Friday, April 27, 2012

The Music Man

It's opening night of "The Music Man" tonight.  This show was cast back in November so it has been a long, long, LONG time coming.  The Girl will be gracing the stage as Zaneeta Shinn, the mayor's oldest daughter.  This is perhaps the most perfect role The Girl could ask for.  It involves lots of dancing and no singing solos.  She has a few lines, but mostly she gets to dance and look cute.  Exactly what she is best at!

Break a leg tonight kids!  It's going to be a terrific show!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tax Season Story #5

This will be my last tax story unless I think of a doozy later.

This story is one that I saw played out with two different clients weeks apart from each other.  Both of them  were single moms who had hit hard times.  And they both felt the need to unburden their whole life story on me which is pretty common in a tax office.  We hear lots of stories here.

Both of these women told of a recent history full of struggle, set back and heartbreak.  While their stories were very different, they both had been betrayed by family members in some way, been forced out of work and were struggling to make ends meet.  They both also were fiercely proud of their children and would do anything for them.  I got to see pictures.  But what has stuck me the most is that they both also chanted the same thing under their breath as I worked on their return.  "Please don't let me owe.  Please don't let me owe. Please don't let me owe."

I review tax returns right on my computer screen, spun around so clients can follow along.  I go over every line, explaining where each number came from.  I don't rush it and make sure that everyone is clear on every point.  I keep the final number a bit of a secret, just off the screen until the very end.  Sometimes I do that to delay the inevitable telling of the bad news that they owe a bundle.  But it's more fun to do when I know the end result is a sizable refund.  Both of these women were going to get a very nice check from the government.

I went through my explaining routine while they both waited anxiously.  When I finally got to the end and they saw the final number their reactions were identical:

  • First a huge sigh of relief.
  • Then tears.
  • Then laughter.
  • Back to tears.
  • Some prayers of thanks
  • More laughter. 
    Appointments like that make all of the yucky, bad news appointments worth it.

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Tax Season Story #4

    I mentioned before that the initial reaction to something going wrong with your taxes is to assume that you are going to jail.  I've had countless freaked-out people on my phone who have ended their terrified rants with "...and just don't want to end up in jail over this!"  Let me assure you, it takes a lot to get to jail.  More than I've seen and I've seen this:

    Tax Dodger Case A:  She has her own business, but also gets paid by an employer along the same line of that work.  She hasn't filed her taxes in six years just because she, "Hasn't had the time to get things together."  She dropped off a huge boxes of documents eighteen months ago mostly containing unopened letters from the IRS.  I worked on her returns for weeks but couldn't complete them because I needed more information.  I called, I wrote, I begged for her to help me help her but I got nothing.  Eventually she showed up to collect her box saying she would do it herself.  Good luck on that, sister!

    Tax Dodger Case B:  He also has his own business, with his own employees.  While he is terrific now at keeping track of receipts and his employees hours, he wasn't always so put together.  He didn't file between 2004 and 2009.  We have all of his returns done and ready to go, but we aren't mailing them until he pays us for all of the work it took to get them done.  The six years worth of returns have been sitting behind me for a year now.  He calls about once a month saying he'll be in with the money.  I'm not holding my breath.

    Tax Dodger Case C:  He shouldn't be here.  Five years ago he was given the diagnosis that he would be dead in three months.  So he did what anybody would do with that information--he went crazy.  A trip to Vegas blew through all of his money double quick and then put him in serious debt.  When he didn't die on time, he just assumed it was always just right around the corner so he gave up on paying bills or filing returns. Things went from bad to worse.  Just a few weeks ago he came to see me about what we could do to finally fix things up.  What prompted this change of heart?   He got a letter from the IRS threatening to keep a portion of his disability in order to pay down his tax debt.  Now he's all business.

    I hope these three stories illustrate how far you can go and still wake up in your own bed every morning.  All of these people owe crushingly huge amounts of money to our government, but haven't yet had a personal visit by an agent to their homes to discuss the situation.  They've only received letters, lots and lots of letters.  So many letters that they don't even bother to open them anymore.  I know because I get to open them all.  And they scare me to death.

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Tax Season Story #3

    Something a little lighter today, shall we?

    If something goes wrong with your taxes and the IRS catches it, it takes them just about a year to let you know.  Therefore, any problems with returns that we did in the spring of 2011 are just now coming to light.  The letters from the IRS started hitting mailboxes about two weeks ago, right when we were getting slammed by THIS season's last minute rush.  Timing couldn't be worse.

    People have only two reactions when they get a letter from the IRS.  Most people freak out and freak out big.  They peek out of their front curtains to see if their house is being watched. They lay awake at night picturing themselves in prison jumpsuits.  Then they empty every one of their file cabinets, shoe boxes and junk drawers into a huge cardboard box and descend on our office like a fireball.

    All we usually need is that letter they got from the IRS. Just that letter.  But no worries, they brought it and five extra copies they had made of it at Office Max, just in case.

