I have lived a tax-sheltered life for nearly 80 years. The only exception was my last year of college and a couple of years as a single woman. I did not make enough money to make tax filing complicated in any of those years, but it was my tax return as a near-starving student living on my own that showed me how heartless tax rules can be.
My meager wage as a part-time cook/server and finally student nurse was barely enough to pay tuition and rent let alone the income tax I owed. I naively thought my education expenses would be deductible.
A quick web search tells me that part of college expenses became deductible due to 2020 pandemic legislation and was reinstated by Congress for 2021. A tax wizard ,which I am not and do not intend to become can tell us if education were ever deductible before 2020 or anytime in the last 58 years.
I became tax-sheltered when I had the good sense to marry a man with a high acumen in taxes and accounting who took on our joint tax filings including 10-plus years of my business as a consultant. I still have a business as an independent author/columnist which reduced my micro small business to a micro-teeny business.
My tax tranquility began to fray last tax year when husband needed my help because he was having vision problems and evaporated this year when he lost most of the sight in what turned out to be a treatable condition but not in time for tax filing.
The first thing I learned was why my husband was always so grumpy during tax season.
“If you hear screaming, do not worry.” That was what I told my husband about a week into finalizing the tax return. I do have an unfortunate response to extreme frustration. I growl from the depth of my throat and shake, sort of a muted adult version of a two-year-old’s tantrum. It works for me much like shaking all their feathers works for a duck following a set-to with another duck.
Tension relieved and I was right back at it wondering just what type of personality designed the forms, especially those that require calculation. Such thoughts are not unlike those I have for the developers of forms completed by health care professionals, the format that keeps them looking at a computer screen instead of the patient.
Tax forms and patient assessment forms are logical, heartless, and fully intended to provide an audit trail for regulators. Makes sense for tax returns but I will argue not for patient care.
I have long thought that once federal legislation is passed by Congress, regulators assign the most left-brained people to develop processes and forms and the most sadistic become supervisors.
I can now say I am experienced in tax preparation for the Coopers having done three sets of forms before I finally got it right. Husband is skilled enough he was able to detect areas of difficulties and send me looking for the error of my tax ways.
I attempted to file online at the online urging of the IRS. I thought I could simply fill out forms and submit. But no, filing online meant going through certain calculations not required on paper. I became hopelessly trapped in a capital gains form and shut it down.
Our signed tax return is in the mail with a check to “U.S. Treasury.” I wish I were able to put our return online. I much prefer it assessed by a computer than a cold-hearted left-brained regulator.
We do not mind paying taxes. We believe it is a citizen’s responsibility and that we should direct any complaint about the use of taxes to our elected officials who can do something about it.
What is astounding is the amount of money the federal government collects and spends, numbers that are beyond my imagination. Our country spent billions on COVID and is not done yet. We, the taxpayers, received stimulus checks and vaccinations if wanted. Now we are sending billions of dollars to Ukraine to support their effort to beat back the Russian invasion of their country and maintain their sovereignty.
Some argue against those expenditures. I and others believe our survival as a people and as a democracy are at stake. Some argue that the growth of the national debt fueled by spending is looming as the existential threat. I and others believe IRS enforcement should be strengthened to collect all that is due to support necessary spending. We may also need to pay more taxes to get out of the labor and supply chain problems left in the wake of the pandemic.
As much as tax preparation ruined beautiful days, I am glad I am in this country, and I can still write this. Tax angst is a tiny inconvenience not worth a nanosecond of second thoughts when I think of the pain and suffering of millions of Ukrainian people and the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered and died when struck with COVID.
Our values are being tested in huge ways by events and political divisions present these days. My greatest concern is that our taxes paid are taxes spend on projects, processes and actions that reflect strong values that support the security, safety, rights, and dignity of all individuals in America.
Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.