The Tax Man Cometh

The April 15 tax deadline is fast approaching. Every year it is the same. I start my taxes early enough, but at the last minute I am running around to get everything in the mail on time. One year I made the mistake of taking my package of goodies to the Post Office in town. I ended up waiting quite a while to get to the window to have my envelope weighed. Since that time I have always made time to take my tax stuff to the local post office.

It seems like such a chore to get those returns finished. First you have to go over all of your records to be sure you have all of the documentation in place. Although I no longer have to file farm returns (that is another story entirely) what I do have to file is cumbersome. I could not begin to keep up with the annual changes that the tax system undergoes. We have used an accountant for many years now, thank goodness.

When my husband and I were completing farm forms I wanted help. It seemed like something always came up that I was not sure about. Time after time I tried to call the IRS for clarification of some new feature. I never did get a definitive answer from anyone. If I actually reached a live body I was often told, “Sorry, but I do not know anything about that. Just do the best you can.” Now, I am sorry but that is not the response I wanted to hear. I did not want us to be penalized for something that was done wrong out of ignorance.

Once we were called in for an audit. We had to be to Bradford for a 9:30 a.m. appointment. That morning my husband was up extra early to get chores done so we could drive for an hour to be audited. As it turned out that was the year that I found out that I needed glasses for reading. I had put a number on the wrong line – not the wrong number, but the wrong line – that particular item was the one that triggered audits that year.

People get upset at tax time. I am not sure if they are angered by the fact that they have to pay the government something or if they are angry with the process. I remember when I lived at home that my grandmother always told me to leave grandpa alone while he was doing the taxes. He would get mad at nothing it seemed and he was not a guy who got mad very often.

My husband was the same way. He would start out with papers spread across the whole dining room table. Gradually he would sort through things and get them organized. From that moment on no one was allowed to set anything on the dining room table. We had strict instructions to leave the papers alone.

My method was a little better. I tried to keep things up to date month by month. Often I had to wait for a bank statement to retrieve the amount of a check that my husband had written. After a few times of doing that I ordered duplicate checks so that I would have the amounts I needed to balance the check book monthly. I ordered them for our personal account as well as the farm account. I was taking no chances.

It seems like my tax things should be getting easier, but just when I think I have everything under control the government changes some regulation and I am scrambling once again.

It is next to impossible to keep track of medical deductions. I found that out when my husband was on the health care merry-go-round. I would not get the insurance statements in time to figure out what the balances were. Until we reached a plateau we were responsible for a percentage of the cost. It was certainly difficult to tabulate. By the end of the year the bookkeeping had not caught up with things. I was lucky if I had the previous year’s payments completed before tax time.

I cannot understand why now that everything is computerized things cannot be done in a more timely fashion. When they used to do everything by hand I think the system was better than it is now.

By the time I am ready to prepare my next column all of the tax stuff will be done. We can all go back to do things as we normally would do them. Maybe we learned a lesson this year and can streamline the tax process for next year. We can always hope.

THE CONTINUING SAGA OF COMPUTER REPAIR

I am not sure what went wrong, but I know that I spent more than four hours on the phone with some people from India last week to get things up and running. I thought that I had things straightened out on Monday and sent out my columns. When I turned my computer back on Wednesday, the mail was stuck in the box and would not go out.

I called the service I have once again. It has really been worth what I paid for it. Individual calls are billed out at close to $100 for the initial call. This was a small investment, but it is good for anything that happens to the computer for once year.

The people were nice enough. I apologized over and over because I did not understand. When they spelled what they wanted me to type it went fine. All I could think of was how they must feel to be misunderstood all of the time.

As far as I know things are working this week. Time will tell.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.