The data are in. The statistics have been analyzed. The findings are incontrovertible. Free-lance writers are among the most highly paid people in the country. Or so the Internal Revenue says.
[quoteright'/>"Anything interesting in the mail today, dear?" Roger asked his wife of six months.
"You got ten copies of the little magazine that published your poem about how much you love me."
"Let me see those." Karen handed her husband the magazines, and he let out a gasp. "These are worth $10 apiece. That means all together, they're worth $100!"
"That's awful! Don't you realize I'll have to declare these on my 1040 form next April?"
"Don't be silly! The publisher didn't pay you anything. If you declare it at all you should call it a loss, since the stamps you used for mailing your work in and acknowledging the acceptance cost you a little under a dollar."
"Not possible. This is called a fringe benefit, and fringe benefits are now taxed."
"But Roger, you get hundreds of free copies of the publications that include your work, and just as many free subscriptions as payment. Your pay checks don't even cover your stamps. How can the IRS possibly expect you to be to pay taxes?"
"Be quiet, I'm computing." Roger added $100 to a long list of figures. "Oh my Lord, I'm a millionaire!"
"Sure, and I'm a millionairess. I just can't afford to cook anything except macaroni and cheese. Come off it, Roger. If we didn't have the money I make baby-sitting, we'd be in the poorhouse. And don't start in on how we'll have to declare those few dollars on our tax form, too."
"I was hoping you wouldn't bring this subject up. Not only do we have to list those earnings, but, well, you know the food you gobble down while you're sitting? The hamburgers and fries, cute little steaks and big gooey hot fudge sundaes?"
"It's subject to taxation."
"Sure looks that way. A definite fringe benefit. So if you bring home $20 and eat $15 worth of food, that means we have to pay taxes on $35."
"How are the tax people going to figure out how much I eat?"
"Size 24? They'll know, they'll know."
"Well, I think this is ridiculous! Next you'll be saying that..."
"Right. That lucky penny you found on the will have to be declared on our income tax form."
"But it will look like we're...."
"And we're really...."
"What can we do?"
Roger started wrapping up his free magazines and addressing the bundle bundle to the IRS.
"Why are you doing that?"
"This is our tax payment. If this is money, then we'll let the IRS people try to spend it!"
Susan Packie teaches anthropology at Malcolm-King College, which is located in America's premier anthroplogical site, New York City. She has had her work published in more than 80 magazines.
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