Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Caesar's Cut




I hate doing my taxes. It's not the actual tax. I'm a big gooey liberal, and I can't wait for elections so I can vote for more places to send my money. Yours, too! I'll pass a parks levy and a library levy and a school levy and I'll drive my Chevy to the levy and pitch in a trunkful of cash. Send an agent over here with my bill and I'll fire off a check. Just don't make me do them.

When TurboTax first came out, I bought a copy for about twelve dollars and cranked it up. That took a while; my old PC got all belchy over that sort of thing and gassed on all morning, installing drivers and putters and I don't know what-all. There'd be a visual for the installation progress that looked like someone pushing a crayon through a capillary. It was intolerable to watch. I'd have to go away and start drinking and hope that when I came back I would find no error window or hear an orchestral chord of doom. It was always dicey. But then when everything settled down, I started feeding it data, and TurboTax methodically sent everything where it was supposed to go. It was just like what your body does automatically when you put a sandwich in it: without your even thinking about it, it sends a bit to the organs and a bit to the muscles and slabs a big old Schedule D on your rear end on its way out, and calls it a day. It was brilliant.

Then the program asked me if I wanted to print out my return. Sure! And all the worksheets for my records? Why not? I hit the button. When I saw Worksheet CXL.VI, Rendering Unto Caesar, I was alarmed, but did not know how to stop the printer, and it pooped out paper by the ream for twenty minutes, while I flapped frantically around it like Lucy Ricardo.

The next year I bought the TurboTax for twenty-five dollars and it only took about eight tries, two hours and four beers to get it installed, and it even found all my previous year's data and sucked that in. Brilliant. There were a few hitches here and there, but I was a happy customer. Good thing, too, because now I had become dependent on this software that knew where all my stuff was.

The third year TurboTax ($55) detected that I was not the simple soul I had made myself out to be, and started asking probing questions. Do you have any passive activity loss carryovers from a prior year? Well, I don't rightly know, Turb, but let me ask you this: in Flaubert's classic novel Mme. Bovary, is Emma a sophisticated aristocrat born by mistake into a bourgeois prison, or is she simply a middle-class girl obsessed with a richer life?

Turb doesn't have a sense of humor.

This year, I bought the TurboTax ($1,436) and introduced it to my new iMac ($5,333,000), which slurped the disc into the screen somewhere. I have no idea where it went, or how it was planning to find last year's data from there. Last I saw my data, they'd been incinerated inside the smoking hulk of a haunted Dell, with Windows Vista used as an accelerant. I let 'er rip and got up to hunt down some beer but only got halfway to the refrigerator when an encouraging beep sounded, with overtones of a celestial choir, and there was my software installed and my data located and everything ready to roar. Sadly, I have become even less simple. New questions arose. Did the decedent of the IRA of which you are a beneficiary turn 70-1/2 in 2008? Turb, honey? Do you know what "decedent" means? It means "no longer turning."

There was more. I decided I had a business--writing is a business, albeit not the kind in which you make money--so it had lots of questions. Do I have a home office? I thought I did, but in order to take tax advantage of that, I needed to know the square footage of my house and how much I'd spent to keep it warm, lit and relatively free of garbage. Then it was a simple matter of determining what 36/2750ths of the total of my utility bills, property tax and insurance is. And just like that, my home office turned back into a guest bedroom.

I still don't know what a cost basis is, but I do know I don't want the worksheets, I know how to say "stop that" to the printer, and I can't wait for the spring primary. I'm going to buy us a new park.

33 comments:

  1. You are laugh-out-loud funny! I'm sending this post to everyone I know (well a couple of special people.) Thanks for the belly laugh, and congratulations on the new guest room!

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  2. One word covers all: Accountant

    I tot up my expenses and income, already figured out my square footage and how much is used for business purposes, give the work sheet to the accountant and that's that.

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  3. You don't have to stop the printer. You just have to cut off the supply of paper.

    Yep, this simple low-tech solution has saved a bit of what was left of my sanity more than once.

    Who knows where I'd have ended up by now?

    Now understand that I tried all the other solutions such as that silly 'cancel print' button... repeatedly.

    I also tried swearing, turning off the computer, and called in my geek boy to help.

    But the whole take away the paper thing?

    Always works.

    Doing our taxes and having even more of my money taken for things like sculptures of yarn balls in city parks really aggravates me.

    I'd love to cut off THEIR supply of paper.

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  4. Very funny lady. I can laugh because I don't do our taxes. Hubby does. I maintain a head in the sand posture as far as taxes are concerned.

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  5. Funny, yes. True, yes. Turbo Tax, yes, assuming one's IQ is over 15.

    Home office? Bad juju from the IRS—#1 audit trigger without Roy Rogers.

    And thank you for spending my money. I trust you to do some good with it, as opposed to the gov'mint.

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  6. My wife wrestles the Turbo Tax monster ever year. They are like drug dealers, they get you hooked on TT then increase the price of the product every year.

    This year they threw us a new curve... figuring out how to claim mileage for our business. For this they needed the amount we purchased our car for that we don't have any more. She spent a good hour tracking down that information, input it into TT. The program has a running total of your tax liability at the top of the screen. I think after she did all that exercise with the car mileage it changed the amount by $2.00 !!

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  7. You can come do my taxes if you'd like to declare some international travel and foreign direct investment expenses! They're due on April 30th, and I do the plug n play thing too..up here it's called Quicken and it helps you take a licken'.

