“You fill it out for once,” Ethan said, handing Angela back their tax returns without looking up from the ball game. “Why do I have to do everything.”
That seemed a little unfair since in fact Angela is the one who does everything, like cooking, shopping, cleaning, and taking care of the kids, not to mention working. But taxes are more of an everything since they take a big effort all at once, usually the night before they’re due. Plus if you’re one of the little people who actually have to pay taxes, they also affect everything, including how much money you have left to cook, shop, clean and take care of the kids. That’s the very reason Ethan usually insists on doing the taxes himself every year.
“Okay, let’s see,” Angela said, opening the accountant’s questionnaire at the front of the return.
It was somewhat slow going.
“There’s some questions I need answers to,” she said, pausing. “First, did we enter into any sale-leaseback arrangements with a tax-indifferent person in 2016?”
As a tax-indifferent person himself at the moment, Ethan had no response. That could have ended the ball game for him, based on Angela’s look, except that Tim came over to try to help her.
“Can that happen by accident?” he asked.
Having never done the taxes before, Angela wasn’t sure. She put a question mark in the margin and moved on. “What about this one: Did we receive any gifts from a covered expatriate? Or a distribution from a foreign trust funded by a covered expatriate, not including expatriations of dual citizens from birth and individuals who relinquish prior to age 18.5?”
I felt like we would have noticed if an exotic gift had suddenly arrived in the house, but Tim was more cautious.
“You can answer yes, no or uncertain,” Angela said.
“Put uncertain for everything.”
Tim has a lot of confidence in uncertainty, which may be an asset or a liability for him depending on the situation. But Angela tends to be more confident with certainty, even if it turns out to be a liability.
“Did you already do your own taxes?” she asked, apparently as a check on his competence as a tax advisor. It wasn’t entirely clear from his response.
“This morning I went to mail my taxes by Fed Ex since the Post Office ripped open my last two deliveries, threw everything out, and left a note with the empty envelopes saying they regret what they did.”
That got through a little to Ethan. “We’re not paying to send our taxes by Fed Ex. I’d rather go to jail.”
I thought he might finally take the taxes over at that point, but he still didn’t move from the tv.
“You should know Federal Express is very cheap if you get the slow delivery,” Tim said. “I have to warn you though, the guy at the Fed Ex is on drugs. His hands and his lips were shaking, and suddenly for no reason he stuck two fingers up his nose in the middle of typing in my information. Then I guess he realized it was a weird thing to do because he turned around to try to hide it.”
Angela didn’t look up but Tim continued anyway.
“I’m sorry to say when he did that I stole the Fed Ex pen I was writing with, because when you work at home there are no pens.”
Angela held up her hand. “Hang on just a second, I’m still trying to read this.”
“Okay, but this is important, so let me know when you’re done,” Tim said.
Angela sighed and handed him the accountant’s worksheet. “Can you make out what this means?”
He looked at the first couple of pages. “Okay, I’ve had enough of this,” he said, handing it back. “I’m unimpressed.”
“Is anyone here good at math?” Angela asked, looking at Ethan pleadingly. But Ethan still wasn’t interested.
“Math is such a waste of time,” he said.
“Tell me about it,” Tim said, nodding. “I took geometry three times and I’m only making $18,000 a year.”
When Angela glared at him again, he finally took the worksheet back from her and tried to follow it.
“I meant to tell you,” Ethan said, smirking. “You can now rent time on a supercomputer in the cloud. So you don’t have to do those computations in your head anymore.”
But Tim ignored him. He rummaged through the file of tax forms and pulled out one of the documents.
“Do you think the accountant has this already?” he asked Ethan.
“Well, if she doesn’t I’ll send it to her. But if so, I’m not making a copy.”
Angela was still reading the worksheets, her brow furled. “I just can’t make out what these forms mean. I don’t think what you put here can be right, Tim.”
He read it again and nodded. “Right, I was doing the wrong thing.” He scribbled some numbers on the worksheet and handed it back to her. “Now I’m not doing the wrong thing anymore, but am I doing the right thing?”
It did not instill confidence and I couldn’t understand why Ethan still wasn’t getting involved.
“I know what’s going on,” Tim said. “They’re trying to get people to give up. They want you to say, ‘Fine, you got me. Take everything I have.’”
He thrust his hands in his pockets to demonstrate. Then he paused.
“Now wait just a doggone minute. Everybody slow down. I feel something in the lining of my jacket. I think it’s a quarter.”
Ethan rolled his eyes.
“Incidentally, why did you even submit a tax return?,” he asked Tim. “You can’t possibly owe any taxes.”
Tim made a face. “What do you take me for? Donald Trump?”
That seemed to drive Ethan over the edge. He said he was heading to a bar until Angela threw the tax return on the floor.
“Okay, if you would rather have my beers at home, we can do that,” Ethan said. “But first we’re going out to take in stores so I can get plastered. Then if I can still see straight you’re going to do the taxes for me.”
And I realized what had happened. With Trump not paying taxes, hiding his returns, and promising more breaks for the rich, Ethan was on a tax protest.