Talking with a friend, the stress of completing her taxes was evident. I could not commiserate with her because I LOVE doing my taxes, especially with the newer computerized programs that submit on-line. I’ve always enjoyed working with numbers, and giggle with delight as I see the “refund” number grow in the corner…64 cents, $1.29, $2.15, the number climbs! My friend looked at me like I was crazy when I told her. “Aren’t you afraid of an audit?” she asked incredulously. “Nah,” was my answer, “I was audited by the IRS and it wasn’t so bad!” Or WAS it?????
It was many years ago and I was pregnant with our oldest son, Francis. About 8 and 29/30 months pregnant. I wore my favorite (i.e. only) maternity dress, a pretty baby blue color with a big bow hanging awkwardly over my belly. I had on flat shoes, and I waddled like a duck. The audit was downtown at the Federal Building, an imposing brick building towering over the parking lot next door. I went alone because my husband could not get the time out of work. I wasn’t scared…pregnant and waddling? Who would dare scare me?
The auditor was an older gentleman, someone who looked like he’d “been there, done that” a million times before. He wore a drab, puke green suit and even my most brilliant smile hello did not phase him. How could that be?? He only humphed “have a seat” and I sat in the metal chair, looking at the antiquated, drab office. Of course he was grumpy…look at his surroundings! He needed some large, colorful flowers on the walls, a candy jar with Hershey Kisses, some personal items from DisneyWorld on his desk, and maybe a serenity fountain. He seemed to have an attitude that said “Don’t mess with me,” which I assumed was a requirement for the job. (My apologies to any IRS auditors that might be reading this…I don’t generally like to generalize.) If figures that if you are trying to catch people who are dishonest on their taxes you need to have a stern exterior. Because I did NOT cheat on my taxes, and because I was sooooo pregnant with an infectious smile, I assumed he would warm up as he progressed through my tax return. I was wrong. I sat there as he went through my tax return, item by item. We got through all of the easy parts and moved onto the “long form” for deductions. This was where I excelled. All of the deductions had been itemized with care. One by one we went through them, and one by one I provided the receipt or back-up needed to document the authenticity. No problem, I thought…until he asked the question that struck fear in my heart…he inquired if my husband had taken a vacation that year. Vacation? What did a vacation have to do with anything?? I stammered a yes, and my ever present smile started to wane. “We took a 2 week vacation.” I could almost hear/see him jump up and say “AHA!!!!! I caught you!!!!” It seems that the receipt for the work uniforms for which my husband payed weekly was for 52 weeks. At first confused, it took a minute for this question to sink in. If my husband was on vacation, we could not count the $22 for that week he! Even though he did not have the option NOT to pay for them if he didn’t work, if they were not actually worn for work, we could not take the deduction for those 2 weeks! I finally saw a slight smile escape from the auditor’s lips. He had won! He “caught me”. I was quite the rebel tax cheater! The result was that $44 was added to our income and we therefore owed $14, plus $1.48 for interest!
My step was not quite so bouncy as I waddled out of that office. My ever present smile waned. The good news was I had survived, none the worse for the wear…and every year since then I have deducted the $44 from my husband’s uniform deduction!