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  8. Madame Bovary was a slut who almost certainly traded certain favors for help with her taxes. And so do I. Every year, I give my accountant $100 and a week or two later he gives me a stack of tax forms to sign in exchange. It's a mutually dysfunctional relationship--you might say we're friends with tax benefits--and one that I greatly enjoy.

    As for paying taxes, I'm with you: I believe government serves a useful purpose, and a I support it. Well, some of it, anyway. I'm not so sure I want any of my money going to Sarah Palin's crowd.

    And may I once again say that you're an amazing writer, Murr. I loved this piece, Don McLean references and all.

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  9. Oh, yes, yes, yes! Here in Canada, I used UFile. Last year it was $19.00, this year it was $29.00. Not bad! I decide that perhaps I had three business: An art practice, a photography practice, and a writing practice. (please don't let the work practice confuse you. Unlike a medical practice not of these things make you any money). I too decided that my home office was really just an extra bedroom. Wha? You mean all those crappy paintings that nobody is buying is inventory? Omigod!

    http://tagonist.net

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  10. Can I claim a blog comment editor on my taxes?

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  11. Next year let the cat do your taxes - he looks immensely competent to me!!! But don't send him to our neck of the woods.
    In keeping with your giraffe posting - last night the 11 o'clock breaking news was about some "good ol' boys" who had been hunting, baiting and stealing cats, just to kill them, cut them up and feed them to their dogs. Aren't there just some lovely people in this world???
    Great post, as usual!

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  12. i nearly pee'd my pants laughing so hard. Thomas thought I was choking. Thanks for the giggles.

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  13. But the levy was dry...

    I had no idea that song was actually a statement on the eternal conflict between individual freedoms and collective responsibility - I'll have to go listen to it again.

    And...I have one word for you...just one word...TaxActOnline

    Okay, that was 3 words - but they spell it like one word.

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  14. I am visiting via Suburban Correspondent's blog. I just peed my jammies laughing at your post, and then at her comment.

    I really do have one word: Accountant.

    :-)

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  15. This is maybe the funniest post I've ever read. Also via Suburban Correspondent. Hehe. I am in love with Turbo Tax and married it this year, which, of course, further complicated my taxes. I no longer file as "head of household" but instead as "married, filing singly because all of my husbands are either gay, pretend, or software".

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  16. Could you delete that last comment of mine. My git of a brother has changed the computer so that xx becomes "I'm an idiot!" grrr

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  17. Phew, am I glad I'm unemployed, pay no taxes except indirect, and have no income apart from the benefits of other people's taxes. My life suddenly sounds blissfully simple and carefree. I don't want anyone questioning me about my links with the IRA either, they've caused enough trouble as it is.

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  18. Nicely done. We have a different program up here, but we can choose to print just the main part of the return if we wish.

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  19. Ahh, that was hilarious. I used to like doing taxes. I know - crazy, right? But this year I'm going to do the whole freelancing tax thing. I'm already trembling with fear and dread.

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  20. Love it! And now I'm laughing both at your post and caroline732's brother!

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  21. Here to laugh via Suburban Correspondent (who also made me laugh) and now laughing at Caroline's git of a brother, too.
    My husband and TT did the taxes without me... which also means that neither of them told me about any money that might have returned to us. It was probably already spent on TT.
    I freely admit to building quite a few schools, parks, and libraries, and luckily I don't need TT for that!

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  22. Ami: you can pull out all the paper and stop the machine, but then a week later when you start it up again it just picks up where it left off. Remember when people used to say computers would save paper?

    caroline732: you think I'd delete that? We all love your brother now. Because he isn't OUR brother.

    And thanks to all who have added Jammie-Peeing to Screen-Spraying in the list of things to do while reading Murrmurrs! Perhaps I can monetize with a nice cleaning-products ad down the side.

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  23. Here via Suburban Correspondent and glad I came!

    I have 3 words. Move to Canada.

    I don't know if that will help or not, and they have fake bacon, but it sounds good to me.

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  24. Welcome aboard! Inasmuch as I am about to be served a genuine BLT (or as genuine as an early spring tomato can make it), I respectfully pass on your suggestion. But only because of the bacon.

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  25. After I stopped laughing and picked myself up from the floor....I realized that the correct answer to the Flaubert question was neither "a" nor "b", but rather, "c": Emma was a sophisticated aristocrat born by mistake AND was obsessed with a richer life.
    And I guess Mr. Turbo doesn't give a rat's *ss about such nuances.
    But don't rely on any of my answers as being accurate -- I've had our accountant do the taxes for over 20 years.

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  26. ROFL! Great post! We live overseas (from Portland though!), and we're addicted to TT ourselves. And by we I mean my husband. I don't do paperwork--that's why I married him.
    Here from Suburban Correspondent, btw.

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  27. Wandered over here from Mike's place (Too Many Mornings). Congrats on winning the writing contest. I loved the video and it's so great to find such a fine writer to follow.

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  28. Thank you. Mike's got a nice place. I'm heading over your way now.

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  29. Hubs worked for the IRS for 13 years, yet I am the one who tackles with TurboTax every year. And since the cost of the software is deductible, I'm not too chuffed about getting to a price of $59.99 this year. I have also learned to file electronically, and print to a PDF file, so that I can pick which pages I want to print physically. This is way too prosaic a comment for such a hilarious post.

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  30. Here via Suburban Correspondent and glad I came!

    I have 3 words. Move to Canada.

    I don't know if that will help or not, and they have fake bacon, but it sounds good to me.

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  31. One word covers all: Accountant

    I tot up my expenses and income, already figured out my square footage and how much is used for business purposes, give the work sheet to the accountant and that's that.

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