Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Telling Tales: Tax Season

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It's not like we can't remember the deadline. Just like Christmas is always on Dec. 25, Uncle Sam's birthday presents from Aunt Becky are always due on April 15. Even so, every year, I find myself scrambling through faded receipts making sure to count every deduction.

We couldn't get through this season without our abnormally patient accountant. He's brilliant, and not because he knows his stuff, which he does. And not because he knows some secret IRS handshake; I've asked, he doesn't. It's because no matter how many times he asks me to do a better job of keeping track of expenses, he's always so nice about it.

I can only imagine what he thinks after getting off the phone with me and for the tenth year in a row explaining, "I noticed you listed a receipt for getting your hair colored under 'aging deduction.'

There's still no such category. I think you may have gotten that confused with 'home improvements' again. And I think there's a receipt for a new skirt listed under 'office supplies.' I'll go ahead and take that one off too. And lunch with your mother-in-law can't be counted as a medical reimbursement either."

"But," I said, "what if that lunch was eaten while an episode of Dr. Phil played in the background. Wouldn't that technically be considered therapy making it count as a medical reimbursement?" And this is how great our accountant is. He responded, "No. Now let's move on to mileage."

After we finish with mileage - one of the only tax season tasks I'm actually organized about - we go through another familiar song and dance. I insist skincare should be a write-off. He then explains that even if there were a "self-esteem" category, there would probably be a limit to the number of self-tanning creams one could deduct. That's the last time I listen to the woman behind the Clinique makeup counter!

So in attempt to avoid turning in an old GAP bag stuffed with receipts this year, I assign each of my children a time-saving tax task. Because if you are going to count as a deduction in this house, you're going to start working for it, dammit!

Deduction #1, the oldest, is assigned to straightening and flattening each receipt.

But before #1 can get started, Deduction #2, the youngest, is in charge of going through every jacket, coat, blazer, handbag, purse, clutch, or reusable Publix grocery bag I may have used (or looked at) in 2014 in effort to find missing receipts.

While all of this is going on, #2 says, "We should go through your desk, too! Right, mom?"

Brilliant #2! This is why I'll make sure he gets the lion share of his Papa's estate. Poor kid doesn't need to know that means he stands to collect 1,232 ultra-white light bulbs, 10 bottles of Stevia concentrate and every issue of Mother Earth News from 1972-2009.

While going through files (Note: by "files" I'm referring to the stack of papers that's accumulated on the kitchen bar since April 16, 2014), I came across receipts from our dog's week-long stay at a puppy daycare and our cat's shots and neutering bill.

After doing a quick Google search and realizing this, too, CAN'T be deducted, my husband said until we can figure out a way for them to pull their weight, they will no longer be referred to as our "furry children." Instead "financial burdens number 1 and 2."

It's embarrassing. Every year I promise "next year will be different!" This time it's different. I'll start on January 1 - or April 16! I'll keep meticulous records with spreadsheets, attachments and a bunch of other really good things that accountants and the IRS love to see. To avoid further embarrassment I'm tempted to file on my own. But since I'm a pacifist and khaki jumpsuits totally wash me out, I decide against it. Instead I will say a prayer for our accountant. The man who spends more time on us than he charges and always believes me when I say, "Next year I promise to have everything organized."

Email becky@wilsonlivingmagazine.com

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