Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Panic. We're From The IRS.

Today is National Income Tax Filing Day, a day of community, where people from every walk of life can come together and share the common bond of standing shoulder to shoulder in the post office lobby. I don't know much about income taxes, other than no one understands them and they freak me out. Seriously. Every time I start a new job, they give me a W-4, or a W-2, or a WD-40 form to fill out, and it makes me want to curl up into the fetal position on the floor and sob, and the only thing I have to do is mark a "1" in certain spots.

Like any red-blooded American, I want to do my civic duty to properly report my filing status as accurately as possible to withhold the maximum amount of money from the government without being accused of perjury. Unfortunately, there are two factors working against me when it comes to income taxes. One is specifically designed to work against me, as it's specifically designed to work against most people who are not criminally insane, (by which I mean "lawyers and politicians"). The other, I'll admit, is that I am easily confused by anything combining numbers with completely abstract concepts.

The IRS combines both of these factors into one big, scary process specifically designed to make me panic and give them a lot of money, then worry that they're going to throw me in jail anyway. This is the same thing that makes it impossible for me to perform any sort of financial transaction more substantial than buying gum without direct supervision.

Like, I'll decide I want to go buy a car. To me, buying a car should be pretty self-explanatory. You go to a store, and you buy a car. Only in this case the "store" is called a "dealership," and it's loaded with "salesmen" who are trying to "take advantage of you." You find a car that fits your price range and your needs, and you tell the salesman that you want the car. The problem comes in when the salesman sits you down in his office for several presidential administrations and starts talking about scary car things like features and options and dealer incentives. Then I get all confused. Then he'll start throwing numbers out at random, and if he starts comparing it with another car, my brain shuts down. By the time I'm done, I might walk away with three cars. I might walk away with no cars and a 237% interest rate. I might walk away paying for someone else's car. I have no idea!

I'm also really gullible. If the salesman tells me I need to have something on my car, oftentimes I'll agree to it just to make him stop throwing numbers at me. That is why I always need to have someone with me who knows what they're doing when I'm buying any expensive items like a car or a house or furniture or pretty much anything involving a contract.

Contracts are the worst. Insurance companies will list a bunch of policies, and I have no idea what any of them are really for because they all have names like "Balanced Assured Compensation Liability Mutual Licensee Aforementioned Deduction Allowance," and of course I need every single one. I end up with an entire contract, and I don't even know what it even covers, but I can rest assured knowing that whatever problem I have, it isn't included in the contract.

This brings me back to today's topic, which is income tax filing, a topic that makes me a total neurotic mess who seeks the advice of people who may or may not know what they're doing. I don't really know anything or care about income taxes, and therefore I had to fill the bulk of this article with completely unrelated filler. This is a time-honored technique that most professional writers perfect in college, where they are assigned essays on topics they care nothing about, such as the United States Tax Code. They have to answer such important questions as "Is the President of the United States exempt from paying income taxes?" and "Or what?" Both of these can be answered by copying and pasting any relevant section of the tax code, such as:
If an eligible person sells any property pursuant to a certificate of divestiture, at the election of the taxpayer, gain from such sale shall be recognized only to the extent that the amount realized on such sale exceeds the cost (to the extent not previously taken into account under this subsection) of any permitted property purchased by the taxpayer during the 60-day period beginning on the date of such sale.
TAX TIP: If you don't owe the government any money, you can file up to three years past the deadline, but if you do owe the government money, trained IRS agents will kick down your door and take it from you.


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