I’ll admit it: I’m a tax dodger.
Now, lest I inadvertently stir up bureaucratic trouble — last year, an off-handed quip about Alaska’s driving test almost got my license revoked — I pay my taxes. With checks I don’t “accidentally” forget to sign.
It’s not so much tax evasion I’m guilty of; it’s tax avoidance. Tax avoidance — is that a term? It should be. Actually, I’ll do one better. Protaxination (n.): intentionally and habitually putting off any act that forwards filing one’s federal returns.
This includes, but is not limited to: Diddling with forms, digging up old receipts, tallying gambling losses (always sobering), taking stock of legitimate investments (ditto), and finally opening all those envelopes you’ve been ignoring since mid-January marked “important tax information enclosed.” In some cases, this last item entails going through an entire stack of long-neglected action-needed mail — a.k.a. the “denial pile” — which inevitably also means paying several hundred dollars worth of bills and having at least one infuriating conversation with an automated telephone system.
Hence the tendency to protaxinate.
Taxes are a patriotic obligation a lot easier to fulfill in theory than practice. Like jury duty, although, I did once specifically try to get selected for that. Summer between freshman and sophomore year of college, before my parents made me take a job opening envelopes at Publisher’s Clearinghouse’s clearing house — such a place really exists, staffed almost exclusively by college kids and recovering drug addicts — I was unemployed. Jury service paid $13 a day.
Also, the deli across the courthouse plaza made a breakfast sandwich called the Quogue Hog, consisting of four eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, Canadian bacon, your choice of cheese and hash browns on a hero. It cost $6.50; I could’ve had two, every morning, for as long as the trial lasted. But the prosecutor seemed hesitant to empanel a 19-year-old with starter dreadlocks and a hot sauce-stained baja hoodie. Hence the gig at Publisher’s Clearinghouse.
Anyway, I didn’t always find filing income taxes such an odious task. Throughout my 20s, it was easy, mostly because I spent them earning below the lowest taxable yearly income, subsisting on student loans, parental handouts and, whenever I was really strapped, cash-under-the-table SAT tutoring (I felt so dirty, but I had no choice: it was either sell my mind or starve — speaking of which, I’m available, if anyone’s interested; I got a 720 verbal).
These days, I file with the IRS as head-of-household (a figurehead title, for sure). My wife has a real job. I have a pretend job. We’ve got dependents, retirement vehicles and a mortgage we keep refinancing, to say nothing of all those rich uncles who keep bequeathing us spooky old mansions in their will (provided we spend one night there). Do haunted houses count as earned income or what? What if they’re five-star energy rated?
Questions like that are precisely why I don’t “do” taxes myself; I leave that to the son of the now-retired father-son New York accounting duo that’s counted my family’s beans for the past 30 years. For one, the guy knows his way around a 1040; for another, he looks and talks like a young Woody Allen, only nerdier. Yes, nerdier. It’s uncanny.
So essentially, my responsibility consists of preparing taxes for my tax preparer. I’m not exactly sure what his preparations involve, but he never fails to produce a refund that at least covers his fee.
Yet, for some reason the idea of sitting down with my tax documents horrifies me to such an extent I’ve recently found myself scraping the dregs of what’s left to protaxinate with.
For instance, the other night, I cleaned out the fridge — and not just amalgamating a few quarter-full ranch dressings and emptying all the bread butts into one giant bag labeled “for croutons.” I’m talking rubber gloves and disinfectant; Windex on the vegetable crisper glass, even. Seriously, our fridge is so clean you can eat out of it.
I’ve also been hanging shelving. All sorts of shelving, all over the place. It doesn’t hurt that I recently gave myself a new screw gun and bits set for my birthday. I’ve also been drilling lots of holes for power cords or speaker cable, should I ever decide to run power cords or speaker cable through whatever I drill a hole in.
Then there’s getting rid of old junk. I’ve made this into a game by refusing to take anything to the dump. Unless it can be recycled or Freecycled, it’s got to stay on premises; but it has to take up less room, be it a defunct halogen lamp, half a car-washer hose attachment, a counterfeit Stairmaster or a VCR. Yes, an actual VCR, the previous owner’s. It just ate my “Schoolhouse Rock” video — it’s gotta go.
My FY 2010 protaxination ranks as the worst bout yet. I’m literally building storage for the reconfiguration of my garbage. All in the name of deferring financial paperwork.
Why continue to protaxinate, then? Honestly, I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with amping up the dramatic tension in my life, in a way only an approaching deadline can.
Plus, if I didn’t protaxinate, think of all the esoteric home improvement projects that wouldn’t get finished. Like my daughter’s new chalkboard wall. That’s not going to sand, primer, sand, then coat itself with chalkboard paint four different times — sanding between each coat — now, will it?
Yeah, that’s it. I’m doing it for the children.
• Geoff Kirsch is a local writer. Come see his — and three other original short plays written, directed, and acted entirely by local talent — as part of Juneau Douglas Little Theatre’s 5th annual 24 Hour Miracle, 8 p.m. on March 25 at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.