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It done got complicated

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Mrs. Newsome would have a duck fit over the title of this story. She was my tenth-grade English teacher at Briarwood High School, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. After berating me once again about how I, single-handedly, hath destroyed the Queen’s English, she would quickly follow up by asking, “And just how does a duck have a fit?”

For all you Neanderthals out there, I know my next statements go against the man code, but it’s still true. I don’t know everything. And I’ll admit I’ve never figured out just how a duck can have a fit. Then again, it has become painfully apparent of late that there are a lot of things I don’t understand or know.

For example, this time last year I had a visit with my CPA. Like now, tax season was once again looming on the horizon, and with all the new tax changes, an early trip to the number cruncher was prudent. Prudent – now Mrs. Newsome would’ve approved of my use of that word, and she would’ve really been impressed it was used correctly in the sentence, but I digress.

For the last 25 years, I’ve been using the same number cruncher. And last year he said, “You need to start a business so you can have some write-offs. That way you’ll not pay so much in taxes next year.” When the number cruncher speaks, I listen.

So in March of last year, The Wife and I borrowed a bunch of money and started a business. Unfortunately, we learned quickly that write-off for a business means you have to lose money — at least on paper. The business was to provide a service, to bring in extra money, to pay the taxes we owed, and show a loss, but not really lose money, so we don’t have to pay taxes this year like we did last year. Like I said, it done got complicated.

Now that it’s a year later, just how did we do? The business has done well, and with all the start-up costs, we should have plenty of write-offs. With tax papers in hand and a bounce in my step, I happily walked into the number cruncher’s office just knowing a big fat refund check was soon to be in our mailbox.

With papers piled high, we sat at one end of the long conference table. Ironically, I think the solid cherry table came from a law firm that went out of business years ago. I guess they couldn’t pay their taxes and had to sell everything.

For 20 minutes, I sat and anxiously watched as the number cruncher went line by line crunching numbers. Finally he sat back in his chair, removed his glasses, started to clean them and said, “I’ve got some good news. You had some big losses due to start-up which is all deducible, but not all this year, and you had some income that threw you into a higher tax bracket.”

I drew in a breath because I felt a “but” coming. I can always feel when there’s a “but” coming. They’re never good, and this time was no exception.
The number cruncher continued, “But the bottom line is I don’t think you have to pay.”

What! No big fat refund? On paper or not, I have to lose even more money to keep from paying taxes? Trying to figure out all this tax stuff ... especially this year ... well, it done got really complicated.

I about had a duck fit right there on that ex-lawyer tax repossessed conference table. And I don’t care what Mrs. Newsome has to say. If it looks like a duck fit, walks like a duck fit, then it’s a dad-gum duck fit.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]

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