Tax Time Blues

I am thinking about New York. About our months there, going to the theater (Our Town! God of Carnage! Brief Encounter!) About the little restaurant habit we developed (Sichuan! Northern Italian! Middle Eastern!) About the taxis, the excursions, the museums, the —

Oh, forget it. Truth is, I’m having my usual miserable time, pulling our tax receipts together. I do get kind of a temporary kick looking back at what we’ve done over the past year (it’s kind of like reading a financial diary), but that quickly recedes as I start sinking under the sheer morass of dollar signs, details, percentages, dates, regulations, you name it, I hate them all. I am not a detail person. Oh, no. I prefer the world of broad strokes and cheap, convenient hypotheses.

As it turns out, I am not married to a detail person, either. That should probably be a premarital requirement — that one of you be a detail person or promise to become a detail person, so help you God. I wouldn’t find that very exciting, since I’ve never found detail people to be terribly attractive. But I do have to admit that, the time of year, bookkeepers, accountants and tax lawyers do develop a certain allure.

Every year, at tax time, my husband and I develop a new theme — or revive an old one. He usually specializes in loud expressions of horror about how many fees our bank is charging us. He will sit, stewing and swearing, at the accumulation of one-dollar fees — “Those creeps!  Bloodsuckers! Swine!” — while I ignore him.

This year, he’s furious at Citibank, where the forces of evil have evidently decamped and are gutting us financially left, right and center. Now, I could get into that, having had my own little differences with Citibank.

But that was months ago. This year, my own villain is our idiotic maneuver in going paperless. “I thought going paperless was supposed to save us time and paper,” I say darkly. “Well, ha.”

Instead of going through piles of bills, I see, I am squinting at online versions of bills and checking and savings accounts. This puts me at odds with my Cavewoman ideal that, if it isn’t on paper, it doesn’t truly exist. Which explains why I have recently begun to yearn for a paper calendar — a real, flesh-and-blood calendar, and not the overly subtle, devious computer calendar my husband loves so much — and to question whether I have really read the books my iPad says I have.

“I want paper bills! I’m going to print them out!” I screech.

My husband doesn’t answer, since he’s seething about something Citibank did in July — “They were really screwing us then. Vermin!”

We go on, into the night, spewing our own private tax-spawned tirades. It’s just as I’ve always thought: When it comes to taxes, the marriage penalty isn’t financial, it’s the two of you having to prepare a joint return together so you can take it to your CPA. Somebody should put that in wedding vows to scare off the faint of heart.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)


10 comments… add one
  • Jerry does all that stuff for us. He is a sort of detail person, but he always loses a few things so I guess that’s why I still think he’s cute.

  • Many years ago I went with my children and my best friend to Roosevelt’s “Little White House” in Georgia. I think it was one of my usual schemes to expose my little British children to US history whenever we were visiting. I noticed that my friend carefully pocketed her entrance ticket. It’s tax deductible, she assured me.

    Now, I have been a tax exile in a country with a couple of times the US tax rate, where pretty much nothing is deductible, so I was a little puzzled.

    I’m a poet! she said. Everything is tax deductible!

    So I hope you kept the receipts for all those lovely theatre shows.

  • Wait… were you spying on us as we sat cursing over taxes on Monday? My husband’s more of a detail person, thank god, but it was still excruciating. This year, I swear Excel spreadsheets are going to change my life.

  • For better or worse, in sickness and in health … Oh, and I promise to meet with our accountant each year at tax time.

    For the record … I do. I pull together everything. I fill out the workbook she sends us. I make the appointment and go meet with our accountant. AND, more often than not, I pay whatever is due (being married AND self-employed makes for sad/sad news come tax time).

    And, just to make you laugh, I also get my teeth cleaned that day. My dentist and my CPA are across the hall from each other. I combine trips to save time / gas.

  • I have enveloped stuffed full of receipts and I always put off doing the dreaded taxes to the last minute. I know I’m not alone.

  • This post made me chuckle. Latest indignity from my bank, Bank of America – mine for another year of mortgage only and then I am going to a small local bank that cares – is a monthly charge of $3 for receiving images of cashed checks.

  • Your husband is right. Citibank really is vermin.

  • Now that I have a child in college, taxes are compounded by having to do them early for financial aid applications, and then having to use the numbers from the returns (confusingly) in those applications. I can be heard cursing (and weeping) for weeks….

  • Chris Link

    Wish I was in NYC for “The Book of Mormon” – I’m torn though. Been a fan since South Park started, loved the SP movie, but hope they don’t burn out. Good article in the Hollywood Reporter this week.

  • Sheryl Link

    I just completed the much-hated exercise today. I spent HOURS categorizing my receipts, adding up the totals and getting totally frustrated and antsy. I finally gave up after the third hour. Tomorrow is another day for this non-detailed person…

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