Like millions of Americans, I’ve got tax problems—specifically, filing them in a timely manner.
Indeed, you may find yourself in a similar situation. I blame “protaxination,” by which I mean intentionally and habitually putting off any act that forwards the completion of a federal income tax return.
And I mean ANY act: digging up old receipts; recovering user IDs and passwords for accounts you haven’t accessed since last tax season—when you were forced to change those user IDs and passwords, of course supplying a dummy email address for user ID and password recovery, the user ID and password for which you must now also recover; breaking out the old calculator (yes, you could just use your iPhone, but you can’t do that trick where you turn it upside down to spell “BOOBS”) and finally opening all those envelopes you’ve been ignoring since January marked “Important Tax Information — Open Immediately.” Well, at least the envelopes that haven’t been destroyed by coffee spills.
Of course, this, in itself, involves excavating an entire stack of long-neglected mail—I like to call this the “denial pile”—which also inevitably means paying several hundred dollars in outstanding bills and engaging in at least one infuriating conversation with an automated phone system.
Hence the tendency for protaxinating.
Taxes are a patriotic responsibility more easily fulfilled in theory than in practice, like jury duty. Or riding Amtrak. Or serving as President of the United States (a lesson we all learned the hard way).
Now, I didn’t always mind doing my taxes. Throughout my late teens and twenties, it was easy, mostly because I earned beneath the lowest taxable yearly income, subsisting on student loans, maxed-out credit cards and whenever I was really strapped for cash, selling myself to wealthy New York businesspeople. Relax. I meant as an SAT tutor for their kids, although it still makes me feel dirty.
These days, I file as head-of-household (a figurehead title, to be sure). My wife has a real job. I have a fake job, although I do it from a very real tax-deductible home office. I’ve got dependents, college savings plans, retirement vehicles, work vehicles (at least once my wife lets me screen-print my headshot on the hood of our car) and a mortgage we keep refinancing, to say nothing of all those eccentric uncles who keep bequeathing us spooky old mansions provided we spend one night. Do haunted houses count as capital gains or what? Can I deduct exorcisms if I list the property under Business Personal?
Questions like these are precisely why I hire an accountant. So really, this chore I am avoiding simply entails preparing my taxes for my tax preparer (I’m not quite sure what his preparations involve, but I imagine they’ll produce at least enough of a refund to
cover his fee).
Why then do I continue to protaxinate?
Perhaps I simply want to ratchet up the dramatic tension in my life, in a way that can only be achieved by a rapidly approaching deadline. Or maybe it’s because the whole exercise smacks of homework, which, in turn, causes me to revert to my high school self. Come to think of it, I have been spending a lot of time blasting Grateful Dead and staring at screen savers recently… But, see, now that I’ve written a joke about it I can deduct all that protaxination from the current fiscal year.
But like I said, I don’t want to hire any non-contract supernatural employees until I understand my liability under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.