Monday, April 14, 2014

Tax Day Confessions

Once again, I managed to file my taxes before April 15th. Barely! They went electronically last night.  Yay! The feds and state confirmed acceptance of the electronic filings today. Yay!

I actually don't mind paying taxes. I don't always agree with everything the taxes are used for. But then I accept that we live in a democracy and I am not the center of the universe. (At least most of the time I accept that) I do believe that I and my community receives lots of benefit from taxes, and I am willing to pay something to help those who are less fortunate than me.

Though I am fairly happy to pay taxs, I hate doing my tax return. Though I've been doing my own returns for 40 years, it seems to get harder instead of easier. I suspect it's a combination of life being more complicated and me not being able to remember as much any more. All the nuances of the latest way to do deductions become mind-boggling. And it changes every year. It's at this time of year I always wonder whatever happened to the flat tax movement? Forget all the paperwork, just have everyone pay a flat percentage and be done with it.

Before I became a full-time writer, I always filed early in February to beat the rush.  That's because I always knew what my tax liability would be and I planned my withholding with the knowledge of that. I usually didn't pay or get a refund unless something major happened like losing a job or getting a bonus.

However, since becoming a full-time writer in early 2013, I've had no clue what to expect. Yes, I have a business plan with plenty of assumptions about income and expenses, but they were only assumptions and, though the expenses were true, the income was not. Add in insurance payments, retirement savings withdrawals, and a host of other stuff that is confusing to deal with and I admit that somewhere around September I went into overload and that always results in forget-about-it- I-don't-want-to-know mode.

That's when magical thinking replaces responsible watchfulness. My magical thinking says: "If you ignore it somehow, miraculously, everything will turn out okay." I didn't really expect that elves would show up in the middle of the night and make everything okay. I do write about magic, but I'm not good enough to wield it on tax day. Consequently, this type of thinking allowed me to stop doing my bookkeeping for the last three months of the year.

Of course, when the new year came around and I started receiving all those 1099-misc reports, I knew the elves had not shown up and I'd have to go back and catch up on the bookkeeping. I told myself that in February...and in March...and at the beginning of April. Instead of dealing with it like I should have, I put it off. Fear mostly. Fear of having to pay some extraordinary amount I didn't have.

Last week I faced up to my responsibility. The Keep Calm picture above was pasted to my computer screen. I took an entire week to reconstruct the last three months of 2013. And I gave up 3 more days of writing to work on the tax return and all of those lovely forms. Fortunately, Turbo Tax makes it a little easier. But still that was a full 10 days I could have been writing.

The end result wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. The guilt for falling behind in my bookkeeping was a lot worse. Getting behind in my word count was enough to make me consider self-flaggelation. So, I'm on the straight and narrow again. Dedicating an hour each day to bookkeeping. I'm also considering hiring an accountant for the 2014 tax year. That will probably keep me on task too. While I'm great at rationalizing, or ignoring, my commitment to myself, I rarely try providing the same irrational thinking to someone else. :)

So, if there is anyone who is still wrestling with their return, you have one more day to deal with it or file an extension. Take my word for it, magical thinking does not get it done.

Keep Calm and Have a Happy Tax Day.


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