It is a sad, lonely fact of this often cruel world that there are times when one feels such despair, such hopelessness, that it's tough to go on. I frequently find myself in this dark place when, for reasons I won't get into, "American Idol" is on the television where I live or when I break a shoelace first thing in the morning. I'll admit these may not be as bad as waking up to find the head of a horse in your bed, but I live a simple life.
Nevertheless, to fight my bouts of what my court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Cookie, calls "depression" I usually try to look for something fun or positive to look forward to that helps me get through the bad times. This is important because as brain scientists have shown, depression can lead to drugs, alcohol or annoying your roommates. Of course, the dangers of the first two vices listed is that, with proper treatment, they can often lead to a reformed life of dedication to the powers of good, harmony with God and eventual salvation, and in the case of the third to having to move.
I wish drugs and alcohol and annoying my roommates were enough to get me over the hump when I'm in my "unhappy place," but I am unable to afford an addiction to either and I really don't want to move. It makes me tired, and I don't like that. Instead I turn to another common cure for depression that is dependable, reliable, free – sort of – and oh so enjoyable: filing my federal income tax return.
I can't tell you the number of times I've turned away from the railing of the 600-foot-high bridge over the alligator-infested waters of the Cache la Poudre River realizing at the last moment that my 1040 remained un-filed. "Wow," I say to myself, "I can't believe I thought of doing something so wasteful and stupid. Here I am thinking I have nothing to look forward to in life and there are adjusted gross incomes to be calculated, deductions to be itemized and retirement savings contributions credits to be claimed." But we've all been there, so I don't feel quite so stupid.
Yes, as they say, taxes, like Christmas and death, are the only certainties in this world, and boy do I love them all. OK, I should probably clarify that it's not so much taxes that I love, since they take the money I would spend on drugs and alcohol and give it to poor people who spend it on health care, college, food, drugs and alcohol, but rather it is the actual tax return that holds the key to my heart.
It is really impossible to list all of the reasons why the federal tax return is so cool without using up 4 billion sheets of paper, but I'll try. For one thing, there's variety. The IRS has so many different tax forms that I've heard they are inventing their own advanced system of numbers, similar to the base-six system that was developed in ancient Babylonia. In the meantime, they come up with other names for their countless forms, such as "schedule" and "publication" and "form." You've got your 1040, the 1040EZ or when you are feeling saucy there's the Holy Grail: the 1040A.
In addition, all of the IRS forms are simple to read, understand and complete accurately. I admit, my first time I accidentally ended up declaring that I was a blind veteran with 14 children, all of whom owned farms, but I was nervous. It was still a fantastic experience, though, and all my older friends told me I wouldn't enjoy my first time. Such losers.
The best thing about the IRS tax-return forms is that they are totally free. Man, if the IRS only knew what it was giving away. I'll let you in on a secret. If you go to www.irs.gov you can download ALL the 1040 forms you want as many times as you want. You can even distribute them to your friends. It's better than pornography.
Finally, the tax forms are so easy to understand. I only have a master's degree and I can figure out almost a 10th of the stuff on my tax forms. I am so jealous of those Ph.D.'s and Certified Public Accountants-the vast majority of Americans-who read the tax forms like Picasso envisions a painting or Jessica Simpson sings a song. For example, in Publication 551 (Basis of Assets): 'If you incur a business meal expense for which your deduction would be limited to 50 percent of the cost of the meal, that amount is subject to uniform capitalization rules.' Ah, what poetry.
So the next time your dog dies, your car breaks down or the Rams lose a football game, make sure you remember that you can always turn to the government and that agency of mental health, the IRS.
Gavin McMeeking is a graduate atmospheric science major. His column runs every Friday in the Collegian.