Voices of the Clarion: Nothing 'hot' about IRS

It's hard to believe tax law could be considered anything but lame

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005

American culture has sunk to a new low.

Don't argue with me on this, because proof can be found in the bastion of all that's standard and official: the Internal Revenue Service.

In preparing to file my taxes this year, I went to the IRS Web site to print some forms. While on the site, I saw a link that said "What's Hot." Though I generally approach anything to do with the IRS as I do cauliflower, Keanu Reeves movies and trips to the dentist — get it over with as quickly as possible — my curiosity got the better of me.

Want to know what's hot with the IRS?

Tax law changes.

That's right; from the department that brought you the 1040EZ and child tax credits, we now get sexy tax law changes. Forget the controversy over an adult bookstore coming to town, apparently we need to remove tax forms from libraries, cover them with opaque paper and plastic and put them in the back of magazine racks with an 18 and older stipulation for purchase.

Since when does the IRS have the authority to deem something hot? There are plenty of areas in which the IRS is eminently qualified to make designations — tax rates for various income levels, stipulations about what can and can not be deducted, whether Aunt Sally's Pomeranian qualifies as a dependent — but determining hotness? Unless Halle Berry or Tom Cruise have been hired as consultants, I think that's out of their realm of expertise.

I don't consider myself to be an expert on what is or is not hot, either. I've never been to, much less watched on TV, an MTV spring break event; I don't think Owen Wilson's smooshed, crooked nose is at all attractive; and the sight of a string bikini makes me squirm with the thought of sand lodged in inappropriate places. Even so, in my uninformed opinion, I would quibble with what qualifies as hot by IRS standards.

In the entire universe, many things could unequivocally be considered not hot:

n Getting or performing an enema.

n Inadvertently seeing one of your grandparents naked.

n Cleaning clogged toilets at a Mexican restaurant.

n Newt Gingrich.

Far surpassing them all in unhotness is tax law changes. Even in the context of the IRS, tax law changes rank last in hotness. Refunds — now that's hot. Or maybe if the IRS got a new commissioner who looked like Matt Damon. But tax laws? Even in the IRS, that's as cold as it gets.

But you can judge for yourselves. Following are a few examples of what is listed under the "What's Hot" link on the IRS Web site. Just to be safe, readers may want to shield the following from the eyes of prudes and impressionable youth:

n "Environmental cleanup (remediation) costs must be capitalized."

n "The standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car, van, pickup, or panel truck is increased to 37.5 cents a mile for all business miles."

n "A C corporation generally must get a qualified appraisal of property donated after June 3, 2004, if claiming a deduction of more than $5,000."

Whew! I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a cold shower. I could go on and on with this lewd talk, but I don't want to offend anyone's sensibilities.

Personally, I find it insulting that even the government thinks it has to sex things up to get Americans to pay attention. While tax law changes are about as much fun to digest as three-day-old jeweled meatloaf, they contain important information that citizens should make themselves aware of. Isn't that reason enough to at least skim through them? And even if it's not, the IRS already has an effective means of getting people's attention — threats. If the possibility of being audited isn't enough to make people stay informed and in line, simply listing tax law changes as "hot" isn't going to do much better.

On the other hand, the government may have a point. We are living in a society where it takes a campaign by P. Diddy and a host of other celebrities to get the 18 and over crowd to even register to vote; shoppers won't buy anything unless it's for the low, low price of something ending in ".99;" people only eat fast food that's either "low carb" or super sized — and super artery clogging; and every movie out of Hollywood has to be described as "epic" to get people to watch it.

Maybe the IRS is right. Maybe the country has been dumbed down to the level of goldfish aimlessly floating around until something taps on the glass and flashes something shiny.

Or maybe the IRS should just stick to taxes and leave the hotness to the experts. Even Newt Gingrich in a string bikini would be better at it.

Jenny Neyman is the layout and design editor for the Peninsula Clarion

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