Friday, April 15, 2011

Death and Taxes

Okay, I give, I don’t really want to talk about death, but it is Tax Day here in the USA. Well officially this year it’s April 18, but still. Maybe you can't avoid taxes, but some people do turn it into a game of sorts.

Are you one of those people who love to get back a large refund? Or like my prior boss, do you prefer to pay Uncle Sam each April? His game, and a valid one, was that he saw no sense in letting the government have use of his money all year. He wasn’t going to turn loose of a single red cent until the last minute. While most people I know tend to prefer a large refund. They use it like a savings account and rely on that large chunk of change each year to pay off bills. Me, I like to break even, preferably get $100 or so refund. In theory I agree with my boss, but when it comes down to writing that check, I find it irksome. After paying in all year, I do want Uncle Sam to pay me just that once.

My uncle is a CPA and talks about how some clients present their information in January, organized and ready to be worked. Others wait until the day before the deadline and lug in a grocery sack full of slips of paper and receipts. I believe he mentioned that this later group pays significantly more. Just sayin'...

I had another friend who regardless as to whether he had to pay or not, always trekked to the post office downtown each April 15 to have his return postmarked just before midnight. This was a social gathering. The same folks meet each year, all mailing their returns at the absolute last minute. I remember a newscaster interviewing them. Everyone was shaking hands and laughing. It was like a party.

That got me thinking. With the trend toward filing electronically, it’s the passing of an important era in US history. Kids growing up now will roll their eyes and laugh when we tell stories of trekking to the post office on April 15 to mail paper forms just like I giggled at my grandmother talking about party lines in her small town.

And what will these last minute people do without the annual social encounter with their fellow last minute friends? Maybe they will create a social network like Facebook to stay in touch since they will no longer be meeting up at the downtown post office. Do they now have their return ready to file and press the button at 11:59PM? Ha!

How about you? Do you file early or are you one of the ones we see on the news shaking hands and laughing with their friends at midnight on April 15? Do you like a large return or prefer to keep your money as long as possible and pay at the last minute? Organized spreadsheet or a grocery bag filing system?

I know, this appears to have nothing to do with writing, but it actually does. It's a character study. Ok, that may be a stretch, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I’m an accountant. Humor me.


Marin Thomas said...

Pam, we have to file early because we have kids in college and are required to fill out the FAFSA forms before March 31st. Keeps us on our toes!

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Marin. Thanks for stopping by. It stresses me to wait until the last minute on anything, so I file pretty early also.

But this year it just hit me all the different angles people have to play the game. Every person I talked to about it had an angle/opinion. All I can figure is that they can't avoid taxes, so they try to make it 'fun', whatever that means to them.

One accounting friend has been doing public taxes for years and has decided that he shouldn't be 'required' to file electronically, so he filed everything this year on paper forms. He completed them electronically, but prined them out and mailed them. Go figure.

Juliet Burns said...

Yeah, Marin, we did FASFA for the first time this year also. But I do usually try to get all my receipts and info to our accountant early as possible anyway cause I like getitng that big return
I understand about how Im letting them keep my money when I should be keeping it myself until the last minute, but I DO love that chunk of change to pay off bills and splurge a little also. This year I paid off a charge cards and used to the rest to buy clothes and shoes for the kids and myself. We had fun shopping!
Pam, cute story about your uncle and the Last Minute Mailers at the post office! More power to them!

Estella said...

We file as soon as we have all the info we need to do so.
We are retired seniors and usually don't have to pay, nor do we get a refund.

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Juliet and Estella. Thanks for stopping by.

Juliet, I remember being psyched about a couple really nice refunds, until my boss burst my bubble. Ha!

Estalla, my taxes are pretty simple these days also, but we are both still working so we do have to pay.