You may imagine tax law professor’s life as the very picture of tedium: days filled with analyzing arcane regulations and number crunching. And for the most part, this may be true. But every once in a while a tax scholar is called on to tackle some of the world’s most harrowing problems, such as the impending zombie apocalypse.
That’s right – Adam Chodorow, a Professor of Law at Arizona State University published a paper this month titled, “Death and Taxes and Zombies,” which details the significant problems our government will have regarding tax policy once the undead begin trolling the earth, feasting on the brains of the living.
Over the course of a twenty-five-page paper, Chodorow analyses some of the issues that governments would face if the dead were to rise up and walk amongst the living. Here are just a few that he tackles:
For Tax Purposes, Are Zombies Dead?
Chodorow has pored over all of the relevant zombie literature, and points out that there are really two kinds of zombies. The first, which originates in Haitian voodoo, are corpses that have been reanimated by sorcerers, and controlled by them for nefarious purposes. According to Chodorow, these zombies should not be considered alive by the government for tax purposes.
However, another group of zombies, the so-called “self motivated” kind, would have to be considered alive if those in a vegetative state are also considered alive, as they are by state laws in the U.S. Writes Chodorow:
“Most self-motivated zombies likely would be considered alive under most state law definitions. Such zombies must have a biological mechanism by which they think and move.”
But what if the transition to a zombie state isn’t seamless. What if a person is dead for a while before they become a zombie? The law, writes, Chodorow, is silent on such issues. And of course, this opens up a whole can of worms with regards to reanimation in general. What if we unfreeze Walt Disney or Ted Williams at some point in the future and give them fresh impetus? Do they get their estates and social security numbers back? Again, the law is silent on such urgent questions.
Can We Levy Income Taxes on the Undead?
Zombies aren’t thought of as an industrious bunch, but according to Chodorow “zombies have been known to return to the places where they used to work.” Zombies may also accrue unearned income, from property or other assets, and “Higher functioning zombies might also acquire income producing assets, though that seems a stretch,” he writes. Even if governments decide that zombies aren’t alive, income-producing zombies would have to be taxed because the income couldn’t be attributed to any other person. Of course, getting zombies to pay the taxes could be a problem, as “most zombies would likely find it difficult to grasp the notion that they owe taxes, let alone fill out their returns . . . Congress will need to consider whether the projected revenue from taxing zombies is worth the administrative hassle of including such income in the tax base.”
On the other hand, vampires are, like zombies, undead, but unlike zombies, they retain their faculties of intelligence and dexterity. For this reason, Chodorow suggests that if Congress were to exempt zombies from income taxes for administrative reasons, that it should not make the exemption too broad as to exclude vampires from the tax as well.
You may have thought that your biggest problem after the zombie apocalypse would be protecting your delicious brains and those of your loved ones. But as Chorodrow points out, “A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead.” Then again, with much of the population brain-coveting, soulless corpses, Medicare outlays would probably drop significantly too. And hey: What better opportunity than a zombie apocalypse to get our congressmen working together again? Maybe they’ll be able to solve the fiscal cliff while they’re at it.