    This is a story about a couple who got one these letters.  I got a call from them and the wife tried to read the letter over the phone to me while her husband yelled in the background.  When I finally got a word in, I told her it would be much more helpful if I could actually see the letter.

    Ten minutes later they were both coming in the door with their two little girls.  The couple was loaded down with files, notebooks and stuffed envelopes.  Without so much as a hello, they started dumping out everything on my desk, making piles and arguing with each other over where was this and did you bring that.  The two little girls took off their coats, threw them on the floor then kicked off their shoes.  They brought with them enough snacks to feed twenty kids and huge pink ball.  The set-up a picnic on the chairs and started bouncing the ball off of everything in the room.

    The couple was now ready to acknowledge me.  At the same time, talking over each other, they tried to explain the situation.  All I wanted was the letter.  Could I see the letter, please?

    The seven page letter was dug up.  There problem wasn't a huge one.  It involved some dividend money that they received but didn't get put on there return.  Not uncommon and not freak out worthy in the least.  They were able to locate the statement about the dividend.

    "So, I'm keeping this statement and this letter and I'll call you next week, when tax season is over.  I can't work on this now."

    The husband was not happy with this answer in the least.

    "What about the penalties and the interest?  We have to take care of this right away, don't we?"

     "Nothing about this situation is going to change between right now and next week."  I tried to sound reassuring, but I suspected it sounded more like bitch.  The excited screaming of the little girls as they chased the ball was putting me deeply on edge.

    "Is there something you need us to sign?"

    I shook my head, "Not until next week when I get a chance to work this up."

    They were dumbstruck.  Literally sat their with their mouths hanging open.  Right at that moment the big pink ball flew across the room and hit the dad square in the ear.  It was beautiful.  He spun in his chair, saw the state of room and shouted,   "Hey!  Put your shoes on!  Throw away all that trash!  We're going home!"

    It wasn't an easy exit or quiet but eventually everyone was packed up and dressed.  The husband has called everyday, even over the weekend, to see if we are ready for him to come back.  I can honestly say that I could never, ever get myself prepared for a scene like that again, but I have fixed his tax problem.  He's coming in later today. 

    The other reaction that people have to receiving an IRS letter is to pretend it never came.  My next post will be about a few of these people that we have as clients.  Prepare to be amazed! 

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Tax Season Story #2

    This is a scary story.

    A man came in to get his father's taxes done.  His dad can't leave the house easily, so his son was getting this errand done for him.  It wasn't complicated and while it was printing up I casually asked the son if I would be doing his taxes as well.

    "Nah, I don't have to file.  I didn't make anything last year at all.  Just unemployment."

    Uh oh.

    "You know you still have to file," I tried to sound cheerful. "Unemployment is taxable income."

    "No, no, no.  You don't get it.  I ONLY had unemployment.  That's it."

    "Yeah, I see.  But unemployment is taxable income.  You have to file."

    That's when things went bad.  He went from being a completely normal person to a furious monster.  Why didn't anyone tell him that?  How was he supposed to know?  How is that fair?  Hands were flying, eyes were blazing.  I was getting really nervous for my safety.  The phrase Don't Kill the Messenger was taking on a whole new dimension for me.

    Finally he thought he found an out.  "Wait, I never got a statement in the mail about that!"  He was filled with hope from head to toe.  Unfortunately...

    "Yeah, nobody got one in the mail.  It's in your correspondence mailbox when you log in into your account for unemployment on the website.  (I've done this plenty of times this season.  Actually had to talk a guy through the process over the phone like some IT person.)

    So I had him log in on my computer and there it was.  His tax statement showing how much he got from the state in 2011.  My heart just sank when I saw that he had no federal money withheld.  This situation was, unbelievably, about to get worse.

    So he agreed to have me put together his return which took all of 2 minutes.  The result was a pretty big bill that he owed the IRS.  Now he was crazy angry all over again.

    "That's how it is huh?  Well I'm not filing and I'm sure as HELL not paying anybody!"

    After he settled down just a tick I dropped some serious truth on him.  He could go ahead and not file and he could go ahead and never pay, but the government would get the money one way or the other eventually and by then it wouldn't just be a big bill anymore, it would be crushingly huge.  This wasn't some small time private contractor paying him on an easy to lose 1099 Miscellaneous, this was the State of Ohio and the IRS.  No escaping it.

    So he let me file him.  But he left swearing that he'd never pay.  At least I saved him the hefty Failure to File penalty.  His story is his own now.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    Tax Season Story #1

    My first full complete tax season is over.  Unlike some predictions I heard back in January, I never got exhausted, burnt out or sick of being here.  It was an adventure everyday that I looked forward to falling back into every morning.  Today it is eerily quiet.  Just like that, there is nothing to do.  Well, there's stuff I could be doing, but in comparison of what a week ago today was like, I could take a two hour nap right now face down on my desk and not miss a beat around here.

