Doing Taxes

Every year, around this time, I work on taxes.  Or I should say I work on organizing and adding up all the data to hand over to our trustworthy CPA who makes sense of numbers. I still have trouble balancing our checkbook.   One of my roommates in college was an accounting major (who eventually went to work for the IRS).  She practiced on my checkbook .  She would shake her head and ask how it was possible to make some of the errors I did.  What else could I say but that I majored in English for a reason?

When Rick and I started into our individual businesses (he with Rivers Aviation Services and me with writing), we had a few surprises in regard to Uncle Sam.  If we had a good year (more often his than mine) Uncle wanted a bigger share than what we’d already paid.  As a California corporation, Rick paid LOTS of taxes.  (There’s a reason business is fleeing the state.)  One year he counted seventy different tax installments.  Another year, he learned from the Wall Street Journal what General Electric paid in taxes and realized he, as a small business owner, had paid MORE.  I, on the other hand, didn’t remember what I made and when the 1099 came was surprised, too.  Really?  When?  How?  All of our hard-earned savings went to Uncle Sam and the Golden Bear that year.   

So we started keeping better records and hired an accountant who specialized in taxes.  Now, I write everything in a ledger (spiral notebook), and instead of throwing all the receipts in a shoe box, I use an expanding file with lots of dividers.  When it’s time to start adding up expenses, I do one or two sections an evening.  I add up each category, staple the receipts together, staple the whole list and total on, and put the bundle back in the section.  By the end of the week, (Rick jumped in this year) we have all the records ready to drop off for our CPA to double-check and plug into the proper place on the forms.  It’s a painless process — until we get the new list of quarterly payments for the next twelve months.  California expects prospective taxes for the coming year up front and in a lump sum paid by webpay so they have immediate access.  If you have a very good year, the state will add a surcharge (penalty).  So it helps to put more than half of every paycheck into an account designated TAXES ONLY. 

Taxes, like death, are an inevitable part of life, and we, as Americans, receive a lot for the money we pay into the system.  We have a military that protects our freedom, highways and freeways we can travel across our nation without presenting documents at every state border.  We have public education, national parks. Taxes pay for Obamacare, Medicare, Social Security and a host of programs for the poor.  We pay less taxes than many other nations who have not prospered.   That freedom is worth every penny. It even guarantees the right to complain.