Years ago, a lot of us older ones got by much cheaper when it came to paying taxes than this generation does. I never heard of income tax until I was three-fourths grown up. The winter of 1920 was when Uncle Mike had to pay money to the government, and he sort of took pride in telling dad that he was making too much money.
I farmed for 18 years without the blessing of dealing with the Revenue Department. Golly, I never did know if I had ever beaten the government out of any money or not. It was just luck during my tax-free days that the government didn’t send anyone out to my place. The only records I ever kept on the wall calendar was the number of eggs gathered each day, and later, when I got married, the amount of money that was missing when Sugar needed things.
Then in 1945, I was told I’d better file an income tax return or I could get into trouble. After following good advice by filling out a tax return, I got into trouble anyway.
All my past tax problems came back to me vividly last summer while attending the annual warehouse dinner in Odessa. There sat my old favorite tax collector, Ira Schuster, whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years. Upon visiting with him, I found out that he was able to survive his job and now the years have put him into retirement.
When the war with the Germans and the Japanese was over, Mr. Schuster and my life went through a change. Ira got a job collecting taxes and I got started paying them. Schuster, the collector, haunted a lot of us farmers by driving into our yards. He always carried a bag full of printed stuff that usually proved that we didn’t fork over enough dough.
He was a man that got down to business before he sat down. After identifying himself to me, Schuster made it known that I sold 100 acres of farm land in 1945 that I didn’t report in my tax returns. I told him I didn’t know I had to. He made it known in no uncertain terms that all profits from sales are taxable. Schuster asked me quickly what I paid for the land. I told him I got the land for $15 an acre when times were very tough. A surprised look came across his face. Then Ira wanted to know what I sold the 100 acres for. When I told him I sold it for the same price I gave for it, a bigger look of surprise came over his face. “You mean to tell me that you sold 100 acres of farm land for $1,500?” was his question. It was verified by a nod.
The land sale was an embarrassment to one’s intelligence. Only blockheads sold land for that price. However, what I did saved me from paying extra income tax. Mr. Schuster didn’t want to believe me, so I had to show him a half-paid contract I had with my neighbor.
Since I won the first round, it was Ira’s duty to try and find something else that could be wrong with my tax refund. He flipped some papers over a couple of times ’til he came to a spot where I sold some of my own wheat to myself that was used to feed our chickens. Schuster said I couldn’t do that. He was right, so I had to hand him $36 before he left.
For over a year, while shaking down farmers that made out questionable returns, Schuster would stop in for a supply of fresh eggs, and sometimes picked up a couple of roosters for eating purposes. After all these years, it was nice to see him again and meet his wife.