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The Art of Deduction

**Oregano’s fan club has been clamoring for a new post from him. Unlike most people, this is his favorite time of year. I’ve turned Good Humored over to him this week to explain his unconventional mindset.**

January is not a month that most people look forward to. The holidays are over and the reality of a month of overindulgence is rearing its ugly head. The weather doesn’t help either. It’s cold and dry outside and shoveling snow is a common occurrence.  In fact, psychologist, Dr. Cliff Arnall has even declared the third Monday in January to be known as Blue Monday, the “most depressing day of the year.”  Although the science behind his determination is questionable, nobody can deny that many people feel icky throughout the month.

January does have a few bright spots. The days start getting longer, great football games are on television every weekend and, best of all, tax documents begin arriving in the mail!  Yes, it’s almost tax time, the most wonderful time of the year!  What was that?  Taxes?!?! Wonderful?!?! Yes, wonderful!  Allow me to explain my unusual perspective on taxes.

The procrastinators among us consider April to be tax time.  However, true tax geeks, like me, know that the fun really begins in January.  By April, the magical winter days spent with my tax documents are fading from memory.  The refund has already been deposited to my bank account and I have to wait another nine months to begin the process again.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  Most people find both of these certainties equally unpleasant.  Although I’m not particularly fond of death, I do love preparing taxes! Why, you say, does this crazy man look forward to preparing taxes every year?  Is it the promise of a payment coming from the government?  Of course!  Is it the chance to comb through the tax code and squeeze out as many deductions as I can?  Yes again!  However, the real thrill comes from taking on the challenge.  Okay, okay, it’s really because I’m too cheap to pay for an accountant and I think math is fun.

The first sign of tax season begins in the middle of January, when the Form 1099s and W-2s appear in the mailbox.  Paprika says that I skip up the driveway with the mail, full of excitement.  I wouldn’t say that I skip, but I cannot deny that I do have an added spring to my step.  Every day, I look forward to the mail and the inevitable tax documents that are waiting to be collected.  Sadly, since we have entered the paperless age, some information is sent electronically now.  It’s certainly not as exciting to open e-mail, but my love for all things environmentally friendly has trumped my love for grabbing financial documents out of the mailbox. By the end of January, all of the tax documents have been delivered and it’s time to get to work.

In the old days, before there were computer programs to help me, I was on my own.  It was just me and the Form 1040: mano-a-mano.  I sharpened my pencils to the finest point I could muster and lined them up, ready for battle.  My weekends were spent meticulously reading the tax code, recording information and calculating deductions.  Schedule As, Bs, Cs, and Ds were drafted and re-drafted.  Finally, I emerged triumphantly from the office, sweaty and covered in pink eraser dust clutching a completed 1040.

These days, there is plenty of tax software available to make completing taxes much easier.  With a few clicks of the mouse, I answer all of the questions and the software does the calculating. Although most of the tax rules are precise and the calculations are indisputable, there is one area on the Form 1040 that leaves plenty of room for creativity: the deductions!

Not sure what qualifies as a legitimate deduction? Are you worried that some of your deductions might not be entirely… how do I put this… kosher?  Don’t be afraid.  You would be amazed at some of the ideas our fellow taxpayers have come up with!  One legendary tax story is about an exotic dancer from Indiana named Cynthia Hess, aka “Chesty Love”.  She deducted over $2,000 for breast implants claiming that increasing the size of her breasts allowed her to increase her earnings. Then there is the story of the owner of a junkyard who deducted the cost of cat food.  He used the cat food to feed stray cats who controlled the number of rodents and snakes on the property, thereby making the junkyard safer for customers.  Believe it or not, after a court battle, both of these deductions were approved by the IRS.

Before you get all deduction-happy, there are plenty of unorthodox deductions that were not allowed by the IRS.  For example, in 2004, William Halby deducted $100,000 worth of expenses for prostitutes’ “services.” Because he was depressed and alone, he argued that his deductions were medical expenses and were justified as part of “sex therapy.”  Not surprisingly, the U.S. Tax Court denied the deductions because not only is prostitution illegal, it’s not an approved medical treatment. The moral here is: don’t abuse your creative license when taking deductions.  Audits happen!

