January 18, 2006
It's All Fun and Games
at Tax Time
a recent stop at Subway, I got more than a footlong meatball sub for my
$5.19. I got a scratch-off game card. Hey! All I had to do was
scratch off the shiny metallic silvery stuff, and if it matched the
other one, I could win . . . OK, I don’t remember what I could have won.
Once I got a little of that scratch-off stuff under my fingernails, I
decided I really just wanted to eat, and left the game card on the
don’t need a game card, and I certainly don’t need an exciting chance
to win, when I buy food. I just need the food. But the competition
in fast food – er, I mean, meal solutions – is fierce, and if Subway
thinks an exciting chance to win will help them sell a few more
Cold Cut Trios, fine by me.
Apparently the competition is equally fierce in the tax preparation
business, because the same people who want to keep you in good stead
with the IRS also want to get shiny metallic stuff under your
fingernails. This is the latest marketing strategy of H&R Block, which
has a game card for you once you hand over those receipts and mortgage
statements. Three squares. Start scratching. If two of the squares
match, then that’s what you win – with two grand prize winners getting
$50,000 each and 100 getting a doubling of their federal refunds up to
First of all, if anyone getting a $20,000 refund takes their tax returns
to H&R Block, maybe I should switch from Tadrach the Tax Man. And what
if you end up owing? In that case, you might want to leave your game
card on the counter at Subway and slowly back away. Then again, the odds
of winning are only one in 237,000 anyway, so there’s no sense losing
sleep over it.
even if you don’t get the 50 grand or your tax refund doubled, you can
win anything from free tax preparation to free song downloads, which is
where the whole thing about tax preparers giving out prizes starts to
seem a little weird to this taxpayer.
accountant is a dull guy. I can hardly think about him without yawning.
And I like him that way. Anyone who has gone to the trouble of
understanding the federal tax code has to be a little disturbed. The
idea that an accountant even knows any songs is a little weird,
let alone wanting to hook me up with them.
this seems to be very much the way of business these days. It’s not
enough just to give me excellent service at a fair price – or even to
exceed my expectations at an exceptional price. There must also be the
chance that I might – I just might! – get something for free. It
might be something I would really like, like double my tax refund. It
might be something like 10 free song downloads, which I can easily get
online for $9.90 in half the time it would take to wash my hands after
scratching off one of those dumb game cards.
might win something like a lifetime membership to Blockbuster, which is
one of the prizes being offered by Subway. (I would rather go to
Blockbuster and win a lifetime supply of Subway, but all they’re
offering is an end to late fees except when they bring them back.)
could get something truly useful, like $5,000 worth of Citgo gas (also
being offered by Subway), which nets out to seven-and-a-half gallons
after the portion I use driving to the Citgo station and back.
be honest, I don’t get jazzed about getting stuff for free. Stuff you
get for free either comes with an expectation that you will buy
something – usually lots of somethings – down the road, or it comes with
the reasonable expectation that the company giving you the free stuff is
recouping its costs in what it’s charging you for the not-free stuff
(i.e., the stuff you actually need).
I decided to ask Tadrach the Tax Man if he had any interest in starting
a Tadrach Sweepstakes. Perhaps the winner could get the blinking neon
sign over Tadrach’s desk (the one with the blinking “D”) or a gift
certificate to the Chinese takeout place that was responsible for the
aromatic decorating of Tadrach’s office.
took the suggestion under advisement and informed me that I have a
balance due, which would pretty well kill my enthusiasm for the
double-your-refund prize in any event. I wonder if, next year, I could
give away some free columns and then try to write that off. Scratch off
the game card, and if two column subjects match, you get to read that
column for free!
could make it scratch and sniff. For those who think my columns stink.
© 2006 North Star
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