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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane


My husband Mark and I usually prepare our joint tax returns jointly. Being good citizens, we begin early in February with tax planning discussions like this:

Mark: We really should start doing our taxes next Saturday.
Me: You're absolutely right. I'll pick up Quicksand's ShirkoTax this week.

By late March we've made impressive progress:

Mark: We really should start doing our taxes next Saturday.
Me: You're absolutely right. I'll pick up Quicksand's ShirkoTax this week.

Our tax planning culminates promptly on April 14 when Mark boots up the computer, loads ShirkoTax, and does whatever it is one does with tax software. While Mark mans the keyboard, my official role is to hover behind him, feed him numbers, and say encouraging things like "Why the heck did you do that?"

I also rummage through sundry IRS publications searching for information that almost certainly could be found in ShirkoTax if only, just this once, Mark would consult "Help" or peruse the "README" file.

"I know what I'm doing," Mark always says reassuringly whenever the program insists on dunning us for tax assessed by some city we've never even flown over. Or when it nostalgically defaults to earnings and deductions from some long forgotten year. Or when it crashes our system, devouring Mark's entire input plus everything I've written in the last six months.

Last year, however, Mark was too busy for such taxing togetherness. So much to my chagrin, I was forced to file solo.

To his credit, Mark tried to bolster my confidence when he begged out of tax duo duty:

Mark: If you can write for computer publications, you should be able to use tax software without my help.
Me: But I don't write informative, high-tech pieces. I write humor.
Mark: That's debatable.

Mark tossed me several pounds worth of IRS instructions which apparently were written in Swahili. Then he left for work, hoping to earn enough money to pay our tax bill.

"Maybe QuickSand's Web site is in English," I muttered to my blank computer screen. So I surfed over to, clicked on ShirkoTax Highlights, and spotted this heartening headline:

    Confused? Bewildered? Horrified by this year's new and improved, economy-sized Taxpayer Relief Act? We have good news. Not for you, but for our Marketing Department. Congress and the IRS have outdone themselves this year. The new rules, regulations, and forms are so complicated, we expect to quadruple sales.
Resisting the temptation to sign off and hire a CPA, I kept reading:
    This year's Schedule D (capital gains) is so convoluted even CPAs can't figure it out.
I was thisclose to a tax panic attack. But I forced myself to keep reading, moving on to another ShirkoTax Highlight which cheerfully explained that the IRA rules are inexplicable. Within seconds I was mired in a dissertation on traditional IRAs, Education IRAs and, my personal favorite, Grapes Of Wrath IRAs. Mercifully, I fell asleep at the keyboard. But my slumber didn't last; I accidentally hit the speaker volume control and was awakened by a blaring Internet Radio ad:
    Doing your taxes can be as easy as eating pie.
    But only with Quicksand's ShirkoTax.
    Otherwise you'll die.
I'd tell you more about last year's tax misadventures, but I'm very pressed for time. I have to run out to buy ShirkoTax -- Super Duper Maxi Office Depot Plus is down to one copy.

Hey, what do you want from me? It's only April 1st.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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