The next time you are starting to feel depressed in January and you’re reaching for the hand cream and lip balm for the thousandth time, cheer up. Your tax documents are coming! Happiness is only as far away as your mailbox. Let the fun begin!!

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

46 responses »

  1. Once again a great job! Oregano doing stellar work both at home and at work.
    Yerba buena

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  2. I certainly don’t ENJOY doing my taxes but I consider it an important rite of passage, an annual demonstration of my numeracy. I collect a sharp pencil or three, my calculator, and 2 or 3 packages of official papers (depending on how many of my children are expecting my services) and do a marathon session 2 nights before they are due. Then I have one day left to scramble for copies of things I can’t find or don’t have. I always complete the forms in pencil, in duplicate, and repeat until I get the same number twice.

    Reply
    • Thinking of doing your taxes as an exercise in your mathematical prowess is a good way to look at it. My math skills are so poor I could do and redo those forms and still not get the same number twice. I admire your persistence.

      Thanks for visiting Good Humored and taking the time to comment. Hope to see you again soon!

      Reply
  3. Uhhh… taxes. Living in a foreign country, there’s no hope of me filling in the forms myself. Being a good citizen is important to me, but my sanity is moreso: I now pay a guy fifty bucks to do it for me, and he does it online, which saves on paper also… (extra brownie points for an infinitessimally reduced carbon footprint!!)

    http://www.cakesandshakes.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • I don’t live in a foreign country, but if Oregano wasn’t doing my taxes, I’d be paying someone to do them for me. Sanity is more important than citizenship. Thanks for joining the Good Humored club!

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  4. Fantastic post, Oregano! (You married well, Paprika.) Your knowledge of taxes is almost as amazing as the large cookie you nearly got out of the oven in one piece. My dad did people’s taxes at the start of his retirement and he was astounded by the things people didn’t know they could count as deductions. I’m so glad I never had to hear my dad detail any breast implant deductions. Wait, is that an oxymoron?

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    • Yes, Angie, Oregano is a man of many talents; tax preparation, large cookie eating, a willingness to pick up all the shoes I leave around the house. His skills are endless 🙂 You are right, a breast implant deduction is an oxymoron. Way to catch that one!

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  5. Oh Oregano! Just gave me such a thrill! It’s tax time! Yay!

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    • My readers seem to be clearly divided into two camps: the warped individuals who enjoy tax preparation and everyone else. 🙂 Who knew there were so many people out there who enjoy it so much? When is Canada’s tax day?

      Reply
  6. Vivian Landsburg

    Oh, Oregno! Oh, Paprika! How I envy you! Tax time at our home has my husband going crazy (and we’re retired!). He collects every scrap of paper he has saved and starts to organize it all. The diningroom table is covered end to end for at least a month. This is all in preparation to sending it to our accountant. My husband makes copies of everything, loses copies of everything, remakes copies of everything—on and on it goes. After sending it all to the accountant, we wait for the completed tax return. My husband goes over the whole thing line by line, makes changes, makes more copies, loses more copies——–I can’t go on. I’m exhausted! Again, how I envy you! (Is envy a sin?)

    Reply
    • Happy to see you back, Vivian.

      I fear that the only reason I don’t suffer through the same tax experience as you is because Oregano is still working full-time. I shudder to think that this is what my future holds minus the accountant, of course. You’re welcome to hide out here until tax season is over. I’m sure Oregano will have ours done and in the mail by the end of the weekend so the coast will be clear for you to relax.

      Reply
  7. “I wouldn’t say that I skip, but I cannot deny that I do have an added spring to my step.” Wow LOL! As a student I receive my W2 forms with mixed feelings because at that moment I’m working so hard to remember where I kept all my tuition and book receipts from the previous semester. Tax season is such a pain but the pain is so worth it by the end of February haha 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Oregano has already excitedly told me that I can gather and then add up our medical receipts this weekend. Woohoo! I can’t wait.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Hope to see you again soon.

