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Berger’s Burg: Tax advice from Gerard the Accountant

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The owner of a local saloon was so sure that his bartender was the strongest man around that he offered the patrons a standing $1,000 bet.

The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass. Then he would show the emaciated lemon to the patrons. Anyone in the bar who could squeeze one more drop of juice from the lemon would win the money.

Many customers, including weight-lifters, longshoremen and football players, tried but not one could do it.

One day a scrawny little man wearing a polyester suit and thick glasses entered the bar. He said in his tiny squeaky voice, "I would like to accept the challenge."

After the laughter had died down, the grinning bartender grabbed a lemon and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the emaciated rind to the uppity little man.

The crowd's laughter turned to silence as the pint-sized fellow clenched his small fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. As the crowd cheered, the bartender moaned. He paid the $1,000.

"What do you do for a living?" the befuddled bartender asked the puny one. "Are you a lumberjack, a wrestler, a weight lifter, what?"

The puny man removed his eyeglasses, huffed on them, wiped them clean and put them back on his nose before replying. He looked around, grimaced, and said, "I am an IRS agent."

Yes, exasperated readers, Income Tax Day, a day that lives in infamy, arrives April 15. No, don't run to the nearest religious institution to pray. It is too late for that. However, as a yearly public service, I will help those of you who, as yet, have failed to file a completed income tax return.

I visited my expert in the field, Gerard the Accountant, for some last-minute fiscal advice. He was busy reading a worn, hard-covered book entitled "Accounting for Dummies." On his desk was a sign: "Telling the truth will invariably confuse the IRS. Say nothing and just mail them your bankbook."

I found Gerard to be a very considerate and compassionate fellow. He is the only certified public accountant I know with a recovery room. In it he stacks a carton of aspirin, an oxygen tank, and a pretty nurse to administer them both.

"Can you give my millions of readers some helpful tax tips?" I asked him.

Gerard looked around, grimaced, and said, "Yup."

"I love my job," the wise one said. "I am one of the lucky few who gets paid for sticking our noses into other people's business. It is a fact that America is the only country where it takes more brains to make out your income tax return than it does to make the income. So, here I am, always ready to help."

"But before I do," he continued, "I must warn your readers that if they ever are called in for an audit, they should NEVER use the following stories that were used by other taxpayers and denied by the IRS over the years.

"NEVER file a return jointly with your dog and claim the pooch is your reincarnated husband.

"If the reader is an artist, NEVER deduct mileage amounting to twice the circumference of the Earth and argue that he has to commune with nature to do his job.

"NEVER claim both your mother-in-law and your dog as dependents and claim that you had spent $50 more on your poodle last year than on your mother-in-law.

"NEVER tell the IRS that if they did not leave you alone, you will cheat again next year. That's a definite NEVER.

"And for heaven's sake," Gerard emphasized, "if a reader is asked by the IRS why he hadn't filed a tax return in several years, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER say, 'Didn't you receive my death certificate?' That's a clear and present NEVER."

"On the other hand," Gerard explained, "one taxpayer did get away with telling a creative tale which was deemed legit by the IRS.

"After his wife's death, the widower had her body cryogenically preserved. He donated his loved one's carcass to science for medical research within the tax year.

"My, such ingenuity," said an admiring Gerard.

"What is the fair market value of a cadaver?" I asked.

Gerard worked his computer. "Chemically speaking," he said, "$3.69."

"Furthermore," Gerard went on, "heed the accountants' credo - if you enjoyed it, you can't deduct it. Only in a democracy does every citizen have complete freedom in deciding their taxes - whether to pay by check, money order or Internet."

Gerard then began discussing the actual audit process. You can chart your financial success by the frequency of times you are called in for an audit.

"Beware the eyes of audit," he warns. "The average IRS auditor is normally a very cranky individual. He hates his job because he didn't have the charisma to make it as an undertaker. In his office, he hangs a sign which reads:

It is illegal for anyone to die during my tax audit, especially if that person owes money."

Gerard is an honest man. He reassures his clients that if anyone gets audited, he will personally go down to the IRS office and deny he ever met you.

In conclusion, Gerard expressed one final thought. "When you do a good deed, always remember to keep your receipt. Heaven might be like the IRS."

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