Your taxing IRS FAQApril 11, 2012: 11:17 AM ET
No taxation without obfuscation. It's the American way.
By Stanley Bing
FORTUNE -- This document will help you understand the United States Internal Revenue Code, Title 26 of the U.S. Code (26 USC) as you prepare to file your 2011 returns. Fitting this service onto a single page has necessitated abridgements. The actual tax code is more than 3 million words long and would fill 7,500 pages if printed on letter-size paper. For further elucidations, and an invoice, consult your certified public accountant. Here are some of your most frequently asked questions:
What is income?
Income is anything defined as income that is not not income.
Can I reduce my income so I don't have to pay much tax?
Not unless you make more than $5 million per year. Those making between $25,000 and $4,999,999.99 are taxed at a higher rate. There are, however, itemized deductions that can reduce your tax bill to simply gargantuan, rather than Herculean, proportions.
What is considered a legitimate deduction?
Expenses for household and dependent care services necessary for gainful employment, credit for the elderly and the permanently and totally disabled, adoption expenses, child tax credits, and credits for enormous luxuries available only to the super-rich and privileged.
What is an excise tax, and am I subject to it?
The term is defined in a number of places in the Code. However, nobody knows what it is. We're sorry. My friend Tim built a boat when he was a teenager. He still pays excise taxes on it. He doesn't know why, but when the bill comes he pays it rather than risk the consequences of a dispute.
If I do have a dispute, can I appeal?
Of course you can. Be aware that federal and state agencies must justify their use of time just as you do in your job, and if it appears they have expended effort in a matter that returned no income, they will be regarded askance by rather humorless superiors.
Are any deductions uncontroversial?
Of course. They are expenses related to the production of income, as long as you have the receipts. That ride from the airport that cost you $50? You have that receipt, right? The dinner you were forced to pay for out of your own pocket, with those investors from Dubai, which cost you more than $600, you certainly have that receipt, right? Right?
What about alimony?
The deductibility of alimony payments is without question the best, and possibly the only, argument for generous settlement in divorce.
How do rich people and certain corporations manage to pay low taxes or none at all?
Where do we go when we die? How many angels may dance on the head of a pin? Why does gluten-free bread take so long to toast?
Why is the Tax Code so long and complicated?
We refer to you to Title 26, Subtitle E, Chapter 51, Subchapter F, Part III, Sec. 5383, which refers to the sweetening limitations for natural grape wines, and states, "Any natural grape wine may be sweetened after fermentation and before tax payment with pure dry sugar or liquid sugar if the total solids content of the finished wine does not exceed 12% of the weight of the wine and the alcoholic content of the finished wine after sweetening is not more than 14% by volume; except that the use under this subsection of liquid sugar shall be limited so that the resultant volume will not exceed the volume which could result from the maximum authorized use of pure dry sugar only."
Can I use one of those computer programs that help me do my taxes to avoid high CPA costs?
Sure. Good luck.
You know, I'm one of those people who believes it is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Can I just kind of skate on this thing?
For further information, go here.
This story is from the April 9, 2012 issue of Fortune.