An Open Letter to the Washington State Department of Revenue
YOU are the reason people avoid filing and paying business taxes. I’m sure I’m asking the obvious here, but, WHY must you make it so difficult to file? And why must your agents, instead of answering a question directly, urge me to check some ruling typed up in eight point font on a page buried deep within your website? Do you think I have time to read that nonsense? If I had the time to do that shit, I WOULDN’T HAVE CALLED YOU. You see, when I call, I need a quick answer. One that doesn’t involve you making all sorts of presumptions about my client’s business and then ending the call by advising that I call the freaking department of Labor and Industries to see if maybe my client needs to be registered as a contractor. (I assure you, sirs, he does not.) I need to know about very simple things. Simple, innocent things. And you have turned ALL my questions about pass-through income and workshop activities and more into nightmare scenes in which everyone is being mutilated by airplane-sized locusts all because my clients don’t have contractor’s licenses. Or they’re sitting in Guantanamo because they didn’t know whether or not to take a credit for out of state wholesaling.
I will give you this: your forms are easy to follow. It’s just like school! YAY! Boxes and pencils! Fill in the boxes with numbers. Put your name on the bottom of the form. Stick the form in an envelope. Lick the envelope. Put a stamp on the envelope. Then put that envelope in the mail. Done! Your online forum is also, admittedly, extremely easy to use. Log on, fill in boxes, click “ok”. Very easy indeed. Here’s what’s NOT easy. Interpreting your freaking laws. Figuring out if I’m actually putting the right numbers in the right boxes. Oh, sure. You’ve got your phone number printed up there at the top of your website so we can call your “tax agents” and ask questions. But can they actually answer our questions? Well, I think we both know what happens when we call. People die at the hands of giant beetles.
While your agents are not so good at answering questions about ACTUAL business practices, they are quite good at making up imaginary ones. Today your agents sculpted out of thin air a scenario in which my client went from drawing up remodeling plans to overseeing a dozen or more illegal migrant workers. Pretty good, huh? Oh, and get this one: One time, a couple of months ago, your agents cleverly rearranged a scene in which my client is hosting workshops for kids into a slag pit full of weary minors leaning on shovels for a boss in a dirty t-shirt who has not obtained the proper building permit. Sirs, that kind of hyperbolic hysteria is reserved for Pat Robertson alone. And you, sirs, are no pat Robertson.
I mean, why did your agent have to “check with his supervisor” about this question this morning? Aren’t there HUNDREDS, nay THOUSANDS, of people doing architectural type work in the state of Washington? Why did your agent have to go on a long-winded spiel about a non-existent situation? My question about this type of income simply HAS to be more common than you are making it sound. Why are you suggesting I call another agency about a question that YOU are supposed to know the answer to? And why are you suggesting my client get a license for a profession he DOES NOT WORK IN? While you’re at it, why don’t you dial up the North Pole and suggest that Santa Claus gets a workman’s comp account in case of job related elf injuries? Or that my mailman gets a boat license in case he ever needs to navigate his mailman’s cart across a really big puddle? Because your advice about how to interpret the law makes me think that my mailman should be arrested for operating a fishing vessel without a permit. THAT’S HOW CRAZY YOUR LAWS ARE.
I mean, seriously. Do you know what I feel like when I file taxes? I feel like a really hungry rat in a cage that’s facing a bank of colored levers. And I can’t remember which lever makes the food come down the chute and which one electrocutes me. Is it this one? I don’t know! Do I put the numbers in this box? Or is it this one? I DON’T KNOW! I just know that if I pull the wrong lever, I’m going to get zapped. Now, I think I pressed this one the last time and food came out. But, that lever over there. I mean, that one looks like it’s connected to food, too. I”m gonna just test this one ouZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! And the next thing I know, I’m on my back, the cage smells like burning hair, and I’m hungrier than ever. That hunger? THAT’S MY DESIRE TO FILE ON TIME. ACCURATELY. And those levers? THOSE ARE YOUR NEBULOUS LAWS THAT COULD GET ME INTO TROUBLE DEPENDING ON HOW THEY ARE INTERPRETED BY YOUR AGENTS.
It’s like you want us to fail. Can’t we all just fill in one or two boxes and call it good? We human beings and our businesses are varied, it’s true. We should celebrate that. But our taxes? They should not be as varied. If you want to celebrate diversity so badly, do something to make sure every American knows how to prepare something besides Hamburger Helper for dinner.
One more thing. Have you considered farming your agents out to Hollwood? I mean, if I had to judge from the conversations I’ve had with your folks, I’d say they all have WILD imaginations. And Hollywood could use that kind of talent. None of us wants to see another cinematic remake of an eighties television show, after all. Maybe your agents could pen a script or two? Maybe make yourself a little money on the side, eh? Maybe cook up some screenplays? Something involving devastation and destruction brought on by hysterical faceless robots in suits who kill people by causing their adrenal glands to explode from stress? Of course, if you DID get a hold of Hollywood, and you DID get paid for a script or two, I would have to make sure that you filled out BOTH the manufacturing AND the service sections of your combined excise tax return, and I would NOT allow any credits for interstate trade or cultural/arts activities. And also, you would want to check in with the Department of Labor and Industries because if they found out you’d been constructing movie scripts without a contractor’s license, they’d come after you with hatchets and bayonets.