Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

April 2013

Does anyone like taxes?

I doubt the IRS has a Facebook account but if it did, what are the chances it would attract a lot of friends or get many “likes”?

However, I have grown accustomed to doing taxes, and admit that I like to do taxes. I’m not as quick as I once was, and the computer programs have taken a bit of the joy away from discovering a new little wrinkle to try. 

I cut my teeth doing returns with a ballpoint pen bearing down hard enough to make the third carbon copy legible.

I graduated to a New York City conglomerate corporate tax department preparing the state tax returns for Georgia, Missouri, Hawaii, and Connecticut. That’s it. Four returns a year. Pretty sweet, right?

I had a WATS phone on my desk and a subscription to all the tax services. I had a copy of the federal return and accounting reports for each of the divisions by state. The gig was to do the returns at least three ways.

Goldilocks comes to mind. One return was way high and became the basis for supporting the federally deductible state income tax accrual. Then a real aggressive return threading every loop known to man, which was the return that would be filed. The last return was actually separate returns for each division as if each was a single entity. Those returns were used to measure net income performance for bonus and management review purposes. 

In fact, it was possible to stay quite busy doing just four states. I did goof off, of course. Lunch had to be planned, betting pools negotiated, and if push came to boredom, I would pick up my WATS phone and call a bank in Atlanta for the correct time.

I went back to the federal tax returns at a CPA firm in Boston. This was in the era when a spreadsheet was a 13-column pad with a perforated tab that was removed so the worksheet could be filed in an 8-by-11-inch folder and the title could be read without unfolding the sheet. I became the go-to guy for taping worksheets together so a taxpayer with limited partnership interests in a ton of things could consolidate all the Schedule Cs on one sheet. I think my record was somewhere north of 30.  

From there I became something like an offshore manufacturer preparing returns for clients of law firms who, I assume, thought their attorneys were preparing the returns. I assume the lawyers thought the CPAs they sent the info to were preparing the returns. No, the pleasure was all mine.