Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tax Time Tedium

I don't think I've ever met anyone who likes the annual tax deadline - that is, except for a couple of our friends who are accountants. I become the all-time procrastinator in the early months of the year. I always have more important things to do and, even though I vow that "this year I'll be done by early February", in reality, the date I write after my signature on our 1040 is usually April something.

The largest part of my dislike for this task is the tedium of gathering all the evidence needed to be able to put a proper number on each line of the myriad of forms that must accompany the 1040. Being self-employed, as my husband and I both are, we are not allowed the luxury of the EZ form. I must wade through every receipt we've kept the previous year, for every business-related expense, organize them, total them and, finally, read all the IRS instructions to be certain I'm entering each total in a legally correct manner.

Once all that is accomplished, I begin punching numbers with my calculator, checking and re-checking my figures as I imagine some IRS auditor gleefully finding a mistake and scheduling us for an audit. I admit it; even though I am as honest as the mind-boggling tax code allows me to be, I still worry that I'm making some terrible error that will come back to haunt me. But this is an undertaking that I cannot assign to a stranger - better known as an accountant - to handle. The only time in our life that I did that resulted in a nightmare defying description. Even though it's hateful, I still prefer to tackle it myself. After all, I'm a college graduate (I tell myself each year), I can do this. So I do - hating every minute, but ultimately successful and fairly confident about the result.

My final aggravation involves the typical end result. We either have to pay the government more money, or we are rewarded with some small pittance that hardly seems adequate given our constant labors which result in nothing added to our savings coffer. Those who are self-employed will identify with this complaint. You see, we have no employer to pay part of our withholding taxes; we get to do that all on our own. We are denied what we consider logical and fair deductions while aware that really rich people are allowed more deductions than we have money. Most vexing is seeing all those figures in black and white; it never ceases to depress.

But, when the job is complete, all the receipts, copies and substantiated paperwork filed away in a safe place (in case that auditor comes looking!), I try to wax philosophical about it. After all, my husband and I both pursue careers that we love. We wake up each morning with new and unique challenges, and we stay young as we figure out ways to deal with them all. And, though we know we could get salaried jobs that would simplify our financial lives, we both know we wouldn't be happy so we persevere. I'll remind myself of that when I mail my 1040 today - mission accomplished, and I have to admit, I'm proud of the effort it took. I'm also resigned to the tiny reward we'll receive in a few weeks from the government; a bonus for taking a loss on our business in 2008. Happy Tax deadline one and all; may your refunds be huge!

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