By Monte Lazarus
This year I nailed it. Or so I thought. My tax papers for 2011 were carefully arranged. Or so I thought. My bank stuff and credit card stuff was perfectly organized. Or so I thought. I was ready to fill out my tax form, get a HUGE refund and spend my days eating bon-bons and enjoying the eternal sunshine of Marco Island. It was going to be a slam-dunk this year.
With glee I set about preparing to fill in the blanks on my form. My big “tax box” was overflowing with receipts, W-2 forms, 1099’s, credit card statements, 200,000 doctor bills, indecipherable hospital statements, charitable donation responses and assorted other bits and shreds of paper. All I had to do was match the shreds to the blanks and the IRS guys would probably give me a medal for doing the best job in the shortest time. I even had set aside the place at home for the trophy I was going to get as Taxpayer of the Year.
I now believe that there’s something in the Internal Revenue Code which mandates that no taxpayer – whether among the bottom 99% or the top 1% – shall get away with an easily completed tax form. I don’t care what H & R Block says: the government deliberately, and on a non-partisan basis, decided that taxpayers should know how difficult the process is.
Reality set in as soon as I turned to page 2 of my information form. Do any of those numerous kids called “grandchildren” qualify as our dependents? Whoa Nellie. How old are they? What are their Social Security numbers? How much support do we provide? It got worse. My confidence in my “tax box” collection system was shattered in about ten milliseconds: as soon as I searched for the interest paid to Bank X for the privilege of rendering unto them a mortgage. It wasn’t in the heap of material. It wasn’t anywhere in the condo. I despaired. To get the information I needed to contact the bank, wade through the bureaucracy, and hope that someone had enough pity to send me the missing info. I saw my trophy flying out the window because of the delay occasioned by the missing document.
O.K., forget the trophy. At least I’ll get the refund quickly and enjoy my bon-bons. Not so fast. I had to calculate the “medical miles” I had piled up in 2011. Fortunately I had beaten the modern system of putting everything on some bizarre electronic device. Nope, I had my trusty pocket calendar in which I carefully noted each medical appointment, and even my hospital time. A pox on Blackberries, iPhones and their ilk. My stuff was firmly recorded in that calendar. The only problem was that I first had to find the 2011 calendar. It wasn’t in the magical box. So I detoured from the form to the search for the calendar. Maybe there’s something to this electronic stuff after all. Anyway, after several days of due diligence my calendar was found sitting among a bunch of junk in an overcrowded filing cabinet.
Once the calendar appeared I had to calculate the mileage to and from each doctor’s office. Not only that; the government split mileage allowances into two time periods. The first is from January 1, 2011, to July 1, 2011. The second is for the remainder of the year. This time I resorted to an ancient calculator to insure accuracy. Thanks to the IRS I’ve finally given up on ignoring the electronic age. I surrender to Bill Gates and the ghost of Steve Jobs.
There’s more to the saga of the 2011 tax form. It’s not yet finished. I’m still waiting for some stuff from the banks and I have a few dozen calculations to get through. No trophy. No bon-bons. But, with any luck, I won’t have to ask for a time extension.