Thursday, March 23, 2006

Perfect partners:tax refunds and BAFAB

Tuesday was D-Day and as a result I've been feeling very hassled and grumpy for the past few days. Reason: Taxes and looming deadlines.

I hate doing my taxes, even when I know I'm getting something back, because I hate maintaining files and all those expense receipts and things get tossed on a regular basis into a receptacle called 'The Bag' that sits near my desk for a year until this time of the year. Periodically The Bag intrudes into my peripheral vision--usually on rainy, depressing days when my spirits are already bloated and sagging-and evokes feelings of horror because I know the day is rapidly approaching when I have to go through it to determine what is business related and what is no and tally totals and I despise rummaging through the dogeared, crumpled detritus.

(For the edification of readers of this blog who live outside the United States, all American residents are required to file their annual tax returns by April 15th each year. And for those Americans who reside outside the country, they must file their taxes with the applicable US Embassy or consulate by that day--when I lived in London, it used to amuse me to hear my American friends talk about how they had to trudge to the US Embassy in London to do so every year.)

So I've spent the last two days tunnelling toward the depths of The Bag and tallying and recording until I became positively cross-eyed and snarled at Larry like a Doberman every time he came near the den. And always during the days of The Bag, I become vicious and acerbic of demeanor: I rail about why we're obliged to keep things like The Bag and do so every year or why the township I live in charges a 1.25% resident tax when the neighboring one doesn't impose such a tax, etc., etc. I rail about the wanton spending in Congress, this pork barrel spending and waste for pet projects such as bridges going to nowhere and I mean the latter literally. Don't misunderstand me: I really don't mind paying taxes and believe it does keep the country functioning, but the money they spend so carelessly is money that's coming out of my and other Americans bank accounts and there should be absolute accountability. Moreover, I understand the township uses the money to maintain the roads and buy land and keep it from development, but why must they impose this kind of tax when another municipality doesn't?

I went to H&R Block last year and had them do my taxes and it cost me a very attractive penny to learn I owed the IRS an entire mountain of pennies. This year, I decided to see if I could do the damned thing myself. So I dutifully downloaded the 1040 and Schedule C and the other relevant forms from the IRS's website, including the voluminous instructions, and then proceeded to replicate what the accountant had done last year, taking into account the new standard deduction amounts for 2005, etc. And all was going incredibly gung-ho...incredibly gung-ho that is, until I encountered an allowed credit for my IRA that she had claimed for me last year but I could not for the life of me determine how the sum had been calculated. I began to smolder. I reviewed every step she'd done, but of course she hadn't provided her work sheet so I was hopelessly adrift.

After another half-an-hour, I had crossed the smoldering rubicon into the land of absolutely livid. I also realized I was beaten and it then became a matter of investigating whether I'd use H&R Block or a tax preparation service competitor this year. After some research I decided to try Jackson Hewitt and raced off to their accountant's kiosk at a local mall (set up there for the tax season) last night and he relieved me of my 1099 MISC and other detestable documents and said they'd be done in a few days. But, during a brief scan of the papers, he said I'd be getting something back because I've overpaid on my quarterly payments. Whoopee!

Some of my refund will not stay in my possession for very long though because the to second of four annual Buy a Friend a Book Weeks is on the horizon and I'm an advocate of anything that encourages reading. It's April 1 through 7, so check out Debra Hamel's picks and the recommendations of her guest author, John Shors, who wrote Beneath a Marble Sky.

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the depressed nurse said...

Tax time is the WORST! Unless your an accountant, of course.
Enjoyed reading your blog.

Damian McNicholl said...

Thanks for the comment, Anna