An Open Letter to the Washington State Department of Revenue

Dear Sirs,

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.

Just sayin'.


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Okay, so my sister and I have this THING about cats. There's a very long story here involving a well intentioned but HORRIBLY inappropriate Christmas gift one year, the menagerie of NON-CAT pets we grew up with, the parallels we observed amongst neighbors with unsettling hygiene habits and their ownership of multiple cats, my eye-swelling, uncontrollable-sneezing allergic reaction, and a bizarre twist at the end in which my sister ends up with not one, but TWO cats in her apartment. I will not go into details here because many, many lives would be ruined if I named names. I hate cats. Hate them. And my sister (and brothers) hated them too. That is, until my sister was transformed (and that's really the only word I can use here because how do you go from hating to LOVING cats overnight without the intervention of a heavenly being?) by two cats. So now she has two cats. My sister who once hated cats. I will never understand it. (Because my heart is dark and cold like that).

So, this "thing" with the cats started when we were very young. It started out with one of us getting the other a card with a "cute" picture of a kitten on it because we knew it would open up all those old wounds around this intense dislike of cats (We're a kind, considerate, loving family that way). Eventually, cat cards evolved into full-on cat themed gifts. One year I got her a leather cat handbag. And one year, she got me pink cat print pajama bottoms. Now, I know I'm stepping on all kinds of toes here with what I am about to say... (taking a deep breath)... but, cat paraphernalia? IT'S NOT CUTE. Not one bit. It's like you can SMELL the litterbox and FEEL the fucking hairballs brushing lightly against your ankles just THINKING about it. We can put a man on the moon and perform brain surgery on mice, but we can't find a way to make cat shit NOT stink? I don't buy it. If you live in a house with that kind of smell, well, then, you must have superhuman strength. Cat mouse pads and sweaters that say things like "my cat is smarter than your dog"? Excuse me for a minute while I go spit out the puke that just involuntarily filled my mouth.

My sister has an INCREDIBLE dedication to a bit. I mean, the cat thing has been going on for at least twenty years or so. Last night, in honor of my birthday, I received THIS gem in the mail from my sister.

And the bonus? The back, which I have filled out at her behest.

Melinda? You are the most awesomemest sister ever. I love you so much. Even if you do own two cats.

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Wheat: The Staff of Wife

WTF, right? An entry every day for thirty days, then some morose, then touching posts about family, and then a before and after shot of the Chipmunks. I'd be confused too. Where's the fucking consistency, lady? I apologize for being away for so long. It's just with the holidays... and the drinking and the friends from out of town visiting... and the baking and the wrapping and the shopping... one minute it was Thanksgiving, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in my new pink Snuggie watching four movies in a row on New Year's Day.

Well, It's January. Which means I am about to work for thirty days straight with no days off (except my birthday) because I am a bookkeeper. And bookkeepers' lives are one big wad of paper and Post-Its and reminders and frantic emails about deadlines and envelopes full of receipts. In January, that wad increases 100 fold. January is chock full of all sorts of federal (and state!) deadlines for businesses, and when you are a bookkeeper in January, you are not allowed to sleep because it's your job to make sure all those deadlines are met. Your job is to send in mountains of paper to some service center in Ogden, Utah so that some poor slob can feel like his life has meaning.

Not that I'm complaining. Because that would be a real jerky thing to do in this economy. Complain that you have TOO MUCH work to do. So, I'm going to shut up and tell you about bread instead.

I baked this.

And CLH helped. "Helping" in our house sorta sounds like this:

CLH: YOU HAVE TO PUT THE STEAM PAN IN BEFORE YOU PUT THE BREAD IN!! IT SAYS IT RIGHT HERE!! (fumbling with pages to find part about when to put the pan in)

ME: (standing over his shoulder and pointing to the passage that says to put the pan in at the same time as the bread, and not before) I think we can just put it in when we put the bread in. What do I turn the heat down to?

CLH: Three fifty. (still flipping pages to find elusive passage about steam pan)

ME: Three fifty? Really?




ME: Oh. Okay. (squinting at page made greasy by jabbing fingers) But you said three fifty.

So, the lesson here is: the bread baking should be handled by one person at a time. Otherwise, you yell a lot.

See you in February!

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Is Anyone Else Disturbed..

By the refashioning of Alvin and Chipmunks from adorable little singing weasels to overweight I'm-a-bus'-yo'-ass glossy hip hop stars?

THIS is Alvin and The Chipmunks.

Cute, slightly sexually ambiguous for wearing turtlenecked dresses, and downright wholesome.

And this?

THIS is Al-Viddy and the Chipcrunks. And they will seriously get the rest of the animal kingdom on your ass if you don't go see their new movie...

in which they will have become slightly less intimidating, and much more... like jerkoff frat boys.

Simon, you look much better as a defiant, squirrely Harry Potter, and Alvin, thanks for revealing your healthy head of... human... hair??? Also, boys, your junk is showing.

I'm sorry for the excessive use of the ellipses, but I am just really blown away by how much these boys have changed since I used to watch them on the family television all those years ago. (A television, by the way, which was the size of Connecticut and which did not come with a cable subscription... or a remote.)

Here is where I would insert a paragraph about how the world is a crummier place and everything is worse now than it was "back then" and everything has lost its innocence...blah blah blah. But I've already nipped that crap in the bud. I swore that when I got to be the age I am now, I would never ever start comparing the glory of my youth to the shitshow of today's youth. Because you know what? It's all relevant. I had to hear my relatives drone on about how, in their day, they played with gasoline-soaked rags tied to driftwood and they LOVED it, damnit! THAT was playing!

Alright, my relatives didn't play with gasoline-soaked rags. But they, just like their parents, always thought their version of their youth was so much freakin better than everyone else's. And so I promise never to say that MY Alvin is better than today's Alvin. Maybe just different. In a defensive posturing, staring you down to let you know who's boss kinda way.

Here's why: In twenty years, Alvin and the Chipmunks will be making a third comeback to a generation who has no fucking idea why harmonizing rodents should be entertaining, and the only thing that will be holding their attention is the fact that Alvin has had a sex change operation gone wrong and that he looks mezmerizing in a sequined leotard wrapped around a strippers pole.

And then we'll all long for the days when Alvin was just a misguided punk-ass in an oversized hoodie, now, won't we?

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Santa? Or Chupacabra In A Red Suit?

It's that time of year again.

Time to be good for Santa because if you're not good, Santa will break into your house and take you... away.. from your family??? Well, if you're my client, that's what you believed because THAT'S what your fucked up dad told you when you were growing up. Yes, Virginia, Santa is a child-stealing psychopath who does not, despite the rumors, bring presents, but instead bodily removes, like a mixture between The Incredible Hulk and Child Protective Services, bad children from their homes.

And this little story illustrates why, as a bookkeeper, you should always attend your clients' Christmas parties. Allow me to illustrate with a simple mathematical equation:

alcohol + childhood trauma - inhibitions around bookkeeper = ammunition

Months later, when they have failed to turn in their expense reports, or they've crumpled up their receipts into unreadable balls, you can tell them that if they don't straighten out, Santa might come down off the roof and stuff them into a bag. Whatever it takes, right?

Oh, It's also time to bake cookies!

Millions and millions of cookies!

Okay, maybe just hundreds. But, still! When was the last time I had TWENTY FIVE POUNDS of FLOUR in my house?

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