Paperwork

“That’s it,” I said to Joe on the phone as I sat in the kitchen surrounded by bills, scanning over our tax return on the computer.  “It’s too hard.  I don’t want to read the return or understand it or see it over there in that fucking pile.  I’m done.”

That pile consists of last year’s credit card statements, several flyers from my children’s homework folders, pay stubs, medical statements, paid bills, and an odd assortment of artwork which will eventually get shoved into cardboard boxes labeled “Ronan” or “Tess.”  Every so often the pile gets so large and unwieldy that I haul it out to my office where I add it to the even bigger pile on the floor.  I would sort it, but until two days ago, the file cabinet was still full of useless statements from 2010.

As for the taxes, of course I wasn’t done.  I had to read – and comprehend – all 33 pages of that tax return.  I especially enjoyed the bit about how our insanely high property taxes require us to pay even more, the AMT.  The Alternative Minimum Tax has been on the chopping block for years, but the country can’t eliminate it because we’re broke.  So yes, we get taxed for paying tax.

“I don’t want this information in my head,” I told our accountant.  If I can only use 3% of my brain, the last thing I want to waste it on understanding Form 4562. “All I want to know is what we owe, or even better, the amount of our refund.”

Yeah right!

These are some questions boggling that 3% of my brain:

  1. Why so much paper?  “They really need to do something about the mail,” I once complained to a politico friend of mine.  “It’s so wasteful.  I just throw it away.  Or I have to shred it because my personal info is on it.  It’s covered with toxic dye.  It’s terrible!”  “Lindsay,” he said, “There are bigger problems in the world to tackle than the mail.”
    Whenever possible, I switch to paperless.  (Another big hassle, btw, several forms to fill out, signatures, etc.).  I pay everything online, which has made me less organized in the end.  It’s harder for me to track down payments or donations; there’s no checkbook to balance.  If an auditor ever asks me to see statements from three years ago, I will have to say:  “Sorry, I don’t got it.  No can do.”
  2. Is all the paperwork a conspiracy?  Even with e-bills, I still receive several via snail mail every day.  I’ve gotten to the point where I pay them without looking, just to get them off the floor, where my mail lands when the mailman shoves it through the slot in the wall.  Whenever I do take a closer look, I find all sorts of questionable fees.  If I call, I can get them removed.  But that takes at least a half an hour and involves navigating the automated system:  “Agent,” I yell into the phone when they ask me for my account number.   “Representative!”
    It’s easier to just pay the fees.  I’ve been beaten down. They have won.
  3. Will we ever streamline this bullshit system?  Will it ever be simple?  Beyond the tax laws, I have had to become an expert in health insurance, life insurance, brokerage accounts, 529s, SEP IRAs, mortgages, computers, orthodonture (which is like buying a car!), allergies, eardrums, sight words, Everyday Math, Sever’s disease (foot growth disorder common in boys who wear cleats), fundraising – the list goes on.  It’s getting worse and worse.  And I’m getting stupider and stupider.  I need to use a magnifying glass to read the fine print.  I need to have my accountant explain things to me as if:  “I’m ten.”

“Can’t you see that I’m dealing with the taxes,” I said to Tess when she was hysterical because big brother got a sleepover and she was stuck home with me.  “I’m sorry he has a sleepover and you don’t.  I really am, but right now I have to face this mess.”  We were in the office, surrounded by statements and bills.

“I will have to do that too,  you know, when I’m old,” she said.

“It won’t be like this by the time you have deal with it.  It has to get better and easier by the time your old.”

For her sake, I hope I’m right.

About Lindsay Jamieson

Author of Beautiful Girl, mother of 2, wife of cinematographer, former dancer, snowboarder -- recovered bulimic.
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