Well, the dust has settled on another busy tax season. I hope the April 15th celebrations in your neighborhood were good. However, no matter how good they were, I bet the ones in my neighborhood were better. Yeah, you can have your Christmas, your Halloween, your Guy Fawkes Day – but Tax Day is the day our neighborhood really likes to celebrate.
It all started with the annual Tax Day Parade. This parade has been going on for around twenty years (yep, we're working on our fourth cycle through the statute of limitations) and is really how this whole celebration thing started.
This year we were incredibly lucky to get local accountant Stuart Mortenson to be the grand marshal of our parade. For the few of you out there who may not know, Stuart is the one who found the typo on line 63 of IRS form UB-40 regarding percentage of depression allowable on sub-standard farm implements not used in farming or farming related activities.
Now, there are those who say it wasn't really that big an issue, saying it was nothing more than a grammatical error and that it appeared only on paper versions of the form. But our neighborhood dismisses these naysayers, recognizing they are the same kind of people who round their reported amounts to the nearest dollar. So, even though updating the soon-to-be out-of-date form was a bit costly (rumor is the navy had to hold off on a battleship), we feel Stuart is a true American hero.
Many of the event planners were concerned that, after seeing Mr. Mortenson, viewers might feel the rest of the parade was a bit anticlimactic. Well, those fears were more than unfounded. The crowd reveled in old-time favorites like the synchronized calculations of the manual adding machine brigade, the absolute precision of the human tax table, and the FAA (Future Accounts of America) marching band. There also was the usual assortment of floats all supporting this year's theme – Progress through Obfuscation.
The only truly bad moment was when the float titled "Tax Breaks, Deductions, and Offsets" appeared to breakdown. Our concern turned to shock when it quickly became apparent that a group of rabble rousers had infiltrated our event. They quickly removed the mansions and private islands from the float to reveal a giant percent sign. Yep, the flat taxers were trying to stage a protest. But the crowd wouldn't have it, and the protesters were booed off, never to be heard from for the rest of the day.
The parade also had one solemn moment. As has happened every year, the float memorializing the passing of the unknown loophole brought the crowd to tears. However, the planners have learned from past experience and they immediately followed it with the antics of the Congressional Clowns. No one takes those bumbling buffoons seriously, and the smiles return to the crowd immediately. They were followed by the final float – a replica of the capital building shooting red tickertape across the audience.
Adding to the fun of this year's parade was a new wrinkle; all floats were required to be constructed entirely from discarded incorrectly completed tax forms. There was enough material for twice as many floats as showed up, and everyone had fun after the parade inspecting the floats to see if they could find their social security numbers
At the actual festival, the good times and entertainment continued. the Accounting Children's Choir entertained with such traditional numbers as "I Heard it Through the Tax Line", "The Wichita Tax Man", "She Works Hard for the Write-Offs", "Gimme Tax Shelters", and, of course, The Beatles "Taxman" . There were also plenty of organized games such as Budget Tug-of-War, the One-Plus-One-Plus-One Legged Race, and the Money Sack Race. And what is a festival without carnival games? All the old favorites were there including Dunk the Tax Evader (a favorite for children of all ages), Climb the Tax Ladder (the top prize this time was tax exemptions for the entire year but, once again, no one came close to getting to that level), and Whack-a-Rebate.
The night ended with the traditional fireworks show. Every boom and bust brought an ooh and aah from the crowd. But it was at the end when everyone knew the team had outdone themselves. We watched the trail of the final firework shoot into the sky. There was a bright flash and green sparks began spewing outward. There in front of all of us (in fact, large enough that it could be seen by the whole county) the sparks arranged themselves into the shape of a green eyeshade. It was that moment I felt proudest to be an accountant.
Parents walked back to their cars with sleeping children in their arms. Other children, the few with a little jump left in their steps, ran between their parents' legs playing a final game of tax filer and tax auditor. And the organizers left with all the documentation necessary to begin preparing their business expense reports.
I don't know what your town does for Tax Day, but I defy you to come up with something as grandiose, celebratory, and convoluted as ours. With that, I wish you all a happy Tax Day. And here's to next year – may there be a whole new set of laws and regulations to celebrate.