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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Accounting 101

So this will be the first blog about my new subject of education: Accounting. That's right, the Master's begins.

That's actually misleading, actual graded classes won't start until next week, but I started the precursor class.

Enough intro, to wit, I was inspired/disturbed by something I read in the intro papers. Something our teacher spent some time on as well. I guess I was pretty naive, because I thought that Accounting was something that one did, simply as a matter of course in business. You have a product, you need to sell it, you've sold it, you need to keep track of it. You paid X amount on it to get it off the ground, you want to determine if it was worth it. Weeeelll, that's part of it. But no--the line that struck me was the open admission that the purpose of tax accounting is to exploit the tax system. That simple.

I have to admit, I was a bit horrified. Sure I know the drill, people do all sorts of things, usually harmless to avoid paying taxes. But that tax accounting says it, openly and unapologeticly, struck me as rather frightening. If the accounters aren't making honest accountants, than who is being honest?

Now, the professor made a point on this subject that in my naivety, helped shed a little light on the predicament. Remember, that when Moses came off Mount Sinai, he wasn't carrying a tax code. These things didn't come out of thin air. Nor do they come from basic economic principles. They came from the government and the people. So the rules are already sort of busted. I mean, clearly the government looks out for its own interest, the people theirs, and no one really gives a shit about the big picture. And from this constant warfare of 250 million interests plus however many corporations are out there, a tax code is hacked into shape.

So if you think about it, exploting the code is really the only way to gain fair treatment. I thought about trying to change the wording. If exploiting is in its commonality, a rather gross term, then maybe learning the code would be better. But no. Because it just doesn't make the point. The system is a crazy, controvercial, often conflicting set of rules, that no average person could ever navigate without extensive training. And lets face it--is Joe Average going to do that? Hell no! My office mate goes to H&R block every year. They do her taxes. I use Turbotax. My girlfriend is the only one I know who actually sits through the damn thing and calculates it herself.

So I'm okay with "exploiting the tax code" now. It isn't exploting like how the diamond merchants exploit the Congo, it's maneuvering, completely legally, and completely justly, to maximize your gain. Plain and simple.

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