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Down on the Farm -- Bullies in big trucks

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As the end of the year approaches, you always hear about people who buy new cars, pickups, or snowmobiles and deduct the purchase so they don't have to pay any tax.

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Every year, I figure it is time to jump on the gravy train. I call my tax accountant Ebenezer Misermaker, CPA, to see what toy I should give myself for Christmas and how we can rig the books to put the screws to Uncle Sam.

"Forget it," Misermaker said last week with a cackle. "Tax breaks aren't for little guys like you."

"Can't I buy a new car and say I use it for business?" I asked.

"Nope," Misermaker said, weary from repeating the same thing to me year after year. "You have to keep track of every mile and write actual odometer readings in a logbook."

Like I'd ever get around to that.

What about a snowmobile I could use to oversee my acreage?

"Not unless you swear on a stack of Bibles that you use it mostly for business purposes," Misermaker said, obviously wanting to get off the phone and move on to more profitable clients.

"Well," I said, exasperated, "What about those guys who buy a new $40,000 pickup every year and put it out on payments but deduct the whole thing right away and drive to the café in those massive gas guzzlers and brag about how they didn't have to pay any tax this year?"

"That," said Misermaker, with a sigh, "is only if you buy a pickup that is over 6,000 pounds. Pickups that big are classified as heavy equipment and are fully deductible the first year."

Heavy equipment? Everybody knows those big pickups aren't heavy equipment. They are status symbols. True, they can also be used to get back and forth from the café, but mainly they are for show.

If those big pickups were equipment they would occasionally be used to haul something. But those guys keep the box of their pickups so clean you could perform surgery in one.

"I want to get good mileage," I told Misermaker. "Won't the tax code reward me for doing my patriotic duty to reduce our dependence upon imported oil?"

"Nope," Misermaker said with a sneer. "The tax code actually penalizes people who buy effeminate little vehicles which don't contribute their fair share to Exxon, Mobil and British Petroleum."

It was all just as I suspected. The same high-school bullies who hung out down the auto mechanics hallway and terrorized us, the pencil-necked band and choir types, are now terrorizing Congress.

Once out of high school, the lunks went to Washington. Secretly backed by OPEC, they cornered the Chairman of the House Tax Committee in a back alley and slammed him against a graffiti-covered brick wall.

"We want to have huge gas-guzzling pickups," the big lugs said. "And we don't want to pay for them."

"How can I do that?" asked the hapless Congressman, his limp legs dangling in the breeze.

"Have the law declare pickups heavy equipment. Let us string them out on payments for years and years but let us take the whole deduction right away."

"I can't do that! It's too obvious! People would think I am ..."

With a jerk, one of the bullies tightened the Congressman's tie two notches. His eyeballs bulged.

That was all it took. The congressman caved in. The "Free Pickups for Bullies Act of 1987" passed in secret session. Exxon and GMC passed around a few briefcases of campaign cash and nobody has dared raise a finger since.

"Isn't that right, Ebenezer?" I asked, out of breath from my rant. "Isn't that how it happened?"

"What?" Misermaker said, his daydream interrupted. "Who's this? What do you want?"

"I want my free pickup!" I screamed.

"Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?" Misermaker growled before hanging up--just like he did last Christmas.

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