By Ned Levelcut | Tax, dock, lawnmower, snow plow expert
Okay. Here’s the scene. You’re sitting in the local tax audit office and mister or misses biggie pants with the code book is sitting at his or her desk in a big comfy chair while you, mister or misses smallie pants, is quivering in a chair made of old plastic milk crates.
He or she wants to see your records for the past five years. Your tax records – not the vinyl collection you have deducted since the 1970s.
Trouble is, you don’t have them. You accidentally torched them with the rest of your private papers after your wife/husband left you for the guy/girl across town with the brand new snow plow he/she didn’t get to use this year.
Failure to produce them could cost you everything. Well, a lot, at any rate.
What do you tell him? Or her?
If you attended my seminar last year, “How to Fake Like You’re Deaf During Your Tax Audit,” you’d already know the answer.
If you missed it because you’re too cheap to fork over the nominal, tax-deductible $25 entry fee, well, too bad for you.
For those of you who did attend, you already know the answer. That’s enough about that.
What I really want to discuss this tax season is what I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, namely recreating tax records that you no longer have when asked for them.
The answer is simple. Just follow the rule of the Three Ds: Deflect, Delay, and Distract.
Confusion is your friend in all audit situations. The more unsettled your arbitrarily assigned auditor becomes, the more likely it is that you’ll waltz out of his, or her, interrogation room with all of your deductions intact.
Deflect: Turn every question into a different question that you can answer, truthfully or not. For example, if the auditor asks you to justify writing off a case of bourbon as an entertainment expense, tell him, or her, that yes indeed your daughter was accepted into the university of her dreams. Then ask about his, or her, children.
Delay: Always say you have your people working on that already and that you’ll have the details in a few weeks. If this tactic does not work, have at hand an obituary of a close friend or relative and say that once the services have concluded you’ll be more than happy to provide the requested documentation.
Distract: Point out a blemish on your person or on the person of the person asking the questions. Something like “how long have you had that mole?” or “does this tooth smell infected?” will often diffuse the situation.
Some tax auditors are people, too. Remember that.
Good luck and good filing!