Theory 52… The Tax Theories

I finished my taxes last night and mailed them off today… it sure feels great to have them done for the year! This was the first time since I was a teenager that I have filed my own return… and much has changed since I last filed a 1040EZ back in 1994. Surprisingly the whole experience of doing my taxes spawned a few theories of which I am happy to share…

I’ll start things out by asking…Why are taxes due on April 15th? Who choose this date and why did they decide to ruin an otherwise wonderful month? The weather is getting warmer, the days are longer, April could very well be one of the best months of the year… but the whole tax deadline spoils it. Can’t we change the deadline to sometime in February or March? The April 15th deadline really ratchets up the stress level of millions of Americans for the 6 weeks leading up to the deadline… in this way my theory is that taxes are like spankings… the anticipation is much worse than the real thing. In the perfect world, taxes would be due on March 1st … I would much rather be stressed out compiling paperwork in the dreary months of January and February… rather than ruin my March and April.

My next theory is that accountants are like pharmacists… their jobs really aren’t all that tough. No offense to all you accountants and pharmacists out there… but your line of work doesn’t require too much personality or ingenuity… and you charge way too much for most of the services you provide. Before I get any hate mail…please let me explain… I have always lived with this fear that filing my own tax return was too difficult and complicated for me to do on my own. For years it was always easier to pay someone else a couple hundred bucks to do my taxes. This seemed to work just fine, but I never found an accountant that I really connected with… they all did a fair job… but none seemed to have an engaging personality or the willingness to take a phone call on the rare occasion that I had a random question.

As the years went by and my income increased, so did the need for a savvy accountant. Last year I thought I found the ideal CPA… someone with personality and competence. After meeting with him for 90 minutes to discuss some tax strategy I was confident I had found my man… but it took him over 6 months to file my return… and when I received the inflated bill for his professional services I was shocked and a bit disgusted. My guess is he spent about 5 hours (at most) on my return… and that includes the 90 minute consultation. Sure… the guy may have answered his phone when I called… but he’s no surgeon… so why does he charge like one?

I was just starting my search for a new accountant back in February when the topic of taxes came up with my school study group. Come to find out I was the only one of 5 guys that DIDN’T file my own tax return last year. When I confessed to them I paid an accountant a ridulous fee to do it for me they all chuckled and gave me this weird look… as if to say… “You fool… you’re 3 months away from completing a master degree in business and you can’t even file your own tax return!” I bought TurboTax the next week.

Surprisingly I found Turbo Tax to be easy and efficient to use (definitely not a government product). I ended up getting a decent refund this year… but I still feel ripped off… which leads me to my final theory… taxes are like touching a hot stove… it’s not worth going through the pain even if you gain a little extra knowledge firsthand. Here’s how I see it… I spend tens-of-thousands of dollars on graduate school tuition… and because of this I get to meet bright and educated peers… these peers educate and convince me to file my own tax return… during the process of which I come to realize that I can’t deduct most of my tuition expense… so why am I going to school anyway? It’s all a vicious cycle… one that I’d rather not know about.