The Taxman

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

I have always believed that one should be able to do one’s own income tax. For years I also believed in and applied a very “creative” method for preparing and filing my own income tax returns.

My method was called “Let’s start with how much money I want back.”

The TaxmanRather than starting at the beginning of a tedious government form, I started at the end – the line where I entered how much of a refund I wished to get.

As an attorney and as a concerned father, this method was objected to vigorously by my dad. Throughout his life he provided much good legal advice, particularly in the area of tax law.

The method had great potential, but it never seemed to catch on with anyone besides me. Whenever I tried to explain how it worked to others, they got a look of concern in their eyes and muttered things about “tax evasion” and “jail”.

Tax formsLately I have been right on the straight and narrow—at least that is what I thought until I received some very official looking paperwork from a State Revenue Department in a near-by state.

They were wondering why I had not filed taxes in their state for the last five years. I politely fired off a reply explaining that since I no longer lived in that state, I was filing taxes in my home state; and that since I was filing state taxes in the state in which I reside–case closed.

Unfortunately, they did not see it my way and came back with a request for many thousands of dollars based on the fact that I had earned money in their state. And of course, on top of the back-taxes they felt I owed, they added on thousands more in interest and penalties.

Tax

Oh my gosh!!! After checking with a few people, who all confirmed that you owe taxes in the state in which you earn the money, I was convinced action was required. Interestingly, all the people I chatted with about this dilemma mentioned NFL football players and explained that they owe taxes in every state in which they play a game.

I called the State Revenue Department and explained my very strong feeling that American citizens should be able to do their own taxes and that I fully intended to re-file all the necessary paperwork myself. Thankfully, the woman did not laugh. She agreed that I should be able to do so and also agreed to help me.

Three hours later, I knew it was either a professional accountant or jail for me (and frankly I do not look good in orange). Through a referral from a friend, I found a professional accountant named Jill. After my initial consultation with Jill, she called my situation “interesting” and said that she enjoyed having one or two unusual cases to balance out the regular, “boring” ones.

She had a great sense of humor and we actually laughed about some of this (something I never expected a CPA to do–I thought she would be too busy looking down her nose at me or calling the authorities as part of some sort of fiduciary responsibility –which she never did once).

TaxesJill managed to re-file five years of taxes in two states, and when she got done, it was pretty much a wash (except for the $450 I paid her). Aside from her fee (which was well worth it), I basically broke even financially. And actually even her fee and the time and energy it took the two of us to reconstruct years worth of financial data was a small amount to pay to avoid jail time and the repulsive color orange.

Are you wondering if any of this has anything to do with Mother? Well, it does.

Once Mother moved to her new home, my sister Lindy started asking her about filing her taxes. She informed Lindy that she was “too old” and that once one reaches a certain age they no longer have to file taxes. Lindy and I searched for this law, but we never found it.

I think she may have confused the supposed tax filing age deadline with the Catholic Church rules about communion or the age at which Catholic cardinals can no longer cast a vote for a new Pope. Or something else. Who knows? Mother’s views on religion and on politics were never too easy for anyone but her to follow.

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