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ROBIN ABCARIAN

Good Intentions Taxed to the Max

March 30, 1994|ROBIN ABCARIAN

Last week, the attorney in charge of making sure Administration officials comply with tax laws was punished because he hadn't complied with tax laws.

And so William H. Kennedy III--who didn't pay 1991 taxes for a nanny, and who earned nearly $600,000 in private practice in 1992--joins the growing list of Clinton Administration scofflaws . He was relieved of some of his responsibilities.

I read the news. I snickered.

Bet he doesn't forget to pay his taxes this year, I thought, with nonpartisan malice in my heart. If I have to suffer through the paperwork, so should he.

There is no way around it. Those of us who pay Social Security taxes for our sitters are deluged with forms and filing dates. And if we miss a little deadline, there are penalties and interest to pay.

You decide to go legit--to do the right thing by Uncle Sam and your child's caregiver. And the next thing you know, the government is dropping paper on you like it's Malathion and you are a Medfly.

Don't get me wrong--conforming to the tax code has never been a priority for me. It's not as if my career ambitions would be affected. I've inhaled far too often to seek public or appointed office anywhere . . . except maybe Berkeley, where most of the inhaling took place.

It's just that I care about making sure the wonderful woman who helps with my child gets a decent retirement and disability should she need it.

The paperwork, however, is making me insane.

How can I tell?

Because I'm thinking of voting Libertarian.

*

Last week, the mail brought a little notice from the IRS. Was it a "Thank you for being that honest one American in four who paid her nanny tax last quarter"?

Of course not.

Last quarter, I paid the baby-sitter's tax almost three weeks late. Now I am being fined. And Uncle Sam, usurious creep, is collecting interest on top of the penalty.

To compound the punishment, the government included explanations:

If you receive a bill, refund or other notice from the Internal Revenue Service, you may call us at your local IRS office for an explanation. All days mentioned in these explanations are calendar days, unless specifically stated otherwise.

What is a calendar day? And how is it different from, say, a day day?

In the next paragraph, I learn how my $22.36 fine was calculated.

We charged a 5% combined penalty of 4 1/2% for filing late and 1/2% for paying late, because, according to our records, you filed your return late and didn't pay your tax by the due date of your return. The combined penalty is 5% of your unpaid tax for each month or part of a month your return is late, but not for more than 5 months, which would total 25% (22 1/2% late filing fee and 2 1/2% late paying).

Wake me up when this is over.

In addition to the 22 1/2% late filing penalty for the first 5 months your return is late, we continue to charge the 1/2% late paying penalty for each month or part of a month for as long as your tax is unpaid, but not for more than 25%. Therefore, the maximum penalty we can charge is 47 1/2% (22 1/2% late filing plus 25% late paying).

And I thought childbirth was hard.

If you didn't file your return within 60 days of the due date, the minimum penalty is $100 or 100% of the balance of the tax due on your tax return, whichever is smaller. If you think we should remove or reduce this penalty, see "Removal of Penalty."

What? Huh? Where were we?

I must have slipped into a coma.

*

It is not enough for the IRS to get in my face four times a year about our baby-sitter's earnings; the government also feels it necessary to let me know how much time I am supposed to spend on this torture:

Record-keeping: 20 min. Learning about the law or the form: 20 min. Preparing the form: 32 min. Copying, assembling and sending the form to the IRS: 20 min.

Screaming at your family to shut up while you work on the forms: three hours.

This patronizing data is mandated by the richly ironic Paperwork Reduction Act. How ironic is it? Well, our baby-sitter's tax file is several inches thick, and our child is only 18 months old.

I cannot help but be reminded of an exchange in "Henry IV, Part I," which my father-the-professor has drilled into my head over the years:

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?"

(And, dare I imagine. . . .)

Glendower: And I can even order the government to reduce paper work.

Hotspur: Why, if you could do that, the taxpayers would be overcome with joy.

Glendower: Never mind then.

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