Exemptions: Take Your Pick
A (supposedly true) story of tax and the married person....
(Editor's Note: Sometimes a story comes to our attention that needs no polishing or enhancement to make it a good tax story. This is one of those. It is a real letter submitted to the IRS in the midst of last year's weird and bizarre denial of dependents, exemptions, and credits. We believe the letter speaks for itself.)
I am responding to your letter denying the deduction for two of the three dependents I claimed on my 1994 Federal Tax return. Thank you. I have questioned whether these are my children or not for years. They are evil and expensive.
It's only fair, since they are minors and not my responsibility, that the government (who evidently is taxing me more to care for these waifs) knows something about them and what to expect over the next year. You may apply next year to reassign them to me and reinstate the deduction. This year they are yours!
The oldest, Kristen, is now 17. She is brilliant. Ask her! I suggest you put her to work in your office where she can answer people's questions about their returns. While she has no formal training, it has not seemed to hamper her knowledge of any other subject you can name. Taxes should be a breeze.
Next year she is going to college. I think it's wonderful that you will now be responsible for that little expense. While you mull that over, keep in mind that she has a truck. It doesn't run at the moment so you have the immediate decision of appropriating some Department of Defense funds to fix the vehicle or getting up early to drive her to school.
Kristen also has a boyfriend. Oh joy. While she possesses all of the wisdom of the universe, her alleged mother and I have felt it best to occasionally remind her of the virtues of abstinence, and in the face of overwhelming passion, safe sex. This is always uncomfortable and I am quite relieved you will be handling this in the future. May I suggest that you reinstate Jocelyn Elders who had a rather good handle on the problem.
Patrick is 14. I've had my suspicions about this one. His eyes are a little close together for normal people. He may be a tax examiner himself one day if you do not incarcerate him first. In February, I was awakened at three in the morning by a police officer who was bringing Pat home. He and his friends were TP'ing houses. In the future would you like him delivered to the local IRS office or to Ogden, UT? Kids at 14 will do almost anything on a dare. His hair is purple. Permanent dye, temporary dye, what's the big deal? Learn to deal with it. You'll have plenty of time as he is sitting out a few days of school after instigating a food fight. I'll take care of filing your phone number with the vice principal. Oh yes, he and all of his friends have raging hormones. This is the house of testosterone and it will be much more peaceful when he lives in your home. DO NOT leave any of them unsupervised with girls, explosives, inflammables, inflatables, vehicles, or telephones. (I'm sure that you will find telephones a source of unimaginable amusement, and be sure to lock out the 900 and 976 numbers!)
Heather is an alien. She slid through a time warp and appeared quite by magic one year. I'm sure this one is yours. She is 10 going on 21. She came from a bad trip in the sixties. She wears tie-dyed clothes, beads, sandals, and hair that looks like Tiny Tim's. Fortunately you will be raising my taxes to help offset the pinch of her remedial reading courses. Hooked on Phonics is expensive so the schools dropped it. Good news! You can buy it yourself for half the amount of the deduction that you are denying!
It's quite obvious that we were terrible parents (ask the other two) so they have helped raise this one to a new level of terror. She cannot speak English. Most people under twenty understand the curious patois she fashioned out of valley girls/boys in the odd / reggae yuppie / political doublespeak. I don't. The school sends her to a speech pathologist who has her roll her R's. It added a refreshing Mexican / Irish touch to her voice. She wears hats backwards, pants baggy and wants one of her ears pierced four more times.There is a fascination with tattoos that worries me but I am sure that you can handle it. Bring a truck when you come to get her, she sort of "nests" in her room and I think that it would be easier to move the entire thing than find out what it is really made of.
You denied two of the three exemptions so it is only fair you get to pick which two you will take. I prefer that you take the youngest, I still go bankrupt with Kristen's college but then I am free! If you take the two oldest then I still have time for counseling before Heather becomes a teenager. If you take the two girls then I won't feel so bad about putting Patrick in a military academy. Please let me know of your decision as soon as possible as I have already increased the withholding on my W-4 to cover the $395 in additional tax and made a down payment on an airplane.
(Note: The taxpayer in question added this caveat at a later date. "Rats, they sent me the refund and allowed the deductions." Our response, "Gee, Bob, sometimes you just can't get a break.")
Laura R. Ingraham, Ph.D., CPA
Department of Accounting
North Carolina State University