It was a perfectly wonderful Tuesday like any other when I checked the mailbox.
Oh, what’s this? A letter postmarked from the IRS. Hmm, sure enough, just like from the Publisher Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. You are a winner! You are the lucky recipient of having to spend the next three weeks of your life looking for every receipt that you’ve ever had. Is it possible to re-gift my prize to someone who is clearly more deserving than I?
I called my Accountant.
His advice to me was to take this matter very seriously, and not to be my normally playful self. He told me to be cordial but to not go out of my way to be helpful. “Remember,” he said, “the ultimate purpose of the audit is to collect more money in taxes. If you tell too much they will look for patterns and then they will audit other years. This is a war and don’t let them take advantage of you. Fight for your rights!”
Hmm, what to do? It goes against everything I believe, I teach and how I live my life. The biggest gift of speaking around the world is that you realize people are people everywhere you go. If you look for the good, you will find the good. Life is a mirror! You get back whatever you put out. If you treat people with kindness, love, and a little dose of humor, you get back kindness, love, and a little dose of humor. I can’t imagine, my auditor wouldn’t want a little release from what I would consider an incredibly stressful job of continuous conflict.
Go in ready for a fight or do my very best to bring a little joy into my auditor’s life? Easy decision. It works for me in almost every other situation; why not this one?
I called my auditor and said, “This is Scott Friedman, I got the letter, I was Lucky Mailbox #1. I won, finally, after all these years I’ve been chosen for an audit. Woo Hoo.” Mr. Kickbacher chuckled and started to explain the process. After a brief explanation and scheduling the audit I asked many questions about the process including what could I do to make his job easier. He thanked me and told me it would help if I dropped off my records in advance in order to review them and make copies. We agreed on a date to drop off the files.
July 14th came and with my bookkeeper in tow, we paid a visit to our new IRS auditor, friend. From the beginning, we set a playful mood. One of the first questionable expenses was a charge for 500 $2 bills that I use as tips when I travel and in my programs. He asked if I kept a log of every person who received one. Hmmm, I seem to have misplaced that log along the way. Tell me more, he said.
I told the story how when checking in at United Airlines, when I get really good service, at the end of our encounter, I’ll slip a $2 bill under the computer terminal when they are not looking. Many times the agent will say to me, “Mr. Friedman, I am sorry we cannot take tips here at United Airlines.” And I’ll say, “Ma’am, it’s for good luck, and not to worry, it’s not real.” As she holds it up to check for its authenticity, I am walking away headed toward the concourse. After we all had a laugh, we agreed I could claim 60% of the $2 bills. After that, every time the auditor would leave his office to make copies, I would hide the $2 bill in his office. As the auditor would find a $2 bill, and tell me he couldn’t take it, I’d look at him and say, “it’s not real.” Another good chuckle.
We kidded about all sorts of things, how welcome he is at every business he visits, and how frequently he is invited to weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and funerals – sudden funerals.
I left paying $402 and more importantly with my philosophy intact. Use a little humor and good things are bound to happen.