I did our tax returns this year for the first time since, well, since never. I used to just hand my forms and 1099s to my mother. It wasn’t a big deal because I made about $90 a week and the only thing I owned was a 1967 Pontiac Trans Am with a cracked steering wheel. After my husband and I married, we started to hire accountants and they have handled things for us since then. We’ve had the same accountant for about 20 years and have mailed them to him in Connecticut, even after we moved out of state.
This year, I decided that I could do this myself, because I am convinced that if you can read it, you can do it. I ordered some software, downloaded it and promptly had a panic attack. It was prompting me to do things and I had no idea what is was talking about. Technical support was not very supportive as, apparently, their job is not to explain tax codes to me, but to help with any software issues. I should’ve gotten the clue when some guy named “Peggy” answered, wished me “Happy Time!” and transferred my call to Vilnius, Lithuania.
I turned to the IRS and South Carolina revenue websites, looking for answers. The more I read, the less I understood, and began to question just what language these codes were written in. I started printing pages of instructions which were supposed to actually instruct, but ended up strewn about the room. At some point, I must have been talking to my computer or to these many pieces of paper, because my husband came in to make sure I was alright. He took one look at the mounds of trees I had killed and backed away, muttering something like “I’m outta here”.
I gave up for a couple of days, as I needed to regroup and plan my next course of action. I would, occasionally, look into the computer room to see if a miracle had occurred during my absence. I was hoping that the software and all of my documents had somehow come together on their own. Seeing no progress, I closed the door so that I wouldn’t have to look at the mess, and left the job for another day.
I’m now 5 days into this process and I think I have given myself enough pep talks to continue. I armed myself with the largest cup of coffee I could make and opened the door, ready to go. Again, I opened the application and began to fill out forms, hoping that the software was, in fact, smarter than I am, and would come up with the right formulas. After another day or two of starts and stops, I finally finished the federal return. I peeked at it and it looked pretty good. I even compared it to last year’s and nothing appeared to be wildly out of order.
Now it prompts me to start the South Carolina return. I figure that, too, should be left for another day, and decide that it is much more important to transplant some shrubs. Tomorrow’s another day and my lilacs really need to be moved. Another day comes, and just as I am about to reembark, I remember that the horses had asked me to brush their manes and tails – an obvious emergency. So I’ve bought myself a couple more days by way of procrastination and open that damned door again. I begin the State return and am happy to find that much of my information has already been transferred from my Federal forms. I knew if I ignored this stuff long enough, a miracle would happen.
I then reach a portion which starts with the word “Caution”. Now, I don’t think that any form from the government should have that word in bold letters unless they’re recalling cars or food. This is not doing anything for my already fragile state of mind. So I close that door and take a nap. I am developing the migraine from Hell.
Upon awakening, I steel myself to investigate this “Caution” thing. This requires that I print some more instructions and forms from South Carolina’s little gang of rascally revenuers. Plowing through pages of material, each of which sends me somewhere else, I realize that this is all my husband’s fault. He turned age 65. Now I can’t rely on anything I have from any prior years and have to interpret this thing all by myself. I hold my breath, say “Yes” in response to the retirement deduction, click save and go back to bed.
It’s been ten days and counting, and I think I have checked, double checked and triple checked this nonsense to death. My husband has urged me to eat something and maybe take a hot bath. Something about my appearance at that point made him rethink his offer, but just in case I changed my mind, he pushed a sandwich under the door. My less than helpful software company now wants to know if I want to review everything and file my returns. File my returns? I’m not ready to go that far yet. Maybe I should brush the dogs first.
OK, I say, throw some cold water on your face and get back in there. I open all of this stuff up again and actually look at what I have created. It’s all there and it looks right. I think I started giggling a little, I don’t really remember. Maybe I had a fever or something. I hit print and here are my beautiful forms, looking like they had been done by someone who actually knew what they were doing. I’m relieved and grateful – bent but not broken.
I have some plans for next year. I am applying for Social Security numbers for all of our critters. I can then claim a total of seven dependents. I will keep better track of what we have been paying veterinarians, so that I can deduct medical expenses. Things like that can really add up and save you some serious money. Please don’t tell those government auditors. If it all goes badly, I’m blaming my husband. I’ll be napping.