Death and Taxes

Okay, so I’m not a big conspiracy theorist. I do not believe that the chlorine in our water is actually somehow allowing the government to tap into our brainwaves. If that were the case, there couldn’t possibly be so many damned foolish politicians, and W would certainly have learned how to speak in complete sentences by now, wouldn’t he? I mean, ectoplasmic transfer, thought distillation, something should have gotten through, shouldn’t it have? Anyway, I might actually put an aluminum foil hat on my head one day just because of the scene in M. Night Shamalan’s Signs, and who wouldn’t want to put an aluminum foil hat on to thwart aliens? It seems perfectly logical to me, but that’s another story for another time.

Back to the government and conspiracies: I just finished doing our taxes. I have always been the tax person in the family, even before online programs. I remember creating my own spreadsheet in the unwieldy spreadsheet program Lotus 123 just to make sure I was doing all of my calculations properly, and I’ve never even remotely liked math. I’ve just always liked software programs and any chance to use a new one for any reason. It’s my own personal little nerd fetish (I suppose it counteracts the black boot buying compulsion). But that’s not the point. TAXES. That’s the point. Everyone always moans and complains about the new tax laws and how horrible taxes are and how imcomprehensible the codes are, and year after year I just graduate from a calculator to a spreadsheet to a computer and keep thinking to myself that I must be doing something wrong because I manage to muddle through it all, so I’ve kept my files for the reqired seven years just in case that awful unnamed A thing ever happens. And everything manages to get done (although usually at the last minute because of that procrastination thing of mine). That is, until this year.

This year, for some unknown reason, the U.S. government decided to take state taxes out on my husband’s reserve pay from his former home state of Ohio. Now, let’s try to look at this logically. My husband has not legally resided in Ohio for at least eight years. The Coast Guard managed to get his state of residence correct for the last year of his active duty and for his first part of his reserve status. And then, because last year was decidedly one of the worst years on record for us (for example, he had a torn ACL and had surgery; I had major back surgery and never quite recovered, to name just a couple of minor things), the government decided to complicate our tax filing status by sending us a W2 with Ohio as his state of residence.

Now, some of you might suggest that we should have noticed that sooner, as in when he received his pay, but when those checks are direct-deposited and aren’t your primary means of income, you don’t eyeball the paystubs quite as hard as you probably should, except to make sure the amount is correct. You don’t notice a small OH in the bottom left where a VA should be, and I didn’t notice the small OH until I was inputting the code from the W2s, and then I paused and said Hmmm . . .

Things that make you say “hmmm . . . ” and in such a way that all of the air in the house stops moving and the earth stops rotating on its axis for a moment, and everyone around me pauses and holds their collective breath in ancitipation of the next sound to come from my mouth, which I shall not repeat here. So, I shall skip a few steps for brevity’s sake, and move on to the point at which I have completed the Federal returns, and the program is now asking me which state return I would like to begin next. I’m sorry . . . “which?” The prompt clarifies for me, ‘the nonresidential state should be completed first because it may affect the return for the state of residence.’ Well then, let us proceed without haste to the state return for OH. This is the point at which my tax mojo fails me and things turn ugly.

Now my husband, who I may have mentioned is more than patient with me, has been on standby since I began the returns as he has come to anticipate my completely arbitrary questions, a la, ‘do you remember that receipt for . . .’ and he can actually produce an answer, which keeps the process going at a somewhat reasonably even rate with very little vexation on my part. That is, until I began an Ohio state return, and it begins to ask me all kinds of questions for which I had no answers, and the little bottom line at the top right–you know the one, the ongoing calculator that shows how much you owe or will get back–that one starts to blink that we owe $1400! I think the term that most aptly describes my reaction is apoplexy followed by the vapors. How, I scream at the computer, can you expect us to owe that much when we don’t even live in your stupid state? (apologies to my husband’s family at this point). It only got worse from here. After some backtracking and filling in, it turns out that we owe Ohio $2. I am not spending $29.95 to e-file a return to Ohio to pay $2, so I will just have to download a paper return and do it the old-fashioned way and enclose a check for $2.

It’s been a long day with entirely too much drama; I believe I will now seek solace in CSI or Law & Order and play with the dogs.