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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Your Tax Form Explained

Bill Bryson is currently my favourite author and I'm currently halfway through the excellent Notes From A Big Country which is a collection of his weekly essays from the Mail on Sunday about the United States. One essay in particular is hilarious. Titled 'Your Tax Form Explained' it describes in detail how to fill out a tax return form. It's a play on how complicated government forms in the US are. I think both American readers and international readers will find this funny.

I have transcribed the essay from the book (and probably broke copyright laws in the process). Simply click below.


Enclosed is your 1997 United States Internal Revenue Service Tax Form 1040-ES OCR: 'Estimated Tax for Self-Employed Individuals'. You may use this form to estimate your 1997 fiscal year tax if:

1. You are head of a household and the sum of the ages of your spouse and dependents, minus the ages of qualifying pets (see Schedule 12G), is divisible by a whole number. (Use Supplementary Schedul 142C if pets are deceased but buried on your property.)

2. Your Gross Adjusted Income does not exceed your Adjusted Gross Income (except where applicable) and you did not pay taxable interest on dividen income prior to 1903.

3. You are not claiming a foreign tax credit, except as a 'foreign' tax credit. (Warning: claiming a foreign tax credit for a foreign 'tax' credit, except where a foreign 'tax credit' is involved, may result in a fine of $125,000 and 25 years' imprisonment.)

4. You are one of the following: married and filing jointly; married and not filing jointly; not married and not filing; jointed but not filing; other.


Type all answers with a number two lead pencil. Do not cross anything out. Do not use abbreviations or ditto marks. Do not misspell 'miscellaneous'. Werite your name, address and social security number, and the name, address and social security numbers of your spouse and dependents, in full on each page twice. Do not put a tick in a box marked 'cross' or a cross in a box marked 'tick' unless it is your wish to do the whole thing again. Do not write 'Search me' in any blank spaces. Do not make anything up.

Complete sections 47 to 52 first, then proceed to even-numbered sections and complete in reverse order. Do not use this form if your total pensions and annuities disbursements were greater than your advanced earned income credits or vice versa.

Under 'income', list all wages, salaraies, net foreign source taxable income, royalties, tips, gratuities, taxable interest, capital gains, air miles, pints pain on, and money found down the back of the sofa. If your earnings are divided wholly, or partially but not primarily, or wholly and partially but not primarily, from other countries other than the United States (if uncertain, see USIA Leaflet 212W, 'Countries That Are Not The United States') or your rotated gross income from Schedule H was greater than your earned income credit on nontaxable net disbursements, you must include a Grantor/Transferror Waiver Voucher. Failure to do so may result in a fine of £1,500,000 and seizure of a child.

Under Section 890F, list total farm income (if none, give details). If you were born after 1 January 1897, and are not a widow(er), include excess casualty losses and provide carryover figures for depreciation on line 27iii. You must list number of turkeys slaughtered for export. Subtract, but do not deduct, net gross dividends from pro rata interest payments, multiply by the total number of steps in your home, and enter on line 356d.

On SCedule F1001, line c, list the contents of your garage. Include all electrical and non-electrical items on Schedule 295D, but do not include electrical or non-electrical items not listed on Supplementary Form 243d.

Under 'Personal Expenditures', itemize all cash expenditures of more than $1, and include verification. If you have had dental work and you are not claiming a refund on the federal oil spill allowance, enter your show sizes since birth and enclose specimen shoes. (Right foot only.) Multiply by 1.5 or 1,319, whichever is larger, and divide line 3f by 3d. Under Section 912g, enter federal income support grants for the production of alfalfa, barley (but not sorghum, unless for home consumption) and okra whether or not you received any. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $3,750,000 and death by lethal injection.

If your children are dependent but not living at home, or living at home but not dependent, or dependent and living at home but hardly ever there and you are not claiming exemption for leases of maritime vessels in excess of 12,000 tonnes dead-weight (15,000 tonnes if you were born in Guam), you must complete and include a Maritime Vessel Exemption Form. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $111,000,000 and a buclear attack on a small, neutral country.

On pages 924-926, Schedule D, enter the names of people you know personally who are Communist or use drugs. (Use extra pages if necessary.)

If you have interest earnings from savings accounts, securities, bearer bonds, certificates of deposit or other fiduciary instruments but do not know your hat size, complete Supplementary Schedules 112d and 112f and enclose all relevant tables. (Do not send chairs at this time.) Includ, but do not collate, ongoing losses from mining investmentsm commodities transactions and organ transplants, divide by the total number of motel visits you made in 1996, and enter in any remaining spaces. If you have unreimbursed employee expenses, tough.

To compute your estimated tax, add lines 27 through 964, deduct lines 45a and 699f from Schedule 2F (if greater or less than 2.2% of average alternative minimum estimated tax for the last five years), multiply by the number of RPMs your car registers when stuck on ice, and add 2. If line 997 is smaller than line 998, start again. In the space marked 'Tax Due', write a very large figure.

Make your cheque payable to 'Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America and to the Republic for Which It Stands', and mark for the attention of Patty. On the back of your cheque write your social security number, Taxpayer Identification Number, IRS Tax Code Audit Number(s), IRS Regional Office Sub-Unit Zone Number (unless you are filing a T/45 Sub-Unit Zone Exclusion Notice), sexual orientation and smoking preference, and send to::

Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America
Tax Reception and Orientation Center
Building D/Annexe G78
Suite 900
Subduction Zone 12
Box 132677-02
Drawer 2, About Halfway Back
Federal City
Maryland 10001

If you have any questions about filing, or require assistance with your return, phone 1-800-BUSYSIGNAL. Thank you and have a prosperous 1998. Failure to do so may result in a fine of $125,000 and a long walk to the cooler.

© Bill Bryson


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Sounds a bit less complicated than my self assessment form then.

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