Tax time means finding a way to claim that inflatable whale as a dependent


Just as we’ve done for many years, my wife and I arranged to have some quiet time so that we could go insane doing our taxes together. This process generally requires an entire day because my wife insists on keeping accurate financial records. These records are then piled on the kitchen table next to tax forms, booklets, a calculator, and last year’s tax returns, all of which she organizes and obtains weeks in advance — and NONE of which, I remind her, would matter without my own contribution of:

Two sharpened pencils.

After more than a decade of doing taxes together, we have developed a system. Something that utilizes her talent for working with numbers and complicated tax formulas, and my talent for writing legibly in small boxes. It’s a combination that, year after year, has never failed to result in—you guessed it:

A big fat argument.

There are several reasons for this.

The first is that, as man of the house, I really have no idea what goes on here. I’m a father of two, which means I’m essentially a pack mule with a mustache. Most of my time is spent moving things from the car to the house, and then back to the car again — often for days at a time.

In a lot of cases, decisions are being made while I’m still outside stuffing an inflatable whale into the car.

Even so, it’s important for me to at least look like I know what’s going on. This requires maintaining a difficult balance between satisfying my natural instincts as a man to be in charge while, at the same time, assuming as little responsibility as possible. After years of practice, I’ve learned to strike this balance every day except tax day, when I’m reduced to chewing on a pencil and waiting for my wife to call out sum totals.

With that underlying tension already in place, it doesn’t help that most instructions in the federal tax booklet read like this:

In order to determine the amount on line 17, please complete the simple, 37-step tax formula found on page 197 of this handbook which, due to budgetary reasons, ends on page 196. If you have any questions, visit the IRS website and join millions of other Americans who are just as confused as we are.

Because my wife likes to be prepared, she went ahead and grabbed one of every tax form available. This meant we had everything we needed should we decide to file as blind, millionaire yak farmers living as part-year residents with our adopted, 65-year-old child.

As you might’ve guessed, we met none of those qualifications this year, which meant choosing between taking the Standard Deduction, or filling out the dreaded Schedule “A” and itemizing our deductions.

I say “dreaded” because, on average, you must complete at least six additional schedules before you can determine, through a progressive series of special tax equations, how much you’ll be losing by not taking the Standard Deduction in the first place.

This isn’t always the case, however, as any blind, millionaire yak farmer can tell you.

Regardless, we once again itemized our deductions and, for the first time EVER, realized almost immediately that we were definitely going to go with the Standard Deduction. This not only saved a us lot of time, but allowed us to get back to more important things.

 

And even though I’m not sure what those things are, I’m pretty sure they include at least one trip to the car.

Write to Ned Hickson at [email protected], or c/o Siuslaw News, 148 Maple St., Florence, Ore. 97439

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