“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,— “Taxman” song lyrics by The Beatles.
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat,
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.”
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Every January, we charge into the new year filled with hope and optimism. We even get giddy at times, dreaming about how much better this year will be.
Then it happens. We go to the mailbox one day, and it’s there. The dreaded W-2. Followed by sales pitches from tax preparation firms and tax filing software companies. We’re still humming the last few bars of Auld Lang Syne when the tax man comes tapping on our shoulder.
None of us likes paying taxes, at least no one I know. But I feel just awful about my longtime friend and mentor in this business, Morris Craig, up at The Naples Monitor. He’s distraught. He found a dollar bill in one of his pockets recently. And he called to tell me about the “problem” with that.
While I was concerned about my friend’s anxiety, I let him know that I had a hard time understanding how his situation qualified as a problem.
“You found it,” I said. “Now, if Melba had found it while doing the laundry, that would have been a problem. When a wife finds money left in your pockets, you never see it again.”
“The problem,” he sighed, “is taxes. I’ve paid every tax I can think of. Income tax, state tax, amusement, sales, hospital, and gasoline taxes. I’ve paid taxes for Medicare and old age benefits, state automobile taxes for license plates, school taxes to educate the kids, and the county tax to build a bridge … at the other end of the county.
“I even paid my dam tax,” he chuckled. “You know — the water district tax we’ve been paying for years to build that dam at the lake?”
“I pay my lawyer, my doctor, the butcher, and the baker with money I’ve already paid taxes on,” he said. “And if that isn’t enough, I pay my tax accountant with taxed money to figure out how much more tax I’m going to have to pay.
“So how come I’ve still got a dollar left,” Craig asked? “Obviously, I’ve overlooked a tax. It can’t be my road, defense, or college tax for higher education. And it can’t be taxes for sewers or streets, wheat for starving nations, the tax on highways and public transportation, or taxes to pay the salaries of elected officials who pass more taxes. I’ve paid all of them.
“My real estate taxes are paid, my water tax, and when they charge us for an air tax, I’ll have to pay that too,” he said.
“I pay taxes on the toothpaste I use in the morning and on the pillow where I lay my head at night. Taxes to help with parks, and fire and police protection. For the farmer’s and the pork producer’s bad years, for underdeveloped nations, and urban revitalization. And I wouldn’t dream of going fishing, owning a dog, or getting married without first paying a tax.”
“Hold up, “I quizzed Craig. “You’ve been married for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Well maybe not that long, but close to it.”
“Yeah,” he responded. “And we paid a tax to get hitched back then too.”
Then he whispered, “I confess there is one tax I haven’t paid yet … a death tax. But I will. Until then, how come I have this dollar in my pocket? Did someone plant it there to get me in trouble?”
“Craig,” I told him in my best sympathetic voice. “I don’t know where you got that dollar. But I can tell you what you better do with it.”
“What’s that,” he asked?
“If it were me, I would hide that dollar,” I advised my friend. “Before the government, or your wife discovers you have it.”
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.
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