SEVEN DAYS from now, the procrastinators among us have a date with the Infernal (excuse me, that should read Internal) Revenue Service.
The tax deadline doesn't fall until April 18 this year because of a little known holiday in the District of Columbia called Emancipation Day, which celebrates the freeing of the slaves. Oh, the irony.
Despite the extra time, you late filers still feel the pressure. So I offer up a more user-friendly interpretation of the basic IRS Form 1040 instruction booklet.
Because a few obviously desperate readers said it was helpful the first time, here is a revised and condensed version of similar advice offered a few years ago.
"Dear Taxpayer (actually, what it says is "Yo, Fool," but I'm trying to ascribe a softer, gentler approach to the IRS):
"Yes, it's us. It's that time of the year again. We know that many of you are addicted to Sudoku, cryptograms, and hopelessly intricate puzzles. So we have assembled this booklet for your enjoyment.
"First, consult Form 29643BS. Take note that it has changed from last year. Form 29643BS essentially asks you whether you plan to cheat on your taxes. Why not tell us up front and spare your government years of costly investigation? You will eliminate the apprehension you would otherwise feel while waiting to see if you got away with it.
"By the way, if you have ever fibbed in the past on your 1040, your government wants you to know you are forgiven. But you must add $500 to what you owe or deduct $500 if you somehow wangle a refund.
"You also have the right to give us everything you have. If you choose the latter, please see Form 1040 Ridiculously EZ. Just write a check for every last dime you own. Exception: If you keep pennies in a jar, do not send them in. Please.
"Have you ever tried to sell air conditioners to Eskimos? If you answered yes, reduce your exemptions by one. What were you thinking?
"If you actually sold one, attach the bill of sale, duly notarized, and ignore the rest of this section.
"Now, take the distance between the sun and the moon at the vernal equinox, subtract the temperature at which water boils, and multiply by the number of letters in Elvis Presley's middle name. If the answer is smaller than zero, you cheated.
"Determine your latitude and longitude and add all the digits together. Subtract the number of the date of the month you were born. We know when that is, so don't lie to us.
"Enter this number on Form 868647, Line 63b. This form is not essential to your return, but it does test your knowledge of our state capitals, so it's kinda fun.
"Note: If you correctly guess the capital of South Dakota, you are penalized $50. Pierre? Too French. May you choke on your Freedom Fries.
"Speaking of which, did you eat fast food more than once in the past week? If so, increase your tax or reduce your refund by $100. While you were there, did you steal a fistful of paper napkins? That's another $100. We have friends at Burger King.
"Take three paces forward, check your pulse, and pick a number between 31 and 79. Now scramble the last four letters in your maternal grandmother's maiden name. If you can form a word rhyming with Adirondack, you may defer your taxes until your death. However, you must submit an affidavit asserting that you were just kidding on that driver's license photo.
"Are you now or have you ever been a cross-dresser? It's irrelevant, really. We'd just like to know. (Privacy Act notice: We promise not to share this information with other federal agencies, although if your ensemble is from the J. Edgar Hoover collection, we'll be sorely tempted.)
"You're almost finished. Put your right foot in and shake it all about. Remember to carry the six, carry the groceries, Carrie the Nation, and, if you're a golfer, carry the green.
"STOP! If your Social Security number is 12 or below, you owe no taxes. How old are you, anyway?
"Finally, make sure you have dated and signed your return. Have you affixed your address label? If not, see Booklet 2XG487, which basically says: If you have an address label, affix it.
If you did not receive an address label, Booklet 2XG487 also offers this helpful tip: "Use a PEN, dummy!"
OK, that's it. I humbly hope this information eases the next few days for those who are still wrestling with their returns.
Now go emancipate yourself.
Thomas Walton is retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org