I have a long-standing tradition of getting surly at tax time. This happens to many people, but is especially likely to happen to those of us who are self-employed.
The husband, whom I find to be thorough and honest to the point of obsessive, sometimes questions the accuracy of my record keeping. At such times, I am prone to turn on him and his manila envelopes stuffed with receipts, check registers, pay stubs and computer printouts and affectionately refer to him as a dinosaur. He responds with some crack about how do I think I'd look in an orange jump suit, and the next thing you know we are in that Ladies Home Journal feature, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"
The husband knows it is important to keep me in good humor while working on taxes. He often does this by giving me interesting things to read from the 1040 instruction booklet. Last year he supplied me with entertaining material on tax deductions that include yachts, luxury vacations, golf outings and trips to Vegas. He also believes that if my hands are holding reading material, they are less likely to be rifling through his highly-organized records or inching around his neck.
This year he thoughtfully directed me to the section of the instruction booklet titled "Other Income." In the middle column of page 27 of form 525, you will find, in bold print, BRIBES. "If you receive a bribe, include it in your income."
There's more. In addition to bribes, the IRS would also like you to report kickbacks. "You must include kickbacks, side commissions, push money or similar payments you receive in your income . . . "
So I guess you go to H&R Block, hand over the W-2s and say, "Oh, by the way, add in 15 grand under other income for a construction contract I threw to my brother-in-law." Maybe if you pay your 23 percent in taxes, nobody bats an eye or asks for an explanation.
The IRS would also like you to report -- ready? -- illegal income. "Illegal income, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity."
My question is this: Do you just write the amount of income from illegal drugs on line 21, or do you also draw an arrow into the margin and scribble, "Meth lab good this yr., pls don't tell Momma, her heart ain't that strong."
Finally, the IRS would also like you to report stolen property. "If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner."
"Hello, IRS? Yes, I'd like to amend my tax return from two years ago. Well, I have some stolen property, DVD players, computers, fine jewelry, you know, the usual, and I just realized I forgot to report it under other income. Now, can I just amend that online or do you want me to come down to the IRS office in person?
"OK, sure. Does it matter to you if I come down in my own car or, say, borrow a BMW out of the bank parking lot, as long as I assess fair market value for next year's return?"
Whoever said the feds don't have a sense of humor must not have been filing tax returns. This light-hearted tax moment has been brought to you courtesy of the IRS and the dinosaur.
Knight Ridder Newspapers