Tax Day, April 15th, is the second most dreaded day of the year—next to Doomsday.Nobody—rich or poor or anywhere in the middle—loves paying taxes, even if you realize taxes pay for important things like education, infrastructure, and golden toilets for government officials.
The language of taxation runs all over the financial map, describing the wealthy, the disadvantaged, and the ungodly process of paying taxes. Here are some words you're likely to hear in relation to this stressful day, which can be—pardon the expression—quite taxing.
For a great way to procrastinate when you should be completing your own tax filing, check out this list: Tax Day Words
The main sense of filthy is dirty squared. If your room is filthy, hogs would find it heavenly. To be filthy is to be disgusting, repulsive, gross, and even icky. Words for repellent things and words for enormous things have a tendency to overlap, and that's how filthy came to describe the rich: specifically, people who have so much money it's outrageous and obscene. A Kansas newspaper from 1905 has a mention of "filthy rich people… speeding by in the ski-doodle cart." I don't know what a ski-doodle cart is, but I assume it makes a limousine look like a cardboard box with wheels drawn on it.
This word is sweet music to the ears of taxpayers: when you have a deduction, you can trim your taxable income, which means fewer dollars owed and ulcers grown. People get deductions for all sorts of reasons, personal and professional. If you're a parent, you can deduct oodles of childcare-related expenses. If you're a writer like moi, you can deduct anything related to writing, such as a computer or stone tablet. Deduction is a fancy, tax-centric word for subtraction.
An exemption is an exception: official permission to not do something you would normally have to do. People can get exemptions from jury duty, military service, and who knows what else; I'm a columnist, not a lawyer. In tax terms, an exemption creates a tax-free bubble around income or purchases. A variation of this term is used to describe organizations, such as non-profits, that don’t have to pay taxes: they're tax-exempt. Someday I really need to become an organization.
You've probably heard rich folks described as wealthy: that means they have wealth. At minimum, this suggests what is technically referred to as "loads of dough." It also means they own property, stocks, vehicles, art, boats, islands, and possibly part of the moon. This word is also used metaphorically for non-monetary large amounts. If you've been a sailor for decades, you have a wealth of naval experience—and a Gilligan hat, right?
Lots of people have money problems: but only the truly poor are destitute. To be destitute is to have no money for food, shelter, or anything else. This has also been a word for people lacking more than money: you can be destitute of friends, companionship, hope, and/or freedom. Many people are. Now I'm depressed. Let's just move on.
If you're a freelancer like myself, most of your jobs don't take out any taxes. That gives you two choices: every April, pay the federal government a zillion dollars, including several pounds of flesh. The better option is to make estimated payments four times a year. To do that, you need to estimate how much you should pay. Estimating isn't like guessing: it's more like measuring, though not quite that exact. Some years I'm the Beethoven of estimating. Other years I'm more like Nickelback.
Accountants keep financial records for businesses, individuals, and the secret worldwide Illuminati, probably. Since doing someone’s taxes involves plenty o' financial records, many accountants also do people's taxes. Accountants, as the name implies, keep track of accounts. You might have a checking account and savings account, but businesses have all sorts of accounts related to equipment, training, food, advertising, etc. They might even have a Swiss bank account—a term often used in jokes to indicate someone is hiding money from the feds.
Tax time isn't always a nightmare. Some lucky folks pay too much tax during the year, so they get a refund. Since funds refers to money, this is a perfect word for money you get back. Refund is one of the happiest words in the English language. It's related to funding, which is the money that makes something happen. Want to build a mall? You need funding. Government funding comes from taxes, and they use it to repair bridges, update the military, and pay for medical programs such as Medicare, plus hundreds of other things, most of which politicians fight over like two rats in a bag.
Dough is an old word for the pasty stuff, made of flour or meal that gets molded and baked into bread. But since the mid-1800s, dough has also meant moolah. One of the earliest known examples is from back in 1851 in the Yale Tomahawk: "He thinks he will pick his way out of the Society's embarrassments, provided he can get sufficient dough." It's no accident that bread also means money, and it's appropriate that dough entered the lexicon of loot first: bread isn't found meaning money until the twentieth century.
So even if the government takes all your bread and your dough this April 15, cheer up! No one can tax your vocabulary (yet).
Mark Peters is a language columnist, lexicographer, and humorist who has written for Esquire, The Funny Times, New Scientist, Psychology Today, Salon, and Slate. He contributes to OUPblog and writes the Best Joke Ever column for McSweeney's. You can read Mark's own jokes on Twitter, such as, "I play by my own rules, which is probably why no one comes to my board game parties anymore."Click here to read other articles by Mark Peters
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