There are 77 days between the start of busy season and the April 15 deadline this year. That’s an uncomfortably long — or as some would suggest, uncomfortably short — amount of time for taxes.
It just so happens that 77 days is also the total amount of time the average American adult spends watching television every year. If you’re a tax practitioner, you’re probably not getting a lot of those days in right now.
During busy season, you have a limited number of hours to watch the best programming available. You need to be sure you’re taking advantage of the precious free time you have and getting only the good stuff.
To help, here’s a list of the best television episodes dedicated to tax. Take a much-needed break and sit down for a hilarious look at what happens when busy season doesn’t go according to plan.
Maybe think of it as research!
“The Audit” – The Golden Girls, season 3, episode 10
What happens when your ex-spouse’s tax problems become your tax problems? Dorothy finds out the hard way when Stan’s audited, and the IRS starts taking a hard look at the years leading up to their divorce. Dorothy pawns her prized ring, Sophia gives advice, Rose attends a Spanish class, and maybe Stan learns his lesson after all.
Best quote of the episode: “I've been at this job almost four years now, and in that short time I can honestly say I have never seen such an inept, clumsy, downright stupid attempt to avoid paying income tax.”
“1040 or Fight” – The Mary Tyler Moore Show, season 1, episode 11
If you have to meet with the Internal Revenue Service, it helps to put your best foot forward. That effort doesn’t go as planned for Mary. She makes a great first impression on the auditor, Robert, and by the conclusion of the meeting, she has a date. At the end of the episode — and the end of her audit — Mary must decide if she wants to keep seeing Robert.
Best quote of the episode: “You know, Mary? You’re the only person I know who bakes chocolate chip cookies for an audit by the United States government.”
“Crimes & Misdemeanors & Ex-FSs” – The Mindy Project, season 3, episode 3
Six years of unpaid taxes can do a number on relationships. In this episode, Mindy seeks out the help of her ex-boyfriend — conveniently, also a lawyer — and hijinks ensue. Current boyfriends and past boyfriends clash and at the end of it, Mindy has a new dresser. All-in-all, not the worst outcome for someone whose back taxes are reaching the point of “seriously delinquent.”
Best quote of the episode: “In July of last year, you spent more on emojis than rent.”
“Trouble with trillions” – The Simpsons, season 9, episode 12
This 1998 tax-focused episode is a classic. As moronic and laughable as Homer Simpson is, it’s hard not to find his basic lack of tax knowledge alarming. This episode follows the unfortunate Simpson who not only is terrible at paying his taxes but gets caught up in an FBI sting set up to trap his boss, Mr. Burns. Also, if you’re a fan of Simpsons-tax crossovers, Tony Nitti, CPA, wrote an article that breaks down the top tax references in the series.
Best quote of the episode: “Okay Marge. If anybody asks, you require 24-hour nursing care, Lisa’s a clergyman, Maggie is seven people and Bart was wounded in Vietnam.”
“The One with George Stephanopoulos” – Friends, season 1, episode 4
How do you explain income taxes to someone who’s never paid them before? Hand them their first paycheck. At least, that’s how Rachel discovers just how much of her earnings are paid out before she even has a chance to spend them. The episode doesn’t exactly focus on tax, and it doesn’t feature George Stephanopoulos, but true to its name, it will give you a friendly feeling at the end.
Best quote of the episode: “Who’s FICA? Why’s he getting all my money?”
“E. Peterbus Unum” – Family Guy, season 2, episode 18
If you don’t receive a big tax refund this year, it may be a good time to establish your own country. Peter’s dream of a fancy backyard pool is almost derailed when he doesn’t get a tax refund. That’s until he decides to penny pinch and build it himself anyway. Long story short, the city won’t approve the zoning, Peter creates a new micronation (named Petoria, if you’re wondering), and he invades Joe’s backyard. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well for the Griffin family.
Best quote of the episode: “You can write off medical stuff? If I’d known, I wouldn’t have used a discount surgeon.”
Busy season is going to be around for a while yet, so don’t forget to take a little time out of the hectic workflow and sit down for a laugh or two. It’s a stressful time, but you’ll make it through. You’re better equipped to handle it than any of these unfortunate characters.
If you run into any problems, check back in with us. The AICPA Tax Section has a page devoted to busy season concerns. We can’t guarantee you’ll get a laugh, but you may find a resource or two that’ll get you through the next 66 days.
Allison Carter Fanney, Communications Manager, Tax, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants