"Okay, Polly, what does the calendar look like for this week?"
"You got nursing home outreaches all day Monday. You’re speaking at the Hanover Rotary Club on Tuesday. Two fundraisers on Wednesday, and then I figure you can knock on doors all day Thursday and Friday."
"Can’t do Friday," I said. "I have to go into the city to meet with the family accountant to go over tax stuff."
"You need to get a copy of your ten forty from him, so I can do a press release."
"What’s that?" I asked.
"Your ten forty."
"Not understanding what you mean by that."
Polly got that look on her face that meant that she was about to call me an idiot. But she didn’t. She took a deep breath, and dug three Advil out of her purse, and dry-swallowed them. "Every year around this time, most people in this world file an IRS Form 1040, to report their income to the government."
"They do?" I said.
"Justin, you are pulling my leg. Please tell me that you understand that other people pay taxes in this world."
"Well, in theory, sure. I just haven’t ever had to do it personally. I’ve always just let the family accounting firm handle it. I just go in there and sign my name to a bunch of different forms."
"Justin, listen to me. One of those forms is called a ten forty, got it? I need a copy of that form. Campbell has already released his form. You have to release yours."
"Why?" I asked.
Polly’s face narrowed. "You remember when Mitt Romney didn’t release his? You know how Donald Trump hasn’t released his? Politicians need to release their forms, especially rich ones."
"I thought that Democrats didn’t have to release their tax forms. You know. The double standard."
"The actual double standards only work so long as nobody calls attention to them by doing stupid things like not meeting the imaginary double standards, and one of those is that both sides have to release their tax forms."
This did not make one iota of sense. "Well, okay, if you say so," I said. "I’ll talk to the accountant. It shouldn’t be a problem."
*
"That’s a problem," the accountant said.
"I don’t see why it should be," I said. "It’s a perfectly straightforward request."
"Tax forms are official government documents," he said. "They’re confidential. It’s never a good idea to let one’s official government documents be publicized."
"I’m running for Congress in New Jersey," I said. "I need to be able to show that I’m a good taxpayer."
"Then you shouldn’t have had us do your taxes," he said. "Because you’re not actually paying any taxes this year."
"I’m not?"
"Well, of course not. Did you want to?"
"It’s not a question of whether I want to," I explained. "It’s my patriotic duty to pay taxes."
"If you want to do your patriotic duty," he said, "there’s a military recruiting station down in Times Square. I can text you the directions."
I didn’t understand what he meant by that. "So, you mean, I can just go there, and the military would just take my tax money?"
"I suppose they would, but you really…"
"Because I’d rather it go to NPR. I guess I could go down there and give them the money, would that work?"
The accountant took two Advil from his desk drawer and dry-swallowed them. "Mr. Fairchild, please. Listen, if you wouldn’t mind. You don’t pay taxes because you have a very limited income. You don’t have an actual job, so you don’t owe any payroll taxes. You got a distribution from your trust fund, but that’s balanced out here by your itemized deductions and tax credits, see?"
I picked up the ten forty and tried to read it, but none of the columns made any sense to me, so I didn’t finish. "If everything here adds up, I still don’t understand why I can’t release this to the media," I said.
"Because it only tells part of the story," the accountant said. "If you release that, the first thing your opponent would say is, well, how come Mr. Fairchild can afford that big expensive house with no income?"
I thought about this for a moment. "How do I afford that big expensive house with no income?"
"Because it’s an asset in your trust fund, that’s how," he explained. "You are actually borrowing money from the trust fund, which charges you interest, which then gets deducted on your personal account. See?"
I did not see.
"The only way this makes sense is if you release the trust fund tax documents as well. But you can’t do that, because you’re the beneficiary, not the trustee. You don’t have the right to do that. You’d have to ask your parents."
"Why didn’t you just say so?" I asked. "That’s easy. I’m sure they’ll say yes."
*
"No," my dad said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because then your mother will find out."
"And that makes a difference why?"
Dad sighed. "This is not really about you. It’s about your brother. His trust fund paid for a campus trip to the University of Chicago, and your mother has gone to the arbitrator to stop his fund for paying his tuition there."
"You’re not serious."
"Poor Keith. He really had his heart set on Hillsdale," Dad explained. "But he understood that would kill your mother outright."
"Keith is a Republican? What happened?"
"He got caught chalking ‘Trump 2016’ on the sidewalks at his prep school. He was lucky he wasn’t expelled."
"Oh, no," I said. "Not that. He chalked?"
"He told me he was really voting for Kasich, but I’m not sure I believe him. Anyway, it’s his right. And if I release your trust fund account, then the arbitrator will make me release his, and that’s going to get me in trouble. Okay?"
"All right," I said. "I’ll tell Polly. I’m sure she’ll understand."
*
"I don’t understand," Polly said.
"My dad won’t let me have the tax returns for my trust fund because my brother turned Republican," I said. "I don’t know how to explain it better than that."
"No, still doesn’t compute," Polly said. "Besides, all I need is your ten forty."
"But it shows I didn’t pay any taxes," I said. "Won’t I look like a hypocrite?"
"Bernie Sanders complains about billionaires and then goes and flies on private jets," Polly explained.
"Hillary Clinton gets a quarter of a million dollars to speak at a state university. On the whole, you’re coming off as less of a hypocrite then they are, so there you go."
"Shouldn’t I want to aspire to a higher standard?" I said.
"That’s not how double standards work," she said. "I thought we went over this."
"So I am releasing my taxes to satisfy an imaginary double standard with respect to releasing my taxes, while taking advantage of an actual double standard with regard to the fact that I didn’t pay any taxes?"
"Now you’re getting it," Polly said.
"Do you have any of those Advils you usually carry?" I asked. "Because I think I have a headache."
"Sure," Polly said. "They’re generic. You can get them in bulk at Costco."
"What’s Costco?" I asked.
"Justin. Stop pulling my leg."
*****
Next week’s episode: Week Sixteen, The Bachelor Party
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen: The Transit Authority