I’m not sure how annual tax filing is done in other countries; but, in the US, people are already gathering their documentation and getting ready to file. The deadline is 15 April, and plenty of people don’t want to wait that long if they’re getting a refund. So, this is a very, very busy season for accountants.
It’s all got me thinking about what it might be like for our top fictional sleuths when it’s time to file that paperwork. It can’t be easy when you’re a sleuth to explain all of the – erm – miscellaneous expenses that come up. If you’ll invite your disbelief to take some friends and go get pizza, here’s a look at what happens…
When Sleuths Get Their Taxes Done
I. Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie)
Accountant: I must say, M. Poirot, your papers are very neatly docketed and arranged.
Poirot: Merci. Me, I know the importance of order and method. Whether it is the taxes or a case I am investigating, order and method are my watchwords.
Accountant (slowly looking through Poirot’s papers): Hmm… travel expenses, business expenses, it all seems to be here. Wait just a moment. What is this item? He points to one item on Poirot’s list.
Poirot: Ah, that is my moustache wax and grooming tools.
Accountant: But, M. Poirot, I’m afraid you can’t deduct those expenses.
Poirot: But why not?
Accountant: Well, they aren’t necessary for the running of your business.
Poirot (Bristling with annoyance): How can I be expected to solve cases if my moustaches are not shown to perfection? It is essential!
II. Inspector Morse (Colin Dexter)
Accountant: Good of you to come in, Morse. I’ve just been looking through your paperwork.
Morse: All there, I hope?
Accountant: Well, I do have a few questions about your office expenses.
Morse (Somewhat irritated): All right, go on.
Accountant: You’re provided office space at the police station, isn’t that right?
Morse: Of course I am!
Accountant: Then you can’t claim your expenses at The Crown and Feather as office expenses. It’s not your office.
Morse: Well, it’s where I do most of my work.
III. Aimée Leduc (Cara Black)
Accountant: I’m glad to see you’ve got your forms ready early this year, Mlle. Leduc.
Aimée: Might as well get it all out of the way (Takes a seat).
Accountant: Well, then, let’s see what we have here. (A few moments of silence as the accountant looks through the paperwork). Hmm…. I’m not sure of this one.
Aimée: Which one? (Leans over to look at the papers)
Accountant: The coffee beans. You’re not a coffee supplier, café, or restaurant. You really can’t count these as a legitimate business expense.
Aimée: There is no way that I can conduct my business without good coffee! Next, you’ll be telling me I can’t claim my new Christian Louboutin boots!
IV. Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton)
Accountant: Glad you could stop by. Let’s talk about these forms now.
Kinsey: OK. Is there a problem?
Accountant: There are a few things here that I don’t think are going to be deductible.
Kinsey: What things?
Accountant: Well, here, for instance. You’re claiming over a thousand dollars in fast food as a business expense.
Kinsey: Hmmm… I thought it’d be more.
Accountant: That’s not the point. The point is, unless you’re taking clients to eat at McDonalds or something, you can’t claim those receipts as business expenses.
Kinsey: You haven’t tasted my cooking. Without fast food, there’d be no business.
V. Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin (Rex Stout)
Accountant: Your boss has some odd expenses.
Archie: Yeah, well, my boss is a little odd.
Accountant: But some of these expenses – I just don’t know.
Archie: Like which ones?
Accountant: Well, for instance, there’s this elevator repair. Don’t you and Wolfe do business in your own home?
Archie: Yeah, why?
Accountant: You have an elevator in your home?
Archie: Doesn’t everyone?
Accountant (Not amused at the joke): Well, it’s a private home.
Archie: Exactly. So, Wolfe sees clients in his downstairs office. The bedrooms and private rooms are upstairs.
Accountant: He can’t use the stairs like everyone else?
Archie: Like I said. My boss is odd…
VI. The Nameless Detective (Bill Pronzini)
Accountant: So, Mr. – er –
Nameless (Taking a seat): Thanks for seeing me.
Accountant: Now, let’s see what we have here (Takes a few minutes to look through the papers that Nameless has brought along). I see you’re claiming several copies of Black Mask?
Nameless: Yeah, I have a lot of them, and collect them whenever I find one I don’t have.
Accountant: I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can claim them as a deduction.
Nameless: But they’re important to my business. I’m a private investigator.
Accountant: I know that, but Black Mask isn’t necessary to run your business.
Nameless: They’re learning materials. I use them for research!
See what I mean? Sleuths have it hard enough, and trying to explain themselves at tax time doesn’t make anything easier. These are only a few examples. Care to add any?