Thursday, April 9, 2009


It happens every year--I have every intention of sitting down and getting through my taxes in February. And every year, I find myself at the beginning of April with some reason for not having started them. This year? Some confusion about whether or not I had to buy Turbo Tax. I won't go into details; it involves Miss Chef's mom, a trip to Alabama and more information than anyone needs to know.

Suffice it to say, I didn't get my copy of Turbo Tax until this past Sunday. Afternoon. Late afternoon. And while I did sit down as soon as some of my other chores were taken care of, and get to work, I didn't finish them. It's like the project Miss Chef undertook earlier that day, of replacing a waterlogged outdoor outlet: you always have to go get something else before you can finish the job.

For her, it was silicone sealer. For me, a SC state tax form (I switched jobs exactly a year ago, and my former employer was just across the border). It wasn't 'til we were lying in bed that I pondered aloud, "I wonder where I can go to get a form?" and Miss Chef once again flashed that brilliance I've always admired: " about...the internet?"

Oh. Yeah. Good idea, Miss Chef!

So, to keep a long story from going epic, I actually managed to finish up my last state forms Wednesday night, and post them this morning! A full week early! YESSS! *pats self on back*

I know I'm being silly, but it really made my day to know those envelopes were in the mail; that my job was done. (Yes, I e-filed federal; I'm not a complete and total dinosaur.) As stunningly brilliant as I may be with words (wink), I'm equally dull when it comes to numbers. Their patterns just don't fall into place for me.

As a result, since the advent of the dreaded Multiplication Tables, I've avoided math whenever possible. Balance my checking account? Quicken, or a calculator. Figure out a tip? Pass the check across the table to Miss Chef (plus, I prefer to let her decide how good or bad the service was; she is in the industry, after all). Taxes? Oh Lordy...

In our early years together, Miss Chef very graciously, and somewhat patiently, sat down with me to guide me through the process. You see, in my early adult years, I'd been lucky enough to "inherit" my parents' accountant--a family friend and church member who not only did their taxes, but also those for my dad's business, and for my brother and I as we moved, lived and worked abroad, and moved again. But around the time I left graduate school, inherited some money from Grandma, and started investing and saving for retirement, our trusty accountant retired. (Hmm...could there be a link? Nah!)

So there I was, set adrift without someone to hold my hand through the vicious, federally-backed army of number-hungry forms. I was utterly convinced that I would forget to carry a 1, and end up in a federal prison.

No, seriously.

I could just imagine the agents going through my returns with me, one sitting too close, with nasty coffee breath, the other standing behind, just out of my line of vision. They both are wearing sunglasses, even though we're in a somber interrogation room. The seated one leans in and asks, "Did you really think $902 and $1236 equalled $1338? Did you think we wouldn't notice!?"

Man, I must have been traumatized by a math teacher somewhere along the line...

Anyway, while Miss Chef tried initially to gently lead me through my returns, she quickly became frustrated with my unexpected regression to infantilism; my literally whining and crying when I couldn't figure out the answer to a question. I read every one of Turbo Tax's prompts thoroughly, pondering if there were any chance I had forgotten some kind of retirement income I might have made during the year. ("Does interest earned in my 401(k) count, honey?")

Every year, she probably dreaded the advent of tax season nearly as much as I did. She would also often wait until close to the final days, but would drive me mad by sitting down one day while I was at work, and having hers done by the time she was gone for the evening. What?? So quickly? And no signs of trauma? No wrinkled, tear-stained worksheets? No spilled drinks or scattered office supplies? It's NOT FAIR!!

And you know, I still think a lot about filing taxes is just not fair. Every year, Miss Chef has to listen to me rail against the intolerable complexity of our tax code, which results in tens of pages of forms, schedules and worksheets for a typical taxpayer's return. It's been a long, long time since I've been able to file an EZ form, but is that any easier? I wonder. And I always think about the uneducated, or those just above the poverty level; of the millions with less time and fewer resources than I, who have to go through the same process.

I have the money to buy Turbo Tax--sure, you can get the free federal form, but what if you work several non-benefit 1099 positions--making you essentially self-employed? What if a relative died, or you lost your house to foreclosure, or you're sending a child to college? Is the free version complete enough to cover these cases? Or, even more basically, what if you don't have a computer at home that can support that memory-hogging software?

Sure, you can go to WalMart or H&R Block and get your taxes done for $30 or so. But, why should anyone have to pay anything? This is a responsibility put onto us by the federal government. If the federal government wants to ensure equal access for all, why is this annual ritual, which is required of the vast majority of citizens, almost impossible to do without spending a fair amount of money? (Sorry, folks, but for me, $20 is a lot of money! Don't come to my door selling magazines for your baseball team; it simply doesn't budget.)

Well, this year, Miss Chef didn't have to listen to my rant. First, she wasn't home most of the time I was working on my taxes. Second, I actually made it through by myself, with very little difficulty--not nearly the usual motivation to rage against The System. I even had to do my SC form by hand, literally--pen, white-out and a calculator. And not a single tear, wrinkled form or tuft of hair torn out.

I credit this phenomenon to two facts: first, I have been doing my own taxes long enough to finally realize that very few of those weird income and credit situations apply to me, and that I won't be jailed for a a math error. Second, I have now been working in finance for over two years, and am learning that numbers can be shepherded into some kind of order. It actually is starting to make some kind of sense!

Finally, I have reached an end. I have my taxes done early (barely), without trauma. Finally, Miss Chef didn't have to step in even once to get me through it. Finally, I have attained another level of adult competency.

Finally, my returns are in the mail, and I will be confidently prepared to face the juggernaut again next year.

And FINALLY, this happened today, too:

Japanese magnolia, specifically Alexander magnolia


  1. One of Obama's platforms was simplifying the tax code... we'll see! I've also read a bit on the Fair Tax and am intrigued.

    We get ours done as soon as we get the forms from our employers. Jeff does our taxes. Thank heavens.

  2. Bleh...taxes....bleh....I don't think John and/or I have done ours in the 23 years we've been married - we pay someone to do it for us. I did my older daughter's taxes for her a couple of years ago and was seriously stressed over the 1040 EZ form.

  3. This isn't official, mind you, but this post could very well be your best to date. Awesome.

    But you just reminded me how screwed I am if anything ever happens to Larry. He's the one who calmly and quietly pulls out all the tax forms, receipts, and records and cranks out our tax return in a few hours. Then proceeds to do his son's and daughter's and my son's and daughter's. He's amazing. And even though he has been audited for the past two years (having to do with retirement income $$$), not one bead of sweat has formed on his brow. The guy is the coolest cat I know. And he is in the process of proving for the SECOND TIME the IRS is wrong. God I love that man.

    Pray for me if I ever have to do my own taxes!! I can't even keep a correct bowling score.

  4. Heck, a few years back, we started using a CPA, and she more than pays for herself. Try one sometime, our taxes were down in early March, stress free.

  5. Numbers CAN be shephered into some kind of order!? You sir, are a lier! Numbers are evil and all against us... soon they shall rise against us.

    The time is coming... and it'll be in metric and you better have your calculator set to degrees instead of radians or you're screwed.


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