Ted Kalvitis - Far Muse

I completely forgot to pay my January “quarterly’’ estimated federal business tax due on the 15th. Oh well, it’s all for the best, I suppose. If tomorrow we all awoke as tax accountants with perfect memories, about a zillion IRS employees would be out of a job.

Reading the fine print, though, I discovered that if I file for all of 2019 by the end of the week, I can skip the January quarterly and still be in compliance. I’m currently busy doing just that.

Meanwhile, speaking of taxes, here’s a uniquly West Virginian tax experience. This story first appeared here on Feb. 22, 2012. And yes, fellow Twain-heads, the title lightly borrows from “Journalism in Tennesee.”  I know, it’s still too early in the year to be discussing taxes.

By April 15, though, the sap will have risen and spring (and that mysterious barbecue fragrance mentioned in our first installment) will be in the air and we’ll find more important things to talk about.

* * *

Around this date in 2000, 1 was notified that my business had been randomly selected for a tax audit by West Virginia.

There are many emotions associated with receiving this news.

Some of us who are in business here have a tax skeleton in the closet — usually a small one.

These little discrepancies are why West Virginia offered a one time tax amnesty and created an elaborate and expensive brochure to announce it.

If all of us were to wake up as tax accountants tomorrow, the state tax people would be out of a job and we wouldn’t want that. Civil War era history shows that West Virginia was agreed upon by Congress while the Virginia delegation was occupied elsewhere. Federal law requires that all representatives be present for such decisions so, in the strictest sense, West Virginia doesn’t really exist.

The reasons for the founding of West Virginia no longer exist, either. It may be just a matter of time before Virginia exercises its right to our sovereignty and we move our eastern border to the Ohio River. We’ll be sending our taxes to Richmond, from our “Virginia (West)” addresses so we don’t want to make trouble for these people since their job security is so shaky to begin with.

But who “dropped the dime” and called the tax department on me? I’ve known competitors to do this in other businesses but my occupation doesn’t have any competition. There’s plenty of work to go around simply because there are very few of us crazy enough to do it.

“Think of someone who really hates you,” one old building contractor suggested.

Well, that’s pretty easy for most of us if we know anyone who is so inclined. Such persons may be our friends right now but these poor souls eventually wind up hating just about everyone sooner or later — so give them about a week. The only problem with this theory is that since these pitiable, unhappy creatures (whose ancestry can often be traced to a root vegetable) engage in petty gossip about almost everybody, they only have credibility amongst themselves. The tax department simply wouldn’t believe them and are under no obligation to politely humor them as we are. Their correspondence would wind up in the wacko (circular) file.

After much worry and speculation, I eventually concluded that the selection for an audit was totally random. Well, what a ya know — just like it says in the notice — (duh).

But what about penalties? Remember that “used furniture dealer” in Chicago? They couldn’t find enough evidence to convict him of his other, more shady business operations so they used charges of income tax evasion to put Mr. Alfonse Capone away. Heavy stuff.

Like many former New Jersey residents, I’ve probably benefited in some small way from organized crime activity. Hiking on the lovely Gambino estate was one of these benefits that I enjoyed until the “gardeners” invited me to leave. (Their “garden tools” weren’t Smith and Hawken but a similar brand name.) But I’m no Capone.

Still, I found myself wondering if the state penitentiary issued a minimum security travel brochure.

The notice said that the inquisitor — I mean auditor — would be in touch with me to set up an appointment. Weeks went by and I started to entertain the notion that the state had forgotten about me and that I might fall blissfully through the blessed cracks.

But then it occurred to me that they might just be letting me sweat it out so that I would confess or engage the services of a barrister to plead my case.

At last, the call came. As it turns out, these auditors were given an expense account in order to conduct these audits at public venues such as restaurants and libraries. He said that the choice of location was up to me — I tried to imagine a place with the slowest response time for law enforcement.

He nixed doing the audit in Virginia — I was probably considered an escape risk if I was charged with my crimes outside the jurisdiction of the Mountain State.

He mentioned that he would be coming from Keyser and that we might construct our plans around that. I mentioned that my oldest daughter and her husband also lived there and we discovered that they were close neighbors. We decided to conduct the audit at his home and I would haul a mess of my daughter’s belongings that way to further justify the trip. I think that this dual purposing impressed him — auditors are like that, you know — efficient.

We conducted the audit at his kitchen table and, as expected, my discrepancy was found. He suggested that I take care of it as soon as possible and even offered to call the field office in Martinsburg to smooth things over and even set up a payment plan. No sooner had the audit begun — it was over.

As I was leaving, he noticed that my attention had been drawn to a row of small diameter iron gas pipes, complete with shutoff valves, protruding from the ground along the backyard fence. He explained that this was his hot pepper garden and that the pipes were some old scrap that he had found and was using them to stake the vines. He asked if I would like to take some dried hot peppers along. I’m not crazy about hot peppers but my wife and daughters like them. I also thought that it might still be in my best interest to flatter him, so I accepted.

Carrying the open flat box heaped with assorted dried peppers, I walked around the corner to my daughter’s place where I had left my truck.

Much to her delight, I was still carrying the box when I entered the house. Apparently, some of these peppers were quite rare and sought after by pepper connoisseurs.

“Where did you get them?” she asked.

For a moment, I was still speechless. I was expecting prison — I got produce. I hope that their policy hasn’t changed. 

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