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Jim Mullen: Likely death from taxes

Jim Mullen • Updated Mar 31, 2017 at 3:00 PM

April 15 is right around the corner. Well, this year, taxes aren’t due until April 18, but you know what I mean.

It means I get two and a half more days of not working on my taxes.

My accountant keeps telling me not to wait until the last minute like I did last year. And the year before that. And the year before that and pretty much every year of my life.

“You’re a procrastinator,” he says, “and you’re unorganized. If you would just buy a file cabinet things would be so much easier. All you’d have to do is put business receipts in one file, and everything else in another file, instead of throwing them in one of your 10 or 12 jumble drawers.” 

Sometimes I really hate the guy. I just want to tell him to shut up because his constant nagging is getting on my nerves. But since my accountant is me, I make an effort not to be rude.

It’s bad enough that he nags, but even worse, my accountant is not very good. He’s always forgetting to take some deduction, or taking the wrong one. Who knew you couldn’t deduct food? The IRS, that’s who. I told them I can’t do my job unless I eat, and yet they say my food is not deductible. Unless I take someone to lunch in a restaurant and talk about business, then I can deduct 50 percent of the meal. How does that make any sense? How much tax would I pay if I starved to death? Zero percent, that’s how much.

I’m not a tax cheat – I don’t claim children I don’t have or a home office that’s really just the guest room or fictional business expenses – but I still have this gnawing feeling that every year I’m doing something wrong, that I’m missing something that would save me 10, if not 20, dollars. So I go online to see what the professionals have to say – you know, the “10 Tax Tips You Must Know Before Filing” sort of thing – and then find out that 10 out of 10 of them don’t apply to me.

“Maximize your IRA contributions! Make sure you match your company’s stock plan!” That’s always the first one. Can anyone out there guess the problem with that advice? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with “and where would I get all the money to do that?” It might also rhyme with “if I had that kind of money, why would I be doing my own taxes?”

The second piece of advice is “Don’t forget to take any charitable deductions. If the value of the noncash items is more than $500, then you must file Form 8283.” Let me just ask, in your entire life, have you ever said or used the word “noncash” in conversation? Let’s see how that sounds in real life.

“Bobby proposed to me last night and I said yes, and he put this noncash ring on my finger! We’re planning a noncash wedding in October and then we’ll take a noncash honeymoon in Jamaica.” Ah, the romance of it all.

And almost daily we hear politicians say that taxes are too complicated. Here’s an idea that wouldn’t cost a penny: Instead of calling it “Form 8283,” call it “Form 1.” And the next one could be “Form 2” and so on, until it reached, oh, I don’t know, “Form 12”? That ought to do it. If we need more forms than that, we’re doing it wrong.

This “expert tip” ought to come in handy: “If you gave anyone more than $14,000 in cash or property as a gift last year, remember to use Form 709.” I’ve got to think hard about that one. Did I give anyone more than $14,000? Hmmmm, nope, didn’t do it. 

That’s one less form to fill out for my accountant. I’m thinking of firing the guy, but he’s been with me so long, it would be awkward. What would I say?

“It’s not you, it’s me”?

Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.

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