A Tax Day Smackdown, Courtesy of Bob Wire & Double Haul

By BOB WIRE

Are you self-employed? Me too. Isn’t it wonderful? No boss (other than your spouse) to boss you around, no set schedule, no kowtowing to unreasonable shit-heels who draw a bigger paycheck but possess all the common sense of a soap dish. I love it.

But the autonomy and freedom of self-employment are countered every spring by the tremendous pain in the ass of doing the taxes.

I put off doing it until the last minute because I’ve developed such a watershed of income streams, that several additional schedules and forms need to be filled out. Some, such as 1099s to my band mates, need to be delivered by the end of January. These guys never saw me show up on time for a gig, so I’m sure they aren’t surprised when the forms arrive around Valentine’s Day. (“I love you! Here’s $2000 you have to report.”)

But Tax Day is just a few days away. So I made some strong coffee, sharpened a bundle of #2 pencils, and let the fiction writing begin. (Just kidding, Mr. Geithner!)

We commandeered the dining room table because it has two leaves. We got all the forms, W-2s, 1099s, receipts, invoices, and all the other paper detritus that clogs our lives, and piled it into organized stacks. I brought over two side chairs and a coffee table to have enough flat space for it all. Barb fired up the laptop, loaded the TaxSmackdown™ software, and we dove in.

“Income?” asked Barb, keyboarding numbers into the computer.

“Some,” I said, defensively. “I’ve been busy around here, man. There’s no such thing as a non-working mom. Or dad. Or mom-dad. Whatever. Those toilet paper rolls don’t just change themselves, you know.”

“I know,” she said, “I’m just asking if you can give me the number. Add up your 1099s.”

“I only have one. It’s from the Union Club.”

Bob Wire's calculations are accurate.

Bob Wire's calculations areaccurate.

“You mean, the only bar that won’t even buy the band a round of drinks actually makes you claim the income?”

“Yeah,” I said, disgusted. “But at least they’re paying us well. I mean, if this was 1974. Just do what we did last year and put down the drummer’s social security number. He hasn’t filed since he got divorced in 2002.”

She entered our combined income, and started to go down my list of expenses and deductions. “What’s this receipt here?” she asked, thrusting a small slip of paper at me like it was a pair of panties she’d found in my glove box. “Honey, you can’t write off a trip to Dairy Queen with the kids.”

I put down my pencil and sat up as straight as I could, pulling back my shoulders and pushing out my chin. I raised an eyebrow, looked her right in the face, and said, “Barb, I am an artist, therefore my entire corporeal existence on this earth is fodder for my creative process. Any and all activities I experience may inform a creative work down the road, so the entire universe, of which I am the center, is tax deductible.”

I punctuated my speech with a small drum roll with a couple of pencils, and smiled smugly.

“What bullshit,” she said. “Where did you read that crap, on the Apple website? Jesus, you Mac people…” She broke out the red pen and started drawing lines through the items on my list of write-offs. Crestfallen, I could only sit there and wait to defend my idea of legitimate expenses.

“You can’t write off nineteen growlers of Double Haul beer, honey,” she said, drawing a red line through the list I’d painstakingly compiled throughout the year. Well throughout the fall anyway.

“Operator lubricant,” I said. “Goes to the defendant’s state of mind.”

She gave me the “watch it, smartass” eyes and continued down the list.

“Forty-five bucks for a lava lamp,” she announced. “I don’t see how that is deductible.”

“Oh, that’s TOTALLY deductible, babe. It’s for my studio, and if I turn out all the lights except for the lava lamp, it really provides a great ambience that kind of opens the door to all kinds of creative solutions and ideas.”

“With the help of a little Double Haul.”

“With the help of a little Double Haul,” I agreed.

No red line. I felt like I’d just slipped one past the goalie.

“What about your mileage? You’ve got 13,500 miles down here for work. That seems kind of high. Did you have a lot of out of town gigs last year?”

I stroked my chin so she would know I was thinking hard. I squinted into the middle distance so she’d think I was doing some math in my head.

“Not really,” I said. “Just that wedding in Whitefish. But there were other, shorter trips related to work.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like driving to Kettlehouse Brewery to buy Double Haul.”

Red line.

Turns out that only about five percent of the things I thought were deductible (Organic Green frying pans, cotton candy, fishing license, beef jerky, change for the jukebox, graphic novels, limes, Chick-O-Sticks, etc.) were legitimate. But still, as a professional musician, I managed to lose a shit ton of money last year. New guitars don’t grow on trees, you know.

Rusty and Speaker, our two wonderful kids, are a tax-break goldmine every year. Educational summer camps. Medical expenses. Child tax credit. Peanut butter. All that stuff adds up, and in the end we wound up getting a refund.

It won’t be enough to send us RV shopping or anything, but at least it will cover the cost of the TaxSmackdown™ software.

And maybe a growler of Double Haul.

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Wanna laugh ’til your sides hurt? These ought to do the trick: Bob Wire Rocks the KISS Mini Golf CourseGrowing Up Is Hard to Do (When You’re Already Over 40), and The Guitar That Saved My Soul.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Bob Wire is recommends TaxSmackdown (TM).

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers.