Be honest – did you see that headline and panic for a second before you realized it was still the middle of February? C’mon, confess …
Seriously, today was Tax Day in the Anselmo household — Wednesdays are usually my son’s day at day care (giving him much more chance at social interaction than he gets at home with boring ol’ Dad), so I took advantage of the peace and quiet to haul out the W-2s, 1099-G and whatnot, log onto the free federal tax filing website and get down to business.
But why am I doing this over two months before the deadline? In a word … poverty.
See, when you make a decent amount of money, Tax Day is not something to look forward to, because you end up having to send a check to a government that has run the national debt over $10 freaking TRILLION and that you wouldn’t trust with your piggy bank, let alone serious hard-earned cash. No one can blame you for hating it. The one year the Supermodel and I had to pay extra income tax, we put it off until almost the last minute. Seriously — we wrote up our 1040 form in early February, but didn’t mail it off (with the check) until April 13. Let the bloodsuckers wait, we thought to ourselves.
But … that’s the only year we’ve had to pay in April; that’s the year we were both working full-time and didn’t have kids yet. (Our daughter arrived less than three months after we mailed that check.) Every other year, we had so little income that we didn’t end up passing the standard deductions — and once we started popping out progeny, the deductions began rising faster than our incomes did. It’s been a rough ride, up and down (mostly down) and I’m amazed sometimes that we’ve survived it.
The silver lining to that cloud has consistently been filing our tax returns, because when your income is as low as ours has been (one year, I think it was less than $10,000), you reeeeeeally look forward to getting that check from those lovely generous people in Washington (the same ones we called “bloodsuckers” two paragraphs ago). It’s like getting a “GET OUT OF DEBT FREE” card in a real-life Monopoly game — last year, we used it to pay off our car, among other things. And the earlier you can get it, the better. Since W-2s have to be sent out by employers by January 31, the earliest we can file is the beginning of February. So we do.
Beginning two years ago, we joined the E-file revolution, and I’ve been really impressed with how simple and smooth it is. Last year and this, we’ve used a site called FreeTaxUSA.com — which I can recommend unreservedly — that makes it remarkably easy to file. The “free” part is a slight misnomer: federal law requires that online tax services provide federal tax filing for free. The loophole is that while they calculate your federal tax based on the information you enter, they also calculate your state tax, and then offer to file those as well … for a nominal fee. That’s where they make their money. FreeTaxUSA only charges $9.95 to file my California return for me, and I pay it gladly — it’s worth it to remove one more headache.
What I didn’t realize until today was that when you file with FreeTaxUSA for the second straight year, it takes about half the time as the first go-round because they already have our basic information on file. I logged in, and didn’t have to worry about our address, the day care’s address, our Social Security numbers, or any of that mess. Just enter our income information and the proper amounts for our EITC, child care and renter’s credits, and let the system calculate it for me. I double-checked their totals (they were right on the money, of course), approved them, printed out my own copies of everything, and logged off after just under an hour. A breeze. Later in the day, I got e-mails letting me know that both returns had been accepted by the respective tax boards, which was a load off.
And then, when the Supermodel got home, I got to let her know that sometime in March, we’ll be getting two checks adding up to almost $6500. Which made her day, to say the least. So it’s all good.
I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Car trouble is the fingernails down my blackboard, but I know my auto repairman doesn’t see it that way. If your favorite team is playing against mine, only one of us is going to be happy with the outcome. And while tax season would be a bummer if our income was a hundred grand, since last year it was under $25,000, we can’t wait to get to it. Something to keep in mind for me, I suppose, the next time things seem to go south — because for someone else, it might be a golden opportunity. Life in a fallen world …