      Reply
  8. I leave the taxes to an accountant. That way I don’t have to read up on the tax code. I much rather go check out what is going on in the blogverse or go on an adventure with Richard and Khalan. It’s hard not to imagine you skipping down the drive mail in hand. Very entertaining, that thought.

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    • Believe me, if I wasn’t married to Oregano I’d be in the accountant’s office too. Yesterday I gave Oregano and early Valentine’s Day present…my W2. The final piece of his tax prep puzzle. I think he might have started to drool a little.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Hope you’ll be back again soon.

      Reply
  9. has anyone ever told you are weird? just wondering.

    actually, you had me laughing, and it wasn’t just the part where I was imagining you skipping down the driveway. so you’re saying that tax time is the time to let our creativity fly, right? I’ll be sure and quote you when I get audited and they disqualify my cheese nip therapy deduction.

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    • Don’t worry. I’ve been telling him he’s weird for the last 20 years. It works in my favor though since it prevents me from having to sit down and do the taxes. Good luck with that cheese nip deduction. Just how many of those do you eat?

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  10. I am in awe. I can’t even balance my checkbook . . .

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    • Don’t even get me started on how he manages the checkbook. My friends refer to him as the “check Nazi” There have been times when I thought he was going to call Girl Scouts of America to find out why it was taking them so long to cash a check for the cookies I ordered.

      Reply
  11. A giant thank you for all of the kind comments, and an even giant-er thank you to Paprika for tenaciously editing my original draft despite my objections (whether I was joking or not). My jumble of ideas turned into a much better story with Paprika’s skillful intervention.

    P.S. Today is the day I receive the last W-2, so I’ll be off and running with my calculator tonight! I’m so excited!

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  12. Oregano has been a math lover since he used to help his older sister with her First Grade math problems! The love of numbers runs through the entire male side of the family, so he comes by that talent honestly! The women in the family, alas, are like Paprika!! For us, January means spring can not be far behind!!

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  13. I’ve spent my whole career in Finance. I HATE doing that at home.

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    • I can’t understand Oregano’s obsession with the taxes. I’ve spent my adult life trying to avoid anything with numbers. I joke and tell him the only reason I married him was so I would never have to add, subtract, multiply or divide anything ever again.

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  14. Preach it brotha! I love tax time! I got the last of my tax documents in the mail this past Thursday and had my taxes completed Friday night. I can’t imagine why most people don’t enjoy giving up their weekends to do math and tax research.

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  15. I also live with a spouse who approaches taxes with a maniacal zeal. I think part of it has to do with his Dad, who was the kind of guy who would file for an extension at noon on April 15. When, coincidentally, he would begin working on his taxes.

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  16. My hubby is just like you. He gets everything ready in January and February… by April tax season is long forgotten!!! 🙂

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  17. Great post Oregano! I am in awe of your love of math and taxes……….both of which bring me great anxiety!! But it sounds like I might want you to do our taxess given your love of and creativity with doing taxes……..heck you might get me a bigger refund!!

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  18. Very interesting, a tax fetish and a touch of CPA envy !!!! We can discuss this during your next appointment.

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  19. I wonder: had Halby used “Chesty Love” would the deduction would have been approved? I’m not sure I look forward to January for the same reasons as Oregano, but it’s nice to know someone is feeling good about it. Good post!

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  20. Have you tried therapy? It may help you get over this affection for all things tax-related!

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  21. WOW, a very different view of the month!!!! I was thinking how fun it is to build a snowman and you are having fun with reading tax codes. Too funny. Glad to know you are having fun with it!!

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  22. Great guest post Oregano – I don’t think you’d consider doing my (German) taxes, would you? Maybe the added challenge of a language barrier would add to the excitement? 😉

    Reply

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