Monday, April 11, 2005

The taxman geteth

Okay, so I'd procrastinated quite long enough, made an appointment with a tax specialist, and had my taxes prepared. Saturday morning was then established by her as D-day. I returned to her office at the appointed hour to discuss the completed forms and wanted to scream like a banshee as she went through them with me. Admittedly, it was satisfying to see "Writer" splashed within the appropriate boxes --I'd actually pondered whether to insert 'writer' or 'author,' but she'd settled the question by inserting the nomenclature without consulting me--because it made me legitimate. There it was on the forms for me, my adviser, and the IRS and State beanie counters to behold. I was published, earned royalties from my writings last year, and could now call myself a 'writer' without appearing pompous or affected. Of course, the sun-basked moment lasted exactly three seconds tops, because I still had to open my check book.

Paying taxes makes a lot of people irritated. I'm not really an exception. My mind screams with fury as I smile simultaneously at the unknowing tax lady who's explaining the horrid minutiae. Actually, she probably does know her clients are cursing and seething inwardly because she's been doing this job for years. My feelings last only a few moments and then I get on with it, grab her pen and start writing the checks. Why? I choose to believe that the taxes collected will be used for the betterment of society, though I do wish we had better accountability because so many millions of dollars seem to be spent on pork-barrel projects. Only when we sit and write the checks in April do we feel real pain because we realize this is our own hard earned dollars that are leaving our bank accounts and heading for obscure government coffers. When the media point out the millions of dollars squandered by the government, we don't feel this pain for two reasons, I think:firstly, we've already discounted the loss during the first weeks of April, and secondly, the millions being spent belong now to the Federal and/or State government and we no longer view it as our money. I do think our attitudes need recalibrating here. We really do need a proper system in place to ensure our taxes are being spent wisely, to ensure they really are being used for the betterment of society. If such a system were in place, I would be happy to pay my share of taxes during tax season with incurring this pain. And I also think it would satisfy and silence those among us who bay for lower and lower taxes or no taxes at all.

One thing she asked was whether I wanted to file the forms electronically. I declined immediately. I have no interest in my social security number floating unnecessarily in cyber space. Identity fraud is massively on the rise and corporations are not spending adequate funds to develop foolproof security systems--it's too expensive and not a profit center. On top of this, they're sending many processing jobs overseas, to India and other countries where there is cheap labor, and I did not give permission for my personal information to be accessible outside the United States. So old-fashioned snail-mail filing will do for me.

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