I did it. And with a week to spare. I’m talking about the once-a-year ritual when we make our donation to the coffers of our nation.
Although I am proud to be a tax-paying American citizen, I am apt to put off as long as possible sitting down and slogging through it. Some years I have actually put it off until late evening on April 15 and had to rush down to the post office (which used to stay open until midnight on tax day) to get it postmarked on time.
Not that I mind paying my fair share, mind you, it’s just that I want to get through it as fast as possible. It’s the tension. Will I have to pay extra? Will I get a refund, or more importantly, will I get a big refund? I even worry about inadvertently forgetting to report something, like the few dollars interest from a savings account or winning two dollars on a Roadrunner lottery ticket, and envision an army of IRS agents armed with adding machines coming to my house because of my mistake.
The easiest way to do it is to hire a local CPA or go to one of those places like H&R Block where you can answer a few questions, dump your year’s worth of paperwork on their desk and skedaddle out the door. ‘Course there is their fee, which might offset the deductions they might find.
Me, I’ve been using a computer program to figure it all out for me for the last half-dozen years and it’s worked just fine. You check this, uncheck that…the program asks you all these questions and gives you a running total of what you owe or hopefully what your refund is. It’s like that old Ella Fitzgerald song about the music going round and round (whoa-oh-ho-ho-ho) and “it comes out here.” So it is with my Turbo Tax, put in the figures and the money goes round and round in the computer and sends it off to the IRS electronically.
I heard a guy from the Wall Street Journal on the radio say that last year 90 percent of your fellow taxpayers filed electronically, which kind of relieves postal workers from having to work late.
The guy had some other fun facts from the IRS, like on average it takes eight hours to do your taxes, which takes into account three hours to collect all your paperwork, two or three hours filling out the forms, and a couple more pulling out your hair. He also said a family of four that brings in $68,703 a year (that’s the median family income – half earn less and half earn more) pays about six percent of their income in income taxes.
And get this, about 45 percent of households pay no federal income taxes at all. Those must the ones who get big refunds.
No matter, we all have to fill out the forms, but I’m thinking they ought to change the date. It started out on March 15, and then it was changed to April 15. This year they kicked the deadline back to May 17 again.
Someone suggested that the first of the month, April Fool’s Day, should be income tax day but I would be happy if it were Feb. 29.
On second thought, maybe not. Doing four years’ worth? I think not. Worrying that I might have gotten something wrong two or three years back and then get a big fine or jail time wouldn’t be worth the “every four-year” thing.
In all reality, though, I’ve heard the government is pretty fair when it comes to correcting an honest mistake. We all make mistakes. I mean, isn’t that why pencils have erasers?
Incidentally, last week was the birthdate of a guy named Hymen Lipman, who in 1858 invented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. I’m guessing he, like some of us, had trouble passing Algebra II in high school.
I know when I took Algebra II my erasers wore out way before the No. 2s ran out of graphite, so I always kept a supply of those clunky pointy add-on erasers on hand.
And while we’re on the subject, I feel fortunate to have gone to school in the 1960s, well before tests like the PARCC came along. All we had to do was memorize everything.
But I, as usual, digress.
I read once that no less than Albert Einstein was rumored to have said, “One of the hardest things in the world to understand is income taxes.”
Personally, like Arthur Godfrey once wrote, I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States.
The only thing is I could be just as proud for half the money.