If I Were April 15th, I'd Be Pissed
The most hated day in capitalism
When you think about it, it’s pretty fucked up that—at least in the United States—the best season of the year has an oppressive shadow hanging over it: the approach of Tax Day. If one is self-employed, or owns a business—or worse!—works as an accountant, many beautiful, life-affirming spring moments are squandered in favor of obsessively compiling receipts and filling out tax forms. Flowers bloom, baby birds chirp, the weather warms up and invites you outside. You glance out the window, sigh, and turn back to that Excel spreadsheet with doomed determination. Yeah sure, you could do your tax prep in February, but as someone as conditioned to deadlines as I am, I tend to push this usually hellish task to the very last minute.
In the years before E-filing, I made many an April 15th late night run to the LAX post office—the only one in Los Angeles with humans present on Tax Day to accept a nighttime mail drop and award that “before midnight” postmark. It was always fun to see who else was there at 11:30PM doing the same thing. It felt like an annual gathering of “my people.”
I pushed up against the deadline despite having tax preparers, because they pushed up against the deadline. My early accountants were also “my people,” apparently. My first one, Evelyn, came highly recommended by a freelance client I had at the time. I didn’t make the connection until too late that this guy always filed extensions and was habitually late in dispensing things like 1099 forms.
Eveyln resembled Gertrude Stein—but in California casual wear—with sleeveless collared blouses and cargo shorts. Her partner, Alice, was, coincidentally, much like Alice B. Toklas. Alice ran the front office. Every time I visited, a baseball game played on a transistor radio on her desk.
My first tax season with Evelyn, I brought a literal shoebox full of receipts and invoices. She said, “That’s great,” and shoved it aside, setting to work on my tax form with me sitting there.
“Did you have any business travel this year, hon?”
“Um, well, no.. I pretty much just edited for one…”
She cut me off. ”Great. $1000 in airline tickets. $300 in business meals. $200 in rental cars.” The adding machine spit out tape as she punched in numbers. “OK. Were you impacted by the Northridge Earthquake, hon?”
“Well, I mean, I was pretty traumatized but my apartment…”
“…Great. $1250 in personal losses. How about unreimbursed medical expenses?”
It went on this way until she got through the whole Schedule-C, with occasional “STEEEEEEEEEERIIIIIIIIIIKE,” calls and cheers coming through the open door to the front office.
I was terrified by this process and told her so. She leaned on the desk with one beefy elbow, pencil behind her ear, just as I imagined Gertrude Stein would have done.
“Let me ask you something, hon. Do you think of yourself as a lucky or unlucky person?”
“Lucky,” I said.
“Great,” she said. “Me too. OK, business use of car…”
I never got audited while in Evelyn’s care, but as my career improved, my accountants increased in legitimacy.
This is my collection of mechanical calendars. I have many odd collections, like lamp finials and tiny tape measures. Though I no longer engage in the practice of serial collecting, I cherish the stuff I’ve acquired over the years—all probably written off as props and whatnot. As Evelyn famously said, “Everything’s a business expense, hon.”
The daily setting of a bunch of mechanical calendars is a good reminder of the passing time. No idea how many Tax Days I have left. None of us do. But on this one, I’m doing an early Substack post then hitting the trail in search of wildflowers.
By the way, I was just informed that Tax Day is actually April 18th this year—evidence that the whole thing is totally arbitrary. Move it to the dog days of August, why dontcha, when being inside is actually a welcome relief.