99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month

Ode to the IRS

Kesley Colbert Contributing Writer

My first paying job was picking up black walnuts. Mrs. Boaz hired me, Leon and David Mark to get rid of the offending hard shelled culprits that had fallen from the humongous tree in her backyard.

There musta been a thousand of them scattered from our property line all the way over to Mr. Joe Gooch’s fence. David and I worked all day. Leon leaned his back against the base of the tree and alternately slept and yelled for us to hurry.

At the end of the day Mrs. Boaz gave each one of us a dime. I was six years old. It was my first practical lesson in skewed economics. I was older than David and picked up twice as many walnuts as he did. Leon was five years my senior and he didn’t pick up the first walnut! Well, come to think of it, he did pick up one…..and threw it at Dave when he dropped to a knee to rest.

I blinked hard and scratched my head. Surely this is not the way the grownup world operates! One guy does most all the work. One guy helps a little. One guy doesn’t hit a lick at a snake. And they are all paid the exact same amount!

Come on now, no individual, group, conglomerate, city, state, government or country could be that unfair. Or naïve. Or stupid.

And to add insult to injury, it took a quarter’s worth of lye soap to get the blackish green walnut stains off my hands!

I didn’t find out until a few years later that I was doghouse lucky not to be taxed on this earned income. And I have put off writing this story for thirty-six years because I’m not sure about the IRS’s statue of limitations.

My second paying job was picking cotton for Mr. Brooks. I picked all day for a penny a pound. I can tell you for dead certain positive that a whole sack full of cotton doesn’t weigh hardly as much as one single walnut!

Mr. Brooks didn’t withhold anything…….’cause, if he had, I would have had to pay him!

Roe Alexander gave us fifty cents an hour to lifeguard at his swimming pool. It was the first real, steady money that I earned. I appreciated the job, then and now. Roe worked out a deal with us. He let us keep the entire amount. We didn’t tell the IRS we had a job.

All good things, I reckon, have to come to an end. I got a job in the summer of 1965 at the post office unloading forty foot mail trucks. The first week I made $35, which was great for the time…..until I glanced down at the bottom line; $27.06. I lost $7.94 quicker than you could say, “Sixteenth Amendment!”

It didn’t seem fair to me, then or now. They took money out of MY check without my permission. It was just like Leon and the walnuts all over again. Somebody got something for nothing!

I did some quick figuring standing on the steps of the post office at the end of that first week. Gosh, if every eighteen year old in America sent the government as much as I had that week……

Little did I know at the time, it was just the beginning…..

You’ve got to give the IRS credit (no pun intended), they don’t trust us to give up our money voluntarily. They take what they claim we owe in advance. Then they “allow” if we’re good boys and girls, they might send us a little back after we “fill out the paper work.” They say “send us a little” like it was their money to start with and they are somehow doing us a favor!

And that “death and taxes” statement is pretty spot on. They are STILL taking my money without my permission. It comes out of my retirement and social security. I explained to them very carefully how I have already paid taxes on that money the first time I earned it!

Isn’t there some kind of double jeopardy law against “appropriating” from the same pile twice?

I’m in the process of putting information together to file my 2019 Income Tax Return. I’m already frazzled, dismayed, angry and “put upon.” I called the IRS one more time to complain.

The matter-of-fact lady in Birmingham recognized my name immediately, “Your brother Leon never paid us one red cent over the years. We are charging you extra to make up the difference……”