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Worldly matters

February 14, 2013

If anything were to drive me straight back to drink, it would be the financial aid forms for my kids’ school.

I have to finish them tonight, and then I have to get my tax return to the admissions office by next Friday. It’s a pain in the ass, of course, but then again plenty of things are pains in the ass, and (as my boyfriend pointed out) spending a couple of miserable days plugging numbers into boxes well repays the trouble (the school is generous with financial aid). However, something about filing taxes and filling out financial aid forms sharpens my particular neuroses to an unbearable point. Every year, I go into the whole process confident that I’ve finally learned how to function in the grown up world, thanks to the terrible lessons I learned last year around tax time. Every year, I start out thinking I’ve got my shit together, at long last. And every single year I’m reduced to jelly.

There’s nothing like taxes to make you feel hideously poor and financially irresponsible and guilty and doomed. How is it possible that I earned so little? How is it possible that I spent so much? Even boring, inevitable expenses (fixing the structural problems in the old house, which were necessary if the house is ever to sell) come to seem evidence of terrible financial incompetence, of poor judgment, of incorrect priorities. The house didn’t sell, after all. And things that seemed like good investments (the new little Honda Fit, which gets great mileage and won’t break down and will last for years and years and years) seem destined to raise eyebrows when scrutinized by the board of trustees. (She bought a car? And she’s asking for financial aid? The nerve.)

I swear I thought I had all my paperwork sorted out. I have an envelope labeled “Taxes”, after all. I have a three-ring binder. I have records of virtually every dollar I spent, thanks to online banking. I am on top of things, as I’ve had to be ever since the divorce. And yet I somehow am not on top of things, I’m missing crucial paperwork, I can’t find the damned mortgage balance, I don’t know what “Other IRS allowable adjustments to taxable income” means. When I dig out last year’s tax returns, the figure I entered gives me no clue.

I spent over an hour wading through a particularly vexing page of the financial aid application, only to be told, when I tried to save and quit, that my login had expired. All the numbers I’d triumphantly entered (and failed to write down, because I am an idiot) were lost, and I had to start from square one. By this point I was so demoralized that instead of throwing things I just bowed my head and commenced adding shit up again. I had to call my ex husband several times to ask about shared expenses. I totalled something incorrectly, and he called me to inform me that if my present calculations were correct then he had overpaid the contractor by two thousand dollars. I went back and checked, and he had not (which I knew) but the exchange left a bad taste in my mouth. Whether or not he meant to sound accusatory, he did. And I felt guilty and incompetent. Old old feelings, all reminiscent of the divorce, somehow. Paperwork, money, anxiety, the feeling that one is stupid, the feeling that one is terrible at math, the feeling that one has lived one’s life as an ignorant fool.

I’ve been having bad dreams. Last night I dreamed that a poisonous snake bit me on the right hand. Better than being chased by Itemized Deductions with hairy faces and huge sharp claws, I guess. Better than ending up in bankruptcy court only to realize you’re wearing no pants. In a week the horror will be over. That’s the thing about deadlines–as wretched as they are, they come and go, and leave you emptied out and grateful, a little smug, certain you’ve learned something about procrastination and organization, and that you’ll definitely do better next time.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2013 4:00 am

    This sounds horrible. Could you possibly get help with these things, if only a kindly and calm presence to keep you on track and panic at bay? I have a small business on the side and several years ago I simply decided that I could take the IRS stuff no more. I pay an accountant once a year to sort things out and of course it’s totally trivial for her and a huge burden off my shoulders.

    My sympathies!

  2. February 15, 2013 4:12 am

    There is no administrative grimness greater than financial administrative grimness. All my sympathies. I agree with Cruella, incidentally, my accountant is the one expense I can’t even conceive of cutting out because that shit scares me silly (it’s Emma, WordPress is being unhelpful).

  3. February 15, 2013 8:01 am

    Ugh. This is the stuff of nightmares for me. Doing taxes and any kind of financial form packet scares me to pieces. When I was in college my uncle did them, and since then my husband handles it all and I’m glad. If I had to handle that side of my small business I’d close. (The taxes there are monthly! Plus stuff with employees, something called Use Tax, sales tax…. It’s horrible.) It makes me feel ridiculous because I’m sure I’m smart enough to figure it out if I had to, but I hate it all so much I just shut down. I’m impressed you did it all! Sorry you needed more contact with the ex to get it done.

