In California, the Realty Interests Are in Charge
To misquote Iris Murdoch, “We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find realty.” After all, if you have enough money to start with, it’s not terribly difficult to become a millionaire, requires minimal brains. Just invest in real estate. It worked for Trump (if you really believe he’s a billionaire). It can work for you. All it requires is a lack of moral compass: You too can live in a McMansion at the edge of a golf course. Isn’t that what life is all about?
Right now, California politicians are highly disturbed about the increasing rate of homelessness. Of course, they think that the solution is to find housing for all the homeless. Never mind that most L.A. homeless would prefer to live in a tent set up under a bridge, where they can enjoy their heroine and crystal meth without being hassled by John Law. And that doesn’t include the 25-50% who are just plain out of their heads and wouldn’t understand what you are talking about.
The word is out that there are not enough housing units. Then there was an interesting front page article in the Los Angeles Times a couple days ago to the effect that there are approximately 110,000 housing units that are theoretically up for rent, but not really.
The reason is the convenience to landowners of the law governing taxation of housing units. One is taxed not on the gross amount one makes, but on the profit one makes. If too many units are being profitably rented, the best way to lower your taxes is to net the rented units with units that are being deliberately kept off the market. That way, the profit is minimized—or even wiped out—and the NOL (Net Operating Loss) is subtracted from the total income.
From my years in accounting, I have seen dozens of filthy rich landowners living the life of Riley while paying zero taxes. That also is a trick employed by our Presidente.
It’s Finally Over
I’ve worked twenty-five consecutive tax seasons, and each one seems more grueling than the one before it. This year, because the deadline was April 18, we had three extra days to suffer. Last year, we also had February 29 because it was leap year. And Martine Luther King’s birthday? And President’s Day? Nope, we worked those days, as well as most Saturdays and some Sundays.
Although I had been working part time since May 2016, I worked full time from the beginning of March to today, primarily because our tax manager, Don Yamagishi, died on February 28. I do not have one-tenth of Don’s tax smarts, but I know a lot about the tax software and how to use it effectively. So I slaved with the rest of them because I did not want all the burden going on their shoulders.
Tomorrow, I’m going downtown to visit the Central Library and the Last Bookstore at 5th & Spring. It’ll be nice to relax a bit.
Tulips at Descanso Gardens
Since the beginning of May, I have been semi-retired. Now, with the passing of our tax manager on Tuesday, I am being asked to come back full time—at least until the end of tax season. I had hoped to avoid another high-pressure tax season, but I pretty much had to agree to help out; else, I might have been forced to look for another job at my advanced age. So I can expect the next six weeks to be highly stressful. Life is like that sometimes.
But before I started in on the heavy-duty work, I decided to go to Descanso Gardens with Martine. The tulips were planted, and this was the first weekend of a two-=weekend Cherry Blossom Festival. Only some of the cherry trees were in flower, but the gardens were crowded, mostly with Japanese-Americans looking for an American equivalent of their own cherry blossom festivals. Fortunately, Descanso is large enough that one can easily escape the crowds and still find beauty.
The beauty of the tulips, and even of the lone lilac that came into bloom early, will help me in the weeks to come. Unfortunately, the tax deadline this year is Tuesday, April 18. That happens whenever April 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday. This year it is on Saturday, and Monday is a holiday (Emancipation Day) in the District of Columbia; so, Tuesday is the tax deadline.
I’ve already filed my taxes, so at least I don’t have to worry about that.
Relax, Guys, You Don’t Owe Anything Anyway
Tax season is now over. Theoretically, I could still e-file returns and extensions until midnight Pacific Daylight Time, but wild horses cannot get me to return to work. Nor ducks and rabbits, for that matter.
It’ll be nice to have some time to myself after a month working seven days a week.
Wish me luck!
I Take My Vengeance on Clients Who Bring In Their Tax Info Late
This weekend, my ire is being highly concentrated on those clients who bring in their data late. The worst are landlords who own multiple commercial properties and who like to play with the numbers until the last possible minute. It’s a sort of game for them, and a misery for anyone who works in an accounting office.
Well, I took my revenge on one of the worst. I had to enter an occupation code and wound up entering “cattle feedlot operator”—but only because here was no code for people running houses of prostitution.
