Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tax Time Is Very Taxing ...

Dear Internal Revenue Service:

There are several reasons why I am requesting a deadline extension for filing my 2005 income tax return. It seems that the deadline is looming and my tax forms still are blank. The reason my forms still are blank is because I determined that this year, I would prepare my own taxes and save the $75.00 fee.

Perhaps that first mistake led to these remaining mistakes. You see, I decided to read your Title 26 --Internal Revenue Tax Code (yes, the whole thing) so that I would know how to proceed. I intended to order a copy of this statute from the U. S. Government Printing Office. However, upon learning that the document was 13,458 pages in twenty volumes at a total cost of $974, shipping included, I decided not to read the whole thing. Then I went online with the intention of printing out just the Table of Contents of the tax code. However, this table was 113 pages and I didn’t have enough paper.

At this point, it seemed expedient simply to go to the public library and read the particular paragraphs of the code that I needed. By the way, did you know that one of the dictionary definitions of the term “code” is, “An arbitrary system of symbols, letters, and words used for … secret messages?” Reading this definition helped me to understand why they call it the, “tax code”. Also this helped me to understand why I didn’t understand what I was about to read.

First, I tried to determine my charitable contributions. Your very own IRS Code reads, “Beginning in 2005, you may be able to deduct as a charitable contribution the reasonable and necessary whaling expenses paid during the year. To claim this deduction, you must be recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission as a whaling captain.” You know, I have always enjoyed reading magazines from back to front. That doesn’t work with your tax code. At any rate I failed to register with the AEWC so there’s no need beating a dead whale to death.

Moving right along, I researched the “special depreciation” paragraphs to see how my computer might qualify for this deduction. I was greeted with, “If the property is eligible for the 50% special depreciation deduction and you claim this 50% depreciation, you cannot claim the 30% special depreciation deduction for the property. However, you can elect to deduct the 30% (instead of 50%) special depreciation for property eligible for the 50% special depreciation.” I was really relieved to get that cleared up.

Then I bumped into an answer to a question that I had not even asked, “The 90% limit on the ATNOLD does not apply to the portion of an ATNOLD attributable to qualified GO Zone losses. Such portion can be applied to offset up to 100% of alternative minimum taxable income (figured without regard to the ATNOLD and the domestic production activities deduction).” The writer of this paragraph would be very successful at writing newspaper bridge columns.

Then I needed to know about my stock trading expenses. Your code states that “… trading expenses should be reported on form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship) instead of Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF), Itemized Deductions and that gains or losses should be reported on form 1040, Schedule D (PDF), Capital Gains and Losses, unless an election is filed to change the accounting method.” Your tax code is loaded with elections. Will these show up in the primaries? Will I need my voter’s registration card?

Please grant my request for an extension. I’ll go see my accountant first thing Monday morning.


Winston Hamby

Monday, April 03, 2006

No Foolin' ...

It’s that day again that rolls around once per year. Historians are somewhat undecided about the origin of April Fool’s Day that used to be called All Fool’s Day. So I’m staying away from the origin. It’s hard enough writing about things I know much less writing about obscure things.

Thomas Reed said, “Politicians never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” William Cowper once wrote that, “A fool must now and then be right by chance.” And my favorite is from Mark Twain, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”

Just how April Fool’s Day got started is of little consequence. The fact is that it is with us today and so we just deal with it. I did attempt a convenient April Fool’s joke one time by telling my mother that Giles Elementary School in Beaumont was going to close April 1, for repairs. She made a phone call to someone and gave me that look that all mothers have from time to time. I ended up going to school that day. But there have been some pretty fantastic stunts pulled on the public during past April 1 observances. Some of these follow:

In 1998 Burger King published a full-page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a “Left-Handed Whopper.” This item contained all the usual condiments (onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles) but they had been rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The next day, hundreds of left-handed people stopped by Burger Kings to evaluate the new offering. Also, several right-handed customers strictly wanted the right-hand version.

Quite an uproar was reported in 1980 when BBC revealed that Big Ben, in order to keep up with the times, was going to be given over to a digital readout. Much protesting followed.

In 1984 the Eldorado Daily Journal, based in Illinois, announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for daylight savings time. Rules included that light could be stored in any container. However, only pure daylight would be allowed. No dawn or twilight light. Light from cloudy days would be allowed but moonlight was strictly forbidden. The contest received a huge nationwide response. The paper’s editor was interviewed by CBS and NBC and was featured in papers throughout the country.

A Los Angeles disc jockey announced in April 1987 that the LA highway system would be shut down for repairs for an entire month. The radio station received hundreds of frantic telephone calls as did the California Department of Transportation. The CDOT reported that, “they didn’t think it was very funny.”

In 1957 BBC news announced that thanks to a very mild winter, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. The report continued to tell how Swiss peasants were pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of listeners called in wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. They were told to, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

In 1997 an e-mail message spread throughout the world announcing that the internet would be shut down for cleaning for twenty-four hours from March 31 until April 2. This was necessary to clear out the “electronic flotsam and jetsam” that had accumulated. Dead e-mail and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites also would be purged. Users were warned to disconnect all devices from the internet.

If you want to read the top 100 hoaxes pulled on April Fool’s Days in the past, go to Some of them are hilarious.

And I’m not foolin’.

Winston Hamby –