Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, roughly one in five Americans file federal and state income tax returns in the final week before the April 15 deadline.
Yes, every year, despite my best intentions, I wind up rushing to complete my returns at the last minute. A dark cloud and a constant nagging doubt haunt the entire first quarter of every year. So why don’t I do something about it?
Blame a lot of it on my cockeyed optimism and adherence to one of the ugliest words in the English language: “surely.” Ignoring Murphy’s Law and possible power outages, computer viruses, unexpected visitors and funerals, I tell myself, “Surely I’ll get it completed tonight. And if not tonight, surely next week. And if not next week, surely next month.”
Then I tell myself, “Don’t call me Shirley,” and suddenly I’m off researching Leslie Nielsen instead of preparing my taxes.
I’m hesitant to rush my taxes because all the major web portals, such as AOL, keep posting tax-related tips well past the first day of spring, and I’m afraid I’ll miss something if I file early. You know the articles: “Seven Surprising Expenses That Are Deductible,” “10 Mistakes Not to Make Next Year” and “Did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi and the minister who walked into a bar — and drank themselves to death because they forgot about the solar panel credit?”
I drag my feet about filing because I dread slogging through mounds of questions that might actually hide a single applicable query. I daydream about a future with facial recognition software for tax filing — a future in which I could ask the computer, “Do I LOOK like someone with an ex-wife who spent at least part of the tax year driving a train through a penal institution housing foreign trustees convicted of abusing nonqualified compensation plans? What? Try looking again, in this different light.”
I appreciate the free software for online tax filing, but I procrastinate because I loathe the constant invitations to pay for the DELUXE package. (“Are you SURE you live at 753 Maple St.? We could double-check that for you, for a mere pittance. The planet Pluto turned down a chance to go deluxe in 2005, and look what happened there.”)
A refund isn’t going to make or break my budget, and if I OWE taxes, it just makes me feel so insignificant. I start realizing that all the money my patriotic co-workers and I will ever contribute to Uncle Sam probably wouldn’t pay for one good congressional junket. (“My congressman got this T-shirt — and all I got was 40 years of labor.”)
Most importantly, the more I stretch out the tax season, the more leeway I’m given about household chores. For those of us in charge of the family’s taxes, taking down Christmas lights, cleaning out the garage and mowing the lawn are low priorities until that tax return is filed. (“Dear, I think that’s the neighbor boy’s bike you’ve been dragging underneath the car for the past six blocks.” “Tut tut. All in good time. In MY dictionary, ‘amortization’ comes before ‘bicycle.’ *Chuckle*”)
Hold your heads high as you burn that midnight oil or file that extension. Straighten that stack of receipts and announce with confidence, “Surely next week Tyree will have something worth reading!”
Danny Tyree is a syndicated weekly columnist. He welcomes reader email at firstname.lastname@example.org.