Dec 21, 2021, 05:57AM

My Dumb Accountant

Hey, great communication.

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I always live the wrong life. I get this uncertain, wobbly version. Short, sharp shocks bust in on me, but everything else comes off muffled and indeterminate. I never know what’s up and I can’t do what’s right.

My accountant emails me: “Yikes.” That’s the first line, the word all by itself. “Yikes.” I read on: “SEVERE penalties,” he says. Not that they’re sure, but that they’re possible. My accountant is emailing me on Sunday to tell me this. Am I in trouble? He doesn’t know for sure.

Meanwhile, there’s information I need to find for him. The next morning I call my bank and talk to a friendly, cheerful man in India. He tells me the bank’s legal name, my branch’s address, and the dates that I started my checking account and savings account. I ask about the maximum amounts I’ve had in those accounts, year by year. He doesn’t know, I have to go to the branch. He does say my savings account never paid me interest, which is another question my accountant asked. Interest—the man is amused. “It is for savings, it does not pay,” he says, and he laughs: “Ha ha.” I explain that I know little about these things.

At the branch, a polite young woman has a desk near the bank’s entrance. She explains that, no, she can’t look back through all my years of records and see what the largest amounts in my accounts were for each year. A request must be sent to an office, and there the information will be compiled. Not all the information, since the bank’s records on a given customer go back just seven years; more than that isn’t required by law, so the bank says the hell with it. Also, I have to pay for the information they can give me. How much? It would take them a day to estimate. I go ahead and place my order. During key moments of the foregoing exchange, I’ve closed my eyes because of the pain. (Not dramatically, I hope.)

Back home, I email my findings to my accountant. He responds with a brief, straightforward message that I’m in the clear. The interest earnings turn out to be all-important: no interest earnings on my savings account, no way the government can be mad. I reflect on the crises that blow up and blow away during tax prep.

A thought creeps up. The nice man in India had laughed, that’s all. He didn’t say he’d looked through the records and found that my savings account paid no interest. He just laughed. But after all, my accountant thought a savings account might pay interest. I have to call again.

This time a man tells me it’s 0.100 percent interest, that’s what the account pays. I ask if he can tell me in dollars the total amount of interest paid during a year. We talk a long while, and no, he can’t. I hang up and find myself writing an email to my accountant. I’m telling him the 0.100 figure and how the bank couldn’t estimate a total. Inside I feel all but sure that 0.100 is 10 cents and any real earnings are therefore impossible. On the other hand, the India man laughed at the savings accounts idea and my accountant didn’t. Perhaps my accountant has his reasons, obscure as they might be. I tell him about my dime of interest. “I assume this is no problem but wanted to check,” I add.

The response: “LOL.” Nothing follows after that.

Over the next few days I decide he meant there was no problem. I prove right; my troubles with the savings accounts end there. But eight or nine months later I learn that he overlooked some other problem. The penalties on that one aren’t yikes level but there they are. I choose not to employ him for the coming year.

My point? Somebody with the right sort of life could’ve fired him back at LOL. 


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