I am not the kind of person who would ever dream of cheating on his taxes. I don’t even daydream about cheating on my taxes. Neither does my wife; she’s a chartered accountant, the English equivalent of a CPA. We both believe that it is an honor to pay taxes in a society as classy and entertaining as the one we have in the United States. Well, maybe not the local school taxes. Or the village water taxes. Or the metropolitan commuter tax. Or the tax on Snickers bars. But you know what I mean: taxes in general. Taxes that keep this country strong, proud, and well-lit. Those taxes.
What I do think about from time to time, though, are changes to the tax code that I would dearly love to see. I’m not talking about slashing income tax rates to 3 percent or anything like that; you can’t run a society as high-powered and sophisticated as this one without bringing in some serious revenue. No, what I’m talking about is allowing certain unusual deductions that have not been accepted by the Internal Revenue Service, but should be.
For example, football tickets. My team, the Philadelphia Eagles, has not won the NFL championship since 1960, when I was 10 years old. The Eagles have never won the Super Bowl, nor are they likely to. Every year, they figure out a new way to disgrace themselves. They are the only team in history to play in five NFC championship games in a single decade and not win the Super Bowl. No one could possibly describe watching what they do as “fun” or “a leisure activity” or “entertainment.” No, paying to see the Eagles play football clearly falls under the general rubric of charitable giving. I give them my money, and they give me nothing. This being the case, people should be able to write off their tickets, their kids’ tickets, their friends’ tickets, the beer, the hot dogs, the parking, the tolls, the gasoline, and even the extra lining for the oversize parkas. Tailgating should also qualify as a charitable expense: Football Sans Frontières, if you will. This tax deduction would also be extended to fans of the San Diego Chargers, the Arizona Cardinals, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and all the other teams that have never won the Super Bowl. And Cubs fans could retroactively write off baseball tickets all the way back to 1908.
The IRS should also provide a tax credit to those of us who still use shovels for our snow and rakes for our leaves. We do not pollute the atmosphere with noxious fuel emissions, and we do not cause noise pollution. We should get a little kickback for this. If everyone were allowed to write off 40 hours of leaf-raking time every year – figuring the average person’s hourly rate at $25 – people would stop using leaf blowers. But to qualify for the deduction, you would have to prove that you actually knew how to use a rake. And if the IRS ever audited you, you’d better be able to show your calluses.
Shouldn’t trips to see your in-laws qualify as a charitable expense? You can’t stand them; they can’t stand you. Family get-togethers cost time and money, and often end in tears, recriminations, or bloodshed. I am not suggesting that taxpayers should be allowed to write off the entire turkey, much less the mince pies; they should be allowed to write off only the portion of the turkey they can prove they consumed. But the gas and the tolls and the money shelled out for coffee and energy bars at pricey interstate rest stops during those excruciating Thanksgiving and yuletide trips should qualify for a tax deduction. So should any gift you give to your brother-in-law.
Tickets to see ABBA tribute bands should be tax-deductible. Ditto Led Zeppelin tribute bands. Without the steady stream of cash supplied by well-meaning but culturally underdeveloped citizens who buy tickets to see them, the members of tribute bands probably would be forced to turn to a life of crime. (Though a case could be made that being in an ABBA tribute band is itself tantamount to leading a life of crime.) By keeping these potentially dangerous people off the streets, concert goers perform a valuable function that benefits society as a whole. I would love to be able to check this box at the bottom of my 1040 form: Yes, I would like to contribute $1 toward the Federal ABBA Commission so that failed musicians do not have to join Foghat tribute bands or dress up as Neil Diamond. Eagles tribute bands with names like Talon, Flock of Eagles, and Birds in Flight also qualify.
Elvis impersonators, naturally, should be allowed to write off those white jumpsuits with the American eagle emblazoned across the back.
Epic clothing miscues should qualify for a tax break. I’m not talking about velveteen pantsuits or mildewed Nehru jackets that you donate to the Salvation Army in exchange for a dubious tax break. At least the charities can resell that stuff to irony-minded college kids. I’m talking about hideous clothes that no decent charity should be expected to take in as a contribution. Donating grotesque or explicitly clownish clothing to charity doesn’t help society, because cash-strapped or nearsighted bargain hunters then purchase those plaid culottes and magenta hot pants, and that makes the streets more unsightly. For the benefit of society, the IRS should simply say: Don’t donate that to charity; burn it. We’ll give all Americans a $1,000 annual tax credit to help beautify the country by setting half their wardrobe on fire. We’ll even let you write off the matches.
I hate spinach. I also hate cauliflower and lima beans. I’m not that crazy about lettuce. All right, I hate produce. I only eat this stuff because my wife says it provides roughage. Personally, I’d like it if the IRS let me write off green vegetables – especially kale and chard – so I could use the extra revenue on things I actually enjoy: cannoli, chocolate mousse, Philly cheese steaks.
Philly cheese steaks should also be tax-deductible. They’re really hard to eat if you’re not a native of the City of Brotherly Love, but buying them – even if you don’t manage to get them all the way down – gives a much-needed boost to the local economy. Every region of the country should be allowed to sell its most revolting local cuisine tax-free: pig’s knuckles, mountain oysters, curried catfish, eel pies. Also those ridiculous strawberry bagels they try to pass off as the real thing in places like South Bend, Ind.
My final suggestion may be a bit controversial, but I believe that taxpayers should be able to write off their socks. Without good, sturdy socks, this economy would come screeching to a halt overnight. Everyone would have callused, blistered, or frozen tootsies. Gender-appropriate thigh-highs, anklets, and pantyhose should also be tax-deductible, as should knee socks. Armed with the tax credit awarded them for purchasing serviceable socks, Americans would have more money to spend on things that would really improve society: better wigs, less chintzy Christmas ornaments, stronger deodorant. And cheese steaks.