Taxpayers' procrastination leads to taxpayers' panic. My friend the
philosopher made that comment when I was whining over the phone about
the fact that I have not even opened my stack of tax information to get
it ready for the accountant, and my appointment is only two days away.
Her comment probably explains why I call her my friend the philosopher.
But of course I have excellent reasons for procrastination. I had a bad
case of "Winter," a new disease for Happy Valley which usually has mild
sunny winters. It is a combination of mild physical discomfort and
severe emotional gloom caused by gray days and cold weather. Its major
symptom is a lack of ambition to do anything useful or important.
Unfortunately, that includes getting tax information ready.
But along with a bit more sunshine, visits by my two sons and one of my
grandsons provided the cure. Since they all live in warm climes where
there is sunshine all year 'round, they had some trouble understanding
my disease, but they were very tolerant and we had a wonderful time on
two separate weekends.
Of course my computer literate son had to play with my computer. He
fixed a couple of things that needed fixing and unfixed a few things
that were working fine. But all was well until the evening before he
left. I decided to make a final check to be sure everything was working
and -- oh oh -- I couldn't get into the Web or my e-mail. His response,
But knowing that his life hung in the balance, he spent a few minutes
the next morning before we headed for the airport and found the
problem. Voila. He knows more about computers than I even know exist,
but he does love messing around with my Mac. However, since he
maintains my web page and puts my column up each week, all is forgiven.
Anyway, I have e-mail again and I have two days to get the tax
information in some kind of order.
I have great admiration for the people brave enough to do their own
taxes this year. The new tax code is enough to drive C. P. A. s and tax
lawyers right up the wall.
In listening to one of the morning TV shows recently I learned that the
question, "How many children do you have?" does not have a simple answer
in government speak. In the Tax Code there are five different
definitions of what a child is. "If they (a parent) were really trying
to be conscientious," says Nina Olson, a national taxpayer advocate for
the IRS, "they would have to read through over 200 pages of IRS
publications in order to answer the question, 'Do I have a child?'" It
would seem fairly obvious to most of us, especially those who have gone
through childbirth, that we would know whether or not we have a child,
but Congress has the final word. Hmmm, I wonder whether a taxpayer can
now claim a fetus as a deduction.
It was not always that complicated. In 1913 the first income tax form
was three pages long. Today there are about 650 different forms and
We all know we have to pay our income taxes and usually we do it with a
fair amount of grumbling, but no major violence. We tend to yell at the
IRS, but that is really not fair. That agency merely administers the
tax laws that our Congress in its wisdom pass. "Congress year after
year keeps heaping layer upon layer of poorly written tax law on a tax
code that simply no one understands to begin with," says Scott Hodge,
executive director of the Tax Foundation.
The 2001 tax cut made 440 changes in the law. It was the 32nd major
revision since 1954. The politicians love to take credit for tax cuts,
but not responsibility for the consequences.
I did hear one suggestion. Let's require that each member of Congress
do his or her own personal tax returns for two years before voting on a
Sorry, got to quit. Taxpayers procrastination leads to taxpayers panic.