by Indigo Pearl – Gonzo Today Contributor
I was hanging out with a couple of young Mexican lads in Baja California recently. It was my last evening at that airbnb on Friday night. I had been through an excruciating root canal procedure at the dentist’s office and they were just having a little BBQ and shooting the breeze. The courtyard which was mine to enjoy alone for the whole week was filled with roasted meats, fresh vegetables, rhythmic music and ceviche de camarones with mango salsa.
Even though my head, face, and heart hurt I couldn’t say no to that. It turned out that my host upstairs a 20+ son of the home owner, had been spying on my rehearsals on the patio and even shared my music with his friend, who my host said with awe, was “almost American.”
The friend has family on both sides of the border and speaks almost fluent English. The two of them, very enterprising young people, were excited to hear that one could make more money on airbnb if they owned a place in San Diego. This is what they got out of my story about being a homeless artist who will likely never be able to afford owning a home, never mind rent anything, especially in communities where people own several properties and rent them out as lodging on airbnb instead of making them available for long term housing.
I spoke for a while on what it is like to live in a country where the president throws money at you as a blatant bribe to vote Republican, and thank goodness for that, I’m still here thanks to the pandemic unemployment benefits and the tax breaks. Wait! What tax break?
I just filed my taxes and was expecting a nice return for a change. Last year, I still had to pay a lot of tax on my barely-surviving worthy income, being a gig worker and performing musician (see my article COVID apathy and the tyranny of greed- a musician speaks out;) But this year, thanks to a stipulation regarding taxing unemployment, half of the benefits were supposed to be nontaxable, and as I ran my numbers through the online service the refund number kept going up. Then my face fell when the refund came and it was 40% less than expected.
I have been calling the IRS where “due to an extremely high call volume of people with the same issue we cannot take your call at this time, here is a list of possible reasons your refund was reduced…” not even put me on hold for the day. The underlying message is “we are screwing you over and you are not alone, that’s why we are the united states of america.”
This is the list that goes through my head as I listen to the computer recite the “reasons,” or rather excuses, for the IRS screwing me out of a month’s worth of living expense:
“God helps those who help themselves.” Implying that:
- Biden is God- cringe!
- God is wrathful and shaming
- If you are unemployed shame on you. The pandemic is over, now we are afraid of Russia and need to feed Ukraine.
- Guess what, the law has been amended to reflect a lesser refund for you; It turns out that you owe us more tax than you were told last year and it’s due to an error you made.
- You can now give us more of your attention, your most precious currency, as you desperately try to find out why we screwed you, how you may change that and what other shaming, expensive and excruciating hoops you can jump though to get that last 40%.
- Oh, you are a gig worker? Too bad, the pandemic is over, what you do is no longer valued, go back to being a starving artist who never gets to do any art.
- And we are still taxing you at the highest bracket as a self employed person. All we did really, by creating the “gig worker” tax identity, is to get all the cash based gig workers to self identify and become card carrying gig workers who will now be hounded for quarterly taxes and penalized for not reporting or actually also yes reporting any and all income including cash.
- Oh you reported cash income? You were honest? The State department of revenue would like to thank you by punishing you for not showing evidence of this income. Just reporting income you could have kept secret is not enough to warrant the income credit your level of poverty calls for by law, you have to prove it with hard evidence, otherwise will will fine you 10% which will be garnished from your already measly state tax refund.
- Your tax dollars pay for these important services, like the state auditor wasting your time at way more than you make an hour knowing fully well that when he tells you the cost of this hassle is only $50 you will, like all the other 1-2 million individuals “with the same issue,” not pursue the issue any further. Easy 50 million for the state.
- The feds are playing the same game but by not hiring enough people to deliver the bad news and simply not letting you talk to anyone.
- Walk away grateful for the money you did get, it could have been so much worse. You coulda had to pay.
- Walk away, walk away, walk away…
Mesmerized I end the call, all the fight gone now. I don’t care about the $900or if I survive. I am so depressed now that I just want to die.
The young almost American asked me “if you hate it so much why do you live there?” Excellent question.
I guess for me it doesn’t matter so much “where” I live. I own no home, I can lay no claim to any particular land or people or buildings. The only thing that cannot be taken away is the force of gravity to connect me to the Earth. Does it really matter which country prints my passport and which country I pay taxes to? which car company extorts my monthly lease fee and which insurance company bleeds me for the all I’m worth each month? I am homeless as a result either way. I can’t afford to pay rent and my car note, utilities and car insurance. It’s like the under insured diabetic so often having to choose between life saving insulin and paying rent.
Truly I don’t mind paying taxes, if taxes were being used to create a sustainable, free public EV charging network. Or maybe a functional health care system that actually aims to heal people, or a correctional system that actually rehabilitates people, or a public education system that actually educates people. This list could go on for a long long time, all the things I associate in my mind as a part of a functioning “first world” society.
Strangely, Mexico and most central and south American countries I have been to or heard about actually provide many of these things as a part of the perks of being a citizen of their country. Many people in Baja, in fact almost everyone considered working middle class, own their homes. People are able to get excellent education as proven by my dentist who gave me the best dental care of my life at a fraction of the cost in the USA. He has helped me to stop hating the whole dental profession on behalf of the dentists who, like the worst of car mechanics, have swindled and maltreated me over the years.
More than anything else I am offended by the abuse of my attention. How hard was it to just explain in detail the way the calculation of my taxes defers from what’s in my return, instead of giving me a vague list of errors that could be very simple “to fix.” This is not an oversight or a miscommunication, this is a calculated move to make me spend days, maybe weeks, trying to find out if I could get that $900 difference back. The mounting frustration and anger I will then feel can be used and redirected towards the enemy de jour whichever so called leadership decides deserves it the most.
You know. I feel like I just saved $200 in therapy fees writing about this. I also saved close to $2000 on my dental work by going south of the border.
By that calculation, I am still ahead even without that $900 the Feds are stealing.
IRS- you can take your $900 and stick it!
Instead of sitting on hold, fighting my way to being politely, yet firmly, rimmed in the ass by some “agent” on the phone, I’m gonna take my ukulele to the beach and play some music. You never know, some young people may find it pleasing and venmo me a few bucks.
At least I’ll be able to prove next year that I “made” that money.
And it’s true- I will “make” it.
The one thing we artists have going for us is that we can make something out of nothing. The IRS can only squeeze something out of someone, but they create nothing other then work for themselves, work we all pay for.
Walk away walk away walk away.
March 30th 2022