It was Benjamin Franklin who first mused that the only certain things are death and taxes. And if we do figure out how to eliminate one, you can bet it will be death.
So yesterday I dragged out my W-2, my 1099s, and my Turbo Tax and squared things up with Uncle Sam for another year.
At sixteen I got my first summer job at Circuit City. (Remember them?) I presided over a massive compact disc collection. Yes, boys and girls, you could once go to the store and buy your music on flat donuts you inserted into your boom box. What’s a boom box? Well, imagine ten thousand iPhones glued together. Except this one massive iPhone only has music. No apps, no photos, no phone calls. But you had portable tunes!
Back to the taxes. After raking in five-fifty an hour all summer, I received my first W-2. I went to the local library and picked up the necessary tax forms, along with a printed instruction booklet the size of Oprah magazine. That night my Dad and I sat at the kitchen table and he taught me all about the 1040EZ form, the standard deduction, and the joy of a refund.
I filled out a practice form in pencil, then carefully copied everything over to my official form in the required black ink. I mailed the forms and a copy of my W-2 off to the government, and six weeks later I received an impressive looking check with a government seal stamped across it.
I’ve prepared my own taxes ever since. For many years, my Dad and I have done our taxes together. At this point, it’s a well-honed ritual.
This year, I bought the Turbo Tax and Dad bought breakfast. After we fueled up on egg sandwiches from Panera, we got to work.
There are no more forms from the library or SAT-style instruction booklets. But we still go through the painstaking process of plugging all our information into Turbo Tax and triple-checking the values. I had a few new wrinkles this year and we took a thirty-minute detour on the IRS website reading some legal jargon that may as well have been an alien language. Still, in the end we figured it out. Or I guess we’ll only know for sure if I’m ever unlucky enough to be audited.
No more stamps or fancy government checks, either. Now you submit with the click of a button and your refund goes directly into your bank.
Technology and the internet have made tax preparation easier and cheaper, but it still doesn’t keep Uncle Sam’s hand out of your pocket.
Benjamin Franklin could’ve told you that. After you spent about ten hours explaining to him what the hell the internet was.