Are we ever more innocent than when doing taxes?
I'm not talking about how we rob the country
by deducting the case of Alpo we bought
on Take Your Dog To Work day,
but just the helpless look on our faces the weekend
in early spring we spend at a desk or dining room table
strewn with receipts and instructions
from a government so much bigger than us,
hovering in space like a circle of priests.
Even if we believe every hair is numbered,
who could possibly account for a year without
fudging, our glasses slipping down our noses
as we wonder which cab rides, how many square
feet of our home, what percentage of a phone bill
was business? I know a man who wrote off
dates with women, restaurant checks, gifts
of chocolate and flowers, and when they
audited him he told them he was a love poet
conducting research—he even brought
along one of his books. My grandpa loved
to recount the year he dumped a shoebox
full of receipts on the tax man's desk, threw
up his arms and said, "Knock yourself out!"
Even if you rendered unto Caesar, the IRS
could still be waiting for you at the gates.
Here I've claimed $3400 in psychotherapy bills
under "Medical" expenses, but can I?
Joe will know. Joe at Joe's Tax in Brooklyn
where I'll take the F train tomorrow
and sit half the day in a storefront, where a sign
reads, This is a waiting room. If you are
not prepared to wait then you are in the wrong room.
Joe works with his wife, son and six others
on a sort of platform a few steps up, where
everyone hears everything, so I hope he doesn't
bring up the $3400 for psychotherapy.
The customers with their stubs and papers
look like ancient children outside the principal's office.
Last year we looked up to see a guy
break into a happy dance when he found out
he was getting a refund. Barry Manilow's
Copacabana blasted from somewhere,
Joe's wife handed the man a pair
of blinking neon glasses, videotaped
him on her smartphone and posted it
to YouTube before Joe could say, Next!
That's what I'd call good therapy, or religion,
or maybe just a full accounting.
New Ohio Review