Rumbling about Taxes

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

It wasn’t a coincidence that there was an earthquake Monday night just a few minutes after we e-filed our tax returns. There’s always a bit of rumbling when I do my taxes–or more accurately, when my husband does my taxes for me.

Not everyone understands the intricacies of my professional life as a columnist and all of the legitimate expense write-offs that I am entitled to. Luckily my husband and I are on the same page here: we believe that as loyal U.S. citizens we have the obligation to prepare our tax returns with the same level of consistency and creativity that Congress shows in spending our money.

I think we’ve finally got it down to a science.

The first step, year after year, is for my husband to buy a tax-deductible copy of TurboTax at Costco, bring it home, spend seven hours trying to put it on the computer, and then declare that, “our electronics are all obsolete and there’s absolutely no way we can do our taxes without buying a new computer.” Thank God it’s a business expense.

Once the technical support side is taken care of, which usually takes a few weeks for Zak to kick the tires of different operating systems, laptops versus desktops, etc., the next step for my husband is grumbling about my accounting system. I honestly don’t understand what his problem is. Whenever my purse feels extra heavy, I empty out all of the receipts into a snazzy little gift bag labeled “receipts.” There is no reason to uncrumple them or sort through them at this point, since it’s much more fun to do it every year in April. Or so he tells me.

For example, last year, during our fun-filled, nine-hour receipt sorting session, my husband invented seven extremely colorful phrases, which later showed up in my columns, thus making the case of Firestone he consumed during his “recovery period” 100% deductible this year.

And by the way, that snazzy little gift bag filing system was purchased from the PTA at my son’s school: another tax deduction!

Once the receipts are sorted, it’s time to fill in the blanks. This year we’re claiming four dependents: Koss, our only child; Beta, our fish; Josie, our dog, who we had for a total of five days; and Leslie, my inner child, since she plays such a key role in my work.

I don’t know why I have to keep repeating myself every year. Of course, every latte, lunch, massage and mani-pedi should be considered a business expense, since all of those things are regular fodder for my column. Come to think of it, we’d better take a larger deduction for my most critical writing supplies–wine and chocolate.

Finally, 677 Trader Joe’s receipts later, my husband sends off the file to the IRS. It feels like everything we have is taxed, including our patience. Thankfully, most of it is deductible.

Sure, we could be audited. That kind of aftershock has happened before. But I would like to point out to all of those extremely good-looking, smart, funny and sensitive IRS agents, that I know a stripper who wrote off the cost of enlarging her ta-tas and a bodybuilder who got a tax write-off for waxing his back, so writing off the cost of the plasma TV I had to buy to get my husband to do my taxes again this year doesn’t seem so earth-shattering after all, does it?

Send your tax tips to Leslie at at email. For more columns visit

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on April 18, 2008.

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