Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tax Season Post-Mortem

I managed to muddle through my first tax season in 20 years or so. Luckily for my clients, the software does all the heavy lifting, especially on the state returns. I'm used to one- or two-page tax forms like they have in Michigan or Arizona. Out here in the colonies, they take their taxes seriously; a Vermont or Massachusetts tax return for someone with a single W-2 is eight or ten pages long when printed out. And gods help you if you have to file multiple state returns (which almost everyone out here does). Add in the defects in the software because the particular organization I worked for only has one other office in Vermont, and you have a grand ol' time. And a lot of screwed up tax returns. Be warned; if you pay any of the big name tax prep places to do your taxes, the odds are that the person doing them doesn't have a clue and your taxes are probably wrong in some way. That's not to say that a local CPA firm is going to do any better. I did Land Office business charging a couple hundred bucks fixing prior year's returns with "Joe the Plumber, CPA" as the preparer signature. The bottom line is a) know something about your taxes, and b) if your refund is drastically higher or lower from previous years, demand an explanation. If one is not forthcoming, take your stuff somewhere else.

Doing taxes was also instructive in a sociological way as well. Over the six years or so I've been doing this blog and the previous four or five that I was doing the day-book website thing, I've linked to countless stories about adults acting like they are twelve because they were disturbing, funny, annoying, used to justify yet-another intrusion by the government into our lives, etc. But I've always assumed that those people were a small minority of the adult population. I was wrong. Based on the clients (and several employees) who walked through my door, I'd say they are about a two-thirds majority. I could go on for pages and pages with examples, but I think a single stand-out will make my point.

Baby Factory and Useless Hubby show up, brood in tow. I do their taxes as quickly as possible because the brood is dismantling my office while Baby Factory whines at them to "Please stop," and Useless Hubby stares at Thumbelina on the boob tube. I couldn't swear to it, but I think he actually drooled. Thanks to various refundable tax credits for brood mares, they get a $10,000+ "refund" after paying in less than $500. Was their response a thank-you or a wow or a that's-great? Nope. "That's it?" Yea Baby Factory, that's it. But it gets better. They wanted their money in 24 hours. Normally, we can do that, but the bank caps those at $9,999, so they will have to wait 8-15 days. At this point, Useless Hubby begins thrashing around in his chair yelling incoherently. I'm not sure if he's angry about having to wait a week or two for money he did nothing to earn other than repeatedly screw his wife without a condom, or if he's having some sort of seizure. Baby Factory tries to calm him by whining at him in the same voice she uses with her brood, and to about the same effect. I quickly print the signature forms which Baby Factory signs and then (I swear this) puts the pen in Useless Hubby's hand and guides it across the paper. I start thinking about the male-female relationship of anglerfish. I finish up the paperwork and herd them all out of the office with a huge sigh of relief.

But we're not done yet. Now the phone calls start. Daily. I guess they don't teach kids how to read a calendar in school these days. Or that "8 to 15" doesn't mean "guaranteed in 8." The check finally arrives on day 10 and the entire herd shows up to collect their booty. The check is $4,000 short because one of them owed money to some government agency. Because of privacy laws, I don't know anything other than which of two numbers they need to call to find out who and why. Useless Hubby begins his epileptic-like seizing again and yelling, "It's all your fault! You must have screwed something up! We don't owe anything to anybody!" blah, blah, blah. I decide to treat him like his wife does, as one of the children. I don't acknowledge his ranting and address myself to the nearest thing to an adult in this little domestic train wreck. As I begin listing some possibilities, Baby Factory gets a strange expression on her face when I get to "delinquent student loans." Now Baby Factory starts to go all psycho and joins Useless Hubby (who is still seizing and ranting to no one); "That wasn't in Vermont! That was in Texas! How can they do that! That's not fair! I moved here so they couldn't do that! Who can I call?!? I want my money back! You get me my money back right now!" I manage to get them calmed down without involving law enforcement, and they finally agree that, while $10,000 of someone else's money would have been nice, they'd settle for $6,000 of someone else's money with the other $4,000 of someone else's money going to pay off Baby Factory's college education that she had skipped out on assuming (rightly, as it turns out) that someone else would pay for it. Then the pièce de résistance from Baby Factory: "We need to get the kids to the doctor. If we sign the check, can you take it to our bank for us?"

These people vote. I used to think that the United States could operate under a more-libertarian style of government. I was wrong. We need a nanny state; otherwise, 2/3 of the population would wind up dying in the streets, unable to care for themselves. How did we get here?


Anonymous said...

>>How did we get here?<<

We got here because of the welfare state. Without its handouts and coddling, baby factory and hubbie would have to produce something other than babies to survive. Take solace in the fact that history is fast making the welfare state unsustainable.

Ric said...

The welfare state certainly aids and abets these people, and multi-generational welfare creates an entire subculture of dependency. But a certain level of willful blindness on my part plays into it as well. At some level I knew of these things but never guessed at how widespread the problem was until forced to confront it on a daily basis. Am I guilty of paying insufficient attention? Probably.