Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dollars and sense

We just did our 2012 taxes and I've been trying since to identify why it is I sweat and struggle throughout the process.
It's not like I don't prepare.
I keep lists and make little notes to myself all year long.
I dutifully file anything remotely related to a deduction in a folder that's clearly marked.
I'm an honest person so I don't think the nerves are related to worry about getting something found out.
But it's a totally awful exercise event though I trust the nice lady we have doing them for us.
I came home and told Marc about my reactions and he reminded me that taxes for us have been full of excruciating surprises since the first year we married. 
Foolish kids that we were, fresh from painful divorces, we married in the middle of the year unaware that would create a tax crash of sorts as I went from being in the single mom status to joint status with him.
We immediately owed about $3,000 that we hadn't planned on and didn't have.
The next year, we realized that neither of us had specified in our divorce decrees that we could claim ANY of the 12 kids involved.
We had all of them sometimes, buying them food, clothes and bikes and Marc paid hefty child support but none of that was deductible.
So on paper we looked like we made X when actually our disposable income was Y.
Then one year we were audited because one ex had told us we could claim a child or two and then filed keeping all six. That automatically bumped our returns and we met a very nice IRS man who went through our statements.
We trusted this guy and told him more than we should have so we were consequently dinged for the audit year AND the previous year.
Then we won a great, free trip to Florida...great until we realized the value of the trip would be added to our income total and ding! We lost more money.
One year Marc received a bonus when the weekly paper was sold. Ding!
Then came the year of severances and unemployment and Utah's change to a flat tax.
Most years, in an effort to try and cover costs, we worked hard and thus put ourselves into the 28-percent tax bracket by about $1,000. Ding!
I learned to claim the expenses of a home business.
Marc learned to count his mileage.
We both learned to fear Tax day.
Today, it's better simply because the kids have grown up, moved out and our income had caught up with our expenses so we reached a point where it evened out.
We sometimes came home with a tiny refund.
But, 24 years and many returns later, taxes are still stressful.
I can't relax until I know what's going to happen.
So I set the appointment up earlier each year so I can get it over with yet I always go in feeling apprehensive and leave feeling a little funny.
If we owe money, it makes me mad.
If we get any money back, I don't dare celebrate.
It's very vexing, financially and physically taxing.

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