Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Ides of April

Oscar (Jack Klugman): Hey, where'd you find those alimony checks?

Felix (Tony Randall): They were in a shoebox marked "gambling losses."

Every American who pays taxes could relate to the episode of The Odd Couple that aired for the first time 40 years ago tonight.

Certainly, anyone whose returns have been audited could relate to it.

Felix was contacted by the IRS and was asked to come in. No further details were offered so, being the hyperactive fussbudget that he was, Felix began imagining all sorts of dire scenarios involving tax evasion charges and prison sentences.

Anyway, when he arrived at the IRS office, Felix immediately launched into an indignant defense of his meticulously kept tax returns. His returns were always neater and clearer than anyone else's, he fumed. If anyone should be audited, it should be his messy roommate, Oscar.

Then he learned that he wasn't being audited at all. The IRS agent simply wanted to meet the man who, year after year, filed the neatest and best–kept returns her office saw. In tax season, when anything and everything was submitted under the heading of tax return, Felix's returns were a joy to behold.

And she called in her co–workers to meet him, and they all stood and applauded Felix, who beamed with appreciation.

But then the IRS agent reflected on what Felix had said and wanted to find out more about Felix's roommate. Try as he might, Felix couldn't back out of it.

And Oscar was called in for an audit of his returns.

Oscar, of course, was furious with Felix, especially after it was revealed that Oscar's returns really were about as bad as one could possibly imagine. Over the years, he had submitted "receipts" written on items like cocktail napkins and footballs.

They were a mess, and it looked like Oscar was going to be hit with a heavy fine along with past–due taxes.

But, at the last minute, Felix came to the rescue. He had been researching Oscar's finances and found something of interest. Oscar had been married but he and his wife had divorced. As part of the divorce settlement, he was required to pay alimony.

The IRS agent didn't remember that Oscar had once had a co–filer. Oscar did, of course. Consequently, the agent didn't know he had been divorced. Oscar did, of course.

But he hadn't been taking the tax deductions he should have taken for that because he didn't know about them. The IRS agent did, of course.

And Felix had determined that the IRS owed money to Oscar, not the other way around.

Upon reflection, the IRS agent acknowledged that Oscar used to file a joint return.

"Didn't you ever wonder what became of his wife?" Felix asked.

"Looking at the way he keeps his records," the agent replied, "I just figured he lost her somewhere."

Hmmm. Sounds like my returns.