Andrea's column: A taxing situation
It's that time of year again. My mind should be on Easter or spring, but the only thing whirling about in my brain is taxes, taxes and more taxes. Not because I don't want to pay them but because I can't stand all the work involved before I write out the check.
The dining room table is covered with small plastic bins filled with receipts, bills, W-2 forms and canceled checks. Calendars and multi-colored Post-it notes, too. All had been in one large catch-all tub that was winnowed into smaller categories -- medical expenses, business expenses, charitable giving and those related to our home office.
It's my job to find every deduction, make a list of each item and get it to the accounting firm that figures it all out and tells us how much to pay. As always, time is running out because, once again, I failed to keep the promise I make to myself on the first day of the year. The promise to work on the tax stuff every quarter.
If I had honored my pledge, when the envelopes marked "Important Tax Documentation" arrived I could have sent everything to the tax preparers. Six weeks ago, for sure. Now, the pressure is on and the threat of having to ask for an extension hangs over my head and disrupts my sleep as it does every year at this time.
My fear is that putting it off will call attention to our returns and launch a red flag and cause an audit. No, thank you. I was audited 25 years ago. Not fun. I had (accidentally) deducted a child care expense that was not allowed and thought I would have to engage Perry Mason to plead my case.
Earlier this week, I spent an entire day surrounded by every piece of paper we had thrown into the tax tub. When my husband returned from running errands, I was in attack mode. "Why can't you write out a check so it's legible?" I asked. "What does this say?" He squinted, turned it one way and another and admitted he had no clue.
Then he asked if I needed any help. I harrumphed and turned him down. We tried that a couple of years ago. Sitting across from each other on a Sunday, we went through the papers we had saved the preceding year. I explained my system to him and he said, "Got it."
Every 10 seconds, or so, he interrupted my process with a question. Over and over, I answered him and over and over he asked the same thing but in a different form. I asked a lot of questions that day, too. All because his hand writing resembles a toddler's finger painting.
After everything was organized and I thought the hardest part was over, I realized none of it was from the first five months of the year. Hadn't been in the container and was nowhere to be found. I yelled, screamed, cried. "I wonder where we put it?" my spouse asked.
"We? We?" I asked "What's this "we" stuff?" An hour later, he found another tub on the shelf of the office closet. He wondered why "we" had put it there instead of where we have kept everything IRS-related for the past 11 years. I wanted to suggest we dust the receptacle for fingerprints but by then, he wasn't in the right mood. Neither was I. Besides, the clock was ticking.