It’s not a 10 page paper due at the end of the semester, but completing your taxes as an adult is best compared to paper-writing as April 15th quickly approaches. In fact, there are a number of aspects of paying taxes that directly correlate to writing a paper. For example, just as you need to go to class in order to understand the topics and background for a paper, you could certainly use a course in IRS tax policy to have any clue as to what you are doing when paying taxes. My goodness, some of the content is absolutely ridiculous.
It’s not exactly like your employer provides you with crystal-clear instruction on how to get it done either—“You should consult a tax professional”—gee, thanks. Oh, but this is like going to office hours, no problem! That is until you realize everything that such a trip would entail. The tax professional you would like to consult is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., when you are, guess where? That’s right! During that time, you’re at work, making the money of which the gummint wants a piece!
Okay, well you guess you could go on Saturday when THE ENTIRE WORLD IS ALSO THERE. Or you could send 1,000 emails back and forth with your mom’s sketchy third cousin who works for some “boutique” tax firm. What a lose-lose situation.
So you decide to just bite the bullet and visit the nearest tax professional, which is probably an H&R Block. I mean, you do want to get your billion back—okay, your 250 bucks at best. So finally you arrive at H&R Block, where you learn that it is going to cost you just about the entirety of your refund to make sure that you don’t end up like Wesley Snipes. Although, you probably don’t need to worry that much since you wouldn’t be reading this if you have even the remote ability to defraud Uncle Sam of 7 million.
Now you’ve made it to tax professional office hours and the pro has started the meter on your 1040 fare. Great, sigh of relief. Until you realize that you don’t have like 8 of the necessary documents to even start the conversation. You’re starting to think that you’d just like to take the 10 page pager and be done with it.
Utterly irritated you decide that you’ll just go it alone. You leave office hours deflated and begin to do the research for the paper that is your taxes on your own. Since you have struggled through all this already there is no way that doing it by yourself could be worse, right? WRONG!
After browsing for 15 minutes, you decide you do not want to spend a fortune on TurboTax so TaxAct will do the job. Let the fun begin! Alright, you enter your W2 information—check. You reluctantly enter your social, address, mother’s maiden name, and stupid security question answers—check.
Now you might be okay if one W2 is all you have, but remember this is a 10-pager, so it will never be that simple. Somewhere along the way, someone gifted you some money, you made some charitable donations, you drove a personal vehicle as part of official business, or you received one of those nice 1098Ts from Notre Dame for going to school (thank goodness I did not get one for 2014)—that’s the nice little document that reminds you of how absurdly expensive it is for you to receive a degree. Too bad that it’s not broken out by calendar year and is instead broken out by academic year to complicate matters. So you have to ask yourself, does this go in 2014 or 2015? Oh, and if you double deduct by accident, you might as well just call Wesley Snipes to ask him how bad it was in the pen because you are guaranteed to be audited.
Now you are at the point in this paper where you are trying to make sure it sounds somewhat coherent and doesn’t look like you completed it the night before. So you say to yourself, “Sure, I guess I will complete a Schedule C for independent contracting money, but no, I did not earn any farm income or win a purple heart.” And finally, after struggling to determine how much of your summer internship stipend is taxable, you frustratingly enter in as many receipts as you can find balled up in your manila folder labeled “important papers,” scoff at how low your refund will be, and click send.
The only difference is that, instead of sending this to your professor who will just give you a poor letter grade, you send it to Mr. IRS who will hit you with a nasty gram, 50 percent penalty, and threaten to garnish your wages until 10 years after you die. You hold your breath for about two weeks, see that you did indeed enter your bank account information correctly (instead of gifting someone else 250 dollars), and wait until you have to repeat this ridiculous process next year. Do I hear flat tax for the win, anyone?
Michael barely graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in engineering, now works for an accounting firm, and spends his weekends arguing with adults who act like children while playing sports. Please do not try to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.