  4. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    February 15, 2013 9:39 am

    I should get an accountant, but I am intimidated by the idea of finding one and having him/her see how disorganized and shoddy I am. Does that make sense? That said, does anyone have any recommendations for how to find an accountant? And what they want or need? And how it goes once you have one? (Forgive my ignorance.)

    • February 15, 2013 9:56 am

      First and foremost: Accountants are paid to do the job, not to have opinions. Much like your therapist;) Furthermore, they’ve seen it all, I grant you that. Again, much like you therapist;)

      I suggest you talk to someone you know who uses an accountant for small business book keeping and/or IRS matters.

      I hand over my stuff in good time once a year, receipts and invoices sorted monthly, along with whatever stuff the IRS send out.

      • February 15, 2013 9:58 am

        The mid part of the above was cut short. Talk to them for a recommendation I meant to say!

  5. February 15, 2013 9:43 am

    My reluctance in dealing with last years filing has made this tax season all the more hellish. I must now file for two years – in which there is a period of separation from my husband in both years. I wonder, do the human cogs at Revenue Canada have a chuckle over my indecision and avoidance? I almost expect to be audited due to the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
    Ah, well, must deal soon, as in my flight from all things numerical and fiscally related, I fear that I have developed a tax season eating disorder. Chocolate over calculations.
    Good luck with your filing. A woman who can conquer tax season without multiple panic attacks and trips to the convenience store for sugar, is my hero :)

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 15, 2013 9:52 am

      I ate the entire heart-shaped box of candy given to me by my kind boyfriend yesterday while cursing the forms I was trying to fill out.

      • February 15, 2013 10:03 am

        You are still my hero- I ate three. Boxes. Then I ate some of the chocolates that I had to buy to replace the ones that I ate (heart shaped gifts for my tax deductions of the human variety).

  6. February 15, 2013 9:45 am

    I have no helpful ideas on how to procure one, being also the kind of person who would rather struggle miserably than figure out how to find the right kind of help…however, I am confident that there isn’t an accountant in the world who hasn’t seen much worse. At least embezzling isn’t part of your portfolio.

  7. Anon today permalink
    February 15, 2013 12:58 pm

    We are applying for a mortgage for the first time after selling a property via a short sale. The thought that we can hope again after losing tens of thousands of dollars, having to explain ourselves because the short sale looks so bad on our credit report, just the back and forth of e-mails and paperwork…. the nausea and grief and powerless feeling…. it’s all right there. Context-dependent bad memories just stink.

  8. February 18, 2013 2:35 am

    Thanks for writing this, which reminds me that keeping a good record is the key. Believe or not, you are so much better organized than I am! You are not bad at math either, since you’d done your own taxes ever since the divorce! Go to reward yourself with a hot bath, a cup of hot coffee, and then come back to the forms. This time around, save every number you entered to the system. Think about how great next Saturday will be whenever next Friday, the deadline, annoys you. Goos luck!

  9. February 18, 2013 6:22 pm

    Ugh. You’d think the school could at least set their deadline to April 16th.
    I used to do my taxes myself and felt sort of superior and smart, but this year I tried Turbo Tax and now feel foolish and extravagant and financially naive. Turbo Tax asks all kinds of questions that are not on the regular 1040 form:
    You improved your house this year, but the improvements did not increase your energy efficiency? Oh.
    The income you received from this source is 200 times what you were required to take by law? Oh.
    And did you put this excess income into another retirement account? No? Oh.
    This is ALL that you donated to charity? Oh.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 18, 2013 8:40 pm

      I’ve been using Turbo Tax (in my book that counts as doing them myself) as I have complicated issues (freelance, work from home, etc etc). And I had convinced myself that the program was basically what an accountant would say, or ask, minus the shame of having to admit to an actual person that I hadn’t kept the proper receipts. But now I give up. Even Turbo Tax is too intimidated by this year’s financial complexity (You own a house? But rent it? But did renovations? Do you understand depreciation? Etc.)

  10. February 19, 2013 10:49 am

    Snakes in dreams are wisdom as well as scary beasts. Something’s trying to get your attention.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      February 19, 2013 10:56 am

      Oh, tell me more!

  11. April 18, 2013 3:42 am

    nice information that you have gave us good sir. thanks for the sharing.

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