My Taxing Tale

Hello from the Dogpatch!

My excuse for everything has become: Please not now, I’m doing my TAXES.

No need to act smug. I know, it’s August.

One word: Extension.

As much as we all might gripe about the IRS, what high school teacher ever gave you an extra six months to finish a term paper? I mean, the IRS is patient. That’s a good quality in anyone.

A writer, for example.

Woodpecker pic

See the woodpecker at the lower end of the sign hammering away at an unmoving object. I could say that about a lot of things.

I used to have a bona fide CPA who did my taxes; he is now my ex. So I do taxes myself using box software with which I have a love/hate relationship.

I’ll leave it to the reader to draw any comparisons.

I called my ex-CPA/ex-spouse to say how much I missed him recently and did he want to get re-married for 48 hours—really just long enough to help me figure out whether I had taken the full Section 179 deduction in the year of purchase of my very old cars, which I used for business 51.62 and 54.53 percent of the time during 2012, respectively.

And on a second honeymoon, we could also enjoy recapturing the whole home improvement asset data I inadvertently failed to upload to this year’s return, hence losing any carry over Schedule C Form 4562 data, which turns out to be sort of important stuff to carry over.

Brandon in customer service explains it to me. “I’m sorry, but the data can’t be forced in once you’ve started the new return,” he says. “If you want recapture the data, you’ll have to start the whole return over.”

I.E., repeat 16 hours of painful data entry during which I swear innumerable times and cry once. Don’t think so.

“Haven’t you heard of revision?” I say. “What if Shakespeare had been stuck with a theoretical first draft of Hamlet, in which Ophelia went to the nunnery instead of swimming?”

“Have I answered all of your questions fully?” Brandon says.

“So anyway,” I say to my ex-CPA/ex-spouse, “After my taxes are done I can cut you loose again.”

“You know how to flatter a guy.”

“My Depreciation and Amortization Report is lonely,” I say, with just a little tremor in my voice.

He’s a sucker for an Amortization Report in distress and agrees to look at my half-baked tax return.

“Actually, your Section 179 deduction for the Jag was $1,698. You had no Sec 179 deduction for the Jeep as you can only take the 179 election on the first year of service.  The Jeep was deducted using 5-year MACRS schedule, which should have been fully depreciated in 2011.”

WTF?

“I just want to know what to put in the little boxes on that one page,” I say. “Can’t you just tell me that?”

“Sure, just use last year’s worksheet to transfer over the data, and the current depreciation and prior depreciation equals the 2012 value.”

Again, WTF?

Isn’t it like that with stories? That is, there are only a couple things in this life that have ever made much sense to me, and taxes clearly ain’t one of them.

Stories make glorious sense to me unless it’s one I’m trying to write. Then it can be as baffling as Farm Profit (or Loss), which it turns out I don’t have.

Sometimes students have said to me, “What books should I read to learn how to write?”

Right now I could name a couple on General Accounting Principles.

“Read a thousand stories,” I would always say, “that’s the best way to start to teach yourself how to write.”

What a dumb answer.

I for one could do a thousand tax returns and still not catch the full drift of Alternative Minimum Tax.

Luckily, assuming a normal life span, I should only have to suffer through another couple dozen, or less if I find another CPA to date.

[Time out while I create my online profile.]

For any former students of mine out there dutifully reading story number 797 and really pissed at me right now, a better answer might be: You have to want it badly enough to be willing to live with it long enough.

That is, there is no one single answer or book or nugget of advice that will turn anyone into Shakespeare or the like.

Well, duh, you say, but don’t we all sort of wish there was?

Speaking of which, did anyone catch this last season of The Bachelorette? With that in mind, just an FYI for my future CPA boyfriend who I plan to date at least through midnight on April 15, 2014. Please don’t write me weekly poetry unless you can do it in iambic pentameter or at least not doggerel. Just sayin’.

But about stories we try to write, there can be those moments where we know we have to truly dig deep and up our game. Maximizing a story or essay involves being honest and realistic about what we’ve written and finding ways to assess the material that isn’t self-deluding in either a positive or negative fashion.

My tax software has an error check function that’s pretty useful, but it doesn’t catch everything. It can tell me if the math makes sense, but it can’t tell me if I entered the right numbers to begin with.

I think a lot about good writing has to do with finding the right stories to tell. The ones we care enough about to stick with and revise and rework until we edit out enough of our bad decisions to yield a compelling story someone else besides our mom will want to read.

As for my taxes, well, I’ve found a new man. We met on the phone when I dialed his number from the Yellow Pages, which seemed easier than driving to Seattle to stalk my ex to fill in those remaining boxes.

I’m excited and hopeful about this new relationship. If it feels right, I may uninstall my tax software.

XO Laurel Leigh

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3 Comments

Filed under Notes from the coffee shop

3 responses to “My Taxing Tale

  1. I think it’s always about the right story… a good writer, can always write; but, it’s so much better with some passion. That, takes interest= a good story.

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