By John J. Cox
A Resident of Woodside
Having left my accountant's office a much poorer man after leaving a check for my taxes, I decided that a trip to the Shillelagh Tavern would buoy my spirits, or at the least, drown my sorrows. On entering the bar I took a stool next to my buddy, Vernon Jackson, who as usual was seated at the rear end of the bar. I placed a $20 bill on the bar and Fran the bartender brought me a beer. "Why so glum?" she asked.
"Just paid my taxes," I said. "That $20 bill is dear to me now."
"Put his beer on my tab," said Vernon. After thanking Vernon for his generosity, he continued: "Taxes. I decided not to pay mine this year."
"That's right. I figure I owe the State of New York about $600, but I have no intention of paying them."
"Well," Vernon explained, "The State never sent me the forms and the instruction booklet. How am I supposed to file a return if they never sent me the forms? For forty years they have sent me the forms. Suddenly they stopped sending them. If they can forget about me why can't I forget about them?"
"But Vernon," I said, "you still have to pay your taxes." I explained that this year the State decided to forego the mailing of forms and instructions because of the expense involved. I told him that there was even talk of charging people for the forms if they didn't file online. "Just because they didn't send you the forms is no excuse for not paying your taxes," I said.
"Ridiculous," responded Vernon. "I made a reasonable effort to get the forms. I even called the State Tax Department. They told me I could get the forms in any library. I went to a few libraries in Queens last week. They had federal forms, but no resident state forms. But do you know what they had plenty of?" Vernon paused to sip his beer, then continued: "They had hundreds of New York nonresident forms. Now I ask you, how many people who live in New Jersey or Connecticut and work in this State are going to drive all that distance to pick up those forms in a Queens library?"
I had to admit he had a point.
"And I didn't stop there," said Vernon. "When I couldn't find the forms in the libraries, I tried the post offices. As I recall the post offices used to have the forms, but this year not a single one I checked had them. But did I stop there? Oh no, I called the State again and told them I couldn't find the forms anywhere. Do you know what they told me?" Vernon took another swig of his beer. "They told me I should file my forms on-line."
"What did you say to that?"
"It's unprintable," said Vernon. "But I did explain to them that not only do I not own a computer, but even if I did I probably wouldn't know how to use it to get the forms. What's the word for that"?
"Yes, that's it. Heck, look at my hands. Look here at these fingers. Do you think for one second that I could operate a . . ."
Vernon paused, searching for the word. "Keyboard," I offered.
"That's it, keyboard," he said. I looked at Vernon's hands. Again I had to admit he had a point.
We had another round of beers. "I don't know what to say, Vernon," I said. "Maybe you should just hire a tax preparer."
"Well, maybe they should have just sent me the forms. My taxes aren't that complicated. And maybe if enough people acted like me and stopped paying them the people who run this State would change their thinking." Vernon sipped his beer. "Didn't one of those revolutionary patriots say that "times like these tax men's souls'?"
"Something like that," I said.