Tuesday, February 15, 2011

1954 - Tax Payments - And Humor Gone March 15

By Jack Leland
News and Courier Staff Writer

"Memorandum to the Editor:
You said to write a funny story about Income Tax day having come and gone.

Well, it's gone and with it has gone most of my money and apparently that of most Charlestonians. Also gone - as far as I can find out - is everyone's sense of humor.

There just isn't anything funny about taxes this year.

Not funny, "Ha-Ha," nor funny, "peculiar."

Perhaps it's just that they're all smiled out. Last week, you know, was National Smile Week and maybe everybody bared their teeth to the winds so often that they are just tired of smiling. Whatever the cause, there just weren't any people smiling yesterday.

Especially when asked about taxes. Of course, the income tax people say March 15 really should be a day of joy for at least half the population. It seems, according to the tax boys, that at least half the taxpayers get refunds. Two years ago, this amounted to nearly $2 billion or some $60 for every one with a refund. That, they contend, is just like getting back something you've said goodbye to.

After all, they reason, it's only money.

It might be worse, at that. Deep in darkest Africa there is a saying which goes "watch out for the Kalabalaba." The kalabalaba, literally "he who sees everything," is the tribal income tax collector.

Only he doesn't hit you in the pocketbook. In fact, some tribal rules hold, he can take the shirt right off your back or the beef ribs out of the oven or even your prettiest daughter. In one tribe, the Bantu, the chief is the Kalabalaba and he has the privileged of calling on a continent of girls to work in his garden. He can claim any one who pleases him.

Chiefs of the Chagga tribe collect one leg and one rib from each head of cattle slaughtered by members of the tribe. The Makalange chiefs tax fires. All fires are put out and then agents levy taxes to start new ones from the chief's private blaze. For keeping them from getting hot under the collar, that system's probably matchless.

Back in Charleston, one unhappy taxpayer quoted Mark Twain as having said "the only difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist is that the latter takes only your hide." The tax agents, however, claim most of the skin games are aimed their way.

And so it goes. Money, sense of humor and brotherly love - all blown before the wind in the treasury trees.

Just like in Africa - where cuts of beef cattle are collected - the American collector has to put up with a lot of beef too.

But, as was pointed out, there just isn't anything funny about taxes."

The News and Courier
Charleston, South Carolina
March 16, 1954