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Berger’s Burg: Preparing income tax returns is no laughing matter

I am proud to be an American taxpayer. But to tell the truth, I could be just as proud for half the money.

On April Fools’ Day, I was asked by a non-reader what I write about. I said, “Fairy tales, fantasy and fiction.” It reminded me that it was time to think about my income tax. Then I received those pesky tax forms, and my New Year’s resolution, not to swear, was put on hold indefinitely. I said (cover your children’s eyes), “X?@%&#,” and I meant every word.

As a hardcore procrastinator, I may not be able to exhale until April 16, a day after I exercise my powers of deduction. I know it is a great blessing to be living in a democracy where I have complete control over how I pay my taxes — by check, money order, electronic funds withdrawal or EFTPS (if you want to know what those letters stand for — fuhgedaboudit!).

I finally figured out why they call the mysterious form a “1040.” For every $50 you earn, you keep $10 and send the government $40. The IRS is the nearest thing to a Chinese dinner. No matter how much you give them, a year later they are hungry again. With the IRS and me, it is a simple case of give and take — it takes my money and gives me ulcers, nausea and shingles. You have to be a certified public accountant with a doctorate in business, a tax-law degree and an IQ of 215 to figure it out.

So, I quickly ran to Gerard the accountant for advice. He knows everything about taxes, and even some things the IRS doesn’t know. I walked into his office and there he was, busy flipping paper clips into a toy basketball net.

“I am having a good day,” he said, smiling. “I scored 28 points.” There is a sign on his desk with his favorite proverb, “Telling the truth will invariably confuse the IRS.” What a professional is Gerard.

My neighbor’s wife, Gwyneth, then walked in and asked if her birth control pills were deductible: “Only if they don’t work,” Gerard replied.

Last year, he wisely recommended that I declare $75,000 for personal grooming. The IRS called me down, took one look at me and allowed the deduction. Gerard saved me so much money last year that Gloria wanted to go to Hawaii, I wanted to go to Aruba and the government wanted to send us to Leavenworth.

He just wrote a book, “How to Save 90 Percent on Your Income Tax.” It is packaged with a one-way ticket to Fiji. He came up with so many deductions I wound up with enough money to post bail. He can save you time — at least five years in many cases. The government named a loophole after him.

“The trick is to stop thinking of your taxes merely in monetary terms,” Gerard said. “Think about where your money goes,” he said.

So I pondered Gerard’s words. Perhaps some of it pays for the vacuum cleaner used in the Senate at night or five cans of good coffee for the crew manning a submarine somewhere in the Persian Gulf.

Maybe it pays for a week of dry cleaning the robes of a federal judge, or even a month’s supply of black shoe polish for the man who plays the sousaphone in the U.S. Marine Band. I think my money should be used for more important matters, such as sending Gloria and me to Atlantic City where the odds are better.

Gerard worked very hard figuring out how I didn’t make the money I did. He is really as honest as the day is long, but I must admit, he once asked me to commit a lie on my tax return.

He wanted me to list myself as the “head of the household.” I asked what are the chances of listing six of Gloria’s relatives under “charitable contributions.” I defy the government to prove they are not an organized charity.

But to err is human, and the IRS knows what to give a person who has everything — an audit. I hate IRS audits. They make a federal case out of everything. It is the only office where you never find an atheist.

All invitees bow their heads and pray. Did you ever get the feeling that when an IRS agent comes to work with an upset stomach, a headache and feeling out of sorts that they immediately transfer him or her to the audit section? The audit office is also very well equipped. It has a state-of-the-art recovery room.

However, due to Gerard’s expert assistance, I was audited two years ago. The auditor (a nosy sort of chap) phoned a charity and asked if I had donated $10,000 to their fund last year? “I don’t know,” was the answer, “but I am quite sure he will.” He did sympathize with my problems, but he complained that they all couldn’t fit into his computer.

I make it a point to pay my taxes every year with a smile, but those guys keep writing back asking for money. Have you noticed that nothing from the IRS ever gets lost in the mail? I really have no problem filing my income tax return, but I do have trouble paying it.

I think the tax laws deserve a lot of credit. They have brought poverty within the reach of all of us. But, hey, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the income tax. It is just that every time my ship comes sailing in, the government unloads it. I found out that people who complain most about income tax fall into two separate categories, men and women.

After paying taxes all these years, I should at least be able to list the government as a dependent. I did some figuring. We can balance the federal budget if we close 27 states. I remembered, before mailing my IRS envelope, to enclose my Social Security number, all W-2 forms, a four-leaf clover and an arm and a leg.

I always drop my completed tax form at the corner mailbox without anyone looking. I don’t want any potential eyewitnesses to testify against me. I am certain that the IRS will still recognize me, however. I live in the same house, with the same wife, and I write the same column.

I told my psychiatrist, Dr. Noe X. Emptions, that I actually enjoy paying income tax. He immediately ordered his nurse to prepare me for shock therapy.

I think of it this way, my income taxes could be a lot worse. Suppose I had to pay on what I think I am worth. If I didn’t spend my money on taxes, I would just squander it away on foolish luxuries such as groceries, rent and utilities.

Today, I feel great. Gerard and I just finished preparing my income taxes. So, I can exhale now; however, if my weekly columns suddenly disappear, Gerard knows a good lawyer.

(Income tax people: I want to let you in on a very big secret. This article was actually written by my brother-in-law, Barry).

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

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