View from the fray

Existential tax quake

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid.


I’m up all night waiting, and it’s not just existential dread that’s keeping me awake. Who can sleep when someone out there keeps sending me e-mails infected with the W32.Klez virus, a mass-mailing worm that sends more infected messages to everyone in your address book?

I don’t have an address book. You won’t get W32.Klez from me. My anti-virus software catches and quarantines the virus when it arrives, which is a couple of times a day on the computer in my home office.

My home office is a corner of a walk-in closet off the master bedroom. I had hoped to write this space off on my income taxes. Now I’m not so sure I can.

That’s my dog’s fault.

The IRS is tough on home offices. A home office has to be your principal place of business. No problem there.

You have to use your home office “both regularly and exclusively.”

Regular use is also not an issue. Since I moved out of the RN&R’s plush editorial suite in early December, I’ve spent most days here in this cozy cocoon between a bathrobe and a row of slightly wrinkled dress shirts. I have a printer/fax/scanner that slides out from under the desk. I have some awards hanging on the wall to make me feel important. I have a sticker that says, “Think. It’s Patriotic.” And a small coupon that says, “Buy one, get one FREE MUMIA. Lawyers sold separately.” RN&R arts editor Carli Cutchin gave me the coupon.

Hanging from a nail is a rainbow-colored beanie with a tiny plastic propeller given to me by friend and writer Guy Richardson, who died in mid-January. (Guy’s wife, Zoe Rose, says a memorial party will be held on Feb. 22 at the McKinley Center.)

It’s the “exclusive” use of this home office that’s hanging me up as I sit here thinking about Bush’s State of the Union address and the end-of-the-world warnings of intelligent nuts such as economist and political failure Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche warns that the United States is bankrupt, most of our state governments are bankrupt, and the global economy needs to be abandoned like a sinking ship.

I read LaRouche’s latest e-mail from my home office, where I’d best not mingle other activities with my work. The IRS once disallowed the home office deduction to a woman who kept her dog’s water bowl under her desk.

Perhaps I have no business sharing my home office space with my cocker spaniel, who naps at my ankles.

I could lie to the IRS about my dog. But Lenny Bruce, the unafraid free-speech hero of the REM song, would not lie to the government. He died in 1966.

An inexplicable breeze set my propeller whirring.

Writing about my dog, the bathrobe and at least one of those MP3 files on my computer makes those items integral to my work.

It’s all about deduction. And knowing when it’s time to trust your anti-virus software and sleep.