It’s time once again for our annual tax-tips column. Our column has been rated the top tax-tips column in the United States for people who don’t know anything about taxes BY people who don’t know anything about taxes. The goal of our column isn’t even to teach you anything. For the most part, it’s barely even tax-related, other than mentioning the word “taxes” or “IRS” once or twice, for tax purposes.
This year, we’re sharing our “wisdom” with various people who took the time to write in, Hashem yerachem.
I only have enough time to either clean for Pesach or do my taxes. Which one should I do?
Okay, on the one hand, Pesach is definitely more important. And if the government can sometimes push off tax day because of Emancipation Day, why can’t they push it off because of Pesach? How is Pesach not an Emancipation Day? And how much cleaning do people have to do for Emancipation Day, exactly? Do they have to flip their kitchens? Do they have to figure out how to get a vacuum cleaner into their car? Do they have to cook a huge, three-course meal that no one is going to eat at 11:00 at night after spending hours telling over the story of the Emancipation and pointing at various symbolic foods?
On the other hand, the government is not going to respond well to you giving this argument. But the good news is that the jail cell you end up in next year will be a lot easier to clean for Pesach. You just have to sweep the floor and kasher your sink-toilet. You won’t even have pockets to go through. But you might have to sell your chometz on the prison black market.
Your other option is to choose taxes, and as far as Pesach in concerned, just sell your house for Pesach, and then take your refund and go to a hotel, or, in the case of your particular refund, a motel. Just bear in mind that if you sell your house, the government will want a piece of that next year.
“What do you mean you sold it for a gartel?” they’ll say. Then they’ll want a piece of the gartel.
But I feel for you. It’s hard to prepare for Pesach and do your taxes at the same time. Pesach prep requires getting down on your hands and knees and scrubbing, and tax prep requires sitting in one place wishing you were doing something more enjoyable, such as sticking your head in the oven. You’re most likely to end up sitting there for hours in front of your computer tax program, slowly taking the keys out of your keyboard and wiping them off one at a time.
“Yuck! What on earth is going on inside this keyboard?”
This doesn’t have to be a shaylah, though, because you can actually do your taxes as early as January. Technically, you can also clean for Pesach as early as January, but your kids are going to undo it. Your kids are not going to undo your taxes. Unless you have some very strange kids. At most, they’re going to spend the refund.
What should I spend my refund on? Quick, before the kids get to it.
Something fun. For example:
- Registration fees for your kids’ school. This is always due around Pesach-time, and no one knows why it’s as expensive as it is. How much does it cost to process some paperwork of a kid who’s already in your system from last year? They probably charge that much because they don’t have the time to deal with this, what with Pesach and taxes, and now they have to work in your registration? Do you know how hard it is to clean a school for Pesach? Every desk has chometz in it! Every desk!
- Pesach. Pesach is very expensive, even if you’re not going to a motel. There’s wine, which is very expensive even though it’s basically just old grape juice, and there’s matzah, which is really just flour and water but is somehow more expensive than the grape juice (and sometimes older), and there are all the newfangled Pesach products that don’t taste as good as chometz products but are more expensive because first the manufacturer has to figure out how to get starch out of a potato. Plus there are all the little things: you have to dry clean your kittel and shell out for gas to run to the supermarket twenty times, and maybe for goodness sakes get a pesachdikke keyboard for your computer. It all adds up.
- Paying for your kids’ camp, which wants their money now, because they have to start spending it on things for the summer, such as freeze pops. Do you know how long it takes to freeze thirty million freeze pops? They have to put them in as soon as Pesach is over.
So what does the IRS do the rest of the year?
Isn’t that like asking what Eliyahu Hanavi does when it’s not Pesach? Well, clearly, he goes to brissim. Does the IRS go to brissim?
I guess the assumption is they spend the rest of the year going over the taxes you sent them in April, but supposedly they send you your refund within 21 business days. So what about the rest of the year, after Shavuos? How do they pass the time? By attempting to make a siyum on the tax code?
The general consensus is that they spend the rest of the year auditing people who are attempting to flee the country because getting audited is terrifying. Sure, you didn’t lie on your taxes, but they want you to have proof for everything you wrote, and you don’t quite know what the government considers adequate proof. Is the receipt enough? What if it’s from one of those stores that doesn’t write anything on the receipt resembling English? And anyway, I know that when I go to the DMV, I need several different documents to prove that I’m me, and I’m clearly standing right there. How much proof do you think they need? You think they’re going to be satisfied when you tell them that you use your home office primarily for work? Or are they going to stand over your shoulder for several hours and just stare? Because I already have my kids for that.
Can I claim my pets as dependents? I have goldfish.
You should be able to though, right? They’re dependent on you. It’s not like they’re out earning money. After all, you can claim children, and, as some people will point out, having children is basically like having pets that slowly learn to talk back.
But no, as much as there are plenty of people out there who claim that having pets is just like having kids, it is not. You don’t have to do homework with your pets, you don’t have to worry about your dog falling in with the wrong crowd, you don’t have to yell at your dog to come back to the table because you’re eating as a family and you want to ask it what it did today in obedience school (“Nothing.”), you don’t have to worry about finding it a shidduch or spend hours on the phone every night trying to make that happen, or sit around smiling supportively while your dog shrugs its shoulders and refuses to say the Mah Nishtana, it doesn’t constantly ask you for things just because everyone else has them, and no one looks at you and judges you when you tie your dog to a tree or give it sleeping pills or lock it in a room when a relative comes over who’s not interested in dealing, or, if you’re flying, putting it in a cage in the cargo hold. And if you accidentally vacuum up your hamster or something while your kids are in school, you can sneak out to the store and adopt another one that looks reasonably similar to the first one. And yes, your pet is technically, at best, an adopted child, but even if you eventually tell it it’s adopted, it won’t get upset and run away from home.
“You’re not my real family!”
“You thought we were? There were clues.”
But you can deduct the pets if you use them for medical reasons – for example, if you have a monkey who gives you shots or knows CPR or something. They’re not kids, but they can be medical professionals.
You can also deduct pet expenses if you can claim that you need the animal for business reasons – for example, if you have a guard dog. Then you can count the dog as an employee of sorts, and even send him a w2 at the end of the year, which he will eat. In fact, one of the biggest excuses the IRS receives from dogs who didn’t file their taxes was, “I ate it.” This is why many dogs are told to e-file. This is also why the inside of your keyboard is so disgusting.