M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Sunday, March 05, 2006  

One for You, Nineteen for Me

I'm not one to complain about having to pay taxes. In return, I get some pretty good stuff that I'd never be able to afford on my own. I'm not entirely thrilled about all of the individuals whose government salaries I'm paying, but then, who is?

I can't even really complain about the time it takes to pay our taxes. Trash keeps track of all of the relevant paperwork all year, and then, until a couple of years ago, she plugged in the relevant numbers and came up with the amount that we owed or expected back. For a few years in a row, she did such a good job that the IRS sent her back even more than she'd asked for. I think that was some kind of reward.

She managed to do this for us for over ten years, despite what amounted to a negative amount of assistance from me. One year she entrusted to me some kind of card that was important in some way that I didn't even understand at the time. "Make a copy of this," she said, "And be sure not to lose it." I followed her instructions to the letter. Except that the problem was that I could have sworn she'd said, "Mail this to the IRS tomorrow." Oddly enough, they never sent it back to me. I guess they don't like me as much as they like her.

We stopped doing our own taxes in 2004, for two reasons. The first is that we adopted a child, which comes with a variety of tax credits; and the second was that I earned a significant fraction of my income for the year from freelance writing. Did you know that taxes don't get withheld from that? Fortunately, I kept track of all of my freelance income in a spreadsheet, which I printed out to add to Trash's huge stack of other, more relevant documents. And then last year we stuffed the whole thing into a manila envelope and brought it over to the home of Trash's stepbrother, who is an accountant. We'd been using TurboTax the previous few years. Stepbrother-In-Law's tax software is more like HyperTax. The process is almost completely painless for us now. We go over there some evening, Trash sorts through our paperwork and gives Sb-I-L the relevant information, and I sit next to them and ask stupid questions.

Last year we got a very nice rebate, thanks mostly to the tax credits that we got for adopting M. Small. Some of that credit even got carried over to this year, so we were expecting a smaller rebate. And that's what we got. In fact, the difference between the amount we're getting back from the Feds and the amount we owe the state is slightly more than the value of the small gift we got Sb-I-L in return for helping us out. The good news, of course, is that it couldn't possibly be my fault.

And we were completely done when we noticed something on the W-2 from my regular job: apparently I have four exemptions, or deductions, or whatever they're called that you're not supposed to have four of. Trash asked why I had so many.

"I'm pretty sure that's what you told me to do," I said.

Believe it or not, this isn't the first time this happened. The first job I had after we started living together, when tax time rolled around she was surprised at the number of diversions (or whatever they're called) that I had there, too. "I was just trying to pay less taxes," I explained. It took her a while for her to get me to understand that the number of depositions or whatever doesn't affect the amount you pay, but only when you pay it. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Needless to say, I'm going to be filling out a new W-4 form on Monday morning when I get to work. I think after I fill it out, I'll fax it to Trash to make sure I have it filled out correctly. Then, and only then, will I mail it off to the IRS.

Today's best search phrase: "Recent pictures of Robot Redford." The Jetsons use Google?

posted by M. Giant 9:17 PM 8 comments


You should probably have 4. The general rule is one for every person living in the house that you can claim plus one if you own a house. It's about finding the biggest number that still enables you to not have to owe money at the end of the year. It's better for you to pay as little as possible each pay period - since the IRS doesn't pay interest on your overpayments during the year.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 6, 2006 at 2:50 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Kate Epstein, at March 6, 2006 at 10:56 AM  

Except that they'll hit you with a penalty if you underpay by more than 25%.

By Blogger Kate Epstein, at March 6, 2006 at 10:57 AM  

It's so cute that you think of it as a "rebate". Like Uncle Sam is having a sale.

Did you know that "the IRS" put together = THEIRS ??

By Blogger Erika, at March 6, 2006 at 11:32 AM  

"Did you know that "the IRS" put together = THEIRS ??"

That's funny -- I've always thought it somehow stood for "up yours:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 6, 2006 at 5:39 PM  

Don't even ask me the chain of googling that somehow accidentally lead me to this blog, however, I liked your writing style so I read it.

However, as a Human Resource Manager, I have to let you know... don't send your W-4 to the IRS! That goes to your payroll department! There are really only two important boxes on the form: Box 5, where you say how many deductions/how much tax $ you want witheld from your checks, and the Single/Married/Married-But-Withold-At-Higher-Single-Rate box. To withold the highest amount of taxes, you would enter Single/Zero. If it's you, your spouse and a dependent child, that usually means that you'll want to elect Married/3. Your payroll department can explain all of this stuff to you. Good luck.

By Blogger Megan, at March 8, 2006 at 8:59 PM  

But he is freelance!! There is no Payroll Detp! That would be Trash.

By Blogger Christine, at March 11, 2006 at 5:41 AM  

Taxes made me laugh (and cry) this year. Because my husband sold his business, and makes a lot more money than I do, and because of the awesome alternative minimum tax, our taxes this year were more money than I MAKE in a year. Like, almost twice as much as my salary.

Awesome! As with all things involving numbers, I just looked at him and said "It's all you, honey."

By Blogger KT, at March 16, 2006 at 11:26 AM  

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