Neil Offen: Staying true to form

Mar. 16, 2014 @ 07:16 PM

There is, of course, only one thing worse than actually filling out your tax forms. That’s finding all the stuff that will allow you to actually fill out all your tax forms.

Knowing that April 15, tax deadline day, is rapidly approaching and will likely be here soon after April 14, I have begun assembling all the data I will need to complete Form 1040-NOT EZ, Form 1776, Form 1812, Schedule C, Playoff Schedule S and Depreciation Attachment WTVD-11.

Knowing that I would need everything from medical receipts and income statements to old Chinese take-out menus and my 50 percent-off dry cleaning coupons, I made sure, during the past year, to save every possibly relevant tax document.

And once I gather it all, I need to bring all this stuff to the accountant who does my taxes, since he refuses to come to my house and look through the dirty clothes hamper in the closet where I believe I have probably filed my charitable donations slips. Fortunately, these filings are part of my well-organized tax preparation system, honed through years of not being able to find anything I need until I no longer need it.

I realize, naturally, that a system like mine might not work for everyone, particularly for those who obsess over little details like knowing where their wallets are and understanding why they have saved a January 1987 National Geographic magazine. But the system generally works for me, until I start blaming my wife for changing the system by getting receipts off the floor in the garage, where I had carefully put them several months ago.

Still, I’m sticking with my system. It’s the only one I know.

The medical receipts are in the medicine cabinet, right behind the expired allergy eye drops. (The expired allergy eye drops are for Form 1040 I-Z.)

The W-2 forms have been filed in order, right after the forms for WW-1, which some of us still call The Great War. They are in the kitchen, near the salad forks, so I’ll remember where they are every time I have arugula.

The interest and ordinary dividend statements are ordinarily where I always put them so I won’t forget them, in the baked pasta recipes folder, between vegetarian lasagna and gnocchi a la kohlrabi. Sometimes they’re near the eggplant dishes. 

The property tax statement and the mortgage interest slip are in the inbox on the left side of the desk right next to other important documents like the Durham Bulls score sheet from 1997 and the weatherproof guarantee for the raincoat I bought in 1989.

The office-in-home expense vouchers should, you would think, be in the office-in-home, but they are probably in the bedroom, which, I should point out in my defense, is also considered to be in the home.  

Last year’s tax forms are in the wardrobe closet. Or with the cookbooks. Or maybe they’re in the folder called “Tax Forms, Last Year” in the filing cabinet.

No, I don’t think so either.

Neil Offen can be reached at