following instructions.

It snowed last weekend, which meant that I stayed inside the whole time. There was enough powder on the ground for snowballs, for snowmen, for sledding, but instead I put on some fleece pajamas and did taxes.

Dude, I am so excited about my taxes this year. You know, I have never gotten a refund before? But this year, I'm going to get a fat one, fat as a cowboy named Slim. Sure, it's because I borrowed over 100,000 last year to get into the real estate market, but still! Refund! I can use it to pay back some of that money I borrowed!

My mom did my taxes until I graduated from college, at which point I decided to do my own. I bet she would still do them if I asked. She would make me come home for a weekend, but she would do them and I wouldn't have to know what Schedule L was. But I don't mind them so much. They're not actually difficult, just an exercise in precise direction-following.

I took a quiz in the second grade that must have been designed by some disgruntled IRS employee. The teacher passed out a worksheet with a short paragraph of instructions at the top, then ten questions with spaces beneath for answers. The questions were sort of odd. They asked for the names of your pets or who was buried in Grant's tomb. One of the questions instructed you to stand up and say "My name is , and I like pie." Sure enough, five minutes after the quiz had started, this kid two rows over stood up and said, "My name is Ben, and I like pie." He had that look on his face that a class clown gets when he knows he has his audience right where he wants them. The rest of us giggled.

After a few more minutes, the teacher said "pencils down" and we looked up, ready for an explanation for the activity. She then had someone read the instructions at the top of the page aloud. They basically told us to read the questions, don't answer them, and then sit back and wait for some doofus tell you how much he likes pie. It was all a dirty trick, designed to teach us to always read the instructions or you'll look like an idiot. The real lesson was to be suspicious of any quiz that told you to stand up and say anything.

Or maybe it was preparation for the day when our mothers would no longer do our taxes for us. We were eight, and so we didn't pay taxes then. But filling out a 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ) is about like that. It's just that the instructions are provided in a 50 page booklet and they frequently reference other instructions. A lot of the instructions apply to random groups of people: members of the clergy, fishermen, people who take care of children that are not their own. There are a lot of bizarrely specific questions, like the ones you have to answer before you give blood. Except instead of asking you whether you've spent at least six months on the Isle of Man, it asks whether you've donated any unharvested crops to a charitable organization this year. I suppose if you can answer yes to questions like that, they don't seem that weird, but to me they seem out of left field. Of course, asking whether someone bought their first home last year might be a bit random, too, but it's sweet music to my ears.

I do Josh's taxes, too, and I have for the last three years. Four years ago, I watched him do them online on April 15, and then he had to pay a filing fee for the state taxes. It killed me that he waited until the last minute and that paid a stupid, unnecessary fee. The next year, I offered to do them for him sometime in February. I was very hesitant about it, because I knew that my intentions were entirely selfish, not altruistic. His procrastination made me anxious, and my solution was to take matters into my own hands. I was afraid that he would see my offer as being controlling or at least a vote of no-confidence.

But then his response was more like what I would say if someone offered to buy me dinner: yes, please. I've been doing his taxes ever since. This year, when I was getting the forms together, he mentioned that he would like me to show him how to do it. Perhaps I should be concerned about job security, because if he is looking to take over his own taxes, it might follow that he is looking to make me redundant in other ways, too. But it didn't come up again until I was handing him the completed forms and telling him where to sign. He thanked me for doing them. I brushed off the thanks and told him that I was doing it for my own sanity. After all, if I'm going to marry that man someday, I want to make sure he's square with the IRS.

Ah, romance.


Carla said...

I remember doing a very similar "test". I think ours was a little different in that it said to read all the questions then take your paper to the teacher. And the questions were really hard. So when I took my paper up to the teacher 2 minutes later, everyone stared at me in amazement.

I love doing taxes because having children pays big time. Unfortunately, Doug informed me that they're halving the child tax credit next year (from $1000/child to $500/child). I do our taxes mainly because I'm just so excited to see how much we'll get back I can't wait for Doug to get around to doing them. He doesn't mind. :) We only have federal taxes (no state income tax in TN) so I can file for free electronically.

MOM said...

I think doing your own (or family member) taxes is genetic with the Birds (my maiden name for people who don't know me). I bet each of my siblings does theirs, and each of my kids do theirs now.
When I was a mail carrier I was amazed at the people who paid big bucks for the preparation of relatively simple tax returns.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think you people are strange, but I am so THANKFUL you are strange.

I have never done my own taxes. Sid does them all and loves doing them (as any true Gaskins does apparently). Sid places them in front of me and says "Sign." I close my eyes and sign blindly because I don't want to see. Those forms really make me anxious.