A dad’s letter to the IRS

April 15, 2019

(This letter, written by Bob Mullen, first appeared in Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul, published in 1990.]

Dear Sirs:

I am responding to your letter denying the deduction for two of the three dependents I claimed on my Federal Tax return. All I have to say is, thank you. I have questioned whether or not these are my children for years. They are evil and expensive. It’s only fair, since they are minors and no longer my responsibility, that the government should know something about them and what to expect over the next year. Please do not try to reassign them to me next year and reinstate the deduction. They are yours!

The oldest, Kristen, is now 17. She is brilliant. Ask her! I suggest you put her to work in your office where she can answer people’s questions about their returns. While she has no formal training, it has not seemed to hamper her from believing she knows everything, so taxes should be a breeze. Next year she is going to college. I think it’s wonderful that you will now be responsible for that little expense. 

While you mull that over, keep in mind that she has a truck. It doesn’t run at the moment, so you have the choice of appropriating some Department of Defense funds to fix the vehicle, or getting up early to drive her to school. 

Kristen also has a boyfriend. Oh joy. While she possesses all of the wisdom of the universe, her alleged mother and I have felt it best to occasionally remind her of the virtues of abstinence, or in the face of overwhelming passion, safe sex. This is always uncomfortable, and I am quite relieved that you will be handling this in the future. May I suggest that you reinstate Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who had a rather good handle on the problem?

Patrick is 14. I’ve had my suspicions about this one. His eyes are a little closer together than those of normal people. He may be a tax examiner himself one day, if he is not incarcerated first. In February, I was awakened at three in the morning by a police officer who was bringing Patrick home. He and his friends were TP’ing houses. For future reference, would you like him delivered to the local IRS office, or to Ogden, UT?

Kids at 14 will do almost anything on a dare. His hair is purple. Permanent dye, temporary dye, what’s the big deal? Learn to deal with it. You’ll have plenty of time, as he is sitting out a few days of school after instigating a food fight in the cafeteria. I’ll take care of filing your phone number with the vice principal. 

Oh yes, he and all of his friends have raging hormones. This house is filled with testosterone and it will be much more peaceful when he lives in your home. DO NOT leave him or his friends unsupervised with girls, explosives, flammables, inflatables, vehicles, or telephones (they find telephones a source of unimaginable amusement, so be sure to lock out the 900 and 976 numbers!).

Heather is an alien. She slid through a time warp and appeared as if by magic one year. I’m sure this one is yours. She is 10 going on 21. She came from a bad trip in the sixties. She wears tie-dyed clothes, beads, sandals, and hair that looks like Tiny Tim’s. Fortunately, you will be raising my taxes to help offset the pinch of her remedial reading courses. “Hooked on Phonics” is expensive, so the school dropped it. But here’s the good news! You can buy it yourself for half the amount of the deduction you are denying me!

It’s quite obvious that we were terrible parents (ask the other two) so they have helped raise this one to a new level of terror. She cannot speak English. Most people under twenty understand the curious patois she fashioned out of valley girls/boys in the hood/reggae/yuppie/political double speak. The school sends her to a speech pathologist who has her roll her “r’s”. It added a refreshing Mexican/Irish touch to her voice. She wears hats backwards, baggy pants, and wants one of her ears pierced four more times. There is a fascination with tattoos that worries me, but I am sure that you can handle it. Bring a truck when you come to get her. She sort of “nests” in her room and I think that it would be easier to move the entire thing than find out what it is really made of.

You denied two of the three exemptions, so it is only fair that you get to pick which two you will take. I prefer that you take the youngest two, since even though I will still go bankrupt with Kristen’s college, after that I am free! If you take the two oldest, then I still have time for counseling before Heather becomes a teenager. If you take the two girls, then I won’t feel so bad about putting Patrick in a military academy.

Please let me know your decision as soon as possible, as I have already increased the withholding on my W-4 to cover the $395 in additional tax and made a down payment on an airplane.

Yours truly,


Deep in the heart of taxes

April 17, 2018

Your cheatin’ heart

April 15, 2016

Someone asked behavioral economist Dan Ariely what percentage of Americans cheat on their income taxes. Dan’s reply:

I’m not sure, but it’s clearly a large amount: Pew Research estimated that the IRS lost about $270 billion dollars for tax “underreporting” in 2010. I tend to agree with Will Rogers, who once said, “The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf.”

Taxes don’t just tempt many Americans to cheat. They also kill us. A 2012 paper by Donald Redelmeier and Christopher Yarnell published in the Journal of The American Medical Association found that over the past 30 years, fatal accidents increase by about 6% on April 15 compared to standard days. The authors chalk this up to stress. They also show that this increase doesn’t hold for people at retirement age (who, presumably, aren’t that stressed about taxes), has increased over time (suggesting we’ve been under more stress as U.S. taxes have grown more complex) and is particularly large for those of us on the West Coast (where state taxes are particularly high).

Of course, these two findings—increased dishonesty and increased stress—could be linked. So this tax season, please try to be safe when filling out and delivering your 1040s.

Taxes: a modest proposal

April 15, 2015

Understanding your paycheck

April 13, 2011

Gross pay:  $1,222.00

Income Tax: $244.38

Outgo Tax: $45.21

State Tax: $61.10

Interstate Tax: $5.89

County Tax: $6.11

City Tax: $12.22

Rural Tax: $4.44

Back Tax: $1.11

Front Tax: $1.16

Side Tax: $1.61

Up Tax: $2.22

Down Tax: $1.11

Stadium Tax: $12.69

Flat Tax: $8.32

Surtax: $3.46

Ma’am Tax: $4.60

Tic-Tacs: $2.98

Thumb Tacks: $3.93

Parking Fee: $15.00

F.I.C.A.: $81.88

T.G.I.F.: $19.95

Life Insurance: $9.85

Health Insurance: $16.23

Disability: $2.58

Liability: $3.41

Inability: $1.25

Dental Insurance: $4.50

Mental Insurance: $6.33

Reassurance: $4.07

Coffee: $66.85

Coffee Cups: $6.51

Floor Rental: $9.85

Chair Rental: $7.32

Desk Rental: $4.32

Union Dues: $6.85

Union Don’ts: $6.77

Cash Advances: $2.69

Cash Retreats: $121.35

Overtime: $7.28

Undertime: $54.83

Eastern Time: $10.00

Central Time: $9.00

Mountain Time: $8.00

Pacific Time: $7.00

Daylight Savings Time: $24.00

Time Out: $12.00

Water: $16.75

Electricity: $38.23

Heat: $51.42

Air: $46.83

Miscellaneous: $104.54

Take Home Pay:  $0.02

And now you know where the expression “my two cents” comes from.

You’re about to get soaked.

Singing the tax day blues

April 13, 2011

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