Matter of Form

Originally appeared in the April 1998 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Matter of Form

BY ANDREW J. McCLURG

It’s tax time. Last week I went to collect the forms I’ll need. When I was returning the U-Haul, I ran into a bunch of other taxpayers returning their U-Hauls. We were all stressed out about the mountain of paperwork looming ahead. This is no surprise. Surveys show tax season makes Americans depressed and trees downright suicidal.

The tax system needs simplifying, but there’s good news. Last night I was watching Internal Revenue Service hearings on the Sci-Fi Channel and learned that the IRS is recommending a total overhaul of our tax forms.

Under the proposal, ten trillion tons of old forms will be recycled into paper-mache replicas of adorable tax dependents which will be sold on the Home Shopping Network as collector’s items.

This will allow the agency to finally fund its top priority project: sponsoring a bright red race car on the Nascar circuit. If the IRS proposal is adopted, all existing forms will be replaced by a single page, the ultimate in tax filing efficiency, the brand new …

TWO-MINUTE TAX FORM

1. Taxpayer Name(s):_______________________.

2. Total Tax Owed: ___________.

3. Additional Tax Owed ___________.

4. Remaining Amounts Owed ___________.*

* Tax Tip: Most amounts are in fact owed. If unsure whether a particular amount is owed, use the accompanying worksheet and perform this test: Write down the amount in the space provided. If it contains a digit larger than zero, it is an “amount owed” under Internal Revenue Code §28502.

5. Anything Leftover ____________.

6. Gratuity (18% for families of six or more) __________.

7. “I LOVE THE IRS!” TEESHIRT (specify size and color) $32.00 and one-year no-audit guarantee.

8. TOTAL AMOUNT DUE (add lines 1-7) ___________.

9. Amount of refund: [Do Not Write In This Space]

10. Do you like this new form? Check one: yes – no – like we really care

11. The life of an IRS agent is no picnic. Do you know what it feels like to be reviled? Check one: yes – no – only by my ex-boy/girl friend(s).

12. Can you spare five bucks for the half trillion dollar deficit? Check one: yes – no problem – anything for a pal (add to amount on line 8).

13. Estimated tax for 2005

14. Estimated income for 2005.

15. Attach check for amount listed on line 14.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR TAXPAYERS

To obtain additional forms, find us on the World Wide Web at send.more.$$$.gov. Ordering additional forms is quick and easy. Due to overwhelming demand, receiving them is currently out of the question.

BIG SALE! Corporate Giveaways! Tax Shelters! Used Social Security numbers! All prefixes. Dining room set, baby clothes. Call and leave message.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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