    A few stories from some of my most memorable clients this season seem appropriate now.  These are in no particular order, just as they occur to me.

    When I write "Little Old Lady" a certain particular picture comes to mind, right?  She would be tiny, thin, fragile, bright shiny eyes and a sly little smile.  Well that's exactly what came through our door one day leaning on her stylish flowered cane.  She handed me an envelope with not much in it and said, "Just call me when you're all done with that and I'll come back."  Her voice was more like a coo.  I told her if she had five minutes I could get it done right that moment and she wouldn't have to come back. "Oh no," she smiled, "That's not how we do it."  And she winked at me. 

    Later in the afternoon I got a chance to look through her envelope and saw it was missing quite a few vital documents.  I had our receptionist call her up and explain what was missing and what she needed to bring in.  I guess it was a tortured phone call for both of them.  Lots of explaining and misunderstanding and repeating and explaining again.  I made a note to file an extension if she didn't show up on time.

    But she did.  She pulled up on tax day out of the blue, dressed like spring itself and had every one of the missing documents.  She tried to leave again, but I convinced her to stay.   I pulled out her file with her name on the front and she was shocked.  "Were you waiting for me?  How did you know I was coming in?"  I explained that I recognized her from when she was in the week before.

    "I was here last week?"

    She had no memory of her previous visit or the phone call with our receptionist.  But she didn't seem to mind at all and even laughed about it.  "My memory isn't what was!"

    I had her finished up pretty quickly.  I wrote very clearly on her envelope that her taxes were done and she didn't need to mail anything.   "Oh that note is a good idea!  Otherwise I'll be calling you tomorrow wondering what I need to do!"  The she winked again and laughed and drifted out the door.

    And I was thinking what a merry soul she was until I saw her drive away and I was seized by the terror that she was on the roads.

    Friday, April 06, 2012

    When it comes to golf, it seems I have a price

    My history with golf is fairly short and uninteresting.  When I was a kid, we would spend most Sundays sitting at my grandparents.  The best part of the visit was the bucket of KFC that would show up for dinner.  The worst part was there was only one TV and grandpa watched golf all day.  Golf, golf, golf.  To this day, the sound of polite golf clapping makes me crave chicken, no lie.

    Also as a kid, my dad would go out golfing and pay me a quarter to clean his clubs when he got home.  Maybe it was fifty cents, but anyway it wasn't a tough job and I didn't mind scrubbing away dried mud and grass making them all shiny again.

    That's it.  My whole golfing history unless you want to throw in there how The Man and I yell, "Nice pants fancy lad!" when we drive past golf courses.  Probably shouldn't add that in though.  Just forget I mentioned it.

    This weekend, is the Masters Tournament which is an event that would not even register as a blip on my consciousnesses under normal circumstances.  But I've been wrangled into a pool and now I've got ten bucks on this mug:
    Charl Schwartzel.  We were randomly given golfers and landing on the guy who who last year seems as good as anyone.  I wish he were a little cuter, but he swings a mean club.

    Now look at me.  I've got a window open on my browser constantly on where I'm tracking the action live.  I've changed the picture on my desktop to him.  Charl ended up even yesterday.  He tees off today at 1:31 PM.   It's raining today so the course will be sloppier for the guys starting later so I'm worried how he'll fair today.

    I make me sick.

    Monday, April 02, 2012

    What Happened?

    So I claimed I would write more and snap more photos because so much was happening. 

    Yeah, so that didn't work.  The writing and picture taking part of it at least.  All the stuff still happened.  Here's a recap.

    Sunday, March 18th:  The whole family hit my house for our annual pierogi making and feasting.  There was much making and much much feasting.  My job this year was the boiling of pierogis and then the frying of them.  This hot and steamy work which was made more bearable by cup after cup of our festive punch.  (FYI:  Even though I didn't get in the least bit tipsy or drunk, I was graced with a hangover the next day.  Woo hoo!)

    We topped the day off with one of our favorites, fake ice cream cake.  So pretty, so easy, so fake.

    Tuesday, March 20th:  Who gets their kids out of school at 11 AM so they can go sit outside on a sidewalk (in stunningly beautiful weather) for six hours so they can have as-close-as-humanly-possible positions for the Artic Monkeys/Black Keys concert?

    That would be us.

    Friday, March 30th:  The kids didn't have school, but they still had to be there bright and early to leave for State Thespian Conference.  Their fall show, The Bad Seed, was chosen to be a featured performance at the conference. Such an honor.   They had to hire a truck to carry the very large set, all the props, costumes and everything else related to putting on the play.  After the truck was loaded and the bus showed up, off they went.  They had an amazing time and the show was extremely well received.  The kids said the audience freaked out at the ending and started screaming.  I would have liked to seen that.

    Sunday, April 1st:  Happy Birthday to The Girl and The Boy!  They got home around dinnertime from the conference and were utterly exhausted.  I baked a cake but they weren't up for much for festivities than that.  Maybe this weekend we'll find someway to celebrate them turning 17.