The Tax Man Cometh: Fear Not, With Tips to File With Flair

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Big tax refunds can be yours with creative filing.

Taxes don’t have to be torture if you use a few tactics to make them creative — while getting a big, fat refund, to boot.

We can take our lesson from today’s schools, which are now into promoting concepts like creative spelling. Kids are allowed to spell words however they like, rather than how that boring old dictionary dictates — so why not run with this same concept while doing our taxes?

Before we delve into the absolute genius of this practice, however, please be advised that such a fun and frivolous experiment might become a bit less amusing when it lands you in jail. That said, let’s start with one of the most obvious figures on your documents: your annual income.

In the boring old way, you’d report your $40,000-per-year as $40,000 and pay the necessary taxes on such an amount. When you get creative, however, you can report fewer earnings and therefore pay fewer taxes.

Your job might give you $40,000 for 40 hours of work each week, but if you hate your job, the 40 weekly hours can feel more like 80. This automatically cuts your income in half, to only $20,000 per year, so put that figure on your earned income line.

Next up is donations, many of which are tax-deductible. Sure, you can go through the valuation guide and report the $1 for the bra you gave to Savers and 25 cents for the clown knickknack that went to Goodwill. But you can also report other charitable giveaways — like the cup of sugar you gave to your neighbor.

Start by determining the actual cost of the sugar itself, which might be around 25 cents. But don’t forget the trouble, time and any jazzy Tupperware container that went along with that cup of sugar. If your neighbor banged on your door during your nap to ask for the sugar, for instance, the sugar just got pricier.

A lack of sleep leads to reduced job performance, which could mean you end up taking three hours to do a work-related task which should have taken a single hour. Your annual $40,000 earns you about $20 per hour, which means you have to tack an additional $40 to the cost of the sugar for an additional two hours labor. Calculate this before you reduce your income for best results.

Tupperware does not come cheap. If you handed your neighbor the cup of sugar in a Tupperware container which she will probably never return, you can add on the cost of the entire Tupperware set. A set is incomplete without all its parts, after all. A set of square, Modular Mates Tupperware storage containers costs about $68, plus another $10 or so shipping and handling.

This brings your donated sugar to a total cost of about $118.25.

Next up comes miscellaneous deductions. Start with the $400 you get just for working in Arizona, provided you did not receive or at least do not remember receiving a stimulus check in the past year.

Saving home energy also gets you a break, with things like solar panels, washing machine wastewater renewal systems and rainwater harvesting.

But don’t forget your dog. If he sleeps by your feet, you can count him as an energy-efficient improvement, because he saves you tons of heating costs all winter long.

Deducting the dog costs include the initial cost of the dog, his annual food and vet bills, the cost of treats, leashes, collars, ID tags, water bowls, food dishes and those Kong things into which you stuff peanut butter. Include the cost of the peanut butter.

Your home-energy improvements can therefore lead to a deduction worth several hundred — if not thousands — of dollars, depending on whether or not you needed to a new living room set that showed less dog hair then your old one.

In that case, also add the cost of the new living room set. And any carpet, drapery or big screen TV you needed to go with your new living room set. And any Tupperware you used to store his treats.

Keep this up, and you’ll have a big, fat tax refund soon coming your way. Your best bet is to save for a year or two, just in case you’ll need it to get out of prison with a really slick defense.

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Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her radio show airs every Wednesday and her column appears every Friday. See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.

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