Tom Purcell, 4/9/2007 [Archive]

Why Spring Taxes Me

Why Spring Taxes Me

By Tom Purcell

I hate spring. I hate the sunny weather and chirping birds and neighbors smiling and humming, while they spread mulch in their planters.

I hate the buds on the trees and the sweet smell in the air. I hate the way the sun falls gently over the hills at dusk.

I hate everything about spring, because I'm self-employed.

Every year this time I'm a nervous wreck about my taxes. I worry that I'll owe more than I think I will, and I will. I worry that I'll not get everything organized and tallied up for my accountant in time, and it's always close.

This is because our income tax system is complex. It is complex because drunk people (members of Congress) designed it so that a bureaucracy (the IRS) will convert the incomprehensible into the unfathomable (the tax code) in order to punish productive Americans (the self-employed) all in the name of good fun.

To comply with our onerous tax rules, I have developed a highly effective accounting technique: the Big Box Methodology. From the beginning of January through the end of December, I toss every bill, receipt, expense, etc. into a big cardboard box.

Every year, I am forced to organize and tally every one of these items, so that I can document my business expenses. I must document my business expenses to accomplish what every self-employed person hopes to accomplish: to have earned as little income as possible the year before.

I was in a mighty struggle with Big Box during the winter. He kept calling out to me, pleading with me to get things in order. But I ignored Big Box. I ignored his unreasonable demands week after week, and the more I ignored him, the more worried I got.

As spring neared, I began taking Big Box with me. When I went away for the weekends, I put him in my trunk. I had high hopes of using my weekend breaks to organize every slip of paper into a brilliant rendition of how much I earned and spent in 2006, but I did not.

No, I did the same thing this year I do every year. I waited until the last few weeks before taxes are due. Despite the recent cold snap, I know what every self-employed person knows: the weather will break big this week.

As the sun shines and the world comes to life, I'll get calls from beautiful women who want to spend time with me. I'll be offered box-seat tickets to baseball games, invitations to cookouts, requests to partake in fun and frivolity of every kind.

But I will turn them all down.

I will turn them down because of Congress. When members of Congress passed the 16th Amendment into law in 1913, they made the income tax deadline March 1. But in 1955 Congress pushed the deadline to April 15.

They did this so helpless American taxpayers would have more time to organize and file their taxes? Ha, ha. No, they did it to give the IRS more time. But I think there was an additional reason.

Dissatisfied that the cost and complexity of the income tax was not painful enough --according to the Tax Foundation, Americans wasted 6 billion hours and $260 billion completing returns last year -- Congress saw an opportunity to ruin spring, too.

That's why I've been shut off from the world. That's why I've been hunkered down with an intensity and focus that would make the Unabomber wince.

I have been doing battle with Big Box, you see, trying to make sense of all the receipts, bills, etc. he contains. I've been in English-major hell -- adding, subtracting, documenting, palpitating.

The worst is yet to come. When I finally get everything organized, I'll forward the details to my accountant. He'll use them to make complex tax-code calculations. Then he'll tell me I owe way more than I thought I did.

Now you know why I hate spring.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For comments to Tom, please email him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."

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