Tax Day

Tuesday is Tax Day: the one day in the year when your average American man tells more lies to someone other than his wife.

The one time the Internal Revenue Service audited me in person was purt near 40 years ago.

I was one of two kids who had just married and moved from Chicago to an Indian reservation in Arizona, hauling her piano, from which she made her living.

(You could deduct work-related moving expenses back then. But not since the big Trump “tax cut.” Really.)

So, new teacher on the rez, 40 years ago, trying to whip the Warriors marching band into shape before homecoming, I got an audit letter from the IRS.

I had no money. Waiting for my first paycheck back then, I remember wondering at the grocery store one day whether I should splurge and buy pepper. Jeanne would have been thrilled.

My teaching contract for the coming year was for $11,300.

My IRS auditor’s name was — this is not a joke — Ms. Bourgeois.

I had to miss class and take a “personal day” for my tax audit.

Ms. Bourgeois and I smiled and fenced for a few moments in the IRS office in Tucson, while I tried to figure out what her game was. Then she asked me about the piano.

“So, you’ve moved a piano from Chicago to … Sells?”


Ms. Bourgeois asked me to prove it: to prove that we had just moved a half-ton piano 1,800 miles — one-fourteenth of the distance around the circumference of the Earth.

I was young and stupid: 27.

“Receipts? Umm … Records? Umm …”

What did I know about taxes? Nothing. What do I know today?

“Well,” I told Ms. Bourgeois, “the piano used to be there, and now it’s here.”

How’s that for flawless logic?

I could tell Ms. Bourgeois was not persuaded.

I asked: “How much do you want?”

“Oh,” she said, “you are willing to settle today?”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “How much do you say I owe you?”

It was a trivial sum — $400? — plus another $400 in penalties for godnose what. Ms. Bourgeois said she’d knock off the penalties for nothing in exchange for a check right now. So I wrote the check.

I don’t think I cheated on my taxes. We did move the piano. To this day I do not know why I paid that $400, or what the piano had to do with it.

So this is my advice if you ever have to deal with an IRS audit:

Bring your wallet.

That pretty much covers it.

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