Tom Purcell, 4/11/2011 [Archive]

Tax-Time Miseries

With taxes coming due April 18, Tom's column this week focuses on tax-filing miseries. Also see one of Tom's prior columns on the subject, Taxing Quotations!


Tax-Time Miseries

By Tom Purcell

Boy, are accountants going through a rough patch now -- even rougher than we taxpayers are.

Despite software that has greatly simplified tax preparation, American accountants suffer a host of daily aggravations.

They're responsible for filing on behalf of some 82 million U.S. taxpayers and for understanding the U.S. tax code's 5,600 incomprehensible pages, according to

No wonder, then, that the American accountant suffers "a poor work/life balance, botched sleep schedules, poor eating habits, and problems in personal relationships."

One survey found 64 percent complain that their clients, far more confused by the tax code than they, are careless or unprepared.

I hope our accountants can forgive us.

The same survey says our emotions get in the way of organizing our tax information in a timely manner:

"Procrastination (45 percent) is one of the biggest challenges for those who haven't filed in a suitable timeline by this time of year.

"Others blame nervousness about filing taxes correctly (28 percent), confusion and the process (26 percent), laziness (23 percent), and lack of organization (20 percent)."

I could toss in extended happy hours, but I don't believe that was on the list.

The survey describes other things agitating accountants.

Thirty-six percent complain about the need to resolve complex tax situations, twenty-three percent about "aggressive clients" -- who probably want to know why they owe so much after spending hours organizing business expenses and deductions.

And client deductions are a sizable source of grief. cites one client who tried to depreciate his cows.

Another tried to deduct the costs of raising a cat. A third tried to deduct his hot tub for medical purposes.

A fourth "tried to claim water bottle costs towards health care since his doctor told him he needed to drink more water."

If such deductions sound reasonable -- they do to me -- you are among a rapidly shrinking group: Americans who actually have jobs, incomes and high taxes.

Again, I hope our accountant pals can forgive us. The survey says 60 percent of us feel mighty uneasy about being audited.

"That's more than those who are worried about other nerve-wracking situations, such as receiving a performance review at work (39 percent) or visiting the doctor for an annual check-up (35 percent)."

The article doesn't say what kind of doctor, but it's surely a proctologist -- whose procedure's surely far less intrusive than an audit!

In any event, at this cruddy time of year, many are miserable and uneasy.

About to write massive checks, we're sickened to see our bank balances depleted.

We're more sick that our combined annual contributions are $1.7 trillion less than our government will spend this year.

We're sicker yet that we have to hand over fat checks to our accountants to make sure we comply with that incomprehensible tax code.

Of course, our accountants get the worst of it all. Taxpayers themselves, they must work ungodly hours to put our taxes in order.

I hope they can deduct their poor work/life balance and eating habits.

© 2011 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Email Tom at

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