Spring (tax) break, hamburgers and miscellaneous

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 10:58 AM

I’m in the mountains for spring break. (Most of my students are, a) in Hawaii; b) in Europe; or c) on a cruise, whereas the only way I could afford even the mountains was if I came with a friend who owns a house here. “Free” is my favorite price.) 

Meanwhile, there are only nine more days, folks. Nine more days until the tax man cometh. I’m sure you knew that. I’m sure you’ve got everything organized, listed, filled-in, calculated and submitted. You probably had your H&R Block appointment weeks, or even months, ago, and are waiting for your $11,000 refund … this is a big reason you and I will never be friends. I brought all my tax stuff up here, hoping to find someone who will “do” my taxes for … well … nothing! 
Of course, I’m only kidding, I know it won’t be free, and I’m totally not a cheapskate. I was just thinking maybe I’d stand over by the business school building at the university, and perhaps catch a student as he or she comes out of class. I figure they’d appreciate the extra practice, and maybe I’d treat them to a burger afterward … with fries, OK, get off my back! (Of course, if they find me an $11,000 refund, who knows ... that could easily become a steak dinner.)
So, I’ve been writing all my lists, health costs, dental costs, work-related travel expenses, charitable donations, and my absolute favorite: “Miscellaneous.” (Because, as we all know, there is so much that is “miscellaneous” in life, isn’t there? In fact, whoever invented the word “miscellaneous” is like a genius, don’t you think? When you say it slowly, it just rolls deliciously off the tongue.) 
And, it covers so much!  For example, where do you list the soaring cost of having your teeth whitened?  You might think that would fall under dental expenses, wouldn’t you? Wrong. Because, your dental insurance company will say, Whoa, that’s an “elective” procedure. Despite the fact that you fell off a horse when you were 7 and slammed one of your upper front teeth, and it’s been getting yellower each year for the past 50-none-of-your-business years, and now looks like one of your grandchildren colored it with a yellow marker while you were sleeping ... still elective … you get NOTHING! This means they won’t apply it to your deductible, you see, so where else can it go? “Miscellaneous”! 
And, where would you put the $225 doggy stroller you were forced to buy after one of your two dogs had her SECOND knee surgery in 10 months?  Even though it should obviously go under “work-related expenses” (the convalescing dog can’t walk far, but the other dog needs to walk, but won’t go without the convalescing dog, and your teenage dog walker can’t carry the convalescing dog, and if you have to leave work, go home and do it yourself, you won’t be able to go to the gym and work out, which you totally detest but must do in order to avoid basically falling apart in the driveway) for some obscure reason, the IRS (translation:  I’m Really Suspicious) can’t seem to follow that. Soooo? Say it with me now: “Miscellaneous”!
Also, listing things under “Miscellaneous” is so much easier than “writing things off,” don’t you agree?  Did you know that “writing something off” has absolutely nothing to do with the actual act of writing? No kidding, it’s all about hoarding vast amounts of paper – receipts, check registers, emails, contracts, mileage charts, and ideas scribbled on cocktail napkins during crucial dinner “meetings” – and then filing these in logical, sequential, alphabetical and/or categorical order in a nifty filing cabinet … or in the garment bag in the storage closet, where you keep your size-8 wedding dress, whatever works.
So, I stink at this. I never save receipts – I just write notes to myself in my check register. Last month, while I was balancing the checkbook, I came across a $243.65 mistake. Did I panic? Nope. Because I’d written a tiny note right beside the questionable entry that said, “Trust me on this balance.” So, I did.  Why shouldn’t I? I would never lie to me. If the government doesn’t feel that same trust, hey, that’s their issue.
Anyway, I’ve now worked on this stuff for 14 hours, and I’m finally ready. Finished all my lists, collected and paper-clipped all of my “Important Tax Information Inside!” papers, my W2s, 1040s and 36Cs … wait ... I think my mind is number-numbed … and put it all neatly into a fresh manila folder I was smart enough to bring with me, my name printed artfully on the little tab. I’m ready to roll. 
So, excuse me ---  
Hey there, young fella!  You like hamburgers?

Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at chh@heraldsun.com, or by visiting her website at www.vickiwentz.com.