Tax time is approaching and you can't hide

March 4, 2014

Once again, it’s that part of the year when we face tax preparation time. This whole process is about as painful as any product you can find on the drugstore shelf with the word “preparation” written across it.

It’s especially difficult for people like me, whose idea of high finance is being able to locate the nearest ATM machine. Well, that and being able to recall my PIN number and then having the manual dexterity to wrestle my card back out of the machine.

We hear there are big changes in the tax laws today. But if we look back in history, probably the basic premise is the same.

It goes like this: You work 24/7, sweating and toiling as many hours as possible. Then you give a portion, well let’s call it a portion rather than a slab, of those earnings to the government and keep whatever is left over for things you can afford, like patching the holes in the bottom of your shoes with cardboard or the tent you are forced to list as your address.

In fact, originally this arm of the government was called “The Department of Just Hand It Over.” That, of course, didn’t sound right, so they changed it to the Internal Revenue Service. The folks who work for the IRS are still laughing over the word “service” in the name. Yes, some citizens actually try to call the telephone number, only to send more laughter echoing through government buildings.

By the way, you should also stay away from any product in the pharmacy that has the word “internal” on the cover. It almost always has a red heat-seeking spot on it, which is not a great sign.

In any case, now I just bring my pathetic receipts and excuses to my accountant, whenever he returns from his chalet in Switzerland. With all the new changes in the tax code, which no one seems to understand, it is only fair that deadlines are now emboldened in red. This keeps it consistent with the shade of your balance sheet anyway.

Taxes are at least something great we all have in common and can complain about loud and clear. United we stand on April 15.

Most people don’t mind paying their fair share of money for safety and reasonable expenses any government would incur. But when your brother-in-law is getting paid by that government to count chickens in some remote county in Texas, let’s just save time and have that aneurysm now.

The scariest part of tax season, though, revolves around the fear of being audited. Once you open that mail slot and send your return off to a government agency, you start to remember some things you probably should have mentioned, like those winnings in Vegas and of course the scratch-off lottery.

Getting one of these letters informing you to bring every receipt and tax return is like being dragged down to the principal’s office or having your husband shove a VISA bill under your nose demanding an explanation.

These audits always involve some year a decade ago when you probably had a very active imagination. Sure, you shouldn’t have listed those cruises as a water maintenance recovery for damage to your home deduction. Yeah, that was a mistake.

The experts tell us there are a lot of red flags that will automatically trigger an audit. Listing charitable contributions that amount to more than the salary scrawled on your return will send off a warning. And anything with the Rev. Moon included will be enough not only for a letter but a phone call.

Be that as it may, and I have no idea what that means, you better get started now and buckle up for the ride into tax season.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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