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Surviving April events —
Tax Day and Easter

In April we will celebrate two major holidays. One is Easter and the other is the deadline for filing taxes.

I wonder if it is a mere coincidence these two days fall back-to-back this year or is it symbolic? One event brings to mind pain, suffering, anguish and the cruelty of those who rule, and the other retells the resurrection of Christ.

When you think about it, it’s amazing how far we have come since the imperial days of Rome and how tax collection was handled then. In that time, if you couldn’t pay your taxes, the government would throw you into debtors prison to languish until you made enough money to pay.

Here’s what happened to an ordinary Roman citizen who missed the April 15 filing deadline and was thrown into prison:

“Well, Citizen Arugula, do you have enough money now to pay your taxes and free yourself from this prison?” asks the tax collector.

“No, you nitwit. I’m chained to this wall in a dungeon. I can’t even scratch my nose. How am I supposed to make money for my taxes?”

“Have it your way, Citizen Arugula. I’ll check back in a year to see if you have what is due Caesar, including the compounded interest and a hefty penalty for late filing.

“It’s either that or you’ll have to build an aqueduct.”

A more humane system

This year I’ve decided to go to a tax preparation service to have my taxes done. A friend steered me to a new group called “Fred & Bubba’s What’s the Chances We’ll Make a Mistake and You’ll Go to Prison” tax preparation service.

I’ve always been against going to such places because I always figured I could do the taxes myself. I’ve done them many times in the past but I’m tired of having to change my name and identity every three to four years.

But tax preparation has grown so complicated that it now takes the average person more than 13 hours to collect the required documents, read the tax books, fill out the forms and pack their bags for debtors prison.

The system is so complicated that studies have found 50 percent of the time when people call the IRS with tax questions, they get wrong information. Hey, the IRS won’t lose everything and go to jail if they are wrong.

So, the other day I gathered up all my tax forms, W2 forms, purchase receipt slips, itemized deductions, tax credits, stock market losses, dividend and annuity reports, and grocery lists and packed them into a U-Haul van and headed out to Fred and Bubba’s tax preparation services.

I was assigned a very professional lady tax preparer named Bubba. She plugged all my information into a computer program, added in my personal deductions and made me give my real name.

I have to say the whole process was fairly painless. Where I had spent literally days and anguished nights poring over tax forms to see if I qualified for every break, the Fred and Bubba people had my IRS taxes prepared with all required supplemental forms nicely printed out and organized inside a pretty blue binder within just an hour.

Then she gave me the bad news.

“I’m afraid you owe the federal government so much money, we think you’re going to have to build them an aqueduct.”

— Myron Kukla

Myron Kukla is the author of several books of humor, including Guide to Surviving Life available at www.squareup.com/store/myronkuklabooks and Van Wieren Hardware in Holland, Michigan.

Reflections of Erma