Musings

Tax Man

A few years ago I started using a tax guy. I’m not going to mention that this decision capped off my entire working life of saying that I don’t need to use a tax guy.

I’ve had a change of heart. I now figure using the expertise of a tax professional is not much different than using the expertise of a dentist. Sure, I can clean my own teeth, but perhaps a third party’s skills might be welcome. Plus, it’s not weak to admit there are things I can do, but maybe cannot do well.

For example, my friends and I could put together a very respectable pick-up baseball game. We might drink more beer, move slower, and miss some of the finer points of the game compared to the pros. In fact we will do all of those things. But, an alien checking in on earth would still recognize what we were doing as a baseball game.

This is exactly how I do my taxes: lot’s of alcohol, confidence without skill, and a near complete blackout of the finer details of tax code. The IRS recognizes what I give them as a complete tax form, but it’s anyone’s guess what I’ve really done.

The decision to use a professional tax preparer wasn’t easy. For starters, the typical tax office looks nothing like the ones on TV. You know, where a nice couple sits in conversation with a professional-looking tax person in a well lit office and they get a nice fat surprise refund check. In real life, tax prep is not glamorous especially for the not-well-off. The real process has more to do with remembering where you put your stuff all year which does not make for interesting TV viewing.

Often the tax office is pen of desks where, like in the line at the ATM, you pretend not to notice what the other person is doing. It’s usually a dimly lit but highly functioning office where people, for whatever their reasons, are having a professional “do” their taxes. Compared to TV taxes, real life taxes are gloomy.

Plus, paying taxes is kind of a ho-hum expression of being an American. There isn’t the exuberance of voting for your candidate, or holding your hand over your heart at the game to sing the National Anthem. Yet it is your duty as a citizen to have your year (your life, essentially) reduced to a few pages for the government to peruse. I learned that’s not a task I want to tackle alone.

The benefit of hiring someone who knows what he is doing hit me the first year I had Matt do my taxes. He seemed to be able to get more information out of the end-of-year statements than I was getting. I would see a page of numbers and instinctively go to the number in the box (there’s always a number in the box for us amateur tax preparers). Matt, on the other hand, entered several numbers from the forms onto my tax documents, even numbers that weren’t in boxes. That made me see the whole system was rigged toward professional tax prep. And that’s why I have a tax guy.

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