily decipherable and put them into common sense wording.”

Decoding the wages, deductions, exemptions and all other manner of tax vocabulary is just part of the job for accountants in the weeks leading up to midnight April 15. Filing deadlines can differ depending on whether it’s a corporate or individual client, while some accountants must deal with 11th-hour filers who are frantic to make it under the wire.

Pete Allman of Allman & Associates in Dallas and Austin, Texas, said he had never heard of St. Matthew as a patron saint, but regular prayer helped him deal with hectic times, especially around Tax Day.

“I think there should always be prayer on a daily basis,” said Mr. Allman, a certified public accountant and treasurer of the board of directors at Holy Family Catholic School in Austin. “When it’s busy during this time, prayer is always a good way to clear you’re mind, be at peace, deal with thousands of different deadlines. It has value to us all.”

Mr. Kirst said he teaches an introductory accounting class, and one of the first things he shares with his students is Matthew’s story.

“He was a tax collector for the Roman Empire,” the Catholic University professor said. “You had to qualify. You didn’t just show up and say, ‘I’ll collect taxes.’”

While his job might have made him unpopular, the career did require Matthew to be proficient in several languages, including Latin, Greek and Aramaic.

“Accounting is the language of business,” Mr. Kirst said. “If you want to know about financial results, you must speak ‘accounting.’”

While a prayer to St. Matthew might help number crunchers, for those on the other side of the W-2, perhaps a prayer to St. Gabriel the Archangel, the patron of postal carriers, or a reminder of the serenity prayer — accepting things that one cannot change, such as late fees —  would be comforting.

But Brian Shapiro, a professor in the Accounting Department at the University of St. Thomas, said it is also important to consider the larger picture of where taxes fit into American life.

“The whole idea of getting through the mechanics of paying one’s taxes sort of consumes all of our attention,” said Mr. Shapiro, who teaches an elective course titled “Christian Faith and Management.”

It’s difficult to “spontaneously feel joy about paying taxes” when someone signs away a check, or can’t directly see the impact of those tax dollars, he said. That’s not to say people shouldn’t try to minimize their bill within the law, but for those that find it a bitter pill to swallow, he said, we “can remind ourselves how lucky we are to receive this income.”

“A theological way of looking at it is we’re partners with God and our effort is a huge part of it,” Mr. Shapiro said. “If we just have a sense of grace, thanksgiving for what we’ve received, I think it can counteract the frustration. Those of us paying taxes are fortunate enough to have an income, have a job. We tend to forget that.”

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