Read My Lips: New Taxes You Might Like
As of January 1, I'll be running the Internal Revenue Service; I sprang it to my folks on Christmas morning -- along with an immediate spot tax equaling 3 percent of the cash value on each gift I receive. I don't expect this to be popular, but that's just part of the job.I know that humor columnist to head of the IRS is quite a leap, particularly if you've ever seen my checkbook. I assure you that no one was more surprised than I when the letter came last week. Mine is not to reason why, but I figure that lame-duck Clinton isn't paying much attention to what crosses his desk. Or maybe it's an old-fashioned computer error. You'll be happy to know that I will bring the same laserlike intelligence and quasi-inhuman efficiency that resulted in the best darn dances Wydown Junior High ever had. (We rented a smoke machine.)I plan to be an "activist" head of the IRS, which means I won't be sitting at my desk playing Doom II against some guys in the Bureau of Weights and Measures. No, I will do important stuff. Stuff that will transform taxation as we know it. Or as you know it, anyway -- I don't pay taxes anymore. (And I get major medical and dental. I always thought dental insurance was some urban legend from the '60s, like smoking banana peels.) I've been doing some thinking since my appointment, and I realized that people dislike paying taxes because no one asks them nicely. However democratic it is, this rude method cannot help but make people crazy mad at the government. The reason there hasn't been a bloody uprising before now is cable -- but 500, 1,000, even a million channels can't keep people down forever. Sooner or later, they'll get angry, and what will they do then? Kill the head of the IRS (me) and put his (my) head on a pole. This is not how I want to get on a postage stamp.So: My first act as IRS chief will be to get rid of the income tax. Instead, we'll tax certain universally reviled activities, things that no one would mind cutting out. It's sort of like the "sin taxes" on gasoline and cigarettes. So throw away all your receipts, tear up all those forms -- you won't need them. Just steer clear of the following activities, and you'll be tax-free. I guarantee it!ACTIVITY: Books about the KennedysTAX: 85 percent tax on cover priceLiteracy rates in America have plummeted since 1964. I believe that the killing tide of books about the Kennedy family, JFK, Jackie, RFK, Rose, the lobotomized sis, the various marriages, affairs, scandals, and assassinations have something to do with it.ACTIVITY: Cellular calls placed from restaurantsTAX: 10 percent of toll20 percent if the caller is over 40 and has a ponytail.ACTIVITY: Designers who create clothes from materials other than clothTAX: 17 percent surchargeIf God had wanted women to wear blouses with motorcycle handlebars on them, He would be even more problematical a concept than He is now.ACTIVITY: Black-and-white television advertisementsTAX: $35,000 per 30-second incrementThis increases to $45,000 if the commercial is also grainy, sepia, or has fakey age lines, hairs and dust flecks.ACTIVITY: Millionaires running for PresidentTAX: "Wardrobe tax" equal to 50 percent of incomeThere is, as there always is for millionaires, a loophole: If the candidate buys all his clothes from Wal-Mart, this penalty will be waived. A mite draconian, perhaps, but one wonders how far the flat tax would have gotten if Steve Forbes had been wearing a NASCAR T-shirt?ACTIVITY: Celebrity biographiesTAX: 20-150 percent tax on cover priceThe sliding scale would contain penalties for being "as told to," excessively bitchy, or longer than James Joyce's 'Ulysses.'ACTIVITY: Writers who use the suffix "-gate" to denote a scandalTAX: 50 percent of revenue from that articleACTIVITY: Overexposed public figuresTAX: 125 percent of revenue for one year after rulingOn the one hand, this would create a huge Federal bureaucracy, the Department of Media Exposure. On the other, it could be staffed by people recently taken off welfare. I think those are exactly the type of people I want to decide whether Martha Stewart's time in the sun is over. The harsh penalty will ensure that celebrities will stay out of the limelight and not be coy about it. This will also give us time to decide, as a nation -- is Tim Allen really that amusing?ACTIVITY: Commercials featuring adult-like childrenTAX: 8 percent of income until age 18Penalties would stiffen if the child in question is dressed like an adult, wears non-prescription glasses, is called "an expert," or makes comments like "My parents -- I have to teach them everything."ACTIVITY: Public speculation as to the sexual preference of celebritiesTAX: $50 "who cares?" tax per occurrenceACTIVITY: Profligate haircutsTAX: 10 percent of amount over $100ACTIVITY: Durable goods with cutesy names for colors (e.g. celery, carrot)TAX: 5 percent of retail priceThis increases to 7 percent if the goods are purchased via catalog.ACTIVITY: Automobiles with fewer than seven right anglesTAX: $250 "Taurus tax" per missing angleI realize that seven is an arbitrary number, but someone has to take a stand. Pretty soon, every new car will look like it wandered off the set of Sleeper.This is merely a start, but I think it's a good one. Is it democratic? No-but it puts the burden back on the shoulders of the idiots, where it belongs.