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Taxing Thoughts from the Financially Dysfunctional

Taxing Thoughts from the Financially Dysfunctional Until this year, the division of labor at the Jarrett household would have seemed to the outsider to be somewhat skewed in f...
Views: 523 Created 04/23/2007
Taxing Thoughts from the Financially Dysfunctional Until this year, the division of labor at the Jarrett household would have seemed to the outsider to be somewhat skewed in favor of the Lord of the Castle.  Tim never washed a single dish, swept the floor, or dusted a knick-knack.  In fact, household effort on his part was pretty much limited to picking up his feet and putting them on the coffee table so some other family member might more efficiently vacuum around him. Why?  Those three little letters he had earned after his name:  CPA. (“Certified Public Accountant”, for those of you married to mere mortals.) This established his worth as being above menial tasks.  At various times a year, I could drop a rather large file containing our family’s money information onto his desk with a dramatic flourish, stating, “Here you go, Honey … You love this stuff.  Go do that voodoo that you do so well!”  Depending on how much I had been able to annoy him, (believe me, there’s nothing that’s as easy as annoying an accountant … and nothing quite so satisfying), I would get The Look, The Raised Eyebrow, The Exaggerated Sigh, or a combination of any or all of the above. Shortly thereafter I would hear the reassuring clicking of calculator keys from his office and know the taxes were safely on their way to being competently filed. Then I would go put my feet up on the coffee table.  Paybacks can be simply lovely. However, due to the limiting factors of mortality, I no longer am the beneficiary of such a privileged position, and like a large section of the population, I’m facing April 15th alone, feeling like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming Mack truck.  Although simple ignorance of the situation magnified my concerns, I rationalized that a reasonable, intelligent person should be able to work out something reasonably intelligent to do about it.   While one may have no interest in becoming an expert, the Internet is a good place to start figuring out where you are and where you need to go from there, with an abundance of information to help out in this taxing effort.  (Pun intended.  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)  Helpful, informative sites include, but are certainly not limited to 1. http://www.irs.gov/It stands to reason the IRS’s own site would be, and is, the ‘Grand Imperial Poo-bah’ of Tax Information.  You’ll find sections from which you can download forms and publications with instructions, information for individuals and businesses, filing online, taxpayer help, where to file, and a lot more. 2. http://cbs.marketwatch.com/news/current/tax_guide.htxCBS Marketwatch - News and informative articles current options and considerations for filing; maximizing your return or minimizing your bill through investments, deductions, breaks and more.  Includes opinion and tips that may be helpful, as well as a Library of archived tax articles covering a wide range of issues. 3. http://moneycentral.msn.com/tax/workshop/welcome.aspMSN MoneyCentral Tax Insight takes you step by step through preparing, filing and hopefully, reducing your taxes.  They also provide archived articles searchable by topic, special reports and calculation tools. 4. http://taxes.yahoo.com/

As do many major search engines, Yahoo! offers a Tax Center complete with tools, tips, and links  to find all you need.  Type your key words into the search window and go directly to your topic.  Just watch out for the blatantly commercial solicitations, unless that’s what you’re seeking.

 After surfing around, you’re either going to feel empowered and confident enough to apply what you’ve found to taking a personal whack at your own tax forms and filing; or you’ll discover that this basic stuff couldn’t possibly be intended for you and your unique situation.  And it may simply be you don’t ‘do’ numbers in any way shape or form, no matter who explains it or how -- not now, not ever, NEVER.  In the case of the later two, you’re going to be glad you reached this conclusion now, while there was still time to get help. Most people ask their friends to refer their own professional, and then hope that person is not too swamped in this, their busy season, to take on another client.  If you don’t know of someone who can make a referral, you can go back to the net and search for a “tax preparer” or “accountant” or use an engine like  http://www.askjeeves.com/ ; type in “How do I find someone to help prepare my taxes?”  Select your region for a listing of professionals. As tax time approaches, you will undoubtedly receive direct mail and/or flyers left on your car or doorknob offering tax services for a ridiculously low price.  Should you pursue this, you will of course make sure they’re reputable, but also confirm the terms ahead of time.  Otherwise, once the work is done, you’ll invariably be informed it was a “special price” for some offbeat minority group to which you don’t belong (blind one-armed paper hangers born in Bora Bora in the year of the platypus in a month with an “r” ), or that rate conveniently expired the day before you walked in the door.  Point being, you’ll pay much more than you expected. And while I doubt you’ll find many tax accountants amongst those standing at the freeway offramps holding “Will Work 4 Food” signs, I’ll bet if it’s not too involved, you can persuade a financially-literate friend in that field (Girlfriend’s husband?  Relative?   Somebody you met through the personals? … Come on, think about it, you must know someone) to review your return in exchange for dinner at a nice restaurant after the flurry of tax season is over.  You won’t be the only one with this idea … I know this for a fact: attendance increases at fitness clubs after April 15 are directly attributable to all the accountants working off that rich food from only the best places. Is all this as good as having a live-in CPA?  Not by a long shot, and on so many personal levels having nothing whatsoever to do with taxes.  But sometimes you’ve just gotta make do.

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