It’s that time of year.
Every year I vow to get the agony over early. There is nothing pleasant about preparing taxes. Even getting money back only means you let the government take even more than they say is proper. It’s still way too much. This year I thought I was ahead of schedule but when I began to dig out all my paperwork, I discovered that I last year’s filing was already off my desk by this time last year. I certainly don’t get any pleasure from seeing that file on the corner of my desk as I focus on more pleasant tasks. I don’t know why I can’t just suck it up and get it done early. Maybe I just enjoy the agony.
Part of the explanation might be that last year I my withholding was short and I owed big time. I had to pay quarterly assessments this year. When you have to come up with money you’d much rather blow on a trip and send it to Uncle Sam, it makes my feelings about the government even uglier than usual. Still because of those payments, it seems likely that I won’t be owing money this year. I ought to feel much better about filing. At least I can hope that I won’t have to cough up any more money.
I started strong. Early in the year just after we returned from France, I began entering all my wife’s financials into the computer. Sitting down for a few hours helps me focus on what a bad job I’ve made of classifying expenses. I’ve got this set of categories set up that theoretically put all our expenses into the right buckets to make the tax filing easy. Over time I’ve categorized and grouped expenses, refining my system along the way. You might expect that by now it would be perfect. If it was good enough last year and I tweak it just a bit more, each year should make it better and better.
To me, however, it seems like a disaster. The more I tweak it, the more unwieldy it becomes. I really should scrap the whole system and start all over. Somehow I’ve created duplication of categories. I’ve got categories with different names that include the same expenses.
As I’ve described before, I have a problem with filing. I seem unable to classify information definitively. On a given day, what will be an obvious assignment at one moment will make absolutely no sense to me an hour later. Simple minded people have no problem with filing because they only see one possibility. I, on the other hand, see infinite possibilities. I can’t do simple.
Every time I sit down to assemble the information for my taxes, I recognize the inadequacies of my categorization and face the knowledge that each year as I tweak it, it becomes even more confusing. I know that I really should start all over and create a new system but that just presents a new problem.
I agonize about how long it would take me to do it right after which I would have to go through all my expenses and reclassify them. Following that I would have to validate that all the data are still included by comparing the old system to the new. Than I throw up my hands and go do something less stressful. Finally when I am finally at the deadline for filing, I just close my eyes and use my crappy old system.
It’s where I am today. I’ve assembled the worksheets and run preliminary data. I’ve adjusted the messiness in the system, combined the duplicate categories, aggregated the details into anonymous lumps so it looks right. Now, I only have to print it all out and drop it by my tax guy. I’ve finessed another year. Only I know the flaws beneath the surface. It looks good but still I want to start over and do it right. It’s time to send it in and move on. One decisive half hour of action and I’m done for another year. I think it’s time for a nap.