Saturday, April 12, 2014

These are Taxing Times

April -- what a beautiful month! All of the flowers are in full bloom. Showers have washed away all of the pollen. Most days are the perfect temperature -- 76 degrees. It's just a glorious time, except for that one issue that happens every April that can bring an adult to his knees -- Income Tax Day.

When I got my first real job working for the State of Alabama during summer after 10th grade, my mom advised me to claim no one on my W2 form. That way, she said, I'd get back all of the money I paid in. I was cool with that and kept her advice in mind over the next few years of summer and part-time jobs. It seemed like a good deal -- let the government hold my money for me until May or June. Then I'd have some savings. 

Over my years of real employment, I have been pretty lucky with taxes. I never had to pay because I always deducted enough to get a refund. Then three years ago, I remarried and tax crisis hit. I used trusty Turbo Tax that year and discussed everything with my husband about all of the deductions and credits. We got back a huge refund. I thought financially (and every other way, too) my marriage was wonderful. About three months later, we got a letter from the IRS stating that I had made a couple of little mistakes that totaled over $5,000. Goodbye Turbo Tax, hello CPA. 

That year I began to have a total dislike for the Internal Revenue Service and all of its secrets. It's like they have a language all their own that the average, educated person can't understand. Now, I'm not good with numbers which is why I teach English; however, I'm not a stupid person, but the IRS can make me feel stupid. And to insult me more, they made us pay a fine because of my ignorance. 

I love this country. When I traveled to Europe, I loved this country even more. When I see how terrible third world countries have it, I appreciate all that I have. When I watch the news and see those Syrian children who are starving and living in horrible conditions, I am grateful for all I could do for my children and that I don't have to experience civil war.

However, sometimes I feel that we are all controlled by Big Brother, especially now with such advanced technology. When I hear how the government can monitor my cell phone conversations and I see my house pictured on Google Earth, I get a little paranoid. Do I trust all that the government does? No way, but what choice do I have? Do I think the government spends the money we send them each year wisely? Hell, no! There are too many people in Washington deciding for everyone. Is this the best way to run a country? I don't know. 

I hear people point out health-care and education systems in other countries as being superior to the US. I'm sure they are right because there's a lot wrong with our systems. A big problem with us, however, is our resistance to change. We don't like what we have but are comfortable with it so we accept it. There are many people who work for change and betterment, but many are just in the deep rut of paying our dues and depending on someone else to speak/do for us.

I don't have a solution to government mis-spending. I don't have a way to make the health-care and education systems the best in the world. I have no clue how to cut defense spending except to stop all wars. What I do know is that on April 15, my husband and I will email to the IRS our 1040 form with all the attachments and probably a sizable check to go toward keeping me fat, happy, and ignorant. And because I live in a country that allows free speech, I can continue to voice my opinions. 

Maybe that in itself is enough to satisfy me about sending 20% of my income to Washington.

Good luck to everyone on April 15. I hope you have huge refunds and no penalties or audits.To end this post on a happy note, here is something to make you laugh: