Thursday, July 28, 2011

Curmudgeon's conundrum about 'contributions'

Usually I just sign the papers that the accountant sends me each quarter. If I read this stuff, I might have questions -- and, I've learned the hard way, the accountant bills me for his answers.

Admittedly, I'd do the same for him, if he ever hired me for something. He hasn't. (One of us is clearly smarter than me.)

But this month, as I was making my quarterly rendering unto Caesar, I couldn't help but notice the certification language in the Illinois Employer's Contribution and Wage Report form.

I am, you will recall, a solo practitioner. I have no employees. Yet I still have to send money into the state every so often for unemployment insurance.

Before I swore off asking my accountant questions, I asked once whether I could collect unemployment if I ever laid myself off.

He laughed.

"I take it that's a 'no'?"

"No, Curmudgeon, you can't lay yourself off," he said.

"Can I fire me? Lately I've become quite dissatisfied with my performance. And I have a bad attitude."

"No, you can't fire yourself either."

"Well, how can I collect unemployment?"

"You can't."

I started to ask why -- and stopped. The answer would have bankrupted me.

Anyway, that check every quarter to the Director of Unemployment Security was a recurring sore spot in my life even before I noticed the certification language:
I hereby certify that the information contained in this report and in all accompanying schedules is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief; and that no part of the contribution reported was or is to be deducted from workers' wages."
Don't you just love how the word 'tax' can be translated as 'contribution' when rendered in bureaucratese?

Maybe it was the word 'contribution' that caught my eye in the first place.

But I reread that last part again -- certifying "no part of the contribution reported was or is to be deducted from workers' wages" -- and I started thinking.

I mean, as a solo, money I don't pay out in expenses is money I can take home. So, therefore, any money I pay out as expenses is -- effectively -- deducted from my wages... including (yikes!) this 'contribution' to the state!

I've been worried sick since. If I'm reading this right, if I don't pay the tax (er, contribution) I violate the law. On the other hand, if I do pay the tax I have violated my solemn certification....

I'm overthinking this, aren't I?

Do you suppose this is how Wesley Snipes went wrong?


Jean-Luc Picard said...

We've all being doing a lot of 'contributing'...

Weary Traveler said...

Conundrum? That is the name of my favorite wine. Hmmm. When I think about this post, I think I need a glass of that wine.