Today I had my taxes itemized for only the second time of my tax-paying life. I’ve had my taxes prepared a few times in the past — once by the father of a young man I’d taught in my developmental writing class — but when I realized that the tax men were only doing the EZ form, I went back to taking care of it myself.
Because I can usually count on a nice refund from the feds and a less-nice balance due for city and state, I used to fill out my forms and send them in … and I would always include a note with my city and state form explaining how I was going to get a federal refund and would send them some money as soon as I got that check.
(I wish I could have seen the faces of the people who unfolded those notes. I imagine an IRS staffer waving the page over his or her head and calling out to everyone, “Here’s that crazy woman from Brooklyn again!” and a handful of folks would have to take a drink and one lucky person would win the office pool, having guessed the correct day and hour in which my IOU would turn up.)
And I was always true to my word. As soon as my federal refund arrived, I’d send a bit of it off to cover my city and state bill. And that’s fine, but it’s interesting to me that a) I got away with doing that year after year and b) never once in all that time did it occur to me that what I was doing wasn’t the norm, wasn’t the way everyone handled their taxes.
Finally I realized I could send in my federal forms early, get my refund and then send in a check with my city and state forms. Ah! Like the clouds parting after a storm! Why did it take me so long to figure that one out?
And then something went wrong. My account was tampered with in some way that threw up red “Identity Theft!” flags at the IRS. And that created a big enough mess that I decided I needed some professional help to sort through the whole business.
And that’s how I wound up having my most amazing tax preparation experience last year. Why haven’t I been itemizing my taxes for the last forever?
I’ve learned my lesson. I spent the last year saving every receipt for every last bit of everything, and today I sat down with my little old old-school tax man. He doesn’t use computers. Period. I can’t email him because … well, see that point about the no computers. He does everything with pencil and pen. Old. School. He appeals to my wannabe Luddite sensibilities. And he removes a major source of stress from my winter-into-spring life.
So here I am, all grown up in spite of myself. And I like being grown. I do. And I like that being grown comes with a bigger tax return! But at the same time I have to admit that I miss the comic old-fashioned-ness of my bad old days when I used to write notes to the IRS.
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