FM Frequency: Singing The 1040 Blues...Or Was That A Hymn?
Tax preparation is an unexpected religious experience for FM Frequency Columnist Jeff Crane.

FM Frequency: Singing The 1040 Blues…Or Was That A Hymn?

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the May 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

By the time this issue of TFM hits your desk, it will already be mid-May. And if you haven’t filed a 2007 tax return (or an extension request), you can probably expect to star in your own dramatic mini-series titled, “The Tax Man Cometh.” These can be quite costly productions in which the lead characters rarely live “happily ever” anything, after an agonizing audit.

While revving up the latest version of TurboTax® last month, my virtual tax advisor methodically transferred information from last year’s return and began asking an important series of personal questions. Since my wife and I were still not legally blind, we hadn’t suffered gambling losses, we weren’t victims of Hurricane Katrina, we hadn’t built a solar power plant or a wind farm, our medical expenses did not exceed six figures, we didn’t have or adopt any new children, we didn’t buy a hybrid, and neither of us died in 2007, I began to tremble and wondered if a human tax accountant would ask better questions.

But just as my blood pressure started climbing and I contemplated stroking a big check to Uncle Sam, my virtual consultant asked if either of us were engaged in “religious employment.” Now like most red blooded Americans who suspect we’re carrying a heavier tax burden than those tea partying British colonists of the 1700s, I carefully pondered whether facilities professionals could technically, morally, and legally claim engagement in “religious employment.”

As with most complex technical, moral, and legal decisions, I sought guidance from a dependable mentor—a man with a brilliant analytical mind and over 25 years of extraordinary experience. I spoke with my boss.

He’s a man with a sterling reputation for integrity,character, fairness, and generosity (and will be conducting annual performance reviews with his direct reports next month). I can envision him removing his glasses while reclining slowly in a large, burgundy leather chair behind a perfectly polished mahogany desk, pausing and thinking carefully before responding.

“This is an intriguing philosophical inquiry, Mr. Crane. Let’s consider the parallels between facility management and ‘religious employment.’Perhaps it will lead us to a proper conclusion.”



On call 24×7?


Servitude and sacrifice?


Frequent weekend work?


Faith in your fellow man is tested daily?


Frequently brought to your knees by your job?


Many years of education and training required for effectiveness?


Must wear stuffy attire while those served dress in casual clothing?


Physical appearance of the facility is often more important than what actually takes place inside?


Responsibilities include arbitrating silly disputes, sympathetic listening to constant whining, and begging for money?


Except when forced to admit errors while cornered in small rooms, your ‘customers’ are known sinners living in unrepentant denial?


Must preside over multiple weekly gatherings of people who attend out of a sense of duty but are rarely prepared and usually forget everything they’ve heard the moment they walk out the door?


Although seeking to follow the wishes of a majestic being who reigns from up on high, the actual chain of command is a confused tangle of reporting relationships with multiple supervisors, committees, and administrators who are all subordinate to the whimsical desires of fickle facility occupants?


The ultimate reward for your life of service is a triumphant welcome into paradise?


“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this will pass the IRS ‘smell test.’ But may you find peace in your journey, grasshopper.”

Needlessto say, I decided NOT to claim religious employment, and yes, I promptly paid my 2007 tax bill. I’ve even mailed in the first quarterlypayment for 2008.

After going through this exercise, I have come to the conclusion that I have no appetite for a philosophical debate with an IRS auditor. However, if anyone decides to host another tea party in Boston Harbor, please include me on the guest list!

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property managementservices provider in the Southeast.


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