Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Functional Adult Does Her Taxes

Last year, after the taxes were done, I took them to H&R Block for the "free second look" they were advertising on the television; commercials full of people getting extra money back from the government!  Huzzah!  Only after I went there, they tried to get us to pay more taxes because they didn't recommend we deduct more than a certain amount for charity lest we get audited.  Which: 1) huh?  2) If I did get audited, I wouldn't care, insofar as I am not cheating on my taxes and 3) NO THANK YOU PAYING MORE MONEY FOR NO REASON.  

But the H&R Block accountant was suitably impressed and surprised at how well the taxes were done - even before their "professional" "help."  Since then, I’ve been feeling pretty darn smug about my ability to get the taxes done and get them done right without the help of some fancy-pants accountant.*

*Note: I don’t think H&R Block is actually that fancy-pants; I saw no celebrities in their local office when I was there.

Of course, when I say “My ability to get the taxes done,” I do of course mean “Husband’s ability to get our taxes done,” because he did all of them last year while I was going through my thrice-yearly freakout about studying for finals, which involved a rigorous process of dressing like a hobo whilst wildly paging through textbooks.

This year, I have no finals.  So I instituted a new  practice of vaguely assisting Husband as he plugs numbers into TurboTax.  You could argue that since I have a degree in economics, I ought to be the one doing the taxes, but since he has a degree in mechanical engineering, which means he could build a computer, which means that it makes sense that he use the computer to do the taxes.

Plus, he’s the one earning more of the money, so it’s mostly his fault we have to pay them anyway.

Assisting wasn’t so bad, at first!  Mostly because it consisted of consisted of my sitting on the couch next to him reading this article and laughing out loud.  Pretty hard.

Husband:   I’m trying to concentrate here.

Liz:  I’m sorry but this is HANHAHAHAHSNORFHAHAHA.

H:  Seriously, I’m trying to figure out this form.

L:  Okay.  I’m sorry.  Snerble.

*five minutes later*

L:  laughing silently to herself

H:  Okay, now you’re shaking the couch.

And then I went and got some rice going in the rice cooker.

Despite the initially easy-going nature of the process, it got frustrating once the rice was in the cooker.  I recount the process of going through this year's possible charitable deductions:

H:  Did we donate any money to School this year?

L:  Yes.  $25.

H:  Do we have any record of that?

L:  I thought they were supposed to send you something in the mail?

H:  No.  You’re supposed to keep the receipt.

L:  *astonishment*

H:  *sighing* Do you know WHEN it was?

L, mentally:  It was right after that one girl kept e-mailing me to give to the class gift, and I was like dude, I’m not even ON campus today, and then I finally gave and then she e-mailed me AGAIN and I was like I JUST GAVE TODAY ARE YOU SERIOUS?

L, aloud:  No.  May?  June?  Just skip it.  It’s $25.

H:  Did we give anything to that other School Public Interest Fund?

L:  Yes.  $67 dollars.

H:  Any chance there is a record of that? Or a date?

L, searching her gmail account for “donate,” “donation,” “donated,” “doughnut,” and “donut,”:  Uhhh… no. 

This is the (okay, not the ONLY) problem with taxes.  It’s this bizarre system that requires you to keep a million pieces of random paper around your house, which is ludicrous in an electronic universe.  I need a robot butler who scans this crap in for me and saves!  In searchable PDFs!  In a folder labeled “Stupid Receipts You Will Need For Tax Time, Gosh I Hate This System Too!”

… or I guess I could buy myself a scanner.  And scan the stuff.  And make the folder.  Which I had literally never thought about before now.  Huh.  That would make a lot of sense.

Though it wouldn’t cure the tax code’s various bizarre distinctions.  For example:  why can undergraduate students deduct the cost of text books, up to $2000 (or whatever) but graduate students count?  Why would earning an extra $500 bucks make me pay $4000 more in taxes – wait WHAT?  Why does TurboTax keep asking us if we have a farm or a railroad?  How many times can I tell you that I am not a farmer?

Oh, sure, these are first-world problems.  But I am at the unfortunate intersection of first-world problems and the absence of fancy rich person resources to throw at them that years of watching movies has led me to believe I ought to have.  I just pay $19.99 to get a logo of a cartoon woman who will “chat” with me to explain why suddenly this program is calculating that I owe more in income tax than I earned last year.  I don’t have a great, shady-looking but totally legit guy with a Rolex to make me some somehow-legal tax shelter in the Caymans.  Even if I could manage to get myself to the Caymans, I would have no tax shelter in which to stay.  Both me and my taxes would be stuck outside in the tropical rain. 

And as the preceding paragraph reveals, despite the afore-mentioned econ degree (which involved taking several classes on tax policy taught by very renowned professors), I don’t know that I actually have any idea about taxes in a practical sense other than that the payment thereof gives me less money to spend on, er, Us Weekly and ... blogging clothes?  Hypothetically speaking, of course.  If anyone knows if having a blog means I can deduct sweatpants as a work expense, LET ME KNOW.  

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