MARTY RUSSELL: Tax time can be so, well, taxing

By Marty Russell/NEMS Daily Journal

Done your taxes yet? Me neither. I’m never in a rush to do taxes because (a) I keep hoping I can have a root canal instead and (b) my wife and I always try to figure out how to break even so, even though we don’t get a return, we usually don’t owe, either.
I don’t understand these folks who get so worked up over getting a tax refund. They act like it’s free money. Don’t they understand they’re just getting back what they’ve been overpaying for an entire year?
Ben Franklin famously said that nothing is certain except death and taxes. I’d like to append that to add that nothing is certain except that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle while reciting the periodic table backward than to understand the United States’ tax code.
While politicians this election year have been talking Buffet rules and flat taxes and 9-9-9, the rest of us are still stuck with good old 1040 and all its accompanying “schedules.”
The tax system in this country is, to put it mildly, a mess, understood only by a select few who know where all the loopholes are buried and how to finesse them. It needs an overhaul on the scale of a Phyllis Diller or Joan Rivers.
For instance, did you know that between 1915 and 1923 there was actually a law that exempted people in this country from paying taxes who were persecuted under the heels of the Ottoman Empire? Now I have an ottoman in my house that persecutes me on a regular basis because it’s on wheels and every time I put my feet up on it it slides out from underneath them and causes my heels to hit the floor. Shouldn’t I get a deduction for that?
And did you know that someone recently convinced the IRS that cat food is deductible?
According to, a junkyard owner successfully argued that, because he bought cat food to entice stray cats to hang out at his business and keep it free from vermin, he ought to be able to deduct it as a business expense. And the IRS agreed.
Now my cat drags in a dead rodent or two every day otherwise, I would argue, I’d probably have caught a hantavirus or even the bubonic plague by now which almost certainly would prevent me from working.
So why can’t I deduct cat food? Sounds like a legitimate business expense to me.
And, speaking of cats, do you find them entertaining? Then you’d better not own one in Pittsburgh where there is a 5 percent “amusement” tax on “anything entertaining.”
At least we don’t have to worry about that applying to watching TV these days.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at

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