Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ben Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The point is, you won’t live forever and you won’t escape taxation. It’s as simple as that. However, you might as well have some fun trying to escape all the taxes you can. I can help you do it.

Some writers find a way to exploit death in their writing before facing the Grim Reaper themselves. In this book I will provide freelancers of expression (writers and artisans) a way to do the same with respect to taxes. I am an expert in the field of taxation. (Note that I didn’t say tax law. If you need an expert in law, see an attorney.)

After a meeting of my writing group, two members were describing their vacation experiences. Eric had gone to India, and Doug had visited Vietnam. Another member and I lingered, asking questions and listening to stories and descriptions of places that were so different from home and contrasted so strongly with the American way.

While reminiscing about Vietnam, Doug explained that in situations where Americans would use SUVs and trucks to transport goods, the Vietnamese use motorcycles. “They tote outrageous objects on a single motorcycle,” he said. “I saw such extraordinary examples that I decided I needed to collect snapshots or else people back home wouldn’t believe me.” Such pictures ostensibly included a man on a motorcycle with a full-size mattress, a family of five, a man with a big fat pig, and two men in tandem on separate motorcycles carrying a fifty-foot, five-inch-diameter metal pipe between them.

Kelley, the other listening colleague, piped up. “Sounds like material for a wonderful picture book.” She enlarged upon the notion and explained the potential process, her entire demeanor optimistic of Doug’s prospects.

Well, enthusiasm grew like zucchini in Doug’s face. I saw him envisioning possibilities. “I need to go back to Vietnam and get more pictures,” he said. “And I have some other ideas, too.” Then, as if struck by a thunderbolt, he turned to me. “And I’d be able to write off the trip on my taxes, wouldn’t I, Walt?”

Doug’s wife hails from Vietnam. Doug was looking for a good old subsidy from Uncle Sam, probably not recognizing that it would be borne on the backs of other taxpayers, like you and me. Doug knows that the wake of my occupational ship includes a thirty-five-year stint with the IRS, twenty-six years of which involved hearing disgruntled taxpayers appeal actions of the auditors and collectors, whom taxpayers always seem to characterize as ‘overzealous.’

“I suppose I couldn’t take my family and have it be deductible,” Doug said hurriedly. Or was this seeming statement a question? Or a plea? And so a dialogue began: him asking, me trying to answer.

Well, what do you think? Can Doug deduct the costs of his upcoming trip to Vietnam? Should he? If so, could he deduct his family’s expenses as well? What are the chances Doug could prevail if audited?

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