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Life, death and Barry’s taxes

Barry Smith

My life is free, wild and devil-may-care, and I have the itemized receipts to prove it.Can I just tell you what a great guy my accountant is? And I’m not just saying this because there’s a chance he’ll read this column before he starts working on my return. See, I don’t a have a real job, but have opted instead for a handful of freelance positions, so each year my accountant takes this jumble of scattered income, expenses, depreciations and whatnot and translates it into a language the IRS can understand, and I am grateful.Because I know that I’m a difficult client: I’m full of juvenile resentment about being forced to place my life into federally mandated categories, and I tend to take this out on my undeserving accountant. So, for the past few years, right around tax time, we have pretty much the same conversation:ACCOUNTANT (pencil poised over page): “So what percentage of your personal automobile use is related to your writing?”ME: “All of it.”ACCOUNTANT: “No, you’re freelance, it can’t be all of it. I need a percentage, one that you can actually back up with receipts.”ME: “Look, I never know where an idea will come from. I mean, ‘kumquat’ is a funny word, right? So, I might drive to the grocery store, see a kumquat and be inspired. But it might take 10 such trips before I actually write about it. Or it might take 10 years worth of trips. See, I don’t separate my life from my art, everything is intertwined, so every car trip that I make, every penny that I spend, it’s all deductible. I would have no problem swearing under oath that driving to the grocery store and laughing at funny fruit and vegetable names is a necessary part of my job. If kumquats aren’t in season, there’s always the rutabaga. So, 100 percent.”ACCOUNTANT: “Please just give me an answer.” (NOTE: This is what he says, but I know that what he means is, “Look, you prima donna fruitcake, I have other clients, clients who have real jobs and subsequently make real money. I read your last column and it was about getting high and bowling dogs, so spare me the ‘my life is my art’ crap and just give me an answer so I can write it down and we can, God help me, move on to expenses.”)ME: “100 percent.”ACCOUNTANT: “I’m gonna put 45.”ME: “OK.”Then he writes a number down. Or at least I think it’s a number – he tends to cup his hand over his pencil so I can’t see what he’s writing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s actually making a tiny sketch of me and writing “a–hole” next to it. Nor would I blame him.I mean, my lack of employability isn’t his fault, why should he have to deal with my attitude about it?But, as I said, he’s a great guy. He once actually allowed me to explain, without cutting me off, why I thought I should be able to claim a set of harmonicas as an expense for my “freelance journalist” job.ACCOUNTANT: “Is this really all the money you make?”ME: “No, that’s just all I report. Luckily the people who purchase my methamphetamines prefer to deal in cash.”ACCOUNTANT: (Writes something down) “Interesting.”ME: “It was a joke.”ACCOUNTANT: (Keeps writing.)ME: “No, seriously, I was trying to be funny … don’t write that down.”I know this is no time for jokes, but I really can’t help it. I mean, when the topic at hand is “reinvestment of the proceeds of the sale of a publicly traded security into an SSBIC interest,” well, the mind just reels with hilarious one-liners.Our annual meeting is this week, and as much as I’d like to think I’ve matured in some way, I have no reason to believe anything will be different. ACCOUNTANT: “Why have you listed someone named ‘Muse’ as a dependent?”ME: “Oh … uh, I guess because I was hoping you wouldn’t notice it.”Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com


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