For many years my friend Rick, a CPA, handled my IRS affairs. Rick was a vanguard standing between the IRS and me. He actually made tax season fun with his dry wit. Even losing a poker hand to Rick was fun. His fee for preparing my tax returns was very affordable: a case of beer and a pizza. He even handled my stock and IRA transactions. He worked magic. Then suddenly, Rick, consumed by cancer, died at the young age of 47. That broke my heart.
My first direct dealing with the IRS came when I was settling my father’s estate. I had to establish a tax ID number for his estate. Unfortunately, calling the IRS was necessary. I’d like to call the IRS anything but by phone. The lady I spoke to was rude and curt and short, although she sounded like a tall person. The Internal Revenue Service? Yeah, right. The IRS services us like a stallion services a mare; and the IRS doesn’t kiss.
Although I hold BSED, BS, and MS college degrees and have been schooled in calculus and physics, the mathematical logic behind the IRS 1040 individual tax form, which changes annually to accommodate the tax professionals and the makers of tax software, eludes me.
After Rick passed away, I hired a new CPA, Tom the Bloodsucker, and paid him dearly for preparing my annual tax returns. Our business relationship continued for a while. Then a few years ago I took the bull by the horns and did my taxes myself. It took me a while. For weeks I downloaded IRS forms and instructions and studied them; and when I got the nerve, I dove into it with a No. 2 pencil and a Pink Pearl eraser and plenty of extra copies of 1040 forms. The dry run for practice came first.
The drill goes something like this: Declare every cent you made last year and then some. Be sure to include all the air you breathed last year. If your birthday is in March (unfortunately, mine is), go to line 9a. If it’s Tuesday and it’s raining, go to line 9b. You can imagine the rest of the drill.
Nevertheless, after three weeks of diligence and three gnawed No. 2 pencils, I got through the drill; and I got it right. My reward was some well-deserved downtime and no invoiced balance due to the Bloodsucker.
Earning the CPA initials used to require completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting, several years of documented work experience as an accountant, and passing a four-part professional exam. Today, in addition to the above, a master’s degree in accounting is required. This is a difficult career path. Why then do so many CPA’s relegate themselves to a career of only preparing tax returns? Boring. It?s like a medical school graduate deciding to be a butt doctor or like the son of a funeral director deciding to be another travel agent to the final resting place. Be a chief financial officer, a heart surgeon, or even an auto dealer (the hours are lousy, but they’re always driving a new car or pickup truck).
Before I quit the Bloodsucker, I asked him at his office, “Tom, I’d like to see the members of our Congress get off their dead asses and write a simpler tax code. Wouldn?t you?”
Looking up from his desk with an incredulous expression on his face and dollar signs in his eyes, he responded with a surly, “Are you kidding me? See you this time next year. And bring plenty of money because I’m raising my fee next year.” (I heard his last word “chump” even though he didn’t utter it.)
I?m sure that the Bloodsucker thought I was a complete idiot for asking him such a question. Actually, I didn’t have to ask the question. I just wanted to hear his answer.
In any event, the Federal tax code won?t be simplified any time before The Lord returns to the planet, even though political rhetoric on simplifying it has been around forever and a day. You go through the tax-season agony every year and then pay one more time when you’re in the hereafter. Come to think of it, the IRS should give the people who end up in Hell a final tax refund payable in Hell dollars.