Ten Four. Ten Forty.

I just finished doing my taxes -- my 2001 taxes. But, as implied in the old CB-radio sign off (Ten-four, good buddy), it won't be the last I see of them. The year 2001, which was a "difficult" year for my finances, will be with me for a long time in carryovers and carrybacks. My annual taxes are like a desktop mirror I get to hold up to the national economy that perfectly tracks the tenor of the times. But, it's a distortion mirror like the one in the circus fun house. Because I'm engaged in starting up businesses in the advertising industry, small changes in the national economy get doubly distorted by the time they reach my 1040. Ad budgets of consumer and business marketers always swing more than the general economic changes. And the fortunes of businesses that serve the advertising industry swing even more wildly, with the expected effect on personal financial statements. I always lose money when the economy is weak and the advertising business tumbles and usually make decent money after it has been strong for a while and the ad business takes off.



My taxes are of the complicated variety. And for some foolish reason, I decided some time ago to do them myself. After all, I'm a graduate of business school with a degree in finance. I thought I had enough time on my hands. Why should someone else get paid to do them when I can easily handle them myself?

You may be wondering why I'm so late in filing taxes from 2 years ago. Turns out, it's all much more complicated and time consuming than I thought. My 2001 return was 39 pages long and really not all that easy to do. Meanwhile, the spare time I thought I had seems to have evaporated. Without tax preparation software, it would have been absolutely impossible to do the job on my own. Even with such help, the rules and regulations that govern any return that involves more than just W-2 earnings are almost impenetrable.

I'm for tax simplification in a big way now. However, the trouble with the simplification schemes that have been developed over the years is they seem to mainly cut the taxes of the wealthy while increasing those of lower income groups. All of the wealthy have complicated tax returns. (But, not all complicated returns are from the wealthy. See paragraph one.)

Steve Forbes, when he was running for President a half dozen years ago, was not clever or bold enough to just say, "Let's cut taxes for the most well off 10% of Americans," as George Bush has. Forbes's tax simplification plan never gained him any traction. But calling your program "tax cuts" gives it a much better chance of enactment. Even though Bush's tax cut is unpopular with the general public, he's probably going to get most of what he wants, because the Congress is afraid to stand up to a President who has waged and won a popular war.

Will Bush's plan help the advertising industry? Maybe yes, maybe no. As far as I can tell, the only economic stimulus in the plan is based on the theory that it will make the wealthy so happy and give them so much extra money that they will start buying stocks again, particularly those stocks with the newly tax free dividends. That will, so the reasoning goes, cause stock prices to be bid up rapidly so that we will all become fooled into believing the economy will soon be good again. Therefore, businesses will invest a lot of money in new plant and equipment in order to meet the rising demand levels they will begin to believe are right around the corner after the average working American becomes pumped up with new found confidence by having seen all those happy and wealthy Wall Street types on CNN.

I'm not betting on the above scenario. But, I actually do believe the country is ready for a return to growth and that the expansion has already begun. So does Alan Greenspan, which is more important than what George Bush or 535 Congressmen or I believe, anyhow. So, don't pay any attention to that debate going on in Washington. It doesn't matter what they do. Whichever way the Washington follies come out, there will not be much of a noticeable impact on our business. But we can help ourselves. The recovery has already started. Now that the war is over, let's release those pent-up budgets and get back to work on building a better future. After all, I am going to need some income soon so I don't lose the tax shelter benefit from those tax loss carryforwards.

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