Oh good, it’s that time again - The Explorer: Columns

Oh good, it’s that time again

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Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 4:00 am

It seemed like only last week I was celebrating New Year’s, now the mailbox is filled with tax preparation solicitation flyers. The April deadline seems to arrive earlier each year, and that doesn’t help boost my moderately tolerable winter morale.

Most things in the world these days seem to be speeding up as I get older, but I know that I’m slowing down, often intentionally. It’s no surprise that as we age we move slower, think and react with a diminished sense of urgency. I’m routinely reminded of this aging symptom every time I attempt doing something that was almost a routine for me several years ago. And yes, I’m aware that one of the few formerly important things that’s accomplished faster as we age is the one our wives really wish would slow down. At least that’s what I overhear some of my friends saying.

Regarding taxes, I find the preparation of them to be a stressful experience even though I pay someone else to do it. It’s still my responsibility for getting the stuff together. OK, my wife does 99 percent of the work during the year by keeping meticulous records, but I clear off the dining room table before the accountant arrives so she can arrange the essential items. I suppose I could prepare my own taxes with one of those by-the-numbers income tax software programs, but why take a job away from a diligent, qualified person.

Hmm, maybe next year’s tax preparation operation should be drastically different from anything in the past. A friend has pestered me for years about doing my own taxes. He insists it’s simple for anyone with a computer. You know what, I’ll do it; I’m venturing into totally unfamiliar territory; at home tax preparation territory. My friend does it, so how difficult can it be?

Amazing, I now have in my computer the software program I avoided for years, but I’m experimenting with it in “safe mode” this time by using the current year’s tax program as a dry run with zero liability or consequences. I’ll simply enter my numbers on the sequential computer screens and compare my figures to the ones calculated by my professional accountant. If all goes as easy as touted by my buddy and advertised on the tax program box, I’ll successfully handle this adventure in a couple of hours and be chomping at the bit for my chance to go solo with my 2013 return. This also gives me an expansive window of opportunity to convince my wife that putting our tax future solely in my hands for the remainder of our tranquil retirement years is safe.

What happened, its dark outside? I started this venture in mid-morning; had a bagel and fresh cup of coffee sitting on the desk and my morale and initiative were perking along smoothly. Now I’m blurry-eyed from staring into the computer screen, I have a headache, my back aches, my butt is numb as a brick and I missed two meals. Why didn’t my wife come in here and check on me; I could have croaked from the stress.

Easy to follow instructions? Not exactly; how could I know all of this tax stuff? I’ll bet the nitwit who devised the current tax system pays someone else to complete their annual task. Assuming I manage to finish this project, I’m penning an explicit letter to my elected representatives demanding a Constitutional amendment requiring each of them to prepare their own taxes every year they serve in office.

This is abysmal. Help screens are popping up like prairie dogs, I’ve been in queue for an online help chat for hours, and the more chat for hours, and the more I get into this nightmare the less I understand why anyone without an advanced accounting degree would want to do it on their own. That’s it, I’ve had it; I’m re-wrapping the software packaging and returning it tomorrow.

Hold on, I have a potentially pleasant fallback option that’s almost guaranteed to reduce stress. I can make this CD soar like a Frisbee into the open desert. I can see it now hanging like a Christmas tree ornament on a saguaro cactus arm.

What was I thinking when I bought this mind-numbing, brain devouring program? No wonder my accountant looked at me with that “you’ve got to be kidding” stare when I mentioned the assumption of my own Internal Revenue destiny in 2013. If I’d only known what she knew, I could have saved money and a load of gastrointestinal distress.

I’m once again vividly reminded there are a few things in life that you really should leave to the professionals. As far as my tax-preparing friend is concerned, I now understand why he looks so much older than his classmates at our high school reunions.

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