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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today At The Medicine Cabinet ...

I need aspirin ... I have a headache like the percussion section at a salsa club is warming up in my skull. It's stress, I know. It's April 15 and I waited until the last day to file my taxes. And this year, I owe big.

Now, numbers frighten me in general, so for the past three years I have had my taxes done by a professional. The preparers I use are a popular resource, and luckily the company has an office right around the "Block" from my house.

This year I was, however, organized ... all my forms in a folder, including a hard copy of last years return. I had made less money this past year and had made several large charitable deductions ... the crisp receipts also in my handy-dandy folder. It made sense in my noggin that I shouldn't owe anything, so I walked in to my appointment with head and hopes held high. Big mistake!

After only about 45 minutes I was informed by Leah, a very friendly and seemingly-competent individual, that I would be receiving a pitiful state refund (about 20 percent of what I saw last year) and would owe the federal tax ogre about $1,000. Huh?! Staying polite (I think), me and my new "tax buddy" went over everything a second time and I signed on the dotted-be-damned lines as prompted.

What happened? Well, apparently I forgot that my oh-so-happy-for-it-at-the-time state refund from last year would be considered income for this year. And my charitable deductions were not as powerful as I believed. My unique figures simply put me over some "bracket" line where things fell apart tax-wise.

Now I'm home with a pounding cranium looking for aspirin or Tylenol or whatever. The medicine cabinet and bathroom vanity drawers are a no-go, so I go and check the small wall cabinet I put in my kitchen alcove a few months ago. And there I see something that gets me thinking ... teabags. I think it's about a 14 hour drive to Boston. If I call in sick, write a check at the store for extra traveling money, and drive straight through, then I can use Friday to dump all the Lipton and Celestial Seasonings I can afford into the damn harbor and flip my tea-steeping middle finger at the powers that be. Isn't that one of the big reasons the Colonies wanted out from under English rule ... unfair and undue taxation.

I know there are pundits who say "blame the economy" and "the government has already made concessions to the little guy," and they take shots at administrations clear back through the Reagan years, but seriously, all geopolitical posturing aside, six years ago I couldn't wait until early February so I could get my W-2s and get my taxes filed as quickly as possible because healthy tax refunds were the norm and life was good.

And not to beat a dead horse, but the whole tax process doesn't even seem to be geared toward helping the Average Joe and Josephine. During my tax appointment, I was asked if I had "stock dividends" and "monies derived from mineral rights" to declare. And with a straight face, I was asked "do you own any properties in international territories?" and "if you receive a refund do you intend for the money to remain in the United States?" I'm sure my mouth was hanging open in dull-witted disbelief. Do a lot of eight- and nine-figure earners like Sir Richard Branson have their taxes done in the 'hood on the last possible day?, I wondered. Did the top hat and monocle I was wearing make my tax rep think I was wealthy?

POINT OF RANT: Always keep extra aspirin on hand.

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