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NEW YORK TIMES, JANUARY 17, 1980
by James Bovard
Byline: Carbondale, Illinois
The now-famous tax deductible three-martini lunch is a clear injustice, but it is a minor offense compared to the depreciation inequity. businesses and corporations receive tax breaks on all their equipment, yet the average citizen is denied this invaluable loophole. There is no justification for this prejudice in favor of business. Fairness demands that the average citizen be given an equal opportunity.
The average taxpayer could be allowed to depreciate his car or home, but that would still only be a minor savings. Besides, this would discriminate in favor of property owners and against the masses of poor, starving writers.
A more open-minded conception of depreciation is necessary to fully achieve justice. The most valuable things in life are not a person's things, but the person himself and his qualities. A tax system, to maximize revenues, should be based on the most valuable tings a person possesses.
Citizens should be allowed tax deduction for the depreciation of their characters. The idea may seem a bit radical on first glance, though it was almost included in the Democratic Party Platform in 1936. There has ben a great deal of talk lately about character depreciation, but this is the first substantial proposal on compensating it.
Deductions for character depreciation would restore people's confidence in themselves and their government. The people would be reassured to know that there was still some value to their characters, and their faith in government would be renewed by the additional of compassion and a minimum level of human decency to the tax code.
On the surface, character depreciation might seem like an unjust deduction, but since it is a thing that everyone has available to them, it is clearly equitable. A man certainly suffers a loss when his character degenerates, and it would only be merciful to allow him tax relief in his time of degeneracy. Guidelines can be established to prevent claiming more than a 20% character depreciation in any one year, to avoid excessive encouragement of debauchery. Most people can easily find witnesses to attest to their character depreciation, though due process requires that opportunity be given to anyone who might wish to contest the taxpayer's claim.
It will be difficult to assess the original worth of the character before depreciation. Many of the fastest-depreciating have long ago gone into the red. It would seem inequitable to allow depreciation on a worthless character, especially if society had already paid the price of its previous depreciation.
But, if depreciation deductions were limited to worthy characters, it is doubtful that the reform would still assist the majority. Continuing a long tradition of arbitrariness, the IRS could assess each person's character to be wroth 20% of his income, unless he makes over $100,000 or less than $3,000. It is unclear where the 20% figure was derived from, but a degree of oriental mysticism is necessary to make it consistent with the other tax regulations.
Experts are uncertain what economic impact the character depreciation would have. Liberals woudl accept it on humanitarian grounds while conservatives would applaud its beneficial lowering of the general tax level.
A capital gains tax can be applied to those who wish to claim a marked appreciation of character, though this will probably not be frequent.
Admittedly, this deduction will greatly increase the number of people who claim to be "born again," thus receiving a new character. The most depreciated characters would likely use this ply every 3 or 4 years, less their deduction be exhausted after 5 years. In general, being "born again" will be much more difficult to prove than being depreciated. To avoid unnecessary red tape, no person should be allowed more than 2 rebirths per tax-paying lifetime.
This deduction could be specifically tailored to give assistance to oppressed minoriti8es: governments workers could be allowed a deduction for the depreciation of motivation and effort, political activists could be given a break on their mental depreciation, and Senate aides could receive benefits for their self-depreciation.
If the character depreciation allowance is well-received, other reforms could be instituted to achieve even more social justice. Hairlines, bust lines, and even sex drives can be depreciated. Eventually, the tax code could cover all the most valuable aspects of life.
Character depreciation has always been an easy thing to prove, and most applicants wouldn't even need to look for evidence. It would be a system of tax relief open to all Americans, and would correct the gross inequity currently existing between business and personal depreciation. The time has come to reward the average citizen for his fight against moral absolutes.
Information Bank Abstracts
NEW YORK TIMES
January 17, 1980, Thursday
SECTION: Page 23, Column 1
LENGTH: 31 words
BYLINE: BY JAMES BOVARD
Writer James Bovard article humorous article on unfairness of tax
depreciations allowed businesses, urges taxpayers be given deduction based on
character depreciation. Cartoon (M)