The first meeting of the Contemporaneous Loggers Society was called to order at 8:08.6 p.m. Chairman Ibem opened the session by reviewing the circumstances that led to the society's founding.
The chairman related that the Tax Reform of Act of 1984 established strict new record-keeping requirements for those claiming a tax deduction for business use of a personal computer. Effective Jan. 1, the law requires a "contemporaneous log" of each use of the computer.
He emphasized that the log of computer use must be updated each time the computer is used -- it is not supposed to be patched together from memory late on April 14. Without a "contemporaneous log," he went on, no computer deduction can be . . .
Ms. Tandy interjected here that she thought tax deductions for home computers had been eliminated by the 1984 law.
The chairman replied that Ms. Tandy was wrong, as usual. Despite the reports in some computer journals, a personal computer kept at home can still qualify for accelerated depreciation, a first-year write-off and investment tax credits if it is used predominantly (i.e., more than 51 percent of the time) for business.
The chairman explained that a key purpose of the contemporaneous log is to prove that the computer meets this "predominant use" test . . .
Prof. Lotus interrupted here to say that there was no need for the society because a big lobbying campaign has been mounted to repeal the logging requirement of the 1984 law. Prof. Lotus said he had read this in The Washington Post, so it must be true.
The chairman replied that Prof. Lotus was way off base as usual, because the lobbying campaign is doomed to fail.
For one thing, he noted, the tougher record-keeping rules will capture $750 million annually in unpaid taxes. Facing a huge deficit, Congress would hardly give up that revenue. Further, the chairman said that the lawyers who are doing the lobbying are a bunch of hypocrites because everyone knows that lawyers already keep contemporaneous logs of everything they do so they can bill their clients precisely. Thus these lawyers can hardly complain that the IRS logging rules are excessively . . .
Dr. Heathkit jumped up at this point and complained that this comparison was unfair because law firms have powerful software programs to maintain and compile their daily activity logs.
The chairman replied that Dr. Heathkit was uninformed, as usual. He said that several software houses have written contemporaneous logging programs for the IBM-PC and other MS-DOS systems in response to the 1984 law. With his usual foresight, the chairman said, he had cleverly appointed an ad-hoc committee to search out and test these programs.
He then called on Mrs. Macintosh of the Ad-Hoc Logging Software Search and Test Committee, to make her report.
Mrs. Macintosh said her committee had found several free logging programs available on bulletin boards such as Compuserve and The Source. She said inexpensive commercial programs also are available, including Autolog (MicroClear, 342 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10017, $50), PC Log (MBA, 4045 Mercer, Phoenix 85029, $35), and IR$ LOG (phprograms, 616-349-9720, $25).
To see how a typical logging program works, Mrs. Macintosh said, she had appointed a subcommittee to carry out extensive tests on the program called SYSLOG (Apex, 23 Christine Ct., Stormville, NY, 12582, $30).
Mr. Epson, of the Extensive Test Subcommittee, said he had run SYSLOG on an IBM-PC and two clones and it had operated perfectly. He said it was a simple, unobtrusive piece of software that did its job and then got out of the way. He said the program itself takes up 32K of disk space and a year's worth of daily logs take about 15K, so it was possible to place the non-copy-protected program on his standard boot-up disk and invoke it automatically (through an AUTOEXEC.BAT file) whenever he turns on the computer.
He said that SYSLOG reads the time and date from the internal clock in the computer and then asks for the name of the user, a description of the job to be done and whether or not this work is business related.
When the task is done, the user must call up SYSLOG one more time to log out. The program reads the time from the internal clock and computes how long the job took.
Whenever the user needs a report on computer usage -- either for tax purposes or just out of curiosity -- SYSLOG can prepare separate logs for each user showing either a complete list of all activity or a three-line cumulative report telling what percentage of computer use has been for business.
In sum, Mr. Epson reported, SYSLOG and similar programs provide a fairly simple way to meet the tax law's demands.
Chairman Ibem said Mrs. Macintosh and Mr. Epson had been incomplete as usual because they had failed to mention that, in many cases, the purchase price of a logging program is itself tax-deductible. In the future, the chairman said, if he wanted a report done right, he would just have to . . .
At this point all the society members stormed the podium and began inflicting mayhem on Chairman Ibem. In the interests of self-preservation, the chairman declared the meeting adjourned.