In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s working its way into mid-March, which means that mid-April–specifically April 15–is right around the corner. This is a date that should be embraced with a wistful smile, a softly hummed air, and a reverent appreciation for all things verdant and freshly-emerged.
Unfortunately, it’s also Income Tax Day, generally perceived to be a blight on the earth, or at least on the United States. The anticipation begins with the receipt of the prescribed W-2 and 1099 forms, no later than January 31 as a rule. That gives us all two and a half months to contemplate just how we’re going to finagle paying the least possible tax and finding the paperwork to back up our claims.
And there, in a nutshell, is the problem.
I certainly understand that it’s taxes that pay for the things we don’t want to deal with individually. I prefer that you take my $5.30 and add it to the next guy’s $5.30 until you have enough to construct the sewer lines. I wouldn’t know where to begin on such a project by myself. I also don’t want to provide my own army or my own highways (although, if I did, I wouldn’t allow all those rotten drivers on MY roads!) or the nice, bright-red fire trucks that sometimes travel on those highways. I know I somehow have to pay for my share of those and other services.
But to arrive at my fair share, I have to file a tax return. I can get past the first couple of lines on the dreaded 1040 without a problem. I’ve known my name and SSN for several years now. I even know where I put most of the 1099’s I got in the mail a while back. Wait a minute–there should be two from the Social Security Administration, right? One for him, one for me. All I have in the blue don’t-throw-this-away box is one of the two (mine, hah!) along with a few receipts from important places like the pharmacy and Taco Bell.
There are maybe a dozen or so other places where I might find the essential paper. While I’m at it, I might as well check all those places for other things I’m sure to need as well. I know I have three property tax bills, and the insurance papers on the rental house. Somewhere I’ve stashed all those pink cards the charity leaves when they pick up my discards (see Schedule A, Itemized Deductions) and I’m pretty sure the bank sent me a 1099 for the $2.43 I’ve earned in interest on my life’s savings last year. All I have to do is set aside a few hours for finding, sorting, and organizing.
Last April, I promised myself it would be different this year. Really, I did, and it worked fine until the day I came home with a handful of prescriptions and the same number of (deductible!) receipts and found that the blue box wasn’t in its place.
“Honey, did you move the blue box?”
“What blue box?”
“The one from the desk in the family room. The don’t-throw-this-away box with pansies on the lid.”
An ominous silence. Then, “Uh, what do pansies look like again?”
Uh-oh. “Please tell me you didn’t dump the blue box!”
Another ominous silence.
“I didn’t dump it, exactly. I think all that stuff’s around here someplace. I just needed a container that size for the hardware from this toaster I’m fixing.”
“What?! That toaster you’ve been working on for two months now?”
“It hasn’t really been two months, has it? Well, never mind. Here’s your old box, and a handful of papers that was in it. I think this is all of them unless something got mixed in with the catalogues and tossed out. Uh, I’ll just keep these screws and things in my sock drawer for now.”
He means well. I’d badger him a little bit about this, but I’m worse. I’ve been known to find deductible receipts (years too late to do any good) in my recipe box, in whatever book I was reading at the time, in the yellow tablet where I first scribble the bits of sentences that might someday become a story. It’s all part of my disorganized life, and one way or another we get through it.
I bet I’ll get through it again this year. May the Internal Revenue Service have mercy on me.
I’ll see you again, after the commercial.