This week, in between surgery (“This hospital jello is well-known throughout the entire VA system.” “Really?” “No, not really.”) and refereeing (“Great job. You just cost us the game. You suck.”), I found time to actually complete our taxes for 2012.
My week just went from bad to worse.
To quote myself, “I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.”
Well, I suppose that’s true most of the time, except when it comes to figuring out our taxes or, more appropriately, how much in taxes we should be deducting from paychecks throughout the year. No matter how hard I try, I seem to screw it up. For the past several years, we’ve consistently been required to write the IRS a check by April 15th.
Not a lot of fun.
And to make matters worse, I have had to write the State of California a check for the past few years, as well.
It’s known as “The Full Monty” of taxation in our house.
Now I’m not about to launch into a rant regarding taxes in this country, government inefficiencies, and the looming Sequestration.
Far from it.
I have travelled to many countries around the world, and in my very simple way of looking at things, I believe we take an awful lot for granted here, much of which is (I think) paid for through taxes.
Maybe not, but that’s how I rationalize it all.
I suspect I have a relatively complicated tax situation compared to many. But to be honest, I’ve been using TurboTax for longer than a decade, and it makes everything relatively painless; except the bottom line, of course.
Figuring out taxes online is almost too easy, I suspect. Audit defense? Sure. It’s only another thirty bucks. Convenience fee for using a credit card to pay my tax bill? Why not? I’m already getting screwed here anyway — I might as well get some airline miles out of the deal, right?
And so it goes.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I was able to use a 1040EZ to file. In reality, it was a long time ago, back when I used to complete my taxes using an actual pencil and paper.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t do much figuring on paper at all anymore. For instance, I used to spend literally hours and hours trying to balance the checkbook. It was a task made much more difficult because my wife and I shared the same register. It was primarily a painful effort, but I always fervently hoped for the Monopoly-inspired “Bank Error in Your Favor” — wishful thinking that we made some kind of mathematical mistake that would result in hundreds of dollars of “found money.”
More typically I would discover we had forty or so dollars less than what we thought.
If I follow my own steps back to college when I was really, really poor, not being able to balance my checking account became a matter of life and, well, eating on the weekends. I used to drive myself nuts trying to figure out why I couldn’t reconcile the numbers. And having two or three “extra” dollars meant at least one meal at McDonald’s — quite a treat for me then. The dining hall was closed on Saturday and Sunday, so my options were limited and mainly hotplate driven.
Meanwhile, jumping out of the “Way-Back Machine” and focusing on today, I recognize it has now been years — yes, years, since I’ve even tried to balance our checking account. When our monthly statement arrives in the mail (we don’t have electronic delivery, it seems), I simply hand it to my wife, as I do with all of our bills these days. You see, I turned this crap over to her many moons ago.
Quite frankly, I don’t know if she takes the time to balance it, and I guess I don’t care. I feel like we have spent much of our adult lives pinching pennies at every opportunity, and as long as we pay the mortgage, invest in the future, contribute to charity, and take care of our other recurring costs, I don’t know how figuring out the bank account to the last penny makes much of a difference in the quality of our lives now.
That might change, however, if I lose my job and we find ourselves retracing our steps from thirty years ago. But at least I can take some consolation that recycling bottles pays better these days than it did in 1980.
I can also dream really big and hope that Daughter will become an internationally famous author, making millions of dollars, and remembering to support Mom and Dad once she makes it into Oprah’s Book Club.
Then, again, I think the focus on cats severely limits her potential audience. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
And so, at the end of the day, we will continue to exercise Plan C — lottery tickets.
Filling in those little ovals on the pick sheet sure beats balancing the checkbook any day!