By Terri White
In 1789, Ben Franklin announced that “our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Apparently, Ben lacked optimism.
I hold a theory about the origin of taxes. Not death, though. Because, really, death just happens.
But taxes. Once upon a time, thieves roamed the countryside. To extract money out of unsuspecting travelers, they demanded a fee to continue on roads and waterways. Some of the thieves built castles with dungeons. If a ship’s captain refused to pay the fee, castle guards lowered him into the dungeon until he paid up. It rarely took long to give in.
Families who built their huts near the castle were protected as long as they gave the castle lord (aka thief) a portion of their earnings or products (the tax). Thus, the 1,000-year era of serfdom began.
Other thieves swaggered into towns offering a solution to their roaming thief dilemma. If the townspeople enacted a tax on everyone, the town would acquire money to hire someone to protect them from thieves. Enter the beginning of sheriffs and eventually governments (aka thieves).
Not a particularly rosy origin of taxes.
During the icy weather, I decided to file our taxes. Since ours are normally simple, I use Turbo Tax. I gathered all the paperwork, plopped in front of my computer, and rolled up my sleeves.
Easy sailing for a while. I entered all the data and clicked e-file. Done. To celebrate, I snuggled under a cozy blanket on the sofa to finish my novel. Then my phone chirped. The email stated that the IRS rejected our tax return. My heart seized. Oh-oh.
No snuggling on the sofa with a book now. Back to the computer. Click, click, and more clicks. Problem? I didn’t enter Steve’s PIN. Well, golly gee! Turbo Tax never offered that option. Fortunately, I found the number in the stack of tax papers, and refiled with the said PIN.
Back to the sofa with blanket and book. Life was good. Or not. Chirp! Chirp! What now? Unbelievably, the IRS rejected it again. It’s a bit scary dealing with the IRS, who are equivalent to the Mob, right? “I’ll throw you in the dungeon (aka jail) until you cough up that one dollar you owe!” threatened the thieves. Err, the IRS. Get the history drift?
Back to the computer. Click, click, and more clicks. I neglected to input my PIN. I never received one. Turbo Tax never offered the option. Not feeling too friendly at this point.
I followed the directions to access my PIN. When I found the correct website, it required me to log on. Who remembers their IRS log-in info anyway? Why should I have to go there? Why didn’t they send ME a PIN through the mail?
To create an account, I discovered that the IRS had created a maze of hoops to crawl through on bloody knees to verify my ID. After hours of teeth-grinding tension (plus gallons of coffee) to dot every “i” and cross every “t”, I finally accessed my PIN. By then my nerves were shattered. I felt like Eeyore with a gloomy cloud hovering over me.
Back to Turbo Tax, which had, by the way, asked me several times during my torturous IRS experience, “Are you still there?” Wiggle the mouse to wave at them. Sheesh.
Now, however, I could not locate the page to input my PIN. What a nightmare. I know. I know. Not nearly as frightening as the invasion of Ukraine. Or a never-ending drought. Or terminal cancer. Or drug abuse. But still.
Determined to not pull out all my hair, I stopped for some deep breathing to calm myself – and continued searching. It took a lifetime to find the page. I typed in the PIN. Pressed enter. Refiled. I crossed my fingers and dared to tip-toe to the sofa to resume my lounging. I waited for the chirp. No chirp.
After several minutes, however, my phone did chirp. Oh brother, what now? Whew! I managed to successfully file. Yee Haw! Back to my book.
Later, to celebrate in style, I prepared homemade broccoli cheese soup - a pot of savory deliciousness. It was a complicated recipe. Because today prepared me for complicated.