Sunday morning dawned gray and dreary, but as the morning passed the sun came out and the weather warmed into the 40s. There were definite signs of spring outside. It was a great day to breathe in the fresh almost-spring air.
But it was not to be experienced outdoors – at least not by us. Hub and I had more important things to do. The activity was not important to us, but of great importance to our creditors – the governments of the United States of America and the state of New Jersey. Do not pay what is owed by the due date and the consequences could be dire…monetary penalties…lots and lots of official-looking documents dropped at our door…legal fees…even the threat of or actual jail.
We do not have the time, energy, money, or patience to deal with any of those consequences. So we hunker down every year to the inevitable – filling out tax forms indicating whether or not we paid our taxes, and whether or not we owe more money or the government owes us money. The latter has not happened in years.
The inevitable day arrived. Tax Returns Day.
Tax Returns Day One was a failure. We spent the afternoon waiting for tech support to help us obtain a workable TurboTax program. We successfully got our program, but lost time. No forms filled out on Day One.
So now it was time. Again. Tax Returns Day Two.
Hub and I settled into semi-comfortable positions at the dining room table. Hub sat in front of Mac. A blue folder stuffed with W-2s, 1099s, and other tax-related documents rested on the table in front on me.
We began the slow, tedious process. I dictated while hub keyed in the data.
It was not very long before we got a shock – we owed New Jersey over $8,000.
How could that be?
State taxes were withheld from hub’s paycheck. We might owe a few bucks – but $8,000??
I know the state needs money. But we a not one percenters opening our wallets to bankroll causes of concern. Even if we opened our wallet the contents would be very disappointing. $8,000???
Hub was panicking. Break out the Scotch!
I was not freaking out. It had to be a mistake. After all we were victims in 2012 – Sandy had already taken a chunk of our cash. And this was state taxes. Jersey taxes are high, but this was ridiculous…
Let us not panic, I counseled. Let us finish the returns and see what happens. We have time to figure out the problem and make corrections. It is only February.
And so we continued. I ploughed through charity donation letters and receipts (so how much were those bags of clothes worth?), bank statements (the taxes due on our $10.06 in interest will be a bonanza to Uncle Sam), and the afternoon wore on…
Hub took a break and I slinked into his chair, determined to find the error resulting in a boon to Governor Christie but a bust for us. I reviewed the numbers keyed into the employment information, carefully read each screen and ensured the correct answer was marked, each time moving on to the next page.
And – voila!
It was a miracle!
Suddenly our debt to the state was reduced from $8,000 to just over $3,000. We were making progress!
The afternoon wore on, the sun began to fade, shadows appeared, a chill replaced the warmth, and a weariness began to descend upon the two humans toiling over a computer in a deserted island town next to shores recently devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Am I getting too emotional? Dramatic? Depressing? Exhausted?
All of the above.
Thank goodness tax time comes only once a year.
We finally completed the federal and state forms.
TurboTax congratulated us!
We owe some money to Uncle Sam, but less than last year (Yeah!).
We still owe Governor Christie and the state of New Jersey too much money. I have to make a couple of phone calls tomorrow in an attempt to figure out the problem. Is it a quirk in the software, a data entry mistake, a secret plan by the state of New Jersey to bankrupt us, a Mac malicious prank, or another reason yet to be discovered?
There are 48 days until Tax Deadline Day, 48 days to determine the cause, fix the forms, and save our wallet.
It is not panic time – yet.