Monday, April 23, 2007

A Nightmare of Simplicity

Taxing Trivia

Render unto Caesar -- well, I did on the afternoon of April 17th. I wrote those checks, hopped into the car, drove them to the post office, made certain those paper packed envelopes were weighed, then had the proper amount of postage affixed. We actually had a couple of extra days to file income tax this year for 2006. I needed every one of those days for the federal, state tax preparation and filings.

I fully intended to have an accountant take over this task which my husband had always done himself. I even made a point of adjusting my work schedule after Jan. 1st this year so I would have more time to gradually gather and organize all the records that would be needed. Somehow, something else always seemed to take precedence. Then, at some point I made a determined effort to get started, cleared off the table and proceeded to put anything that might seem even remotely related to taxes there for my perusal.

After my initial flurry of preparation, I came to a screeching halt. Everyday, more than once, I would pass that table, glance at it, make a mental note that I needed to begin my effort. However, there always seemed to be something of much more pressing need, or I concluded I needed to cater to myself abit with some pleasurable activities, which I allowed to always take precedence over this tax task. I even cut back on my work activities from three locations to two about mid-February so I would have more time.

During that time I did have some rather heavy emotional challenges with which to address in my work, so I did feel I needed to be certain to take care I nourished myself, which, of course, lent itself well to my avoiding starting the personal work needed here at home. So, the days, weeks went. Then, finally, work slowed so that I needed to go to only one facility and when that finally was completed, I announced I wouldn't be available for more work until after the tax filing date.

When March slipped by I recognized the time crunch would not permit my being able to submit this task to the accountant, that the responsibility would be mine. Somehow this did not distress me. I hadn't been completely out of the loop, so to speak, through the forty plus years my husband had always prepared our taxes, since I provided information for portions of necessary sections anyway. So, on a Monday morning of the final week, I brewed a pot of regular coffee, thinking this more closely approximated my working environment for many years of my life, though I had switched to green tea here at home some years ago.

I began the methodical sorting through and organizing of papers. None of them had been kept in much semblance of order for the past year. I soon found a need to reference my previous year's calendar on a day to day, monthly basis for mileage computations, other information. Once I began that task I realized later, that I experienced some sort of release from what I have come to think was an unconscious mental block about the whole activity. I had to read entries of various medical appts./tests, special responsibilities associated with my husband that had required my presence, so had notations about reasons for not working those days. Then, on other papers there was information in my husband's handwriting, that he had prepared at my request those many months ago, that triggered even more memories.

I realized during that process of examining my life's activities those first four and a half months of the year, before I was alone, that probably reliving these experiences and that time was what, on some unconscious level, I had been avoiding. Strangely to me, I felt somewhat relieved knowing my irresponsible behavior of irrationally delaying tax preparation could somehow be explained in this manner. For whatever the reasons, that I do not fully understand, the rest of the process of tax preparation that necessitated my reading notes, deciphering figures in my husband's handwriting, became much easier from an emotional standpoint.

With my work tools in place, necessary forms and figures needed compilation, then the next most important step was to figure out which forms to use and which ones not from the many choices. This was no small task and not for the feint at heart, not only for federal tax, but was true for my California state tax, too, maybe even more so. As I progressed using the selected few forms I needed, reading, re-reading instructions, making entries, computing totals, entering them on the designated lines, the question then arose -- take the standard deduction or itemize? I knew what itemization meant which was more figuring, but I knew the comparison was important.

I worked at my leisure, became absorbed in what I was doing, just followed my inclinations that sometimes found me working into the wee hours. For a few days, my days and nights partially traded places, but then just straightened themselves out as the week and my efforts came closer to being completed. I found myself able to devote longer and longer periods of time without needing a break.

A lot of reading was required. So was a lot of re-reading. Determining what went where on the forms could be a bit confusing at times. There was much to be said for checking, double-checking, triple-checking, quadruple-checking and I don't know how to write the numbers for more checking. Actually, come to think of it, the process was a bit like writing, where you write, then you edit, and every time you re-read the piece you keep finding something you either need or want to change. At some point, usually because of a time deadline, you stop, and let the product go as is. That's what I did with my income tax forms. I really am pretty confident they're right, that I put everything in the area it was supposed to go; that I took every deduction I could, that I declared everything I should, that my computations are accurate, that I attached everything I should, that I put the paperwork in the correct order, that I signed and dated every form as required.

I was grateful my husband had kept such methodical records so I could reference the previous year's return, though there were some significant differences from the past year's with what I was now preparing. More than once I found I had overlooked something and had to go back and change a lot of figures and totals. Sometimes I found what I thought was an error he had made that previous year, only to find later the error was mine. Even this did not upset my demeanor. Several times I made phone calls to various places to clarify questions I had. I must say that in every instance, I found everyone very pleasant and accommodating, some doing more than they would have had to do. I found this especially pleasing since state govt. employees were involved and such workers are often maligned as being otherwise.

The only complaint I had about the phone calls applies in other situations, too, so this was just a continuation of an ongoing annoyance for me. I all to often find automated telephone answering services a frustration -- they take longer than if someone just answered the phone in the first place. Too often the choices I want are never on the menu. When I finally get to a point where I can access a person, the line is generally busy, so I must hold. That's not so bad, if it's not too long, but what goes on while I'm holding really annoys me. I am often subjected to repetitive promotions about the establishment's services, when once is enough, or poor quality audio music vocals batter my eardrums when an instrumental would be far more welcomed.

As a young single woman entering the workforce in the 1950s, at minimum wage of what I believe was a dollar an hour with a forty hour work week, all I had to do was complete a small approximately 4"x11" card for income tax declaration. Each successive year as officials "simplified" the tax code, reporting forms grew in size, increased in number to become the nightmare of simplicity we live with today. I can only wonder what the process would be like if it was complex, not simplified for us as the officials keep telling us they're doing.


  1. Simple.....sure it is....LOL

    Luckily, we have been having our taxes done by the same CPA for about 28 years now. Since I work at home and deduct part of my expenses, and we used to own rental properties, it was just easier to let a pro do it. We didn't want to run any red flags up the pole for the IRS to find and decide to audit.

    At this point, we really don't need a CPA to do the tax, but we would be lost with the forms now, not having done it in so many years. Good for you for tackling it!

  2. My husband always did our taxes too Joared. He never even entertained the idea of taking them to someone else. He was one of those people who often did them at the last minute....drove me nuts, and made for some very anxious times, since I was the one making copies of everything and putting them all together properly to send out. Since his death in 2005, I have taken my taxes to someone. I'm not in love with paying a fee to have them done, but there's NO WAY I want to even attempt to figure them out on my own. To me it's well worth it. I have to pat you on the back Joared...that's no small task, especially since it was never your job all of those years.

  3. Oh, I know exactly what you are talking about. The first year after my husband's death was easy because he had prepared everything, thinking he would be doing the job. One of my cousins helped me fill in all the forms and check them out. And the second year, I did take an accountant, because to him it's an hour's work if I put all the necessary forms as they arrive in a single folder, when it would take me several days.
    But then, as I've said before, I am such a lazy woman ;)

  4. Ain't that the truth, Joared...Simpolified? LOL...I don't think so...Everything seens much more complicated than it used to..The Compute was supposed to "simplify" so many things...but, the "computer is doen" is the rest of that sentence, especially where big company's and corporations and the Government is concerned....OY!