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Tax at midnight taxes, I moan

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Doing taxes. Feh.

Started to write up long detailed account here, realized I'm too sleepy and it doesn't matter anyway. Key point is that (because of various stuff having to do with buying this house last year) I owe way more than I originally expected to (I usually arrange things to get a refund), but only about a third as much as TurboTax initially estimated (before I had entered a lot of info).

So I'm tense about it but not as tense as I was a week ago.

And it turns out that penalties for late payment aren't as bad as I was expecting.

So it'll all work out. But still, ugh.

I think the thing I hate most about it is not having any idea what some stuff means or how to fill in various fields. My one attempt to have a professional do my taxes was a disaster, but maybe I'll hire a professional to answer a couple of specific questions for me and make sure I'm doing a few specific things right.

In other news, haven't been online much lately—have managed only four entries here in the past two weeks. Been busy, mostly focused on magazine stuff. Lots of reading, some editing, a fair bit of rejecting, a bunch of administrative stuff, some coding.

Almost did a quick trip to Denver last weekend to see M, but for various reasons decided against it. Sadly.

Have seen some TV shows and read some books, but those will all have to wait 'til I'm more awake and less busy.

Have ridden bicycle to work two days in a row. Go me!

Am a bit punchy, if that's not obvious.

Failed to finish filling in my WisCon programming form; for once, won't be on any panels at all. Ah, well; I suspect I'll be pretty busy anyway.

My to-do list (in Things) generally has 20 to 50 items on it for a given day. I generally do about 2 to 8 of those items, and move the rest to later days, and often add a few new ones. This doesn't seem likely to result in my ever getting everything done. But at least I won't be bored.

Plan for tomorrow (Thursday):

Morning: edit; prepare for cleaners to arrive; file tax extension requests (with partial payments). Daytime: work at home. Evening: weekly magazine editorial meeting. Night: Stephanie arrives for a visit.

At some point I'll resurface. But it may be a while yet.

As usual, all my problems are privileged-person problems. Can't complain, really.

On that note: sleep.

6 Comments

> I think the thing I hate most about it is not having any idea what some stuff means or how to fill in various fields.

Do you use software, or just fill out the forms by hand? We've really enjoyed TurboTax, which often has helpful info about what to put in otherwise confusing places.


Every year when I do taxes it boggles my mind that every person in the country (well, at least every family; let's say 100 million people) has to do this often-complicated procedure, with no real way to check that they got "the right answer". I wonder how wildly the amount of taxes sent in to the government differs from the amount that should actually be sent in... and how often that difference swings between positive and negative.


Josh: Yeah, I've been using TurboTax (and MacinTax before that) since not long after college. It does make things much easier; I've learned a lot about taxes from TT over the years. But its instructions sometimes presuppose a lot of information and/or knowledge that I don't have, or don't quite fit my situation so I have to read between the lines and/or guess.

Example from last night: "you should enter the value of the improvements based on your cost for that portion of the property, plus improvements you added after purchase." Does it really mean my cost, when I bought the condo six years ago? Or does it mean the current "assessed" value as shown on the property taxes? It seems to say the former, but that seems entirely unreasonable to me; my cost plus the improvements I added is a much lower number than the current assessed value.

And there was a list of costs associated with buying the condo; I was supposed to fill in those values from the settlement statement, except that almost none of the terms used in TT (and the tax form) matched the terms used on the settlement statement, so I have no idea what numbers to put there—and no idea what effect those numbers would have anyway.

And there was another place (somewhere in the AMT section, which I find very confusing) where it used a phrase that I didn't understand, and the help topic for that page used the same phrase, as if it were a common and obvious term.

And so on. TT really is great, it's just that there are still areas that are over my head even with their help.

Jim: Yeah, agreed. I suspect that most people fall into one of two categories: (a) their taxes are relatively straightforward; or (b) they have an accountant who does the work for them. But yeah, even the straightforward taxes may have complicated or confusing bits, and even with an accountant people often have to provide a bunch of info. And I imagine there are a fair number of people who fall between those categories in one way or another.

(The one time I paid a tax preparer, he had me fill out a paper form that asked all the same questions TurboTax would have. So I had to do almost the same amount of work I would have with TT, and it was all on paper and so couldn't be easily reused by the software the next year, and I paid $400 for the privilege, and the guy tried to get me to do something illegal on the grounds that everyone does it.)


It does really mean your cost from when you bought the condo six years ago. The IRS doesn't care what your local government has determined your assessed value is - the assessed value would vary widely from state to state if the IRS looked at that, since we have Prop 13 in California to keep the assessed value from ballooning.

It makes sense if you consider that they want to tax your 'gain', but only your gain, which would be that increase in value (as ultimately determined by the sales price) from what you actually paid to what it is now worth.


My condolences on your tax preparer experience, Jed. A good tax preparer, among other things, saves you more than you paid her. Here's hoping you can find a good one for next year (should your inclinations lead you to outsourcing the task).

No WisCon panels for you? That means you can come to all four of mine! ;-)


Anonymous: The thing is, if I hadn't made any improvements at all, then the number to enter would be the current assessed value, according to the instructions. So if I have made improvements, then I enter a much much lower number than if I haven't. That seems backwards (and unlikely to be intentional) to me.

Brainwane: Yeah—this particular tax preparer was recommended to me specifically as someone who would save me a lot of money. And he might have saved me a little money (though not as much as I paid him) if I had followed his instructions. But it turned out that he had very different values than mine; money was his sole objective, and things like morality and legality weren't relevant. I'd much rather spend more money and adhere to the law while improving my community than save money by not doing those things.

:) re panels. I may well come to some or all of your panels, but I tend to make panel-attendance decisions more or less at the last minute—I find that if I try to do too much advance planning at WisCon, I end up unhappy about having to change plans.


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