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Slack Tide: Protaxination time

Posted: April 12, 2014 - 11:00pm

Okay, you got me: I’m in a bit of tax trouble.

Before the IRS initiates property seizure (and revokes my liquor license), it’s not tax evasion I’m guilty of; it’s tax avoision.

What? Avoision. That’s totally a word. What else would you call intentionally and habitually putting off filing one’s income tax returns?

And I mean ANY act: digging up old receipts; recovering log-ins and passwords for accounts you haven’t accessed since last tax season — when you were forced to change those log-ins and passwords, of course supplying a dummy Spam-avoision email address, the log-in and password for which you must also now recover; breaking out the old printing calculator (yes, you could just use your iPhone, but there’s something satisfying about that rhythmic tick of the ribbon; although that may just be the toner fumes talking) and finally opening all those envelopes you’ve been ignoring since mid-January marked “Important Tax Information — Open Immediately.”

Of course, this, in itself, involves excavating an entire stack of long-neglected action-needed mail — aka the “denial pile” — which also inevitably means paying several hundred dollars in outstanding bills and having at least one infuriating conversation with an automated phone system.

Hence, the tendency for tax avoision. Or, if you prefer a different portmanteau, “protaxination.”

Taxes are a patriotic obligation much easier to fulfill in theory than practice, sort of 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 the clearing house for Publisher’s Clearinghouse — such a place really exists, in Syosset, N.Y., and it’s staffed almost exclusively by college kids and drug addicts (or both). Jury service paid $13 a day. That’s a lot of money for a college kid or a drug addict (or both).

Anyway, I didn’t always mind doing my taxes. Throughout my late teens and twenties, it was easy, mostly because I earned beneath the lowest taxable yearly income (student loan subsistence). I relied on the last of my Bar Mitzvah money, freelance writing and, whenever I was really strapped, selling myself on the streets of New York (as an SAT tutor, although it still makes me feel dirty). Sporadic periods of regular work fell in the category of straight-up single-employer W-2. And, needless to say, I had no investments, although I was steadily accruing a nice little nest egg, by which I mean nice, big beer gut.

These days, I file with the IRS as head-of-household (a figurehead title, to be sure). My wife has a real job. I have a fake job, although I do it from a real, partially tax-deductible home office, with some out-of-state clients whose income tax laws apply to me and others whose don’t. I’ve got dependents, depreciable assets, retirement vehicles, work vehicles (once my wife lets me screen-print “Geoff Kirsch — Writer” on our car doors) and a mortgage we keep refinancing, to say nothing of all those eccentric rich uncles who keep bequeathing us spooky old mansions in their will (provided we spend one night there). Do haunted houses count as capital gains or what? Can I deduct exorcisms if I list the property under Business Personal? And what are the implications of Obamacare for uninsured poltergeists?

Questions like these are precisely why I now hire an accountant: the son of the father-and-son duo that’s counted my family’s beans for the past 30 years. Suffice to say, homeboy knows his way around a 1040.

So really, I just have to prepare my taxes for my tax preparer. Now, I’m not quite sure what his preparations involve, but he never fails to produce at least enough of a refund to cover his fee.

Why, then, do I continue to protaxinate?

Perhaps I simply want to amp up the dramatic tension in my life, in a way that only an approaching deadline can. Or maybe it’s because the whole exercise smacks of math homework and makes me revert to my high school self. Hmmm. I have been spending a lot of time in my room listening to the Grateful Dead recently. But, see, now that I’ve written about it, I can deduct all that chilling from this fiscal year.

And without tax avoision, think of the esoteric home improvement projects that wouldn’t get finished, like installing a new towel rack in the guest bathroom. That’s not going to sand, primer, sand, then coat itself with lacquer three different times (sanding between each coat), will it?

Not unless you’re talking about a towel rack the guest bathroom of our haunted house. But like I said, I don’t want to hire any non-contract supernatural employees until I understand my liability under the Affordable Care Act.

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