Capping off the season

What’s your preferred method of unwinding after a long tax season? For most tax professionals, unwinding usually involves locking the doors on April 15 (née, April 18) and making an escape reminiscent of the last day of school each year at the start of summer vacation. Some of you close the entire office for a week and leave comical auto replies to your e-mails (I know because I see the auto-replies come rolling in when our Quarterly Tax Update reminder e-mails go out).

Others go one step further and rent a cabin so deep in the woods that they couldn’t get a phone signal if they tried. All of us have tasks we put off that we must catch up on: doctor visits, oil changes, make up for the missed soccer games, etc.

What am I doing this year? Well, by the time tax season starts, I am just ending a five-month writing/speaking busy season, which I like to cap off with a three-month tax season. While your funny auto e-mail replies crash my inbox on April 19, I’ll be doing final preparations for the April 26 Quarterly Tax Update webinar. I’m not looking for pity, I love it all! I just have to wait a little longer before I can take some time off. But I discovered something interesting when you’re the only one working in the office the week after tax season ends: It’s a great time to deconstruct tax season while it’s all still fresh in my head: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My post-tax season plans this year involve a three-day weekend in Texas where I will gorge on gas station BBQ joint brisket and sweat out the tax-season pounds my wife has told me I added, I’ll spend three days fly fishing in northern California, deferred jury duty, sinus surgery, and whatever other family adventures my wife has planned during the kids’ summer vacation.

moutains and lake

Donald Duck: mascot for the IRS

In the 1940s, Walt Disney Studios created two cartoons that showcased the newly expanded tax system to make it more palatable to the average American. Prior to this, taxes were levied generally only on high-income taxpayers, so many middle and lower income citizens were resistant to file their returns.

The cartoons, The New Spirit and The Spirit of ’43, encouraged filing and paying tax in order to help the WWII effort. Both cartoons starred Donald Duck (and included the first appearance of the character that would later become Scrooge McDuck).

Still referencing “telegraph”? Stop

Western Union shut down its U.S. telegraph service in 2006; flash forward 16 years and AB 2066 (Seyarto), a code maintenance bill, seeks to finally strike references to this archaic technology from R&TC §§6015.5 and 7284.2, lest anyone should think that telegraph wires and poles are tangible personal property, or wonder whether the board of supervisors of any county may levy a utility user tax on the consumption of telegraph services in the unincorporated area of the county.

Western Union’s first transcontinental telegraph line was built in 1861. Telegrams were most popular in the 1920s and 1930s when it was still cheaper to send a telegram than to make a long-distance phone call.1

In 1860, a 10-word telegram sent from New York to New Orleans cost $2.70 (about $92 in 2022 dollars). When the transcontinental telegraph opened, the cost was $7.40 for 10 words (about $253), while a 10-word transatlantic message to England cost $100 (about $3,420).2 Most recently, though, sending a telegram cost a flat $10.3

The whole colon is too expensive… just a semicolon, please

Telegrams were charged by the word with a 10-word minimum, and punctuation cost extra. To get around being charged for periods, people would use the word “stop” instead of a period because four-letter words were free.4 Also, books were available that listed popular phrases boiled down to five-letter code. So the message “What is the best price delivered here for axle steel? How long does the quotation hold good? Disposed to accept any reasonable offer. Anxiously awaiting your reply. Rodgers.” in the private code of the U.S. Steel company would read "QKKMA AFBEH QPXFL QRURH QSWKU Rodgers.”5

In 1929, 20 million telegrams were sent. By the time Western Union discontinued the service in 2006, that number was about 20,000 a year.6 The last 10 telegrams sent included birthday wishes, condolences on the death of a loved one, notification of an emergency, and a few people trying to be the last person to send a telegram.7 Hopefully none were “QSWKU,” or anxiously awaiting a reply.

Spidell's Tax Season Tribune: Farewell until 2023!

This is it: the final issue of Spidell’s 2022 Tax Season Tribune. It was another brutal tax season, so hopefully we have provided you with some levity over the last few months. And don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram — you’ll get great information and fun tidbits there, too (like our Fraud Friday posts, if you still need an escape from it all).

You’re in the home stretch. We’ll see you on the other side with more analysis, seminars, and breaking tax news. Next Sunday, Spidell’s California Minute podcast returns for its seventh season, and we have some exciting podcast news in the works, so stay tuned!

A few fun facts about this week’s writers:

Kathryn Zdan, EAKathryn Zdan, EA, spends her non-Spidell hours on photography and watching horror films (and then sleeping with the light on). She also enjoys hiking, biking, and watching foreign films.

Mike Giangrande, J.D., LL.M.Mike Giangrande, J.D., LL.M., is an Orange County native, and you can find him around his backyard smoker, working in his garage, or sipping lemonade at either a baseball or soccer game for this three children.

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