Thanks IRS….I’m flat broke and busted

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

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My head is still spinning.

After two-plus hours of crushing numbers, and doing the same to several sheets of paper in the process, the annual hell known as filling out a federal tax return is over.

On Monday of this week, I put a check – one that hurt my feelings to write – in the mail to the United States Department of the Treasury.

It’s painful enough to look at the amount of federal taxes that are deducted from my paycheck every two weeks. Ditto for that deduction weekly from my wife’s paycheck. One would think that combined amount – a fairly significant number by year’s end – would be enough to satisfy Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

They need more, and the sad fact-of-the-matter is we, the tax-paying citizens; those who foot the bill, have no say at all in how our money is spent. If the government wants to fund a $10 million study on how red-headed woodpeckers react to global climate change, then so be it! The “gubment” isn’t going to listen to us when we offer our opinion on how that study is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

What I really, really hope would happen with a small portion of our tax dollars is to spend it on a redesign of Form 1040 – the now dreaded Federal Income Tax Return.

It was redesigned a couple of years ago, but it still remains too complex for those of us who are still working past age 65 and drawing Social Security as well as a paycheck from our place of employment. Just the worksheet alone that I use to figure the taxable benefits of my Social Security payments drives me batty. I combine certain lines, write-in my filing status, multiply one set of numbers by 85 percent, then subtract some more money if I’m married and filing a joint return, then enter the smallest of two numbers, multiply that by 50 percent, enter the smallest number again and multiply that by 85 percent, and then add two sets of numbers together. That gets me to step 18, which directs me to multiply the very first number I entered at the top of the worksheet by 85 percent. If the result of that final equation is less than a dollar amount I entered two lines earlier (which is always the case), then that’s the number I transfer to my 1040.

Why not start with what’s on line #1 and multiply it by 85 percent and whatever the answer is what you use on the 1040? That would reduce the worksheet from 19 lines to three.

I find the North Carolina State Income Tax form much easier to navigate. You use the adjusted gross income number from your federal return, add or subtract any allowable federal adjustments, enter your standard or itemized state deductions, subtract that amount, and then multiply the resulting number by 5.25 percent (the flat tax rate for everybody…no matter how much your annual income is).

What makes the task of filing your federal taxes so tough is trying to make sure you correctly interpret the wording on each line of the form. Some of it is so vague that it becomes next to impossible to discover its real meaning.

The IRS loves its intimidating presence. They want us to become so confused that we forget – or are too frightened – to report a legitimate deduction. If they really had their way (and they normally do), the tax form would be as follows:

Please print: full name; last name; second to last initial.

Address: (note, if your address is greater than the amount shown on line 19 and is less than $6,400 but more than $18,400, subtract line 19 from line 20 and add $4,400. If line 19 is less than line 17, but not more than line 18, add back line 19 from Form 1080-D, version 3. That number is found on your 1999 tax form 1130-Q. (You do still have that form, right?)

The following information is requested by the Department of Agriculture: Do you own any talking chickens? If yes, what are their names?

General requested information: Do you live within two miles of a decent pizza joint? When was the last time you had your tires rotated? Do you weigh more than last year’s tax form?

Filing Status: (1) Single – Double – Triple – Homerun. (2) Married, filing a single joint return (even if spouse is married separately). (3) Jointly married or singly separated. (4) Head of Household filing a separate, but joint return. (5) Head of the joint. (6) Deceased, but filing a posthumous return.

Exemptions: (1) You. (2) Yourself. (3) I. (4) Spouse (5) Number of dependent children living with you; living with someone else; or wish they were living with someone else. Total Confusion: add lines 6E and 6F and divide by Line 6G; fold in eggs, beat until firm.

Please enter Wages, Salaries, Tips, Extortion money. Don’t forget to list the cash you stuffed in a mayonnaise jar and buried under the kids swing set in the backyard. (You thought we forgot about that, didn’t you?)

Add all the above lines and multiply by two – this is your total income.

Enter total deductions from above (Note: if this number is greater than zero, please enter zero because we will not allow any deductions).

Using the Tax Table, the Tax Rate Schedule, Line 432 on Schedule B, Part II, section R2 or R2D2, figure your 2021 tax and enter that amount on Line 21.

On line 23, enter the amount of Federal Income Tax we stole (oops, we mean deducted) from your salary.

If Line 23 is larger than Line 21, you made a huge mistake. Please refigure your taxes.

When you get to the point where Line 21 is larger than Line 23, subtract the difference, add the shirt off your back, and mail it all to us. We would include a postage-free return envelope, but we need to use that money to fund some useless study.

That’s about how I feel today after writing a check this past Monday to the ‘gubment.”

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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