Empire on Ice #36: Infinite Taxes
This Week: It's almost Tax Day in the Sovereign Empire of Greater Joshalonia, and that means it's crunch season for long-suffering tax accountant Chronus Ill Thanatos…whose afternoon is about to get a lot more interesting.
[We open onto the waiting room of Thanatos & Foroi, CPA, JD, LLM. (This is stenciled onto the window so that the viewer can see it.)]
[The bells on the door jingle as Josh rushes in. He's carrying four fat folders full of disorganized files under his arm, with papers sporadically falling out. He goes up to the reception desk, where the secretary is slumped over the counter—nothing left of their body except for their skeleton and rumpled clothes. Josh looks around. No one else is there.]
Thanatos: [Offscreen.] Back this way. Come on in.
[Cut to an office in the back, just as Josh is entering. It's a small, unglamorous, generic office with the usual fluorescent lights in the ceiling and cold white walls. The desk is piled so high with papers and folders that it goes well above the head of the mate who sits in a grotesque gold and black throne. Amid the stacks is a computer that looks like it's from 1997.]
[In front of the desk is a throne. The throne has claw-like armrests and ornate symbols carved into the head of the chair, which look a lot like a pair of horns on the head of the person who sits in the chair: Chronus Ill Thanatos.]
[His throne turns out to be a swivel throne, and he presently swivels around to face Josh.]
Thanatos: Good afternoon.
Josh: Thanatos! You've got to help me with my taxes! It's an emergency! By the way, your secretary is dead.
Thanatos: Did you make an appointment?
Josh: I'm the Emperor of Joshalonia. Don't I just get to waltz in and have immediate priority?
Thanatos: At the expense of your beloved people? That's not very supportive. What if some of the accounts I'm already working on are from people who really need the help?
Josh: I really need the help! I think I made a big mistake.
Thanatos: What happened?
Josh: I thought I was being so clever. I issued a decree that said…well, it's a long story. I had come up with another one of my get rich quick schemes, and, well, to make a long story short, I think everybody in the Empire owes infinite taxes now.
Thanatos: Infinite taxes?
Josh: Infinite taxes.
Thanatos: That would explain the accounts I've seen this year.
Josh: It's bad, Thanatos!
Thanatos: At least you're not dead. Yet.
Josh: What did you do to help your other clients?
Thanatos: I've been having people apply for the Don't Worry—It's on Josh Credit. That's the one where people who are going to have trouble paying their taxes pass the portion they can't pay onto the Imperial Treasury, which makes up the difference.
Josh: But…the Treasury is me!
Thanatos: So it is. Which makes you ineligible for the credit, I'm afraid.
Josh: Now I owe infinite taxes for everybody in Joshalonia!
Thanatos: Look on the bright side. I'm sure your generous economic welfare policies will buy you a few points in the opinion polls.
Josh: Which doesn't even matter since we don't have elections for Emperor! Argh! What am I going to do?
Thanatos: As the Master of the Treasury, aren't you technically owed precisely as much money as the people of Joshalonia, including yourself, collectively owe?
Josh: Come on! You're an accountant. It's very different to owe infinite money than to be owed infinite money. Haven't you ever lost a nickel bet with yourself?
Josh: It's like that.
Thanatos: Well…couldn't you print one of those coins with an arbitrary face value and pay with that?
Josh: That's been banned ever since the Supreme Imperial Court ruling in United Nations World Bank Group vs. Crazy J's Bathtub Fun Sponges, Inc.
Thanatos: …I see.
Josh: Maybe I could apply for an installment plan?
Thanatos: The tax code says that installment plans have to be based on a percentage of the principal balance. Each installment would be infinite.
Josh: Not if we used zero percent! ^_^
Thanatos: It doesn't work like that, fortunately.
Josh: What about installment plans for the installments?
Josh: Can I declare bankruptcy?
Thanatos: Even if it were possible, which is isn't, you'd wreck the entire Imperial economy.
Josh: So what are my options then!
Thanatos: I can only think of two.
[In a large, light, airy mansion, a telephone rings. Mitt Romney walks up and answers it.]
Mitt Romney: Hello? … Ah, yes. Good to hear from you! It's been a while, hasn't it? … No, I don't blame you for supporting the other guy. I think one of my gardeners did too. That's liberalism for you. Give the help the vote, heh! … Oh, we're fine. We're all fine here. We took a vacation recently. … No, heh heh, no hosing down the dog this time.
[There's a slightly longer pause as he listens to the other person's request.]
Mitt Romney: Oh, that's terrible. … Yes, I can imagine. … Of course. I think I could probably help you out with that. How much do you need? … … … How many degrees of infinity are we talking about? … Oh, that's nothing. Don't you worry about it! I'll fill out the check and send it to you by air mail this afternoon. … No, don't mention it. Some of my best friends own struggling nations. We job creators have to look out for one another. I know you'd do the same. … Well, good to hear from you, Bill. Say, I know it isn't your company anymore, but I really hope you can turn that ship around! I'm really looking forward to Windows 10, you know. … Goodbye!
[Back at the offices of Thanatos & Foroi, Josh hangs up the phone.]
Josh: All I got was a busy signal. He must be on the phone with somebody else.
[He looks at Thanatos.]
Josh: I'm fucked, Chronus.
Thanatos: Keep up that sort of talk and you might just have a future in accounting.
Josh: Did you say there was another option?
Thanatos: Indeed I did.
[He holds out a tube of candy to Josh.]
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!