Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Importance of Being Important

I used to be a Very Important Person. It was something I had wanted for awhile… being an important person that is; and it felt good to be so important. But after a short time of being important I learned that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and what’s worse, there are certain hazards to being such an important person. If you have a desire to become an important person you may want to lend an ear for a moment. You’ll thank me later.

It was the year of the big San Francisco earthquake. No… not the 1906 earthquake – I was just a pup in 1906. I’m referring to the one in 1989.

There are certain hazards to being an important person. If you have a desire to become an important person you may want to lend an ear...

My daughter Rebekah turned five that year, and she spent her weekdays at a daycare that rented facilities from a local church (although not affiliated with the church). The operators of this daycare also ran a Christian school, albeit a rather small one. Well, because I came by every evening to pick up Rebekah, the headmaster of the school asked me if I would consider being on their school’s board of directors.

“Wow”, I thought. Being asked to be on the board of directors of a private school is a pretty impressive thing… something that makes a guy feel important… never mind the fact that the school was small, and as I found out later, quite in debt. (Clue – that “quite in debt” part plays in to the afore-mentioned “hazards”.) I accepted the offer to join the board and was voted in as a director at the next scheduled meeting. And because I came by each day they even made me a signatory on the school’s bank account.

I served proudly for a few months with other parents who had been recruited in the same manner. I signed a lot of checks, and I even got to present a few of those cool motions with lots of “Whereases” and “Therefores” in them. We met once a month, and at every meeting the headmaster would report the financial condition of the school, and then offer his slant on the situation. He always left us with the peaceful feeling that things weren’t as out of control as they appeared, and we were staying a step ahead of financial ruin.

But one of the matters discussed each month was the fact that the taxes withheld from the salaries of the teachers and workers were not being sent in to the IRS regularly… or, as it turned out, at all! Oh, I’m sure you are too smart to serve on a board of directors for an outfit that doesn’t pay its taxes, but have you ever considered how cool it would be to be a Very Important Person? Such a trivial thing as being on the bad side of the IRS pales in comparison to having “Director” on your resume’!

And now it’s time for me to tell you something about the IRS you may not know. When a business such as this doesn’t pay their taxes, the IRS doesn’t care who the board members are or who has been calling the shots. They only want to know who the signatories on the checking account are. See, they figure that the ones signing the checks are the ones who effectively made the decision to pay other things before the taxes. So the teachers and workers got paid, and the venders got paid (at least the lucky ones), and I’m sure the headmaster got paid. But it was “tough luck Uncle Sam” - you’ll get what’s left over, if there ever is any! But there never was.

When I caught wind of the impending IRS problems I tendered my resignation from the board. But alas, by that time I had signed dozens of checks. After several weeks of fear and trembling, the IRS goon called all us signatories to his office for the “settlement conference”. That’s the meeting where you have to disclose every penny, nickel, dime and quarter you own, so they can confiscate it all. But God is good! See, this happened at a time in my life when I was recently divorced and owned nothing but the clothes on my back and a car I would have had to pay to have towed off. I was what they call “judgement proof”!

Oh, they could have won their judgement I suppose. But the IRS apparently figured that our great nation would stand a better chance of remaining a great nation if I got to keep my clothes, and there wasn’t anything else to seize. It never felt so good to be dirt poor and… unimportant!

One of the other guys in the group wasn’t so poor, so he took the lead in working out an arrangement and carried the rest of us on promissory notes. And what did I get out of all this? Well, for a few months I was a Very Important Persona Director… in fact, a Signatory! I also got to learn more about the IRS than they teach in those big fancy colleges with the shrubs growing on the walls.

And I didn’t even have to get a student loan for all that education. Tough luck, Sally Mae!

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