Taxing Experiences

There are people in the world who keep track of their income and deductible expenses during the year.  Shortly after January 1, they go online, record their information, and file their tax returns.  Just like that.  I know a few people like that.  I kind of hate them.  (These are also people, I suspect, who always get refunds.)

Then there are people like my husband and me, the polar opposites of the uber-organized.  He is sulky because he’s about to go out of town and I’ve announced that I will attach myself to his legs and hold on till hell freezes over before he gets on a plane without getting our tax information together.  Wonder how he’d get through security with a howling, deranged wife being dragged behind him? I ask.

Around us, it looks as if an unfortunate blizzard has hit our so-called living room.  Mounds of papers, checks, W-4 forms, credit card receipts, and crumpled bills optimistically marked “deductible” line our couch, our coffee table, our floor.  We paw through them, sorting them into still more piles.  After an hour or so, it doesn’t look like a blizzard any longer; it looks like the city dump.

We are both, I should say, terrible at this.  Impatient about details, slipshod at keeping records, lackadaisical when it comes to matters financial: There aren’t any aspiring CPAs or ants at our house — only slobs and grasshoppers.  Year after year, tax time is one of the most trying moments of our marriage.  It’s a lucky tax season when a brawl doesn’t break out over a W-4 or whatever they call those things these days.

But we persevere and organize without killing each other.  I drop off our records and estimates with our wonderful, revered CPA who always — even in March or April — exudes calm and competence and, astonishing to me, an actual affection for details, numbers, laws, regulations.  I leave her office feeling lighthearted and free.  She’ll tell us what we owe or what we’re owed, we’ll sign, we’ll pay, we’ll do whatever we have to do.  Barring total financial disaster, all I care about is that we’re finished for now.  We’re free to go back to being our old, careless, slovenly selves till the blizzard hits again next year.  Adios Tax Year 2007!  Don’t bother to write.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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