Topic: "Taxpayer Assistance (2)"
There are two pieces of official correspondence which were designed to instill foreboding into the psyche of the recipient. For the time being, one of those is not likely to enter the mailbox of any resident of the Shire. It is the one that begins with the word "Greetings," and, in times past, it directed the recipient to Fort Benning or some other preparatory juncture. The other is that which carries an important message from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Frodo received that one this past week.
Frodo was incensed that the tax return which he had prepared by hand, free of outside assistance, was being questioned by a lackey of George W. Bush. Frodo reviewed his return, taking special note of the one "line" on the return that was being proposed for "adjustment." It looked fine to Frodo, and therefore did not seem to require the machination suggested by the Orcs.
To prepare for the "toll-free telephone call," Frodo assembled the IRS' own publications which he had used to compute his liability (Frodo prefers to consider it his "contribution"). When he did call he was prepared to speak authoritatively, and to put the miscreant in his place on the other end of the telephone line. Unfortunately, the voice on the other end of the line was that of a lady, and she sounded like somebody's Aunt Flora. It is very difficult to sound authoritative and professional when talking to Aunt Flora.
What was worse was the fact that Frodo had, indeed, overlooked one of those inanities in the Tax Laws which make absolutely no sense. Aunt Flora agreed with Frodo that it was a ridiculous aspect of the law, and Frodo knew that further verbal conflict was unjustifiable. She just didn't have to be so darned nice.
It made Frodo think about an old friend whose passing was noted earlier this past week. Ogal Preston Crews, a teacher, had retired and gone to work for the Internal Revenue Service in the exact same role as Aunt Flora. He would answer far more than 100 incoming telephone calls every day, and the complexity of the queries ranged from the "Well Duh, if you'd read the instructions. . ." to "The Tax Court of the United States ruled. . ." Crews had to treat everyone exactly the same, firm but polite, and to respond fully and concisely to the question at hand. As the story was told to Frodo by someone who was there, he knows the following to be true.
Crews received a telephone call from a gentleman who had a question about the preferential treatment given to forested property. Land that is used to grow trees to be sold for profit qualifies for special benefits, just as does land that is used for growing certain crops. What the caller asked Crews was, "How many trees does it take to be considered a forest?"
Crews alternatively sipped from a coffee cup and dragged on a cigarette (enough said), and contemplated the question. The smugness of the caller was shattered by the question in return, "Well, how many whiskers does it take to have a beard?"
The caller laughed out loud, and obviously smiled into the telephone. "I suppose, young man," the caller said, "that if I have to ask I probably don't qualify in either instance?"
"I'm afraid that is probably so, Sir."
Frodo wishes he had told Aunt Flora about Ogal Preston Crews. Oh well, now you know, dear reader, and that is important enough.