Monday, April 11, 2016

The Big Wait

Now comes...bad April. The Masters is over, April Fool's a distant memory. Now comes the Big Wait.

Every morning, first thing, I open my iPad and search for...the email. When I get to the office and see the orange light pulsing on my phone, I listen for...the message. At some point over the next four days it will come. No, it's not results from blood work, or an MRI. This message will come from a guy named Carl, and like the last 35 such messages, it will be to inform me of just how much the privilege of my American citizenship will cost me this year.

Carl's a good guy. He's good at what he does. It's just that his annual bad news comes with his bill for professional services, adding salt to the wound. It's what he does. I will open the email when it comes with stoic resignation. My hands used to shake. My palms used to get clammy with sweat. Not anymore. Carl has gotten fancy. There's a password embedded in the email which unlocks my tax return from its cloud-based home. I go there and see the number just to the right of those bitter three words...amount you owe. I sign electronically. Very modern and impressive.

Usually, at some point in the thirty days leading up to April 15, I have one dream where my tax return gets delivered by a gleaming white flying unicorn. When I break the elaborate burgundy wax seal, I read the beautifully calligraphic words...amount overpaid, applied to your 2016 return! Then I bolt upright in bed, and the glorious fantasy evaporates.

While what I owe may not be my fair share, thanks to Carl, it's my legal share. No legitimate deduction will have been missed, no justifiable tax reduction scheme unused. No matter what the number is, it will be paid by the 15th. No extensions, no payment plan. I will stroke a check and be done with it. Because I have used honest numbers, there will be no anger or resentment. April 15th isn't a day for debates about fairness, it's a day when my obligation as a citizen of the greatest Republic on the face of the earth must be fulfilled. Besides, what does fairness have to do with taxes? The only people who think taxes are wonderful are those for whom money is theoretical, or those filthy rich enough to afford $50,000 a plate Hillary Clinton fundraiser dinners. For the rest of us, taxes are a necessary evil. Roads need to be paved, teachers need to be paid, and it takes a lot of expensive jet fuel to keep an F-15 aloft. So, we pay. Then we suffer silently when we hear politicians refer to us as "greedy."