I hope the Department of Agriculture comes after this clown and asks him, “Where’s the beef?”
Talk About the Tail Wagging the Dog!
You may wonder why your taxes are due on April 18 instead of April 15 this year—even though April 15 falls on a Friday. You can blame it on (or otherwise, if you’re so inclined) the District of Columbia, a Federal District that is free of Congressional representation. (So lucky!)
They have a holiday each April 16 that commemorates President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is actually an international holiday and, in my opinion, probably better than most holidays. I mean, who gives a cracker about Columbus Day? The man didn’t discover America: the Icelander Leif Ericsson did. And both Memorial Day and Labor Day are a bit sketchy; but I am wholeheartedly for Emancipation Day. The freeing of the slaves is one of the few good things that have happened in world history during the last two centuries.
Because April 16 is on a Saturday this year, it is observed on Friday, April 15, where it is a widely observed public holiday. Consequently, taxes are not due until Monday, April 18. Due to this little quirk, together with an additional day for Leap Year, tax season is four days longer this year.
Classical Music Is the Key
Now that I am working seven days a week (at my advanced age), there are several methods I use just to survive to April 18. (Yes, that is the deadline date this year. Don’t ask why!)
First of all, I no longer listen to the news on the radio on my way to and from work—especially in a presidential election year, when the news is likely to be all bad. Instead, I turn the dial to KUSC-FM at 91.5 and listen to classical music. Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Dvorak, Bruckner, Wagner—that’s what I need to calm me down.
The last time some guy tried to sell me a hip-hop CD on the beach, I told him I only listen to music by dead white guys who wore powdered wigs. And that’s not far from the truth.
My second coping mechanism is to read a good long book, preferably humorous. This year, that role is being filled by Albert Cohen’s magnificent Belle de Seigneur, which I am reading for the Yahoo! French Literature group. It is a near perfect selection.
Does the IRS Want to Make More Money? Try This!
We all know that corporations are taxed based on their annual profit. Yet this profit can be endlessly manipulated using depreciation and a whole plethora of loopholes. As one who has been in the accounting profession for a few years, I have a modest proposal that could at one and the same time:
- Increase corporate taxes and
- Limit the pay of ravenous CEOs and other management
It’s really quite simple: No company can pay a tax that is lower than the amount of compensation (in cash or stock options) paid to its management. The management positions which trigger this tax policy can (and will) be negotiated endlessly, but the upshot will be higher corporate taxes and less outrageous sums going to overpaid CEOs and their henchmen.
Why should corporate rights be so much more generous than the rights of American workers?
Finally, I Can Live a Normal Life!
For me, April 15 means I can take weekends off, go visit my doctor and dentist, and not have to endure stress caused by selfish rich people who feel they don’t have to give us their tax data until April 14. I filed my own 1040 way back on January 31 and got my refund within two weeks. (Ooh, I just noticed the illustration above shows a 1040 from 2010. That should be good for some nice late interest and penalties!)
Today was particularly rough, as one of our accountants was sick and had to leave early; and the other one did not come in until 1:30 pm. Until his arrival, I was requested to pretend I was an accountant on doing an extension for a California Limited Liability Corporation, about which, of course, I know absolutely nothing. Although I work at an accounting firm, I serve as the office manager and data processing manager.
So at least it is done. I hope this is my last tax season. They don’t get any easier.
Time to Change Your Calendar
In the accounting profession, we are apt to view New Years Day with a jaundiced eye. It is the beginning of the 100-day Bataan death march that is tax season. For a while, we will have weekends. Then, at some point in February, we begin to work Saturdays. In March, Sundays are also added. That is in a high-rise building with no weekend air-conditioning, unless we pay for it. To add insult to injury, the two national holidays during this period—Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day—are just two more workdays. (The company makes up the time lost later.)
Every year, our clients tend to be later and later in supplying us the information we need to file the returns, and gradually increasing pressure is applied between February 1 and April 15, until the last week is a nightmare of running around, making last-minute changes, and printing numerous copies of multiple hundred page returns.
Not a pleasant prospect.
So, auld lang whatever. Put up a new calendar, start paring away at your social life (such as it is), be sure to get some exercise, and read some good books.